Question modern authority by looking anew at ancient authority

August 20, 2008

Mencius Moldbug, whose alliterative naming style this author ruthlessly ripped, proposes online trial-like debates in which at least one side would take a view opposed to the modern mass media consensus. This is a very good idea, one that can be further greatly enhanced by creative but careful choice of debate topics.

Moldbug opines that we should choose serious topics, such as “Roe v. Wade”, rather than unserious ones like his example gleaned from the new blogging debate engines, “Who is the badest Celebertiy?” But for the purposes of those interested in questioning our era’s authorities these are both very bad topics and for the same reason: they are debates that normal contemporaries never tire of, that you can find conducted in hundreds of places daily on the net, and if you start up such debates mundane moderns and pablum progressives is who you’ll attract.

To weed out the hopelessly modern I instead suggest topics that were once of great importance but that moderns have forgotten about or would deem hopelessly reactionary. My examples come from family issues, but you can find similarly “outrageous” topics to debate from many other areas of politics as well. Here are my proposed debate topics, for starters:

* Should we revive the death penalty for adultery? If so, should it apply just to wives and those who seduce wives?

* Should family law judges be required, like Catholic family law judges of old, to be celibate?

* Should white dresses at weddings be restricted to virgins by law, and if so can we come up with a biological test that is less intrusive and more accurate than the traditional test?

Whether from family issues or otherwise, good debate topics produce the following incentives: not only will only the staunchest and must genuine reactionaries have any desire to take a serious “pro” side on the issue, but only people who take ancient institutions seriously will even want to bother to take the “anti” side. Good issues are debates of historical importance that are not being seriously conducted anywhere else on the net and that are guarunteed to produce high degrees of either outrage or dismissiveness from progressives, or indeed from anyone who genuflects to modern taboos. These debates will move the ball down the field by refusing to tarry in the modern media’s territory of debate — by, like any good American football halfback, running around instead of into the opponent’s defense.

You may, indeed, find these and similarly “outrageous” topics being discussed on this blog in the future. If you don’t think they are fit topics for serious debate, have fun watching your Lifetime or Playboy Channel, and good riddance to you.


The extended phenotype

August 10, 2008

To understand the impact of media on the family, it is crucial to understand the extended phenotype. Richard Dawkins has written an entire book on the subject, but a very good introduction is provided by his chapter “The Long Reach of the Gene” in the 1989 edition of his classic work on evolution and animal behavior, The Selfish Gene.

The basic idea of the extended phenotype is that, not only does evolution select for genes (rather than for individuals or other entities, which are mere “vehicles” for the propagation of genetic replicators), but that these genes often have an influence that goes beyond the individual vehicle. Most obviously, birds and insects often build nests, beavers build dams, and so on. So it’s entirely proper to treat the nests and the dams as part of the phenotype of the organism, keeping in mind that cultural transmission can play a role in determining the forms of these structures as well.

The most profound and important insights come from observing that genes can have effects on others’ bodies. Often the genes work together in a way that benefits their own copies in other bodies, as for example when baby birds gape, producing a very visible (often red) patch in their mouths, triggering a very strong urge by their parents to feed them. Sometimes, however, other genes take advantage of and parasitisize these strong altruistic relationships. Brood parasites, for example cuckoos, specialize in this lifestyle. Cuckoos lay an egg in the nest of the host family that the host usually can’t distinguish from its own. The baby cuckoo, however, can readily be distinguished visually from the actual offspring of the host, and uses a different and far more disturbing trick described by Dawkins:

Cuckoo nestlings…seem to act on their host’s nervous systems in rather the same way as an addictive drug….[just as a] man can be aroused, even to erection, by a printed photograph of a woman’s body. He is not ‘fooled’ into thinking that the pattern of printing ink is really a woman. He knows that he is only looking at ink on paper, yet his nervous system responds to it in the same kind of way that it might respond to a real woman.

