Archives for category: Biology

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Yesterday I liberated from the overgrown jungle of Facebook a brief and characteristic-of-the-age Q&A, placing it here. But that short burst of re-iterations — restatements of my basic set of objections to modish (postmodern?) sexuality/social construction theory and intersectionalist politics — is obviously not enough. Some day I must make a definitive statement. But even before that time, there is something else I must do.

Some time back I made a more lengthy and rhetorically loaded against the theory — “I do not care about your ‘gender’” — which was itself a reiteration of points I’d made earlier. And Daniel Kian Mc Kiernan challenged me on my post, in the comments section.

That challenge deserves a reply more extensive than the one I gave initially. Or, at least I should take on points not initially handled. So here goes.

The Œconomist Mac Kiernan wonders about my attitude, which I will not directly address, since it can be read in all that follows. More interestingly, he states that he does indeed recognize that “the people who speak and write most vociferously about gender theory themselves confuse the distinction between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’” — a point I often make. I often draw from it the conclusion that the innovation of “gender” is thereby likely a mistake. But I could very well be wrong, at least to make this inference. He goes on to insist that this need not be the norm: “some of those of us who write less vociferously are also consistently careful to recognize the difference between physiological states and rôles that have been associated with those states by psychological factors, some idiosyncratic and some involving interaction with other persons.”

There is a lot to unpack here, and I am probably not the one to do the unpacking. But while gender is said to be the social aspect built on the biological foundation of sex, no matter the extent to which gender is an individually chosen role, an assigned role, a socially promoted role, a socially tolerated role, a socially deprecated role — even perhaps taboo — it does seem to me about roles. That has been my reading of the concept, anyway. So I wonder about this:

While gender is plainly associated with sex, I don’t know that gender can be reduced to a sex rôle, in-so-far as there may be more than one gender associated with a sex, and I believe that there may me more than one sex associated with a gender. We now see the latter, at least as a sub-cultural phenomenon, in our own nation.

Of course there may be more than one gender associated with a sex. That was the original idea. Non-problematic from the original theorists’ point of view. And, yes, both men and women (adult male and female humans) can play a single role (that of, say, subservient homemaker, or breadwinner, or what-have-you). I am not sure what is the big deal here. Indeed, I do not see why we need “gender” to explain this. People choose different functions in social groups, and that is to be expected, since there is a division not only of labor in society, but of leisure, also.

Indeed, what is gained by talking about gender over role and social functionality? The very word is derived from a classificatory scheme.* But people are individuals first, and classified role-players second. Instantiations of roles are almost infinite, because each individual is different, at least to some degree. That socially recognized role functions get promoted in society is of course a big deal, but so is individual choice. But the idea that individuals must create newly named social role functions in order to become the people they wish to become strikes me as nipples on a bull’s belly: not necessary. Individuals may simply diverge as they choose, and, in an open society, decide not to conform to standards A, B, and C, but perhaps to D or E, even if such standards are not socially prevalent, normed.

A lot of the angst behind gender theory is the angst of people making identities for themselves in terms of closed society norms while creating and participating in increasingly open societies. But instead of embracing the evolving openness as an individualist option, they are insisting that every role choice be socially defined and accepted, and any resistance to it a sign of oppression.

This all strikes me as the anxieties of the Last Man. (The Last Man being a Feminist, or a Mangina.) These are all examples of Sartre’s “bad faith.” My objections to gender theory are partially on this existentialist-individualist line. Gender obsessions among postmoderns (Last Men) are evasions of responsibility by trying to construe the freedom of an open society as an embattled group-interest cultural war in closed-society terms.

Whatever we may conclude about gender, there are plainly people who are intersexed, having more traits of the male sex and of the female sex in combination than we find in “textbook” models. These people were once simply concluded to be in some way defective, but defects only exist relative to purposes of some sorts. It seems to me that if these people are content as they are, then there is no defect to be corrected. And if the only source of discontent associated with their physical states is that society treats them as defective, then they have a prima facie case for social change. If we pity them, it should be as we pity anyone treated badly by society. Likewise for those born sexless.

Well, yes. But of course there is a “purpose.” It is the one set by evolution. If you are born with your heart out of your chest, you are born defective. If you are born without the genitals associated with either the male or the female, you are a defective.

I was born with several disorders at birth, which showed up as infantile glaucoma and, later in life, a substernal goiter. I am a defective. I know it. I have always known it. That’s just the truth.

This is not a difficult concept. The question is not whether there are defectives, but how to treat them. As civilization has progressed, we learn that we more and more physical and mental defectives can be socially useful and socially tolerable. Indeed, we discover that our bad treatment of defectives hurts our society almost as much as it hurts them.

