Alphas, Betas, and Human Beings

Alphas, Betas, and Human Beings

 

Brainstorming session.

Our line split with the chimps’ line about five million years ago and the chimpanzee and bonobo line halfway between then and now. To infer some simple three-way split on any behavioural vector over that sort of timeframe is crazy, we all could have played one another’s parts a thousand times over by now, but it looks today, within my paradigm, antisocialization theory, that we split by winning some sort of a war, by finding a way to rule the drying world and the savanna and thus relegating the cousins that became the chimpanzees to the shrinking rain forests. We split, we changed, and we became dominant, took over the world.

Now the general, hippy-dippy environment that produced antisocialization theory would like to see a continuum, that we got meaner and split from the root-stock, and if that’s a repeatable biological function, that today’s chimps perhaps also split from the rootstock by getting meaner, and the rootstock maybe resembles the bonobos, that is to say, only as mean as an animal needs to be who isn’t at war with its own, tough enough for nature but not apparently genocidal and specicidal like homo sapiens. If there were anything else to support this sort of a trend, then we might see the chimpanzees as a few steps down our road to antisocialization and wars.

As it stands, these are just tempting just-so stories.

I’ll elaborate, and build an edifice on these shifting sands, of course, because I’m trying to make thinking this way possible, trying to create a different paradigm. New ideas need a lot of preparation, decades of groundwork. Trivers has said that his first big theory and book was well purchased and even well read, but not understood. I think it took a long tome – oops, long time – to change the field, because it took a long time for people to understand it (was it “Social Theory?”). A long tome and then a long time, ha.

If anyone’s following my latest purges, you’ll see that I struggle; I think I have a brilliant new insight, and I write it down, irresponsibly publish, and then realize I’m using all the wrong words, or at least a few critical ones. Case in point, just lately I’m excited about this flash I’ve had about alphas and “betas” – and that “beta” word is probably the opposite of what I’m looking for, the Beta is like the Prime Minister if the Alpha is the king, right? I wasn’t looking for the second most successful randomly violent and oppressive male in the troop, I was going for the opposite of an alpha, not an alpha wannabe – I need to be saying “non-alpha” or “affiliative males” or something, right? I’m sorry. It’s the basic alpha meme still working in me – friggin’ genius figures out the alpha’s an asshole, but he’s pretty sure the asshole’s lieutenants are all right still, and so, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. No.

That wasn’t the idea.

The point was to say that a better definition of altruism is mostly non-alpha group members cooperating in such a way as to manage, limit and control the destructive power of the alphas, that the benefits are for the group.

Still in just-so storyboarding mode, my first attempts to flesh this out will follow my heart and postulate that altruism is not a group function, not only a non-alpha strategy against one’s own alphas but rather a status or class function that seems able to work across groups, as in the parable of the good Samaritan, or as with the global goals of political movements, rather than an inter-group competitive one, which inter-group competitive strategies I’ll postulate as alpha methods.

Back to our cousins. First, I got questions.

One, it’s clear that the bonobos have a hierarchy, isn’t it? Bonobos got alphas? I mean, my just-so story here says, “no, they don’t,” or at least they’re not the be-all, end-all of their social structure like they are with the baboons.

LOL – apparently the female alpha bonobo is the big Kahuna!

Two, same for chimpanzees, I guess, they got alphas? I know their aggression is portrayed as a result of male bonding and spare time, very much a group hunting party, but where is the alpha in that? Again, that’s inter-group stuff, the raiding parties and it’s what’s brought out in discussions of primate aggression, but I need to research, find out for sure if Sapolsky’s baboons’ champagne fountain of stress is observable among all the versions of chimpanzee as well – meaning not just humans and baboons. Well, having accidentally put it that way, I guess that’s my answer, so I’m just gonna push ahead.

Along that same just-so vector, bonobos as some degree of mean and dangerous, chimpanzees as more so and humans as the most, or the worst, this probably correlated to an increase in the relative power of the alpha within groups of these apes – whups, starting to sound a little Nazi, like it’s a good thing, leader worship insures world domination – nope, that’s not it. Alpha rule insures harsh nature. Alpha rule exists today among all sorts of creatures that cannot read or write or think not to eat their last bit of food the minute they’re hungry.

Alpha rule is well documented by Sapolsky, again, a champagne fountain of cortisol would seem to be the structure of baboon life. I think it’s a mistake to assume that structure is associated with increased cranial capacity, though. We’re fairly sure that it was something about the inter-group conflict that did that, I think mostly, the daunting task of gleaning friend from foe. Social hierarchy among primates would seem to be more foundational than the giant human brainpan – random alpha violence and all.

(Oh no, new disruptive thought: alpha-ism increases with human dominance of other creatures, providing our own predator audit on the old and sick, the weak links, when external predation is successfully controlled? Never mind! Later.)

This is a thought I would rather avoid, but that’s not a voice to follow if you’re lucky enough to notice it, so, what about this – altruism developed as a cooperative strategy among the non-alphas, eventually evolving to civilization and law, morality, religion, all the nice things in modern human life – art? Sure, why not? LOL. Unfortunately, despite all the great things the non-alpha’s strategy has produced, success in the original venture isn’t one of them. Law has not replaced the alpha or the primate social hierarchy. The truth may be somewhere on a spectrum between that the best examples of humanity’s highest moral achievement show that the non-alphas and their altruism are making inroads and on the other hand that this non-alpha strategy simply can also provide a terrifying level of organization for the alpha’s violence.