Normally the host parent does not need to distinguish its offspring from others’ — the fact that the little gaping birds are in the nest usually provides sufficient certainty that the parent is caring for its own genetic offspring. Genes have programmed mammal and bird mothers (and to a lesser extent fathers, depending on the degree of monogamy) to become addicted to the babies inhabiting their own homes, and normally this serves to optimize genetic survival. The baby brood parasite is a supernormal model of that offspring. It is also in the nest, it looks even cuter (more infantile, with big eyes and big head), and for birds it has a larger and redder mouth that elicits an even stronger feeding reaction than the host’s own offspring. It grows faster and usually ends up tossing the host’s own chicks out of their nest, to their deaths.

Songs speak metaphorically of love as an “addiction” and of love as “chemistry”, but in fact there is literal reality behind such comparisons. Our brains, our minds, our spirits, and the emotions of same such as love, are chemical reactions. Addictive drugs often stimulate the pleasant emotions that naturally were only associated with love, just as the cuckoo’s gape provides a less direct supernormal stimulation of the parental feeding response. Less directly and strongly, but often more profoundly, are the effects that mass media has had on the emotions that formerly went into building healthy relationships between husband and wife and between parents and children.

We are only beginning to uncover the profound effects media has had on human family relationships. Supernormal models of the opposite sex, of children in need of care, and of many other familial communications saturate our media, diverting our attentions away from our mates and our families. Cartoon characters quite often have bigger eyes and bigger heads, forming supernormal models of infants to elicit the maximum sympathy. Supernormal models of females and the male fantasy worlds of pornography are obvious examples of media manipulation of the deep nervous system, diverting the natural and often quite strong genetically programmed influences to other ends, but supernormally alpha male heroes manipulate human mating instincts and warp the process of assortative mating (in other words, the emotional and instinctive process of determining how attractive a mate one can win) in a no less important a way than supermodels and pornography. We should also consider, as theorist Jim Bowery has done, the possibility that humans from certain narrow ethnic and cultural groups manipulate mass media consumers for their own genetic and cultural benefit at the expense of their viewers’. It may be no coincidence that human birthrates have plummeted since the dawn of radio, TV, and glossy magazines, and that subcultures that ban such media (such as the Hutterian Bretheren and the Amish) also have far higher birthrates than media-saturated cultures. I hope to cover Dawkins, Bowery, and other thinkers about the extended phenotype much more in the future.

Human brood parasites

August 6, 2008

Brood parasitism is well summarized by Wikipedia:

the manipulation and use of host individuals either of the same (intraspecific brood-parasitism) or different species (inter-specific brood-parasitism) to raise the young of the brood-parasite. This relieves the parasitic parent from the investment of rearing young or building nests, enabling them to spend more time foraging, producing offspring etc.

As the orphanage statistics and the long recorded history of Gypsy breeding strategy indicate, the Gypsies have developed a human form of brood parasitism. If you adopt a Gypsy child, (for example one of the much-advertised “Romanian” orphans), besides probably doing less well in school due to lower IQ, they are likely to exhibit many of the behaviors of brood parasites, for example more sibling rivalry and less altruism and more selfishness towards both siblings and parents. Brood parasite theory also predicts that adopted Gypsy children are more likely to run away from home as teenagers than biological children. On the other hand, brood parasite theory predicts that Gypsy children while they are young are more adorable than your own biological children are or would be.

(Gypsies call themselves “Roma”, but “Gypsy” is the traditional term used by Europeans to refer to the racial group and their unique mobile lifestyle. Gypsies are no more Roman than they are Egyptian; in fact Gypsies migrated over a thousand years ago to Europe from the Indian subcontinent. Also the term “Roma” confuses them with their thoroughly white and Slavic Romanian neighbors.)

In our present culture, the brood parasite strategy of orphaning one’s children or giving them up for adoption has far more Darwinian fitness, i.e. it leads to more surviving children, than raising your own children. In this game Gypsies are far ahead as it seems to have been a common breeding strategy among them for many centuries if not millenia. It has evolved into genetic strategy, not just an ethnic quirk.