Thus I see one problem with gender theory as not properly dealing with defects. Indeed, I regard this as the modern goody-two-shoes vice: lying about reality because reality seems harsh. We have options to ameliorate reality. They can include honesty.

But somehow rarely do.

This is not to say that what is defective under one perspective cannot serve as an advantage under another. My lack of stereoscopic vision saved me from any enticement in sports, which I tend to regard as a great social nuisance. But that does not mean that my poor eyesight (and, growing up, slight frame) should not be seen as defective. Nicely, conveniently for me, other talents and abilities more than made up for my physical shortfalls.

Perhaps my attitude to gender theory derives in no small part from my attitude towards my own defects, growing up. I developed my own sense of self, and had no models ready at hand. I rejected many messages coming at me. Sure, I was not good at sports. But, I realized fairly quickly that I did not care (and had not ever really cared) about such socially normed activity. I turned my attention elsewhere. Had I been one of those more normal boys who had always wanted to be a baseball pitcher or some such waste of time, I would have had greater difficulty. Sure. But the lesson is still valuable: accentuate the positive; do not bother yourself with what is too expensive to fix; prepare for the best and avoid the worst. Give up on impossible dreams.

What one should do if one dislikes one’s own body more than I did — if one cannot stand one’s own genitals, for instance — I am probably not the best to advise. But I do have some perspective on the situation, and I take that perspective in my many criticisms of what I regard as leftist lunacy regarding sexual matters.

And, really: are there “plenty of people” who are intersexed? There are a very few people, by population. (It is also worth noting that these people are not primarily suffering from “gender” problems but sexual/somatic disorders.)

And let me restate more clearly: there are many defectives. Ugly people, fat people, stupid people, weak people. Indeed, there are so many defectives and so many valid perspectives under which we can be defined as in some way defective that we can say that we are, nearly all of us, defectives — only in different ways. This recognition of limitations is the beginning of wisdom. It is the beginning of folly to pretend that defects are not defects.

It’s baldly true that what is called “sexual reässignment surgery” cannot turn men into women nor women into men; at present, surgery cannot even give a genuine new breast to a woman who has lost one! But that doesn’t established that sexual reässignment surgery is always a bad idea. Surgery can be used to counterfeit various sorts of changes, to good effect — for example, a counterfeit breast for the aforementioned woman. It seems to me that sexual reässignment surgery may be in the same category.

I am not saying that sex changes are not a good idea (though the evidence is far more indicative of its perils than its benefits); what I was saying, I thought, was that such manipulations are not “gender” reässignment. Sex change surgery is, instead, a somatic alteration. Sure, you may do what you want. But note what is happening when a person who suffers from a sexual identity crisis has surgery to change his or her body into her or his body: it switches a so-called (perceived; constructed) gender problem into a somatic problem. Basically, a psychological and moral problem into a problem for medical technicians. But since the sexual reässignment surgeries are still quite primitive — have you seen what passes for a penis at the end of such procedures? I’d prefer a vagina and make do! (vice versa for constructed vaginas) — the results are often gruesome. And extremely inconvenient. Quite a lot of bother.

Once again, as far as I’m concerned, normally-bodied folks may (should be allowed to) alter themselves to become freaks, or freaks may try to become less freakish (I may sometimes advise it),  but that is not my issue. My issue is lying about what is being done.

Or even creating moral fictions to smooth over the bumps of the inconveniences of nature and circumstance.

I am very interested in moral fictions, but I try not tp engage in many, myself. Indeed, when somebody catches me in one, I enjoy (after picking at a psychological scab or two) exploring another element of fiction in everyday life. Fiction is extremely important in the course of civilization, for individual persons as well as at meso- and macro-level society. But to be a philosopher is to be able to distinguish fact from fiction, truth from lies — and speculate where the lines should be drawn when they can be drawn competently. (My theory of rights incorporates a theory of moral and legal fiction.)

I don’t think that anyone born of one sex can somehow know by introspection that he or she has the brain of another sex. We’re not telepaths; even those of us who are content with our birth sexes know others of our sex only through the lens of gender! But if someone can be made significantly more comfortable as a counterfeited male or as a counterfeited female, taking hormones for the rest of his or her life, this seems to me to be fundamentally analogous to someone with, say, a face transplant, taking anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his or her life. I don’t see a reason to avoid the person, nor to smirk at the choice.