That’s an awful thought and it means it’s a very high stakes contest.

Perhaps, with this little bit of apparent success, now it is time to step it up and get conscious about it, if we knew what the goal of being good was, which we didn’t, we might have a chance at more progress. The current, Trivers’ defined version of biological altruism, that’s the opposite of the altruism we need in this shrinking world, altruism just for your existing social group, that is not morality, that is a recipe for war. In conversations about morality, altruism is much bigger, more global – and this idea, that it’s a hedge against alpha-ism, well.

That might be closer to the right order of magnitude. That might work. This is one we need to stop going to our archetypal “leaders” for, and start to think in terms of reigning those guys in instead.

. . . continued, probably, still thinking.

Jeff,

Dec. 5th., 2017

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While the geneticists are telling us the old Nature/Nurture debate has been made obsolete or been solved, depending who you talk to, I just went ahead and solved it. Part #3

While the geneticists are telling us the old Nature/Nurture debate has been made obsolete or been solved, depending who you talk to, I just went ahead and solved it. Part #3

Now that’s a long title, but it’s a great Tweet, isn’t it?

This is convergence, this little essay, for me this is where all the major threads in my mind come together: the ancient classic dialogue, human behaviour, child discipline, and yes – even trolling.

OK, that wasn’t bad, but this is just the bullet point brainstorming stage right now.

  1. A note about “things”
  2. A note about the “Nature” thing
  3. Trolling and narrowing the argument
  4. The “Nurture” thing, the Abusive Ape Theory
  5. Warrior society’s fears, head on, a lethal mutation (too late, we already have several)
  6. Liberals’ fear of science, dark hints
  7. The “Deep Roots of War” thing
  8. Self-actualization

Whups, turned into a Table of Contents. Maybe that’ll work.

 

  1. Trolling and Narrowing the Argument

 

I’ve alluded to it to it in each of the earlier parts, that details and a huge catalogue of nouns are not where the important truths are going to be found, not under our microscopes, but back up here, with us, and our somewhat higher concepts.

OK, I spend too much time on Twitter, of course again, I’m talking about racism and Nazi science’s endless search for some genetic detail that is supposed to prove some large social concept like racism. The trend I’m complaining about is quickly apparent if you look at Twitter’s science section, and the crossover there with the alt-Right, and the connecting meme of course is “genetic differences” – literally microscopic science to justify macro-oppression. Weirdly, the same accounts that have given Charles Murray a good read and a fair treatment also find Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos to be unfairly silenced voices.

So besides being just less than helpful to explain the world, this view of the world as a million unrelated, individual things, it has principles, sort of, well, associated memes.

Perhaps our forever search for the postulated atom, the Smallest Division, the base particle of the universe has served to turn our scientific world upside down where now we all think the smallest stuff matters the most, ha. One shitty, life destroying gene that’s negatively correlated with melanin and slavery will have been all right and proper after all or something! That’s what some folks want and some liberals perhaps fear from science, all liberals ain’t PhDs either. But that idea, that the smaller bits are somehow higher in some food chain of causality than the bigger ones, perhaps this is why we end up down in the muck with the rats and the flatworms when we’re theoretically trying to solve complex human problems like racism, abuse, war, etc.

Of course, science doesn’t say that, racist scientists say that, trolls say that – or rather they don’t just say it either, it’s all innuendo, plausible deniability, but this is a bad sign: the argument goes to details, genes, alleles, specific studies. That the truth is in the details, that’s left unsaid, we all believe that in some sense anyway, so it’s easy to buy in, to get dragged down into small specifics. If we don’t follow the argument into microscopia though, then we’re likely to get stuck in another trap, psychology, theories about society and ‘the culture,’ and unfounded moral directives.

There is some unspoken meme that science is on the bad guys’ side, or rather, even that the reality that underlies science is somehow on the bad guys’ side. You know, life is tough, harsh reality, all of that . . . is it only me, that the endless descriptions of life being tough, evolution as an apparently ruthless punisher of mercy or passivity seem to come across as advocacy? Like an argument against all of our higher goals? I expect that many of the best papers don’t sound that way, but Twitter sure does. In fairness perhaps, I’m guessing the science promotion I find on social media isn’t coming from the older professors, but from the younger, cyber-savvy crowd. Much of it sounds like someone sharing the exciting news they’ve only just heard.

(I’ve recently read a paper that explains some primate female’s “strategies for maximizing her reproductive capability” in different situations, I think weaning one early when mating opportunities seemed like they may not be there later, like when she’s aging out of her childbearing years . . . it all sounds reasonable about Capuchins or something, but imagine human females as the primate in question. Suddenly, suggesting that organisms exist to maximize the reproduction of their genes starts to sound a little penis-centric, to put it diplomatically. I think some of the conclusions from science can still be called out. That scenario could better be viewed as that female monkey trying her best to survive the pregnancies that are the price of living with the males and their genes’ desires, and not hers at all. After all, the costs are all hers.

That’s an example of science appearing to be on the bad guys’ team, right, the sort of science that sounds like the Taliban, females want to be barefoot and pregnant as much as possible! – because some male designed the study and found what his search was designed to find? It wasn’t any sort of pro-biology or race-related paper at all, corporal punishment was the topic, it’s a respectable one, I think. I shouldn’t cite it out if its own context, and I won’t even repeat the less reputable sort.)

