Evolution and the Mind

Many people on the Right think evolutionary psychology is a nonsense field, probably because it has the word psychology in it. On the Left, the opposition comes from feminists who want to believe sex is imaginary. They use the word gender, when they mean sex, as it allows them break free of biological reality. They get to pollute the idea with cultural items like gender roles and homosexual advocacy.

The question though, is whether selection works on the cognitive traits in the same way it works on the physical traits. I’m thinking about that as I type this post, watching snow flurries and temperatures in the single digits. Climate is probably the most brutal of selection mechanism, and humans adapted to climate mentally, not physically. Skin tone and eye color can take many generations. One hard winter and those who failed to plan are wiped out.

For example, if this were five thousand years ago, I would be dead now if I was not prepared for this brutal cold snap. That means I would have collected enough wood for the winter, back in the fall when the weather was nice. I would have prepared my shelter for the cold and wind, back in the summer when the days were long and I had the time. Most important, I would have prepared a supply of fresh water and food that would remain edible through the winter.

In the late summer I could not possibly know what winter would bring or how long it will last so planning for the worst is the key to survival. For that to be learned behavior means the people who failed to learn were wiped out. It also means the folks who somehow survived or thrived had the capacity to pass on these lessons in a way that allows the progeny to survive. It also means every winter the best at this cognitive skill survived while those less skilled perished.

When you start with a simple example like this, it is not hard to see why the personality and culture of Iceland is different from sub-Saharan Africa. When you add in how this would change reproductive strategies, it’s easy to understand how the people in the harsh north evolved a different set of cognitive traits from those in the warm south. In the former, good planning attracts the ladies, while in the south it does not.

How much of difference this makes and how persistent it is in the genes of the human population is another debatable, but the way to be is on biology. Europeans in Africa, for example, don’t acquire African ways after a generation or two. Similarly, African populations in the north remain African in behavior and temperament. Maybe it really is the legacy of colonialism or whatever the Left is into these days, but that is very unlikely.

ID’ers Are Kooks

The other day, the Spectator gave a platform to Stephen Meyer, the intelligent Design guru, so he could make his case. They gave John Derbyshire the chance to reply. Most people shrug off the intelligent design people, assuming they are just the creationists with a different line of attack. Therefore only believers bother to read the arguments put forth by people like Meyer. If you read what this guy has to say, it is not hard to come away thinking these people are worse than creationists.

When writing in scientific journals, leading biologists candidly discuss the many scientific difficulties facing contemporary versions of Darwin’s theory. Yet when scientists take up the public defense of Darwinism—in educational policy statements, textbooks, or public television documentaries—that candor often disappears behind a rhetorical curtain. “There’s a feeling in biology that scientists should keep their dirty laundry hidden,” says theoretical biologist Danny Hillis, adding that “there’s a strong school of thought in biology that one should never question Darwin in public.”

The reticence that Darwin’s present day defenders feel about criticizing evolutionary theory would have likely made Charles Darwin uncomfortable. In the Origin of Species, Darwin openly acknowledged important weaknesses in his theory and professed his own doubts about key aspects of it.

In the Origin, Darwin expressed a key doubt about the ability of his theory to explain one particular event in the history of life, an event known as the Cambrian explosion. I’ve recently written a book, Darwin’s Doubt, about this in which I argue that the problem Darwin identified not only remains to this day, but that it has grown up to illustrate a more fundamental conceptual difficulty than he could have understood—a problem for all of evolutionary biology that points to the need for an entirely different understanding of the origin of animal life on Earth.

An interesting thing about the intelligent design people is they have an authoritarian mindset that is revealed in their habit of relying on appeals to authority. On the one hand, they rely on the Bible as their ultimate source of authority. That makes sense, as they are believers. They assume, however, that evolutionary biologists also rely on an authority as their god. The ID’er turn Darwin into a shaman or prophet, who they seek to discredit, assuming that will discredit the theory for which is best known.

The trouble is evolutionary biologists do not worship Darwin and are more than willing to point out his shortcomings. It is how science works. It is what makes Darwin a scientist and not a philosopher. He readily acknowledged his own shortcomings and gaps in knowledge. Attacking Darwin to discredit evolution is like attacking Blaise Pascal to disprove probability theory. A whole lot of work and a whole lot of people have built on and modified what Darwin started. Darwin’s shortcomings, real or imagined, are irrelevant.

The real problem with the ID’er is this. Let’s say they are correct and evolutionary biology is a dead end and self-refuting at that dead end. Let’s say the math of genetic mutation is so improbable that it cannot possibly explain the diversity of life. How does that validate Intelligent Design? One has nothing to do with the other. Intelligent design is built on a collection of logical fallacies. To argue that natural selection is invalid proves intelligent design is correct is a version of the fallacy of the undistributed middle.