I am fine with most of this. But my smirk comes from the desperation to be something one is not and cannot be. What one cannot change one may be advised not to try. Those who insist on trying, and failing miserably, are the subject of comedy. That is what comedy is about, exactly such failures.

Of course, that is what tragedy is about, too.

I say this as a somewhat comic figure myself. As indicated above, I grew up knowing myself to be physically defective. And I now know (am made daily aware) that I am in physical decline. I am aging; death is nearer at hand every day. And though that may seem tragic from my perspective, it cannot be so for everyone else: they have their own lives to live until they can no longer muster the resources. I have no social and moral standing to make others pity me overmuch. Indeed, that is the lesson of Tolstoy’s “Death of Ivan Ilyich.” Let us not lie as we die. Nor should we lie as we primp and preen.

Desperation to put off the inevitable is understandable, but the more desperate the less admirable. I am more inclined to the Stoic and Epicurean disciplines: accept one’s limitations. Make do. Don’t fret.

I advise individuals not to adapt themselves according to a cookie-cutter “gender construct,” but define themselves as persons first and foremost.

If one sees little to offer in a standard model of sexual behavior, fine; embrace your inner eccentric. I have done that. I have never formed a long-term pair bond, and have never produced children, much less raised children to maturity. But I have never lied to myself about the cost of my choices. Or, at least I have tried not to lie.

When eccentrics prescribe for the centric we enter the realm of the problematic. Surely bachelors, spinster, openly homosexual, et al. must realize that they cannot be models for the common run of mankind. And it seems obvious . . . what must be considered the central story of any species is its sexual reproductive story. Individuals who do not participate in this activity directly must expect to incur costs of not doing so. To choose to live tangentially or orthogonally to the central story of life means one cannot directly participate in its benefits. And we should expect that this central story remain central. To not continue to place it at the center is to choose decay — by which I mean death of the social group, even death of the species.

Gender theory is, as near as I can make out, consistently, and with maddening repetition, anti-heteronormative. And heteronormativity strikes me as not merely an understandable cultural adaptation to biological and economic reality, it is necessary. We must define as decadent those practices that oppose the continuation of the species, or even the social group. Gender theory, at least in its usual pair bond with postmodernist intersectionalism, is decadence through and through.

Of course, just as there is a lot of ruin in a nation, there is always decadence in a society. And as a de facto member of a quasi-decadent social category — the “confirmed bachelor,” now known as MGTOW — I believe it to be my duty not to universalize my choice, much less undermine the social capital (heteronormativity being one) that allows society to survive and progress. Honesty demands this.

I believe gender theorists to be dishonest and decadent in the worst possible sense. They oppose the basic and necessary institutions of a society. They wish to remake the world to serve and valorize those who do not directly contribute to the continuation of civilization. What a perversity that is.

It is one thing to make room for the oddballs. It is another to redo all social arrangements to put the oddballs at the center of consideration, overthrowing normal sexually reproductive life strategies.

Family values, even. Indeed, one of the mainstays of current feminism and its embrace of “gender” theory is its utter reliance upon the State to replace the family institutions that existed prior to postmodernity. Fatherhood has been relegated to sperm donorship and forced child support payments. Motherhood is now, for increasing numbers of people, a government affair, a de facto marriage of women with the State. The norming of this allows the norming of anti-heteronormativity. The relations between the sexes have become attenuated, and all this gender talk exists within the context of the welfare state. The attenuation of social functions, like the bonds between mothers and fathers, runs parallel to the attenuation between producers and consumers, turning most folk into consumers only.

No wonder conservatives are appalled at the modern (post-modern) world. But they are completely in over their heads, because they helped create this monster.

And it is a statist monster.

If one is (as I am) skeptical of the State and its intrusive role in contemporary society, accepting gender theoretics is just another back-door meme serving to undermine an honest and subtle view of society. Gender talk serves as a lever to corrupt folks, apparently in service to the creation of a New Socialist Man, a world of Last Men where individual personhood is subsumed to State coercion at every social contact.

It is no accident that most gender theorists are out-and-out socialists. Their dream is to utterly upend society and purge all its members of individual responsibility. Directing our attention away from our own choices and towards conformity to new normed “genders” is vital, essential to their program.

And it is not a new program. Socialism, as Yves Guyot insisted years ago, only plausibly works under conditions of sexual separation and economic subsidy. This was clear in The Republic and it is clearer now, long after the death of Plato.

twv

* Late Middle English: from Old French gendre (modern genre), based on Latin genus ‘birth, family, nation’. The earliest meanings were ‘kind, sort, genus’ and ‘type or class of noun, etc.’ (which was also a sense of Latin genus).