Environmental control of genetic expression, epigenetics, this I find worth discussing, but again, the details, identifying alleles that respond to specific stimuli, these I find to be nouns whereas the point for me in this topic is that many of these environmental triggers are our own behaviours. We are an intensely social creature; we are the environment our flexible genes are responding to in many cases – this is what I mean by what has become my catchphrase, that we are self actualized creatures. We haven’t been ‘using our powers for good’ yet, but to be completely fair, I don’t think we knew it. Remember how they laughed at Lamarck. The truth is, though, that we have genes that are activated or not by our environment, and we are that environment, we are activating the ones we feel are necessary.

Whups! That’s the next part.

 

Jeff

Nov. 30th., 2017

Altruism

I suppose Wikipedia is twenty years behind the times, and not a full collection of all human knowledge up to this minute, but I think I’ve got another theory, a better explanation for altruism, at least for some sorts of creatures.

The most basic definition of altruism there says it’s when a creature does something at some cost to itself and its chances in the world to improve the lot of another individual and/or their chances (for survival, reproduction, etc.). The definition itself shows the biologists’ lens for viewing the world, a creature helps another individual – biology views everything as from the point of view of individual creatures, or that creature’s genes.

There was some group talk, the suggestion that groups of creatures that practice this one on one altruism perhaps get a competitive leg up on groups of that sort of creature that behave less selflessly.

OK.

My other theory suggests that other behaviours produce their fruits at the group level, and that these can be higher priority behaviours than “individually” motivated ones, and I’m now trying out the idea that the group will best explain altruism as well – whups, sorry. I haven’t finished the definitions.

Generally, biology seems skeptical, the evolutionists are not sure “real” altruism exists, meaning that they seem to feel it must add up to an advantage to the altruistic giver somehow, or it would not be selected for, or it wouldn’t, what is it, exist. They go to perhaps the group idea above. Trivers’ reciprocal altruism would seem to redefine it that way, a fairly demonstrable quid pro quo between group members, exactly as stated above, giving their group an advantage over other groups. I’m not refuting these ideas, they’re great, and I haven’t developed my idea yet! Here goes.

Continuing the train of thought I’ve been on, it’s about alphas and the age-old problem of living with them. I think I typed it somewhere this week: what if altruism is a strategy developed by non-alphas to limit and contain the violent chaos of the alphas? What if doing unto others is beta society’s answer to the king’s random violence and narcissism, the stuff of the social bond that enables any sort of society at all? It suddenly occurred to me that when we observe the alphas’ rule in nature among horses or primates, that we are doing just that, going outside and observing what the eternal rule of the alphas produces, and then we go back indoors to the world the betas were able to produce, through affiliation and cooperation, to read and write about it, by portable lights.

If this is the function, or an important function, then it’s a group related thing, but not the whole family group, perhaps. Perhaps alphas are full time cheaters and so are left of any deal-making done among the betas, and it is perhaps not so much a group strategy then as a status strategy, a class strategy, and then one can start to ponder what it means across multiple groups. Now it doesn’t appear that among the baboons or the chimpanzees, the other primates, that it’s the king starting the raids, it looks with the chimpanzees like a band of brothers – but perhaps someone can enlighten me? Is the alpha part of the chimp raiding party, and is he an instigator as he seems to be in the human case? It may be difficult to find primate stories of alphas starting trouble and betas working together to control them, but it’s not a hard fantasy to conjure for us, is it?

A couple of alphas, or would be alphas beating their chests and going straight to madman doomsday scenarios before they ever speak on the phone, and betas on both sides scrambling to save their asses and not minding at all cooperating across borders to do it, whenever possible? (Ha! No-one tell Rodman I said he was a beta, OK?)

This is going to be my new filter for a while. I’ll be looking at things this way, alphas and betas, game theory is for alphas and altruism is for betas. There’s a world of dichotomies in there, maybe. America is caught up in an alpha fantasy, amplified by its enemies, and it elected an alpha to the highest office, something that always means a dark period in history. Nations need their alphas, and alphas will find their way to power anyways, but nations are huge things these days, way beyond our evolved meme of the tribe, which is about a hundred and fifty people. You place your alphas in the military, you give them anything upwards of a hundred and fifty people to push around, and the betas get back to the drawing board, trying to also contain the other nations’ alphas. Altruism.

There’s a book in this, but I’m writing jacket covers these days, apparently.

Mind you, the book’s already been written, at least somebody seems to know how some of this stuff works, even if it’s only the Russian intelligence community.

Whaddayathink? Idiocy?

Genius?

This is my note to myself to think about this, write something later. If anybody’s read it elsewhere, I hope you’ll tell me.

 

Jeff

Nov. 29th., 2017

Alpha-ism

Damnit, America, actual elites are bad enough, you had to go and replace them with this gutter slime? That’s what was wrong with our overlords, they were just too damned nice and affiliative, right? Fuck Political Correctness?

I’m sorry. Twitter rage.

It’s all one.

The stolen presidency, the Russian influence on social media, the apparent ubiquity of men overstepping their bounds with women.

America had hypermasculinity before, but the myth of America, anything that was any good about America – it wasn’t this alpha-ism, this brutality that isn’t different from what it is among our primate cousins. The PR version, the face of America was of a benevolent beta, someone who stood as a bulwark against the knuckle dragging alphas of the world. America carried a big stick, but it spoke softly, and friendship and tolerance were possible, apparently achievable goals.