Of course, the motivation is the argument from adverse consequences. Their particular brand of Christianity requires a more literal interpretation of creation. God created the heavens and earth just as we see it today. Natural selection says the current natural world is the result of random selection, along with other things like sexual selection. Therefore, if natural selection is true that invalidates their religious beliefs. Since they are not abandoning those beliefs, they can never accept evolution.

That’s really the irritating thing about these people. They are not honest. John is correct to call them liars. On the one hand, they swear they are not starting from a religious angle and are scientists like everyone else. Unlike real scientists, however, they make no attempt to prove their claims or even offer up a shred of data in support of their claim. Instead it is a non-stop assault on “Darwinism” as they imagine it. It really is the opposite of science when you think of it. It’s also fundamentally dishonest.

Our Meaningless Constitution

Most people still think the courts are the defenders of the Constitution. After the ACA ruling, it is impossible to hold that view. Maybe Roberts was pressured into changing his opinion, but the fact that such a thing is a possibility argues against the court being the great defender of the law. On the other hand, if he simply changed his mind, it says that these judges are not bound by an internal logic. They are just as prone to follow the fads as follow the law. Either way, the law is no longer a fixed thing that can be defended.

He could also just be a nut. We like to think it is impossible for crazy people to make it to the top, but history says otherwise. Caligula is the best example. He was obviously a homicidal madman from the start. Ivan the Terrible is another good example. You can be a crazy and ambitious and ambition can overcome just about any defect. Therefore, Roberts could very well be a kook or suffer from some nervous condition. Regardless, it just shows that the Constitution is what the court says, not what is written on the paper.

With that in mind, this gun case looks ominous.

Abramski bought the gun because he could get a discount, and checked a box on the relevant form saying the gun was for him. But he sold it to his uncle.

Abramski was later indicted under federal law for making a false statement material to the lawfulness of a firearm sale — and for making a false statement with respect to information required to be kept in the records of a license firearm dealer.

But Abramski’s lawyers told the high court that since both he and his uncle were legally allowed to own guns, the law shouldn’t have applied to him.

His team argued that Congress never intended for a lawful buyer who transfers a gun to another lawful owner to be prosecuted under this law — and that the intent was all about making sure straw buyers don’t purchase guns for people not allowed to have them, like certain convicted criminals.

But the government argued that he violated the plain language of the law, when he said on the form that the gun was for him. They argued he never gave the seller any idea that he planned to essentially resell the gun to someone else the dealer would have no opportunity to vet.

Much of Wednesday’s arguments centered on the question on the form — prepared by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — and whether the agency’s decision to include the question gives it the force of law, enough to make it a crime to answer untruthfully.

In a sane society, a natural right of the citizen enshrined in the founding documents would require the state to meet a very high bar before it could infringe on that right. The acquisition of and possession of arms is a fundamental right of a free citizen. The Founders regularly said this. They put it in the Bill of Rights. They were explicit that this is an inalienable right of the citizen. That’s not a contestable point. Therefore, the state must meet a very high burden before it can regulate the acquisition and possession of arms.

It gets worse. The Federal law against straw purchases was clearly meant to end the practice of people buying guns in bulk and then selling them to blacks in the ghetto. We can pretend otherwise, but that’s what the law is designed to inhibit. It was never intended to stop private sales, which is what the Feds are trying to do here. If owning a gun, in order to defend against tyranny, is an inalienable right, then the state has no role in the private sale and purchase of guns. That should be obvious, but here we are anyway.

John Derbyshire Makes a Mistake

John Derbyshire has a piece in the Spectator on Intelligent Design. It is part of “face-off” segment with someone named Stephen Meyer. He argues for Intelligent Design, while Derbyshire takes the science side. The first page has the intelligent design argument and then mid-way through the second page Derbyshire begins his dismantling of it. Meyer has been peddling intelligent design for a long time and his arguments are well known, so Derbyshire has the advantage of knowing the other side’s best moves.

John has been driven near mad by ID’ers over the years. He finds their circularly reasoning terribly frustrating. The thing with believers is you have to understand how they play the game. They make their assertions against reality and then demand you prove reality exists. Gay marriage is a great example. Confronted by skeptics they will demand you explain why your oppose it. In other words, they use rhetorical trickery to make their position the default and the status quo the radical alternative.