Recently on Facebook:

Can someone please explain why so many Libertarians are concerned with the gender controversy? Our motto is literally don’t hurt people or take their things, other than that do what you want. So if someone says they are not male or female, or they’re somewhere in between, that’s their freedom, no? Seems like there are a lot of people who fight for freedom when it comes to guns, businesses, and property, but not freedom of your own thoughts — that just makes you an asshole (or a republican).

First Answer:

I have many problems with “gender” talk. I will name three.

1. The concept is all about identification by “group.” Young people are being encouraged to conform not to their natural desires and interests, but to some set of group identifiers, often at the expense of biological facts. Confession: I am an individualist before a libertarian, and I want people to individuate, not tribalize. Become their own persons, not members of a club, complete with an ideology that makes them feel in-group/out-group love/hate. The “gender” movement is a neo-tribal groupthink ideology.

2. Gender theory has developed in tandem with the postmodernist movement, shanghaing Marxian class analysis from its goofy economic interpretation into a nebulous cultural orientation. Marxism is a disease of the mind. It falsifies reality and encourages collectivism. So does gender theory in practice.

3. Gender theory has been degraded in popular speech as a substitute for “sex,” which still embarrasses people to talk about. It is stupid, and it is common. Everyone who uses “gender” when they mean “sex” should be ashamed of themselves. And that is a majority of the word’s users, at least some of the time.

Second Answer:

Also, consider this part of original challenge: “So if someone says they are not male or female, or they’re somewhere in between, that’s their freedom, no?”

You can call yourself a toaster, but that doesn’t mean I’d put bread in your slot and expect a nice, dry and crisp and hot treat.

This is an issue of sex. The number of people who are hermaphrodites or have strange chromosomal issues is minute. These people have difficulty determining their sex. And I feel for them. But to those of us with either cox or kunz, balz or fallopians, xy’s or xx’s, we are either male or female.

“Male” and “female” are not gender concepts. They are sex concepts. We use sex as identifiers in common speech because it is objective and easy.

“Masculine” and “feminine” are the terms of “gender theory.” Two among many, actually.

Gender theory is about what people do with their sex, how they and others think about it. If you think “male” and “female” are gender concepts, you have misunderstood the theory.

Alas, many gender theorists misunderstand the theory, because they are incompetent thinkers who cannot rub two ideas together and get a synthesis.

twv

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If you aim, in my direction, some cockamamie rap about “the myth of the gender binary,” be assured: I’m not interested. Your gender is none of my business. And keeping track of pseudo-science is not my avocation.

Indeed, I have yet to be convinced that there is much of anything in Gender Theory worth considering at length. I know the definition of “gender,” as a stand-in for “sex role.” More importantly, I know the open secret of the notion: even its adherents keep confusing “gender” with sex.

I am interested in sex. That’s biological. And I am interested in the roles that people make from their sex, and the norms they advance regarding sex and sexual behavior. But when I meet you, I can only guess what weight you give to “masculinity” and what weight you give to “femininity” and any other kind of sex-role “inity.” But I have little incentive to spend much time on the subject. I engage in a parsimony of attention. So I have no real interest in whatever cooked-up alt-pronoun you are pushing to honor your conception of “gender.”

There is indeed a sex binary. This is incontestable. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool of such proportions that I would not talk to that person if I could help it. I avoid crazy people. Besides, I am not a “science denier.” The biology is very clear.

As for “there is no gender binary,” my response is, at best: “Yeah, right, Goober.” Tautological truths about uninteresting fantasies are not my bag.

If you are a boy, and want to pretend to be a girl (or vice versa) that’s fine by me. But I am under no obligation to cater to your delusions or your frauds. I will call you what seems reasonable at the time, but not make much of it. If you make much of it, you can go screw yourself.

That is, unless you have gelded yourself.

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My cat, Bene: he is a neutered male.

Which brings up an interesting point: though we hear much of “gender reassignment surgery”* and “trans-” this and that, I haven’t heard of a rush to create eunuchs. But such operations were once widely performed on men, and are even now routinely performed on pets of either sex.

But we still call neutered males “he” and “him” and spayed females “she” and “her” out of convenience.

So, your pronoun trouble is yours and not mine.

It’s true, as a wordsmith by trade, I have indeed experimented with constructing a set of non-sex-specific pronouns and possessives, but it’s a Sisyphean task to get a new word shoved into a language. And it would be Orwellian to try to do such a thing through the State’s police power, as the collegiate social justice crowd is indeed trying to do in Canada and on some U.S. campuses.