I said it in a tweet, yesterday or today, so I needed to flesh it out a bit: it wasn’t these hammerhead alphas that made humans what they are, that helped us dominate this world and create anything that may have been decent about people, and for evidence, I point to every other species, mammalian, primate, what have you, any species plagued by these alphas and ask you to show me how that caused them these huge brains and these skyscrapers. You wanna organize anything, you need to reign those random, self-serving idiots in, and somehow humans do that, sometimes. We’re evolved that these are our leaders, these alphas, and really, if one of them can get his paws on you, you’d better do as he says, but humankind has moved beyond that bit of our hardware. We know we need better than pre-tool alphas to lead us anywhere we want to go these days.

Except right here and now, in “the West,” apparently. I do think this alpha-ism is imported. I’m not very religious, but I’m a cultural Christian, and I do believe that if there were a Satan trying to lead us off of an eternal moral cliff, that he would play to men and their masculinity, that form of vanity – which, of course, the totalitarian dictates of bronze age warrior tribes naturally support whole-heartedly. So whole heartedly in fact, that modern ideas about statutory rape doesn’t seem to put a dent in it for a lot of people. So, this was the attempted message of my previous blog, that somehow a hundred people at least began to read:

Alphas are not leaders in today’s world.

Your sports heroes, movie heroes, mythological heroes – they have elements of the alpha, and that’s how our patriarchal leaders talk about it, but these heroes are all in combat situations, they are heroes because they win fights, now that is absolutely an alpha trait – this is what alphas do. You elect one of these, or a troop of idiots who think they’re all alphas – and they will take you straight into a fight. It’s the only place they look any good, and that’s all they care about.

Gonna end this one with a question:

Is that the way to divide our politics? Not so much Keynes VS Hayek or Marx VS Smith, but alphas VS betas?

That’s worth its own blog, I think.

 

Jeff

Nov. 24th, 2017

While the geneticists are telling us the old Nature/Nurture debate has been made obsolete or been solved, depending who you talk to, I just went ahead and solved it. Part #2

Now that’s a long title, but it’s a great Tweet, isn’t it?

This is convergence, this little essay, for me this is where all the major threads in my mind come together: the ancient classic dialogue, human behaviour, child discipline, and yes – even trolling.

OK, that wasn’t bad, but this is just the bullet point brainstorming stage right now.

  1. A note about “things”
  2. A note about the “Nature” thing
  3. Trolling and narrowing the argument
  4. The “Nurture” thing, the Abusive Ape Theory
  5. Warrior society’s fears, head on, a lethal mutation (too late, we already have several)
  6. Liberals’ fear of science, dark hints
  7. The “Deep Roots of War” thing
  8. Self-actualization

Whups, turned into a Table of Contents. Maybe that’ll work.

 

  1. A note about the “Nature” thing

 

Forget the list, sorry.

Nature – not the great outdoors, but some concept of a thing’s essence or purpose – as in ‘human nature,’ well, forget it, I’ve already given it away, haven’t I? The way it’s presented, it’s an archaic concept, religious, probably related to the idea of spirits being what animates and supports all things, as though a given thing has some single attribute, some fractal core that’s essential to a being or a thing that remains when all other attributes have somehow been wiped away. So, it’s a made-up thing, kind of meaningless. Mysticism aside, as the term has evolved and it’s a more complex human nature that we seek, the nature of the human being has become a moving target, really not more than a collection of empirical observations.

I mean, I know when people speak seriously about human nature, they mean a complex nature, but we don’t appear to have stopped using it in all the same sentences where a simple, pure nature would work better.

Still, perhaps talking about the “natures” of things is something we’re stuck with, part of the structure of our thought – of course, one in sense, it’s a sort of shorthand, we attempt to impose symbols over complex things when we need to visualize many of them in interaction. You don’t need as long a list of human traits as we have developed when there are fifty of them coming over the hill at you; at that point, you need some quick, accessible understanding of their natures. Probably something like that is at the root of the idea of ‘natures’ generally (and of us treating one another as less than complex sometimes), saves memory and therefore calories, which . . . evolution. Of course, the idea isn’t going away, ancient magical baggage and all.

Let’s change tack.

Simple, complex, questions of human natures simply mean “what are we?” really, and we are political for one thing, we’re trying to pass laws, we make sweeping policy decisions for ourselves and one another, and we do have to postulate some default for people, some starting point where we think they might settle into if it weren’t for our policies. An eternal, static human nature would indicate a stable or static world, and conversely, evolution and science suggest an evolving nature, probably a moving target. Nevertheless, “what are we now?” is still something we must at least feel we have an answer for in order to proceed with anything. We’ve always asked it, “what are we?” but we mostly have always had some sort of an answer too – and proceed we have, of course. I feel I have answered the question, but of course, I must play a game to do it.

I’m afraid I’m asking to modify the question.

Rejecting the simple, magical, “essence” sort of human nature Q&A, I am left with few major directions to go, “human nature” as a somewhat arbitrary collection of observations and the entire argument breaks down to details, which traits are “built in/genetic” and which not . . . it doesn’t address the issues our psyches are asking, which is, a short version we can trust. If we get that list of traits right, then it’s our answer – but it’s not a short, useful answer, is it? We’re really looking for some few things, and “good” and “bad” are not personality traits, nor are “friend” or “foe.” This is mostly the data we want in out human nature meme.

So, it’s a collection of traits, and an evolving target, it’s really about values, our interests: if humans are basically “good,” how would we treat them? If they’re mostly
“bad,” then how do we treat them? So, the original question, “what are we?” really means “are we good or bad?” which is sure to be related to a basic friend or foe question. The true answer to both questions is long and vague, both answers true often enough, good and bad, both answers have their proofs . . .