I am not the first to make the connection between Gypsies and other brood parasites. The cuckoo and its famously parasitical lifestyle is used as a metaphor for the “swarthy” (probably Gypsy) character Heathcliff in Emily Bronte’s fantasy of exotic genes, Wuthering Heights. If one has to delve into the dark corners of the female mind, this book is at least a refreshing change of pace from Jane Austen, Cinderella, and a million other fantasies about using the feminine charms to win commitment, power, and wealth from an alpha male. (Today these have reached the abysmal and preposterous depths of films like Pretty Woman, where a cheap hooker, representing the hundreds of millions of unpaid whores that now predominate among Western women, and who naturally adore this film, not only captures the wealth and status of an investment banker but changes him into a Good Person who will no longer practice the evil craft of finance, but will hereafter simply ladle out his ill-gotten gains to his “wife” the former hooker. Talk about parasites!) Although I must admit that Pride and Prejudice is well written and teaches quite a bit about women’s virtue that Pretty Woman fans have quite forgotten. But I digress. I had just intended to point out that Emily Bronte has a bit of priority in recognizing and looking at human brood parasitism.

Now back to the main topic. the brood parasite hypothesis predicts that Gypsy group cohesion is more a genetic than a cultural phenomenon. Brood parasites have very strong kin recognition that allows them to, when they “leave the nest” of their host parents, recognize, and selectively be altrustic towards and breed with, others who share their brood parasite genes. Group cohesion doesn’t require high IQ or a cultural ethic. Indeed, any merely cultural practice would be destroyed by the strategy itself. Adopted Gypsy children don’t learn any Gypsy culture until they grow up and run away to join the Gypsy circus, at which point it would be too late to inculcate any strong ethic. The epigenetic group cohesion that is essential to the brood parasite strategy must include, and only requires, an ability to recognize and be preferentially altruistic towards others who share those brood parasite genes.

Since Gypsies have, if the brood parasite hypothesis is correct, traditionally been dark-skinned brood parasites with light-skinned host parents, their ability to instinctively recognize and prefer each other’s company has been rather easy. Put them back in India, or put them in any area such as Silicon Valley with a large East Indian population, and the Gypsy-recognition signals might get mixed up, and they might end up culturally and genetically integrating with the East Indian population, despite the large IQ difference (especially in Silicon Valley!). That would be an interesting experiment.

No pussy, no peace

August 6, 2008

It is somewhat more accurate and certainly more family-friendly to say “no love, no peace,” but this formulation of an anonymous commenter at Marginal Revolution, summarizing my comments about the lost boys, combines a nice allusion with a naughty alliteration, and instills a greater degree of necessary shock, so at the risk of being auto-censored, I will keep it. Despite this blog’s name, in order to analyze the connections between family and civilization this blog delves into the deepest and darkers corners of evolutionary psychology, which are often also the deepest and darkest corners of human sexuality, so I have no hope of this blog being family-friendly anyway.

For those red-staters and non-Americans who have never seen a blue-state radical protest, this slogan is a play on the common left-wing chant, “no justice, no peace”, which translated roughly means “pay more taxes and give us more money, or we will riot.”

The new form of this slogan sounds even more over the top, but unfortunately it describes a historically and evolutionarily ubiquitous part of the human condition. “No pussy, no peace” is how primate mating has generally worked, and can be seen today with the high correlation between crime rates and polygynous urban cultures, with the hittistes of polygamous Algeria (h/t/ Eurosabra), with the demographics of terrorists and gang members, and so on. There is a commonly observed correlation between poverty and crime, but there are closer correlations that get closer to the ultimate cause between differential sexual success and crime and, moving up in scale, differential sexual success and political violence.

The ultimate genetic reason for this is that in the evolutionary environment of adaptation a genetic loser had nothing to lose. He might as well risk everything, up to and including his life, to try to gain his genes access to future generations. As a result the genetic loser is extremely risk-seeking as opposed to the risk aversion and stability of women and of men who feel confident in their long-term access to women.