Yes, when it comes to sexing humans, it remains what it always has been: a matter of cox and kunz. If you lack either the referred-to penis or vagina, or have both, then you are indeed a special case, and I will no doubt pity you. If you once had one, and now have the other, I’ll try to humor you, but I feel no obligation. And if you try to oblige me, I will take that as a threat upon my person and my liberty, and swear you are my enemy. And reach for a weapon or a lawyer.

And if you are merely pretending to have something between your legs that you don’t, or are “treating yourself” with the opposite sex’s hormones, I’ll likely avoid dealing with you, and if I cannot, your respect for me means that you must forgive my smirk.

But be assured, the only respect you are owed is the same as the respect I am owed; respect for our rights. And your rights to dress as you want, call yourself whatever you want, talk with whatever inflection you prefer, and generally behave in any peaceful manner are all the respect I feel I owe you. I may give you more than that, but you may not demand more.

Notice what I have not talked about: your interests in other people via-à-vis sexual desire and gratification. Unless we are friends, I have no interest at all in your sexual orientation(s), unless you are an attractive woman who finds me attractive in return.

All others may . . . Well, let us just say that it is none of my business.

And if you ask me for my gender, I will tell you my sex.

twv

* Of course, “gender-reassignment surgery” is a self-contradiction. Surgeries are biological procedures, manipulations of the body, and gender is supposed to be about socially constructed roles, so surgeons could have nothing to do with “gender.” Their purview is entirely limited to sex. This is just one of those terms that show the whole Gender Hooey to be just that, hooey.

Gad Saad, the evolutionary scholar who has devoted his career to explaining consumer behavior, celebrated Charles Darwin’s birthday with a new “Saad Truth” video:

Professor Saad is one of my favorite arguers, interviewers, and monologists on YouTube. I like almost all of his online contributions, and am head-over-heels for not a few of them.

Alas, this is not up to his usual stellar standards.

He defends evolutionary theory against its many unlearned critics. Many of whom have the temerity to attack his evolutionism on Twitter and similar venues. But there are problems as to how — not that — he has done so.

Full disclosure: I am on his side. I do not see how evolution cannot be the basic view of life. But I admit: I did not really believe it until after I had abandoned theistic belief. (I exited the fold of believers, long ago, for scientific and rational reasons that were tangential to evolutionary theory proper. Psychology was a major concern, however. I abandoned a supernaturalistic explanation for all the human behavior I witnessed, and after that it proved too difficult to maintain any sort of theism. I moved to incredulity, coupled with curiosity.) But in this video he spends most of his time engaging in ad hominem arguments and the argument from authority.

img_2320Which is not wholly disreputable. It is sometimes legitimate to attack the motivations and character and methods of those one disagrees with. Sometimes it is this practice, more than rational argument, that proves the only thing carable of nudging some folks out of dogmatic slumbers.

Similarly, appeals to authority (which the professor also marshaled) are not wholly out of line. When we suggest that experts generally support some conclusion or another, those who doubt the conclusion should take pause.

But there is no logical reason to side with authorities. Authorities can be, and often are, wrong.

I can cite many cases.

But all this is moot. The reason the vast majority of biologists and allied scientists support evolutionary explanations is that these explanations are the best we have available, and the alternatives just do not seem very persuasive. If you bracket out religion, especially religious motivation, from the picture.

And Saad is quite right, the standard charge that “evolution is only a theory” is silly in the extreme. First, it is not true: evolution is not “only a theory.” And second, there are a lot of now universally accepted truths that we ordinarily view primarily as theories, since our everyday perceptions would indicate that Occam’s Razor better slices in a completely different direction.

Example? Flat Earth. It is not the spherical planet theory that seems to make sense in terms of normal, everyday experience. One must broaden one’s experience (say, fly in a jet, or travel on the open seas) and engage in some tricky mental operations (noting the round and apparently spherical character of heavenly bodies, the disappearance first of ship and then of shipmasts at the horizon, etc.) to see that a spheroid Earth better describes terrestrial shape.

Most creationists, today, seem uninterested in the vast evidence gathered by geology and paleontology. Most of which backs up the evolutionary approach. But once you begin to engage in hands-on work with rock and fossils, and then look at the huge collections of fossilized life and their origin in geological strata, then the creationist and “intelligent design” quibbles are eclipsed by the huge mass of accumulated evidence, and evolution becomes pretty darn obvious.

One of the best early arguments for the facticity of evolution was written nearly a decade before Darwin’s Origin of Species, and was acknowledged by him (along with many other precursors) in a later volume of the work. That argument is “The Development Hypothesis,” by Herbert Spencer.