. . . for me, the question became one of nouns and verbs again. Human nature is perhaps not what we are, but behaviour, what we do. With the idea that what we believe has some impact on what we do (debatable, I know), the question has become for me not “what are we?” – again, sort of answered, pretty exhaustively if not satisfyingly –  but “if we do X, then what must we believe?”

It’s like an audit, doing your arithmetic backwards to check your work. I haven’t finished my argument, not by a long shot, this is only Part #2, but I’ll jump way ahead, give you that question with my specifics inserted in place of the variables:

“If we’re so sure we’re born bad, why would we abuse our children, thereby making them worse?”

That idea has me now discounting our default natures, finding the “what are we?” question besides the point; it seems to me now the question isn’t “what are we,” but “where are we taking ourselves?” – wherever we were, whatever we were.

 

Jeff

Nov. 17th., 2017

Dad would have been eighty-seven.

2017 – “abusewithareason” – not an Improvement in Optics, but Truth Above All, Right?

abusewithanexcuse.com, 2017 – “Antisocialization Theory,” – a Guide, Part #2

  1. 2017 – “abusewithareason” – not an Improvement in Optics, but Truth Above All, Right?

 

 

Things started coming together in February of 2017. I mean, not for me personally, but for abusewithanexcuse.com, for my long search, the train of thought I’d been on consciously for twenty years and really struggling with all my life. This here is my personal favourite, probably of all time, and that thought comes with the idea that I’ll be surprised if anyone agrees with me about it, if it’s anyone else’s favourite. For me, this is the philosophical crux of the matter of child discipline, the pivot point for humankind generally. Long and short, I reject the biology-based idea of the Deep Roots of War Theory if it means it’s something we are, something outside of our control – but I’m all with it because it’s not what we are and only what we do. The Deep Roots of War is a behaviour, not a gene.

For me, there is deep beauty in this, our assessment of ourselves, if not maybe in our response to that assessment:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/

“Let Me Tell You” – LOL. I haven’t changed that much. Still. In March, seven more, that make this one a series, where I start to unravel the “Consequences Meme.” The links are in this first one. Two largish revelations in February, though, this one too, which I imagine to be dangerous and provocative:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/

One in the “personal” department from that time:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/22/youre-an-asocial-arent-you/

Here’s me responding to that fellow who put the barb in me at the start of my meltdown:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/06/15/critique-of-do-parents-really-matter/

 

 

I guess from there until now, it’s all new, it’s all what I think is some form of science, and I would have you, surprise, surprise, read it all! LOL. It is where I’m at right now, I look at it all as human society is warrior society, and for the moment at least, I’ve sort of lost interest in the details. I’ve sort of completed this train of thought, answered the questions I’ve had since the first time I saw my cousin getting the shit kicked out of him by his parents.

I have a half baked plan to write a book – would be my third now, hopefully the first good one – that sort of lays out how it operates, how the warrior society and our need for “security” drives all things human, and how most of what we think of as intelligence is simply aggression, but for now, having wrestled this problem to the ground in a mere fifty-seven years, I plan to take a break now, until the next thing comes along that gets under my skin.

 

Thanks for coming, Folks. I hope you found the grain of joy in it somewhere, I know it’s mostly one long accusation against us all, and I’m sorry for that. I think I’m a mutation, maybe. I hope I’m not the lethal sort so that the human organism has to select me out or anything, but it does sort of feel like that.

 

 

Jeff

September 11th., 2017

 

Whups, that was an ending, but this is probably Number Two for me, the second most eloquent argument I’ve made:

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

Jeff

Knowledge of Good and Evil

            A Question for Bible Scholars

            and

            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.

 

Jeff

Aug. 1st., 2017

The Civilizing Meme

I need to apologize right now. This is not likely to stand on its own, and I am sure to publish it before I complete the thought, that seems to be how I work these days. This is for those who are familiar with me, for people who have been following me on this train of thought already. For the rest, I promise to create a longer version eventually, one that places this in some context. I’ll set the scene in a form of shorthand here, but the setup needs to be longer than a blog, so that’s what I’m sorry for, the format, that it means to get me, you’ve got to read more than one, that I’m stuck trying to force you to read regularly. You have my empathy; I don’t love being subject to that sort of marketing bullshit either.

Having said that, I’ve had another tiny insight regarding what I’m terming the “consequences meme,” the story we tell ourselves about why we owe our children the consequences of their mistakes and transgressions. My proposition has been that the consequences (punishments, aversives – often beatings) create our antisocialization, not any “positive” socialization, that our consequences make us crazy and violent, the “deep roots of war” creature, as opposed to the idea that the consequences civilize us by a form of aversion therapy. Sorry again: that was the background section. Pinker’s right, once you know something, it’s nearly impossible to understand what it would take to learn it from scratch. It’s in my blog, though, in long form, me figuring it out.

Today’s idea is just the other side of one I’ve been going on about. I’ve said many times that evidence for the civilizing effects of our consequences is lacking while evidence for the effects of abuse are myriad – but that was always a one generation conversation. It has occurred to me that second generation evidence is also lacking and that is suggestive of no epigenetic response to match with this civilizing idea.

I’ve said so often I’m starting to lose trust in it, is the idea of the unevolved beast within, that evolution bears Christian original sin out, the idea that we are animals and need to be civilized, hands on, one at a time – this shows up as support for the consequences meme. To be clear, I do not find these ideas to be causative of our child-rearing behaviours, I find them to be effects also, and the common cause of them all to be our need, or our perceived need to raise our children with a bad attitude, as soldiers for our group, always ready to offend or defend.