Derbyshire makes an error when he claims that Jews and Christians embrace occasionalism. This is the claim that God is unknowable and unpredictable. He can rearrange his creations anyway he likes, including the laws of science. That is not the Christian view of God. Some pseudo-Christian cults in America like Mormons and Evangelicals may have may have gone down this road, but that’s not standard Christian dogma. Jews embraced the Greek view of God’s creation, so they reject occasionalism

Islam, on the other hand, is a different thing entirely. For them, God is unknowable. You can follow God’s commands, but you can never know God and you can never know if you will be rewarded if you do follow his commands. The God of Islam is not a God making covenants with man and he may not be rational. He could suspend gravity tomorrow or change the speed of light. Nothing we do will impact the will of God nor is it possible understand the will of God.

It is one reason science came to a grinding halt where Islam took root. What’s the point of learning the laws of nature, if God can change them tomorrow? It’s not the only reason why Islam has stagnated. Invasion killed off a big slice of the Muslim intellectual elite, thus closing the golden age of Islam. Internal fights within Islam also cut off Islam from the world, especially Europe, just when the West was beginning to flourish. Still, the role of occasionalism is a big reason Islam remains doggedly anti-science.

Now, these intelligent design people may be embracing occasionalism in order to justify their theories about evolution. Again though, they are going against Christian tradition by doing it. Granted, the “real Christianity” is in bad shape and these new bespoke Christians may be the future, but they are still outside the Christian tradition. Given the inherent dishonestly of the intelligent design people, it is not a great leap to think they are perverting Christianity in order to con people into believing their nutty theories.


Conservatives have been programmed to reject anything that smacks of pessimism regarding America’s future. They continue to hold out hope that some combination of miracles will put the right people in charge of the state and they will set about reforming the nation. Then there are those who blithely say something along the lines of “we always muddle along somehow. We can make it through this.” It’s a weird combination of fatalism and optimism. They accept they will fail, but things will work out anyway.

The fact is, things can and will get much worse, perhaps catastrophically worse, if the current ruling elite is not reformed or replaced. This post min the NYTimes is a good example of just how rotten the ruling elite is now. Notice the use of the word stalemate when describing the current situation. While technically true, the fact is most Americans would be fin with ending all immigration. The only reason this is a topic is the Left wants to flood the nation with non-white immigrants. The stalemate is really an assault.

It is considered an inevitability that 30 million Mexican peasants will be granted citizenship, despite not going through the regular process. It is just a matter of getting passed this pesky “stalemate” business. It is also assumed that the number of legal immigrants will be increased to some number just below whatever the Left wants. In other words, to the people in charge, a stalemate is really just an interregnum or a pause in the steady march toward whatever the Left wants. They know they will eventually win. They are right.

One Reader Writes

I got the following from a reader and I thought it would make a good post. There’s a lot here, so it should probably be two post topics.

This comment would probably be better suited for an email, but alas, I can not find any good way to contact you. I find your views intriguing, brilliant, and sometimes insane.

What is curious to me is that you seem to have all the foundations of a free and empirically minded thinker but also possess some egregiously incorrect views. Further, in much of your writing you tout a freedom from group-think and the cultish mentality which most of humanity takes up over some particular dogma or another. For this reason, I rather enjoy and respect much of your work here.

I fancy myself a similar sort of thinker, and often blast people of all different sorts of ideologies in a manner not unlike your work in this blog. I find it strange that you and I can disagree on so much when we appear to be coming from the same sort of epistemological framework. I’d wager that you have a good deal more raw knowledge than me, both of the historic and political types, so I’m willing to be charitable to your views and try to learn from them.

With that concession, it’s hard to imagine how you have come to some of your beliefs. You appear to have a great faith in evolutionary psychology, especially as it pertains to gender roles. But I am highly skeptical of this very new field of science; very little of what I’ve read has been grounded in good empirical work.

Further, you are against Gay-marriage. Being charitable, I suspect you mean to say something like: marriage is state-recognized for the sole purpose of promoting fertility, which gay people necessarily cannot participate in, therefore, it does not make sense for gay marriage to be state recognized. Would I be correct in saying this? Or do you think gay couples should be deprived other rights which heterosexual couples enjoy, such as hospital visitation rights and adoption?

In general, I’d like you to expound on your view on evolutionary psychology, gender roles, and homosexuality. You are of course free to tell me to fuck off. But I’ve read 25 pages of this blog and feel unsatisfied with your exposition on these topics, so it’d be great if you could indulge me a bit.

As far as my views, I would never claim to have an organized and well thought out philosophy on anything. Frankly, I’m suspicious of anyone who does. The world, at least from the perspective of any one man, is a tiny clearing in the wood. Human intellectual history is the expansion and contraction of that bit of clearing. It is impossible for any one man to know all that is known. The sum of human knowledge is a tiny subset of what can be known. Therefore, any one man can only know a tiny bit of what can be known and, worse yet, is wholly ignorant about what he does not know.