“Aha!” exclaim the creationists. “You admit, it is less than ‘just a theory’ — it is a mere hypothesis!”

No. I encourage a reading of the actual text. For, as one quickly learns, even seven years prior to Darwin’s explanation of speciation, Spencer made a quite convincing case. “Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by the facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all.” As Darwin wrote in the Historical Sketch preceding later editions of his first ground-breaking work, Spencer makes the case with “remarkable skill and force.” If one looks at facts further away from one’s normal pathway between work and home, one sees that the case for evolution is quite clear. Even sans the Darwinian advance.

The only real reason (from what I can tell) that anyone puts any stock at all in the theory of special creation is the result of being “born to a given belief” — that is, because they accept certain ancient beliefs in the supernatural, beliefs that they find comforting or exalting or in some other way psychologically attractive.

For my part, those ancient beliefs seem not in the tiniest bit persuasive. The people who first advanced them, and the books that they produced, were not at all conducive to rational thought. Doubt and incredulity and curiosity were not attitudes they sought to inculcate. Instead, they promoted dogma and something called “faith.” They were engaging in a mythological mode, intent on fulfilling purposes other than careful inquiry. None of their writings gives off the odor of reliable reportage.

Let us move on. To the next step. The fact of evolution is one thing. The explanatory principles are another. And, yet further, the extrapolations from those principles, and their applications to other questions not directly and obviouosly related to the long course of evolution, are different yet.

Darwin helped many believe the first aspect of the problem — the actual occurrence of the development of life over many, many thousands and millions of generations of living beings — by providing a startling set of principles that helps explain how organisms adapt to environments, and, over time, change structures and behaviors so that the natures of the descendants are remarkably distinct from that of their ancestors.

There are a lot of “theories” involved at every level, here. But it is not as if the initial speculations have not been backed up by later accumulations of evidence. And while it is also true that some evidence has falsified some aspects of Darwin’s (and, more obviously, Spencer’s) notions, this is not cause for alarm — evolutionary science has itself evolved, adapting to newly discovered facts, modifying to reflect reality. Increment by increment.

Creationism, on the other hand, has mostly been restricted to apologetics, to bolstering up received notions. The expansion of its “research program” has not given us many (any?) useful new insights, much less promising avenues for further exploration. And, unlike evolutionary science, it has not produced useful technological advances in medicine or anything else.

But evolutionists have.

The distant past is difficult to explain, since it is indeed long past — and we naturally enough lack direct access to the facts of the past, especially before living memory, and most especially before the human record, reliable or not. And yet, we do possess the geological record; we also understand (in part) the astronomical context, the rapidly expanding information about genetics and epigenetics, and the massive evidence of a diversity of beings distributed throughout the world (in patterns that suggested to Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin a difficult-but-powerful idea, natural selection).

And the people Gad Saad calls morons and Dunning-Kruger-affected nincompoops? They think they understand creationism. But they do so mainly on faith, or by metaphor — they still are infat Yates with Priestley’s found artifact. The Argument from Design. But they have no real grasp of even their own theory, for, as Spencer explained,

This is one of the many cases in which men do not really believe, but rather believe they believe. It is not that they can truly conceive ten millions of special creations to have taken place, but that they think they can do so. Careful introspection will show them that they have never yet realized to themselves the creation of even one species.

Of course, “careful introspection” is not something everyone has a knack for. And it is certainly not something that our schoolmasters and institutions have spent much effort in inculcating.

I quote this passage not only because it is relevant to the folks Gad Saad laments and pillories. It helps to explain their error. And, on a personal note, it was with careful introspection that I started the intellectual journey that has not yet ended, but has led me to positions not too far from Professor Saad’s.

Yes, I came up from the ranks of [what Saad sadly thinks of as] the Yahoos. It was an ascent, if not an evolution. But, like an evolutionist, I never really stop trying to understand my ancestors. Which includes my very own past self.

And, we must remember, that the greater nescience of others is tragic not because of what they do not know, but because they do not know that they lack important knowledge. For the rest of us, our growing knowledge is comic: as science expands, the surface where knowledge meets nescience also expands, and we know more and more of how much we do not yet know. Knowledge increases, but so does the realm of the known unknowns.

twv

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Americans have had more than one red-headed president before Trump and his weird orange hair. Here is what I found during a few quick searches — Americans, I give you the red-headed Presidents of the United States:

  • George Washington
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Martin Van Buren
  • Ulysses Grant
  • Calvin Coolidge
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

That’s an awful lot of redheads. We’re working on our 45th president, making redheads 17.77 percent of the presidential population. Worldwide redheadedness is at 1 to 2 percent — perhaps as high as 6 percent of white European populations. The American presidency is more than twice the average. What’s going on here?