Now, during all those years that we were laughing at Lamarck, this appeared to skewer him, that we have beaten our children for millennia and still, they never started showing up pre-civilized. Clearly, nothing we did cradle to grave, other than choosing our mates, changed the genome in that scenario. (This idea has been slated for decommissioning, but these things take time.) Of course,  Lamarck is getting his comeuppance now, turns out he was right – not regarding everything, I mean every trait, but he was right about some stuff, so he was right, at least in terms of a few generations. I don’t think he declared it worked with everything, did he? The language has changed, of course, and today’s answers aren’t necessarily matched to yesterday’s questions. I also don’t suppose Lamarck ever said beating children civilized them, probably not explicitly anyhow, but that seems to be what people think, so that’s the environment he was wrong in.

Of course, epigenetic effects, environmental control of gene expressions, these are the environment he’s correct in, but there’s another thing: he couldn’t ever have been right in an environment where beatings civilize their recipients, because we have been testing that for a long time, maybe for as long as we’ve been human by most definitions. That isn’t really working out. Oh, I know, Angels of our Better Natures and all, we have made some improvements – but it probably wasn’t hundreds of generations of beatings that did it, considering what a single generation of beatings seems to do. This is my present proposition:

That if beatings civilized us, that would be an epigenetic effect, and we would expect some long-term evidence like the second-generation effects of things like the Dutch Hunger Winter babies and their offspring, some lingering “civilization” across a generation or three that without intervention would fade out to some primal brutality, but that wouldn’t require an initiation with every child in every generation, forever. Of course, that is the socialization researchers’ long, unproductive search, isn’t it? All the evidence is for the other side, abuse, rough treatment, and the rather dependable results those things bring. As to full blown Lamarckian evolution, the creation of permanent heritable traits, for that, I’ll defer to better minds. Have we gotten from epigenetics to permanence yet? Not that I’ve heard so far. So maybe the discipline we bring to our kids isn’t the full initiation. It’s probably more like maintenance, keeps us forever in the second generation, epigenetically biased for the consequences. (Forever in the second generation. See https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/04/28/its-a-childs-world/ )

Anecdotally, I’ve observed a sort of pendulum effect in parenting, some children of cruel parents swing to using a very light hand and some of us who were left on our own to a degree may wish to exercise more control as a response, with their own children, adding up to a possible generational see-saw along a spectrum of strictness or control, perhaps of violence. It may be possible to view first-generation gentle parents as having indeed been civilized by their rough parents if we can view the second or multi-generational rough or more controlling parents as having been antisocialized by their rough parents, and then the question is, what are the proportions? How many respond with tradition and how many rebel? This may tell us which is the more powerful operant, the civilizing one or the antisocializing force of the consequences. For a clue, something upwards of eighty-seven percent of American parents self-report the use of corporal punishment, specifically, spanking. Self-report.

The second proposition, already stated, is that there will then be some multi-generational effects to see from the true effect, that beatings enhance violence rather than attenuate it. I believe these Dutch Hunger Winter baby second and beyond generation sort of effects have indeed been documented with abuse. If there are epigenetic changes being made along these lines, and there are, then this also is an environment where Lamarck is correct, and the news isn’t only good for him. The man’s laughable at the time optimism, his pie in the sky suggestion, that we are self-actualized creatures, capable of directing our own evolution in ways, this is romantic crap when all children require to be beaten civilized, clearly. But in the real world?

Self-actualized is not just what we can be, but what we perhaps have always been. I mean, we could be better, but the good news is we really could; it’s in our power. In the real world where fathers beat their sons to toughen them up and the sons volunteer for the army, the actual world where abuse is causatively correlated with violent crime in the most robust way – this is proof that our natures are in our own power to change. In that world he’s right, intergenerationally, if not permanently.

Romantic optimism and all!

I know, I’m surprised too. I never dreamed I could talk myself into believing anything so potentially positive, but, well . . . there it is.

(I bring scientists and you bring a rock star. – “John Hammond,” Jurassic Park.)

 

 

 

Jeff

July 25th., 2017

HBD – Reframing the Problem

First, apologies for my first attempt at this. New thoughts and a terrible, incomplete presentation that can only destroy my case. I hope I can make more sense this time around.

Premise: liberalism is not denial of human nature, only the denial of the warrior culture. Secondary premise: Human Biology Denial, same deal.

I’ve had this insight, the Dark Matter analogy that we are antisocialized tenfold to how we are prosocialized, and that basically all human societies are warrior societies, and with that viewpoint, I’d like to weigh in, try to help resolve some stuff.

Safe to say, no organism that denies its biology lives to tell the tale; insofar as the HBD people and I overlap, we do not deny biology, we only deny what some people are saying our biology means. More, maybe only sixty percent accurate:

What I and the HBD folks are denying really, is the “deep roots of war” narrative.

Sixty percent is good in this business, right? The point I’m getting at here is, this is why you can’t make a dent with them (and only a small one with me) when you spell out your theory and your method over and over, because you’ve decided what they don’t like is being told they’re animals and you’re not addressing the real, emotional issue, the “deep roots of war” problem. I think that problem is that we don’t all like the picture of never-ending war – or worse, one that finally does end it all – and there is some unspoken shared social belief that the “deep roots of war” are all that any of this science can show us. It seems that, at least in the minds of the geneticists in my Twitter feed, that us being animals and the “deep roots of war” narrative are inseparable. I’m here to try to tell you, not the case.