Because of the threat of violence from genetic losers with nothing to lose, in polygynous societies the alpha tends to become alpha through skills in violence — from defending himself as an alpha, and often from using violence to move from beta to alpha — more often than through the peaceful, peer-to-peer voluntary exchange that characterize most competition within monogamous societies. Unless the betas can be very strictly controlled through a hypersecure totalitarian regime, polygyny results in barbarism. I’m not sure whether I prefer totalitarianism or barbarism, but I sure know I like traditional Western civilization, with its values of liberty and volutary exchange that utterly depend on monogamy, far more than either polygynous extreme.

“No pussy, no peace” summarizes a theory with a surprisingly high explanatory power. It’s almost a theory of everything. Why was President Clinton impeached, but many Presidents committing acts of seemingly far greater and certainly far more direct political harm were not? Why in most democracies does an affair often disqualify a politician from high office, whereas oriental despots with not much greater power than our President often controlled large harems? Why do male celebrities get assasinated far more than female ones, and more generally why do some celebrities and politicians get assassinated and not others?

The short answer may be that politicians in a democracy need popular votes, including the votes of beta males and faithful couples to get elected, and in almost any kind of polity if you have any security vulnerability at all to violent acts of peons, you’d better not be too open about your sexual conquests, or one of these beta males may get pissed off and kill you. By this theory harems only worked where emperors were secure from the most nutty or otherwise very pissed betas, i.e. before the coming of the handgun.

The pussy/peace theory also predicts that male Presidents and celebrities with well-known affairs, like the Kennedies and John Lennon, are more likely to get shot than sexually boring presidents like George W. Bush. It’s an interesting paper for somebody to write, to see to what extent this correlation holds up.

Proximate vs. ultimate causation

August 6, 2008

A crucial task of Evolutionary Psychology 101 is to learn the difference between proximate and ultimate causation. You can’t really understand anything important about evolutionary psychology, and thus you can’t really understand much of anything important about family and civilization, unless you understand this basic distinction. Let’s take two examples where proximate and ultimate causation are confused:

(1) “Women prefer alpha males over beta males because it used to be the case that they would have more surviving offspring if protected by powerful alphas. But this is no longer the case. Today a woman can have just as many offspring with a beta as with an alpha. Therefore, with enough exhortation and instruction we can teach women to stop prefering alphas over betas.”

(2) “Men get jealous and engage in mate-guarding behaviors, and decide how much time and resources to invest in their children based on these emotions, because men need to be confident of paternity in order for their genes to succeed. But today we have DNA tests, so men need no longer worry about any of this. It causes no harm for a wife to commit adultery as long as the real biological father is identified and made to pay to raise the child.” (Michelle Langley’s theory).

“Paternity confidence” is simply a shorthand about ultimate causation, that is about why certain innate male behaviors evolved. In other words, it’s a statement about under what evolutionary pressures of genetic selection the behaviors evolved. In this case, the longhand is a formal model of differential genetic propagation that shows how cues and resulting behaviors of men in the evolutionary environment of adaptation (usually considered to be a hunter-gatherer culture) evolved to increase the probability that they invested more in their own genetic children and less in others’, thus increasing the propagation of the genes coding for this behavior.

The proximate behaviors, i.e. the systems of recognition and behavior response or propensity that actually evolved, are not about intellectual understanding or knowledge of paternity, they are about the man observing how his mate behaves and treating her and her children accordingly. Possible cues include — does she hang around with other women or other men? Does she disappear unexpectedly or often fail to have an alibi? What stories does he hear about what she does when he is absent? Does she act towards him in a loving way? Do the children look more like him or like the stud neighbor she’s been seen making eyes at? What was her sexual behavior like before he met her? All proximate signals that relate to the ultimate (and quite implicit) genetic “goal” of paternity confidence, and thus about how much, if any, further time and resources he should invest in his children and in his mate after he has had sex with her. The cues that evolved are innate cues that men still respond strongly to despite any paternity tests that deal with the original ultimate reason why these proximate innate behaviors evolved.

