Monday, November 15, 2010


Lily and Graham,

Before you get too deeply invested in your opposition to the facts about dominance hierarchies which is another name for "intrinsic hierarchical structures", I implore you to read Buss's The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology". Specially Part V which is entitled "GROUP LIVING" and, specifically, Chapter 23, "Dominance, Status and Social Hierarchies".

I believe we human animals must accept (1) that we are just like all other animals that have survived via evolved instinctual mechanisms like dominance hierarchies or (2) that we are a special creation outside of the animal kingdom. Evolutionary psychology, which sticks to what can be observed and tested and, thus, is outside of pleasant moral considerations that make us human animals feel good about ourselves, reveals that we are buried deeply in our animal heritage and are not outside of or beyond our evolved animal natures.

We human animals sometimes catch ourselves anthropomorphizing our fellow mammals. The interesting thing about evolutionary psych is that it doesn't allow us to anthropomorphize our fellow mammals. It pays us humans the opposite compliment by animalizing or instinctualizing our human behaviors. The following is a short passage from Buss's "Introduction" to the evolutionary psychology textbook which goes a little way toward explaining why we don't catch ourselves being the animals we are:

Instincts are invisible to our intuitions, even as they generate them. They are no more accessible to consciousness than our retinal cells and line detectors but are just as important in manufacturing our perceptions of the world. As a species, we have been blind to the existence of these instincts, not because we lack them but precisely because they work so well. Because they process information so effortlessly and automatically, their operation disappears unnoticed into the background. Moreover, these instincts structure our thought and experience so powerfully we mistake their products for features of the external world: Color, beauty, status, friendship, charm—all are computed by the mind and then experienced as if they were objective properties of the objects they are attributed to. These mechanisms limit our sense of behavioral possibility to choices people commonly make, shielding us from seeing how complex and regulated the mechanics of choice is. Indeed, these mechanisms make it difficult to imagine how things could be otherwise. As a result, we take normal behavior for granted. We do not realize that normal behavior needs to be explained at all. [The boldface passage is my doing.]

When I understand reality and my place in it through these findings of evolutionary psychology, I feel profoundly my place in the Cosmos, so completely a part of the natural world that even my choices are as instinctual as a gazelle's. In those moments of vision (like right now) I feel a near mystic oneness with nature. I am at one with nature and not separated from it through some magical power which other animals don't have. The only difference between me and any other animals is the evolutionary complexity of the sound system by which I communicate with my fellow human animals and ruminate about my instinctive behaviors. I feel another sort of mystic power when my instincts cause me to communicate with you two as I'm doing just now. I feel this writing instinct so powerfully that I imagine I had a choice about writing these comments..,



In a later entry on the pantheism website, I added the next commentary.

I wrote: Evolutionary psychology, which sticks to what can be observed and tested and, thus, is outside of pleasant moral considerations that make us human animals feel good about ourselves, accepts that we are buried deeply in our animal heritage and are not outside of or beyond our evolved animal natures.

I'm 73, and I have personally experienced a struggle between my genetic attributes and my cultural sensibilities. I was born with a heavy dose of genetic material from my artsy-fartsy mother, complicated by a heavy cultural dose from my loving grandmother who churched me and who raised me between the ages of 4 and 8, and then, further complicated by a cultural dosing from a traditional Catholic stepmother who was psychologically and physically abusive. I understand nurture to be an alteration by chemical processes of my genetic base, a combination of which created the chemically-derived instinctual person I now am.

For a long portion of my life, I struggled with accepting my genetic inheritance. Here was I, genetically bent toward an artsy-fartsy nature in a man's world, verbal by nature and very much aware of my emotional life. I am empowered by talking about my emotional life with other people. I'm into self-revelation to the point of it hampering my interactions with more traditional males who have no idea what I'm talking about. All of my chemically derived traits separated me from the more genetically average male personality who succeeds in American life in the role of father, provider and husband. Fortunately for me, I'm not attracted to males or I'd be as gay as you please and having also to deal with that. As it is, I had a lot of trouble accepting my nature which did not fit comfortably into the machine shop, factory working life I lived while trying to make it as a writer.

I blamed myself for being what, by genes and nurture, I am. This is why I found evolutionary psychology to be so helpful. Instead of hating myself as a flawed male, I'm able to see myself as genetically determined to be what I am. I found that by honest acceptance of who I am (rather than by fighting it) I learned I'm nothing to be ashamed of. With my happy acceptance of genetic determinism, I even came upon a woman whose own genetic makeup causes her to cherish a male who has strong female instincts when it comes to self-revelation. Many women thought they liked that trait in me (it's poetic) until they discovered the other parts of that instinctual nature which made me a poor role-player when it came to protecting and providing. It takes a truly free and self-actualizing woman to appreciate me. However, I should point out that by accepting my genetic makeup and not being afraid of it, I have been able to contribute more in the protecting and providing side of my current partnership. In fact, I discovered that the best sort of relationship is founded in mutual protecting and providing rather than in traditional roles. Took three divorces to learn that.

Now this brings me to the idea of statistical analysis of human traits. Women hate evolutionary psychology because they think that if they're determined by their female natures, they'll be shut out from positions of power or from scientific pursuits. They fear this finding, even though it's not universally true. So, in order to feel good about themselves, to feel empowered, they reject the facts buried in the findings of evolutionary psych and grasp hold of blank slate, free will hypotheses. They're encouraged in their rejection of the facts by insecure males who tell women what they want to hear in order to grab hold of an insecure female, and they are attacked by another sort of insecure male (think Rush Limbaugh—I do) who hates women for asking him to be more of a male and less of the queer he actually is. [Aside to gays: I don't use the word "queer" with any malice toward homosexuality but to turn it's traditional nastiness back upon Rush and his kind who are so dishonest about their own homosexual tendencies.]

All any of us has to do is accept who we are and be comfortable with the strengths of who we are as individuals. Granted, perhaps, the statistics suggest that women, on average, won't be scientifically apt, but neither are males, on average, scientifically apt. Males sure like to tinker with mechanical gadgets, but that's not science. However, statistics will reveal that some females are quite good at science or at running a company... but not all women. It behooves each and every one of us to find out our own strengths and to play to our strengths rather than our weaknesses. If some woman is a bang up housewife and child-rearer, let her revel in that and let each of us revel in it too rather than beat each other up with labels. If a man is a poor provider, let him accept that genetic and cultural sport and cherish his other traits. Why must each of us want to be what we are not and to hate ourselves for being who we are?

I suggest that instead of allowing ourselves to be emotionally determined by the fact of determinism, we find out about our true and INDIVIDUAL natures, accept ourselves for what we are and discover peace in the world harmony such honesty would bring about.

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