I know about the evidences, I know about our long existence as a group creature in competition, and I have some common sense about how our group dynamics affect everything in our lives . . . you know, frankly, my theory has our warring selves as having some deep roots too. What I do not accept is that all that nasty stuff somehow happens “in biology,” that we don’t think it over and decide. Proof that we do it, proof that we did it, proof that we’ve done it for a very long time – you say yourselves, genetics is not determinism, don’t you? None of it proves we aren’t making choices, that we aren’t responsible for the world we make, or that we couldn’t operate differently. There are not two worlds, a biological one where it’s all unconscious and instinctive and another where we can talk and reason. Our reason supports our biology, any other condition would be a fatal mutation. Who do we think is foisting this warring life onto humanity besides us? We talk as though we’re trying our best to be good but you know, whaddayagonnado?

I’ve been working through the logic, and I’ve come to see that all (don’t hold me to 100%, exceptions won’t disprove the rule) human societies are warrior societies. It’s a long story, and I’ve been writing it all down, it’s all in my blog, my entire learning curve that started with not wanting to spank my children twenty-five years ago and has me applying to go to school in my retirement, starting in 2018. The Twitter version, probably only helpful for people who have either been reading me or who are already in the conversation, is that I tried to figure out what “punishment” really was, because the explanations I’d always heard didn’t satisfy me. I had an insight that “discipline” and abuse had a way of looking identical.

When I read of the socialization researchers’ long failure to find evidence that kids become anything their parents wanted (in the Nurture Assumption) it became clear that the evidence for damage and abuse seemed to be the better-established phenomenon, and it wasn’t far from there to wonder what evolutionary advantage abuse could bring us. The overlap appears to be along a vector of “increased incidence of violence,” that function being well understood in both contexts, evolutionary psychology and the old, Leftist regular psychology. That looks like a powerful biological/evolutionary explanation for the human practice of the punishment of children to me, but even if it’s why half of our fathers gave us the consequences, society doesn’t allow that it’s why we do it. We have these stories why we’d be some sort of “bad” without the discipline, and “society’s” idea about it (and Mom’s) is that our discipline makes us more civilized, less violent.

That brings me to the mimic meme.

This belief, this meme, that our kids will be some kind of “bad” without the consequences, this is why we say we do it, but the evidence is all to the contrary. Why we do it is to create the “deep roots of war” ape that we are. Remember, game theory applies: if there is a human warrior society on the planet, then they all are or most must on their way to being selected out. If you believe there is one, you must allow that there are many, that they all are, else how do those peaceful societies defend? Even if you don’t see that as self-evident today, consider our long aboriginal hunter-gatherer past, the situation we evolved in and for. Damn.

That was the Twitter version.

Robert Trivers told me any decent theory can be stated in three or four sentences, and I know I could take a lot out of the above, and I’m sorry to disagree with the genius, but not everything in life is that simple! LOL. The things you get to say when you’re alone, talking to yourself! So, liberalism.

In some sense, we can apply the ubiquitous dichotomy of our politics to any debate, and as such, if conservatism is about what it sounds like, keeping what you have, supporting institutions and such, then we must allow that a nation at war’s conservatives wish to conserve that situation too. And fair enough, in a defensive sense. We are indeed at war, and that is not a good time for getting less warlike. Of course, that’s always the case, it’s never a good time, is it? This is an attribute of warrior society. So, along this vector, what is liberalism?

 

Liberalism appears to be an attempt by the non-warriors to create a new meme, to create a different sort of society. Sure, it’s the attempt of people within the society who have the comfort to consider it, the few who have gotten a glimpse of a life, at least a personal life without war, and sure, they were lucky. Liberals would like us all to share in that sort of luck – this has always been my own liberal mission statement at least, although I’m sure interpretations are legion. Perhaps liberalism is best encapsulated in the famous phrase that “the arc of the universe bends towards justice,” but I’m sorry. Warrior society says no.

The arc of the human social universe bends towards conflict.

The world described in that quote is the goal, not the present reality, but this is where this conversation turns, this is the pivot point.

This is the social world we’re talking about. The HBD movement is clearly grounded in and aligned with liberalism generally, and the mistake they make is just as the biologists say it is, they’re confusing the world they’re trying to create with the world in front of them – but they are not positioned against human nature. They are positioned against the warrior society. This seems to indicate that some geneticists, some biologists are not actually defending human nature, but possibly the warrior society, I mean if they think they are one and the same and they choose to defend one.

The deep roots of war and human nature, these are not the same things, this is the point and the news from antisocialization theory. There is a human nature, but the deep roots of war life we live is a response to our natures, a secondary effect.

This is the dividing line, and this is the obfuscation the New Atheists and the New Naturists are leveraging: if you’re against the warrior society in a particular aspect, if you think your children aren’t “born bad” and therefore are some sort of blank slates that don’t require discipline, then you’re against “human nature.” If you think crime is a social issue more than it’s an heredity issue because people are some sort of blank slates that can learn and change, then you’re against “human nature” and therefore you’re “against science.” There seems to be some conflation, some overlap between whether people accept a specific version of human nature and whether they accept any version of human nature. Clearly, many HBD people have a version of human nature in mind, not the blank slate at all, many have a rosy, hippy-dippy, sweetness and light version of human nature in their heads – but if they don’t share the New Naturists’ somewhat dark version they are blank slaters, Human Biology Deniers.