There is some evidence that one reason America split from the union might have had something to do with red hair. The British soldiers wore red suits, but most of Virginia’s military commanders were red-heads, as was commented on at the time.

OK, that was a stretch. Borderline ridiculous. But with two of the most important figures in our country’s founding being “gingers,” it does seem interesting how heavily weighted redheads are in American history.

Full disclosure: I am, if not a redhead, at least a redbeard. Though at my age the red is slowly fading: soon no one will be able to tell I was once a redbeard, just as few knew that Washington or Eisenhower were redheads.

twv


The evolutionary strategy of the cuckoo is well known. It led to the traditional term for a man cheated upon: cuckold. Which led to the sexual kink of a man who enjoys watching his wife being fucked by another man, also known as a cuckold.

More interestingly, the metaphor was then stretched along civilizational lines, into the politics of race, subsidy and much more, all focused on a new term of abuse: cuck. This is the alt-right contribution to modern debate and invective.

There is something to it.

But the alt-right trolls and lolsters were not the first to expand upon the paradigmatic bird, the cuckoo. There was John Wyndham and his science fiction masterpiece, The Midwich Cuckoos, filmed as The Village of the Damned — a great little film, that.

Thus I justify the following visual “meme”:

img_1271

 

It is trending again, according to The College Fix: “Universities across the nation are taking steps to actively purge male students of what’s been labeled ‘toxic masculinity.’”

William Nardi — an almost Dickensian name, eh? — delivers the news. “On campus, toxic masculinity is often blamed for sexual violence, body shaming, a ‘hyper-masculinized sporting culture,’ acts of domestic terrorism and much more.”

For example, a class at Dartmouth College this semester, “The Orlando Syllabus,” identifies so-called toxic masculinity as playing a role in the mass murder spree at a Florida club during the summer. This despite the fact that the gunman, Omar Mateen, told police on the phone as he committed the massacre he did it on behalf of ISIS.

Nicely, Nardi expresses some skepticism. Modish terms do deserve scrutiny and some hesitation before adoption.

I have done that, yet I do think there is such a thing as “toxic masculinity.” The term seems apt to designate the abuse of an excess quality for rude, criminal, or disturbingly hierarchical purposes.

But the sauce suited for ganders serves Ms. Goose just as well. Yes, there is also such a thing as “toxic femininity.” That would be when a surfeit of feminine characteristics is bent towards furthering anti-social or personally unbalanced behavior. The femme fatale is, indeed, a thing. We’ve all known bitch goddesses.

Worse yet may be when such toxicity crosses sex lines and leads to an excess in the counterbalance, in the corrective:

  • Toxic masculinity in the female results in Third Wave feminist misandry.
  • Toxic femininity in the male leads to White Knighting and a sort of simpering, pathetic deference to the women.

The etiology of the “disease” that is modern feminism may now be clear.

I just watched a neutral presentation of interviews with college students about the difference between sex and gender. Poor kids. They have been taught sanctimonious theory, and can regurgitate it upon demand, but the Rousseauvian nature of their goofball ideas they have no comprehension of.

Sex is a huge subject, and everything I hear from young folk strikes me absurd and unscientific — and based upon political pressure and ideological need, not upon biological reality.

I believe that we live in a new age of a rampant fear and hatred of the biological reality of sex.

It is a sort of mirror image of the traditional fear of sex.

Whereas the old fear was based on the notion of the consequences of action, and the centrality of the idea of responsibility, the new fear is based upon a notion of cosmic fairness, and the centrality of identity (what we used to call personhood).

In olden times, religion was the dominant institution of social control, and people imagined that their selves, their persons, were ghosts stuck in the icky machinery of biology. Fearing being trapped in the consequences of unrestrained sexual passion — disease, death, children one could not provide for — the traditional sex fear expressed itself in a euphemestic manner of speaking about the subject, with extensive social pressure to refrain from sexual behavior except in limited circumstances, socially valorized.

In modern times, political government is the dominant institution of social control, and people imagine that their very selves, their identities, are social constructs imposed on the malleable matter of the brain’s tabula rasa. Today’s taboos center around protecting a person’s expression of what used to be called (incessantly so, by women) their “sexuality.” This expression is said to be their “gender,” which constitutes the sum total of their desires, affects, self-regard, and choice in pronouns.

Both models strike me as absurd. But at least the older paradigm recognized the inherent power of carnality.