If you didn’t follow all that, let’s take an example more commonly discussed in these parts: women still tend to seek men with (among other things) greater wealth and power, since in the evolutionary environment of adaption (but not necessarily now) a wealthier and more powerful mate led to more surviving offspring. It does not follow that if women today learn and believe the fact that today they can have as many surviving offspring with a beta male as an alpha, that they can be convinced to stop preferring alphas. To think so is to confuse ultimate with proximate causation. So now that you understand ultimate vs. proximate causation, go back and read the preceeding paragraphs.

Back to paternity testing, it is possible that one of the proximate cues for paternity confidence does happen to what the man learns via communication (whether from people telling him how much the baby looks like him, or from a paternity test, or otherwise). But in the evolutionary environment these communications could easily be misleading, and were unverifiable, so I heavily doubt that any mere communications, whether in the form of paternity tests or otherwise, have any substantial positive impact on the emotional attitudes and resulting behaviors that evolved to assess and act on paternity confidence. A paternity test can convince him intellectually, but not emotionally, that the children really are his. To convince him emotionally requires the traditional virtues of women that most of today’s Western women have forgotten.

The Michelle Langley theory that Devlin criticizes in “Rotating Polyandry — and Its Enforcers”, that paternity testing now allows women to live out their hypergamistic fantasies of adultery with more alpha males because their husbands can DNA test the kids and thus no longer have a reason to get jealous, thus doesn’t work any better than the idea that beta men can simply point out to women that they can have as many surviving offspring with betas as with alphas, and thereby convince them to start prefering betas. Both of these lines of reasoning confuse ultimate and proximate causation.

The lost boys

August 6, 2008

It is deeply ironic when media pundits criticize the Utah polygamists because of their “lost boys” — the large proportion of young men who can’t find mates in that society and end up ostracized. The disturbing irony is that with the breakdown of marriage in the West, and the dawn of polygyny (sexual access to multiple women from the alpha male’s point-of-view) and rotating polyandry (serial access to alpha males from the woman’s point of view), most of Western society is rapidly filling up with lost boys. Much of our urban culture is at least as polygynous as the Utah polygamists, and this disease has been spreading to more parts of America since the 1960s. Not content to see a large and increasing number of young men losing access to the civilizing influence of marriage and family, and children deprived of the civilizing influence of fathers, our mass-media society further denigrates our lost boys as “losers”, “evil”, and the like. Our mateless young men are the new subhumans.

Habitual viewers of TV, readers of newspapers, students of university courses, and other absorbers of mass media mythologies, including many beta males who have been duped by these alpha-run institutions, may have a hard time believing this. They should stop watching the alpha males and their actor and feminist stooges on TV long enough to make some observations and do some research about the real world. For example, here are some numbers cited by “whiskey” at Roissy’s blog:

A full 34% of white birth [in the U.S. were] illegitimate last year. In the UK, over 50%. In the Black community, 70% nationwide and 90% in the urban core. As opposed to 4% for whites in 1965, and 24% for blacks that year (numbers from Juan Williams at NPR).

CLEARLY, a lot of men are priced out of the marriage market. Indeed, the level of hostility in the culture directed at women should be a major red flag. Young men who’s major experience with women are rejection after rejection, in favor of men who are “jerks” (i.e. hypermacho guys who act around women in ways that gets people fired in the workplace) get angry.

These numbers have been rising since the 1960s. Our record numbers of men in jail also directly reflect the great increase since the 1960s in the lost boys, although the vast majority of lost boys are not (yet) in jail.

We have a large and rapidly increasing population of men who are increasingly waking up to the fact that the rest of society treats them as subhuman (as “losers”, as “evil”, and considered by the typical modern Western woman as unworthy of a committed and faithful marriage).