No, I’m sorry, the “deep roots of war” folks do not own the rights to human nature, not yet. We can believe in a human nature without having to accept your version, which by the way, smells of some bad attitude like Christian original sin, or some version of evolution infected with original sin, like we are 90% wild beast with a veneer of civilization. Nice try. That is not the only possible nature we may have, even if it gets an automatic pass at your bible college.

The warrior society, when threatened, fights like a cornered badger, again, sorry to complicate matters, that’s almost fair enough, the enemy really is at the gates, usually. So, let’s talk about a few of these New Naturists and see what this all means; again, I’ll start at the end: this logic has explained something to me this morning that I’d been having trouble understanding . . . well, three things. Bill Maher, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins.

There are no innocent voices in wartime. I’m tired of typing it, and of course, there are innocent voices every generation, young, inexperienced people pitching in where they think they’re needed. The point of the expression though, is that war co-opts everything. I’ve been frustrated, I‘d gotten used to the obnoxious attitudes of Maher, Harris, etc., but lately Richard Dawkins is tweeting about FGM and it challenged me to understand it. How can the brilliant Dawkins not know that to complain about reactionary Islamist practices in the middle of these wars only feeds the war? Does he imagine they will stop the bombing and build universities instead? During a time when the anti-Muslim talk in America and England is drowning out all other voices, how can he not know he’s adding to the chorus? Then it struck me.

This is not an HBD person, is it, Richard Dawkins, but perhaps he’s a liberal. As a liberal, perhaps he does not like to always remember that our countries are at war, because we liberals don’t like to think of humans that way . . . the arc of the universe, right? How to understand this common phenomenon though, other than to imagine that these advocates forget there’s a war on? How else to understand intellectuals talking about Afghanistan as though their public policy problems can be dealt with while the bombs are still flying? It’s the mimic meme. Folks like Dawkins want to chastise Islam, give them a little pain, motivate them to be “better,” and they seem not to notice that we’re already doing a whole lot more to them than that.

These folks, by conflating human nature with the warrior society, do science a disservice by aligning it with the warrior society – case in point, the vapid war rhetoric of Sam Harris disguised as philosophy (see featured image) – same as the Church always has, and against peace. I’m pro-science, and I agree with a lot of scientists about a lot of things, but good science is not what is making some of these names famous, it’s their cultural “contributions.” I know I have to spell it out.

 

War culture.

 

Jeff

July 14th., 2017

Biology Buries the Lead

They’ve found genes, alleles that are activated in response to adverse environments, and I think they’re finding epigenetic changes specific to abuse, that is, social abuse or abusive social environments as well as ones for drought, famine, cold, that sort of thing. I’ll try to find a few of these for examples, just to be sure I’m not assuming too much, but I don’t plan to get into biological detail at that level; first, I know nothing, and second, there are plenty of good folks doing that who do.

For me, the salient point is this: the environment is in our DNA. Our genes know about drought, famine, cold, UV light – milk – etc. – and abuse.

Abuse is in our DNA.

If having or developing the genes to lose melanin helped us to live in the snow and the cold, then we can express that as us, wanting to expand or remain when the weather moved over us, leveraging our genetic options for pigment, to better access that environment’s resources, right? Is that a valid evolutionary or biological way to view things? If you’ve read me this year, you know where this is going.

Abuse is in our DNA.

I don’t have the heart to bludgeon anyone with the ‘abuse’ side of that analogy. My whole thing is hostile enough with a light touch, and for that I’m sorry, but, truth if we can find it, I guess.

When some brilliant researcher identifies the AMYGDLAXXX#1 “warrior allele” (kidding, I hope that’s clear), and it makes the journals and National Geographic or something, that’s scientifically terrific. Maybe we ultra-liberals hear the voice of eugenics in it and we start to argue about determinism or some established debate, and sadly, the biologists I see are arguing back at nearly that level, like, ‘so what, “determinism,” this is science, it is what it is’ and so it is, we’ve buried the lead, which was far bigger than biology, bigger than either ‘side’ of this conversation. The lead, one more time,

Abuse is in our DNA.

That’s the headline. The meat of the paper needs to be that abuse is in our life, in our development, in our evolution. If there are ‘warrior alleles’ (and there are), then the associated behaviour, creating the abusive social environment that activates them is in our life’s DNA, our lifestyle’s DNA. This “environment” is us. We grew up with abuse, in the evolutionary sense, it’s part of us. So.

This is what it means to biologists: it counts. YOU came to US with this data, genes for abuse, this is the nature/nurture connection, this is how you fit behaviour into your worldview: alleles for abuse proves the existence of abuse, no? And the biological power of abuse, therefore the “power of nurture,” right?

This is what it means to social scientists and psychologists: it counts. Not in some cases, not in extreme cases. Abuse is the baseline for humans, there is no ‘normal human development’ path that doesn’t include abuse, abuse is “normal” for us, it’s not a pathological condition, unless we can think that we all have one. To assume some silent majority of unabused people as some ‘norm’ is missing the point entirely.

Biologists, you’ve found it, the Holy Grail, you just can’t seem to look up from your microscopes to see it! You proved nurture while trying to disprove it, built the bridge from social to biological science, but you seem to be protesting, telling us there’s no good reason to cross it. But that’s OK, that’s just your biology, the ol’ us and them mindset creeping in as it always does, no blame there. I basically have no ‘us,’ anymore, so . . .

I’ll take it from here, if no-one else will.

 

Jeff

July 3rd., 2017