Postmodernity sucks, and “gender” theory — its shiniest, newest offspring — is cretinous.

My advice to the youngsters? Forget your “gender.” Sure, folks make hasty judgments and may express biased expectations about you based on your sex. But have a little gumption. Construct your own life according to your own lights, and deal with your biological heritage prudently, and not as a slave either to tradition or fashion.

Be individuals. Persons.

Grow up.

For the record, I am not a “climate change denier.” Climates change. Our climate is changing. No denial.

IMG_5126But I am a “climate science denier.” I deny that you know enough about climate to

  • shame me for my skepticism,
  • call the study of Earth’s climate a “settled science,”
  • or oust anyone from a position of employment or station for not agreeing with you.

How can I be so confident? Well, all my life I’ve avidly read about how science gets done. And I know that shaming and bullying tactics are not part of the “public testing” of conjectures and hypotheses that do constitute the mainstay of science.

Further, I grew up within a religion, and I know a cultist when I encounter one — and every anthropogenic global warming (AGW) activist I have ever met is a cultist. And, from my reading, many, many scientists are cultists too. And worse: too many scientists serve as the charlatan “prophets” who run the cult.

And I know a little something about economics, enough so that I cannot be fooled into thinking that public policies may be primarily judged according to the standard of good intentions. To the contrary, climate policy, like any other policy, requires a truly scientific scrutiny. Any proposed program requires the careful comparison of the likely benefits of the program with the costs of said program, and those costs must be understood in terms of lost opportunities. Making an argumentative gambit like “we cannot afford to do nothing” will not cut it with me. I know that doing nothing is often better than doing a risky and dangerous and costly something.

Further, I have a bit of common sense, too. And I know that the common charge by AGW fanatics, against skeptics like myself, that any corporate grant ever taints every pronouncement by a skeptic, much more plausibly counts against current AGW “climate science.” If “he who pays the piper calls the tune” applies against corporate grants, it applies even stronger to the government grants sector. Government grants are easier to get, and the money is more plentiful — other people’s money, unattached to the standard of profit and loss, corrupts more universally and with general negative effect. A never-ending tax-funded gravy train is hugely corruptive of science. The subsidized university system itself has corrupted science in many fields, with replicability rates of published study results having been demonstrated, recently, to be alarmingly low.

Model-based “science” of complex phenomena, whether of climate or society, is rarely anything more than mere scientism, and when such work is accompanied with heresy hunting and doubt shaming, the models can be dismissed — especially if they never are successfully predictive — or even retrodictive (that is, prediction of the past). Climate scientists who sport alarmist models of climate change have yet to trot out a model that even predicts recent trends, much less future trends along with future magnitudes.

Arguably, climate science jumped the shark years ago. And the damage it is doing to public appreciation of science and the calling that is science is as incalculable as . . . future climate.

Some day, I suppose, there may be a science of climate with some predictive validity. That day is not here yet.

The crazy extent to which seemingly legitimate scientists have nosed themselves into cultish climate dogmatism is, in fact, very funny. But they aren’t laughing. They are so serious they do not see the ultimate joke that they’ve perpetrated upon themselves. Mark Twain once quipped that “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” That was a joke. We are not meant to take the joke seriously.

Being a smart person means not falling into traps easy to spot. Mark Twain was jesting. If you try to change the weather system, the climate, you will make of yourself a laughing stock.

Accept your limitations. Deny certainty in the sciences of complex phenomena, and accept that the role of the scientist is not that of priest or court wizard. Give up the hubris of World Savior, and, in accepting these limitations, accept your limited responsibility, too.

Become an apostate to cultism, and, by doubting, deny intellectual legitimacy to all cults. Including the cult of “science.”

intrinsic

Amusingly, the sign to the right, explaining the motto on the big sign, quickly shifts to talking about “roles” played in any given animal’s “environment.”

It doesn’t take long for intrinsicism to devolve into some relativist conception. For example, as soon as one talks of roles, and animals, this pops to mind:

Every Dead Animal Has a Role to Play in the Environment

Food, at least for maggots and bacteria, if not larger animals.

I know an unkindness of ravens that, could its members understand the concept, would have every reason to chuckle at “intrinsic value.” The other day I drove by a lovely roadkill deer, with three buzzards picking at it. My cat has so far killed three rabbits, one of them larger than himself.

The roles animals play to each other does not bolster the case for their intrinsic value. Only clueless human beings could concoct such a contrary-to-fact notion. Which is why the arguments for the notion are so idiotic.

Note: The above photo was something I found batted around on the Internet. I have not tried to track down its source.