At the same time they are being ostracized they are increasingly being depended upon by the alpha males and their female harems to make the weaponry and their tools of control and to fight their battles for them. Millions of lost boys have passed through the military or police academies or have otherwise trained themselves in the arts of war in an attempt to preserve their self-respect. (It is true that marriage rates are slightly higher in the military than in civilian populations, but so are the rates of divorce and domestic violence — the results of losts boys in modern so-called “marriages.” It is not just gay “marriage” that should be put in quotes — under modern marriage and family law, most heterosexual “marriages” also bear little resemblance to traditional marriages that made men psychologically comfortable enough to invest time and effort in their children, rather than being legally coerced into doing so). An increasing proportion of our police and military are lost boys, and the gang population is burgeoning because gangs have always been the first haven for lost boys. Lost boys program and operate the server computers we all depend on. Lost boys will soon control nuclear weapons. Juries increasingly consist of at least one, and on occasion a majority, of lost boys who, because of the fraudulent claims of feminism and the slanders of alphas and pretend-alphas that have hurt them so deeply, and because of the increasing use of legal controls to suppress beta males and throw them in jail, will be increasingly suspicious of prosecutors and the legal claims made against beta male defendants.

With moral ostracism (“losers”, “evil”) as the first step, can the physical ostracism of jail be far behind? Beta males are increasingly viewing the modern legal system as at best an attempt to keep them down by threat of violence, and perhaps even an excuse for the alpha males and feminists to round up those betas who refuse to be subservient and effectively throw them in concentration camps. The alphas increasingly fear the post-mass-media awakening of the betas and, to keep their control, are resorting to ideologies like political correctness in a vain attempt to keep the betas in line. As the alpha vs. beta war heats up betas increasingly become aware of their persecution, although it is also true that beta males are increasingly acting in criminal ways towards the society that has ostracized them, thus justifying coercive tactics in the alphas’ and feminists’ minds. Alpha males and feminists versus beta males — it is a war of growing violence on both sides.

Will an elite minority alpha males and the (admittedly much larger group of) female harem members be able to continue to control this situation? Will the lost boys continue to be manipulated by the mass media into meekly doing the bidding of their alpha masters and their harems? There have been plenty of polygynous societies where betas males have so submitted, so that is certainly a possible outcome. But modern society still has strong democratic traditions and depends too much on a growing and increasingly aware beta male population. Nerd males make up the vast majority of those who actually know how to make and use computers generally and smart weapons in particular. Most of these nerds, and an increasing proportion of them, are lost boys, and are rapidly coming to realize that they are lost boys. By insisting that the savage sexual preferences of women take priority over the many other social considerations, alpha males and feminists are via these preferences turning many of the most technically proficient members of our society into lost boys. Putting the computers we all depend on and the smart weapons we are all vulnerable to in the hands of lost boys, as in the post-sexual revolution era we increasingly must, is creating an extremely unstable state of affairs that could erupt into unprecedented and unimaginable violence. It’s already the case that millions of lost boy nerds in the West have wisely decided, individually and implicitly, (that is for their own personal but highly correlated reasons, and not as a conscious mass effort), to throw a Galt’s Gulch strike against the West and spend their lives doing something more agreeable to the hunter-gatherer instincts and their self-respect than to be technical and bureaucratic servants of the alpha males and their harems. That is why most engineering and science is now done by Asians, although Asians after a generation or two and corruption by Hollywood values and waking up to the new reality will soon take to the same pattern. Western “nerds” and “losers” who have woken up to reality and who have any sense of self-respect left in them are now on strike. They are refusing to contribute any more to the society that has screwed them.

So far it is only a quiet but very widespread strike — the nerds have not yet gone violent. They have not yet cooperated in a major way with their lost boy brothers in the gangs and the militaries, but as more lost boys wake up to reality that will change. As the Internet ends the ability of alpha males to use the mass media to dupe the betas, the outcome may be far from pretty unless the alpha males and their harems wake up and agree to a peaceful return to traditional Western monogamy.

F. Roger Devlin has written the most deeply about the issues of rotating polyandry, which is the feminists’ sexual utopia, based purely on the savage and fickle sexual preferences of women and their alpha male beneficiaries, which ends up being a new form of polygyny.