Now, presented with the facts as described above, spending time building a grand unifying theory to explain what I know seems like a waste of time. If someone were to come forward and offer me a big fat sack of money to come up with a grand unifying theory of everything, then I’ll be glad to do it. That’s not happening so I don’t waste my time on inventing a new philosophy. I take in as much new knowledge as my genetic code permits and wedge it in with the other stuff. I’m like a hoarder or junk collector.

Now, to the evolutionary sciences. John Derbyshire said it best. Evolution is the best explanation for the fossil record. It is flexible enough to absorb new data. It can be adapted to include the new data without invalidating other data we know to be true. It allows science to further explore and catalog the fossil record and now the genetic record, as well as hunt for new information. Understanding our nature is the first step toward creating a new way of looking at human organization and Western politics.

Unlike John, I’d leave open the possibility that some new, better theory could come along and make evolution sound like witchcraft. The history of science, is the history of mistakes, but natural selection, genetic drift, sexual selection and gene mutation are unlikely to be replaced with a new idea. Still, you always have to leave open the possibility that what we think is certain is not more certain than the superstitions popular with our ancestors. We may be closer to the caveman than we like to think.

As to “gay marriage,” I’m neither for nor against it in the same way I’m neither for nor against Santa Claus or flying carpets. One cannot be opposed to something that does not exist and by definition, homosexual marriage is impossible. This is not just biological pedantry, but a fact of our cultural and moral history. To pretend that two men sharing rent and a bed is the same as your mother and father having and raising children is the nullification of human civilization. It is the claim that there is no truth, just argument.

Reality is that which does not go away when you stop believing in it. Biology and physics are two good examples. These nuts can believe they are sexless starseeds but biology does not bend to wishful thinking. Humans come in two sexes. This is a matter of genetics. New humans come from a human of each sex mating thus creating a new human that is the result of their marriage. Long before the legal and religious meanings, the biological meaning was plainly obvious to humans. It’s why gay marriage never existed.

This is something humans knew since the dawn of time. Marriage without reproduction is impossible. Two guys or three gals can certainly have sex. They can contract with one another over property ownership. They can play house. They cannot reproduce with one another to create new humans.  It is as irrational as insisting dogs and horses are the same species. They may have many things in common, but they cannot mate and produce off-spring, which by definition makes them of different species.  Yet, we have lunatics in our midst who rail against speciesism.

Now, every society has useful lies it tells itself to lubricate daily life. Americans tell themselves that all men are created equal. This is most certainly not true, but it helps grease the wheels. Pretending Bob and Bill are married is not going to unravel civilization, but, that’s not what this is about and the numbers make it clear. Homosexuals are not that interested in marriage. As the New York Times admits, “monogamy is not a central feature of gay couples.” No, the real goal here is the progressive assault on normalcy.

As far as homosexuals, biology and the role of the sexes, I don’t think you need stray too far from biology. Men and women are different in our primary, secondary and tertiary characteristics. Men have different reproductive strategies than women for obvious biological reasons. This naturally leads to a a whole list of secondary and tertiary traits that would evolve differently in support of reproductive and survival strategies. As the old paleocon saying goes, men will trade safety for sex and women will trade sex for safety.

How do homosexuals fit into this? That’s a mystery. No one really knows what causes homosexuality, but it does appear to be natural. Genetics has failed to find the “gay gene” and logic says such a gene would not exist. Homosexuals would reproduce at far lower rates and the trait would soon die out. There are some theories about conditions in the womb or perhaps a combination of genes that when exposed to certain conditions in the womb result in a gay child. No one knows, but gay exist and there is a cause.

The bottom line with homosexuals is that they have been a feature of human society since the dawn of time. In the West, homosexuality was politely ignored with fits of persecution from time to time. In America, homosexuals were expected to keep their sex lives private and the rest of us were expected to leave them alone. Despite claims to the contrary, there’s no evidence of wholesale, systematic persecution of homosexuals. The natural order her is benign neglect and agreeing to not talk about it.

Obama’s Rage

To the surprise of no one, President Obama is not blaming white people for his low approval ratings. This was entirely predictable. No black politician in the last fifty years has passed on the opportunity to play the race card. The only thing remarkable here is that it took this long for Obama to start doing it. His use of the race card in his re-election bid was rather subtle. Of course, he no longer has to worry about getting white votes now, so he can let his freak flag fly, as the smart set is fond of saying.

As Theodore Dalrymple points out, politicians are mediocre people with ambition. They succeed because they have a ruthlessness that allows them to do horrible things to the other people in their way. That’s what democracy selects for, which is why every democracy is overrun with sociopaths and lunatics. Obama was able to rise to the top because he was useful to his backers and he was willing to say whatever had to be said in order to rise to the top. Like all politicians, he has no soul.

For Obama, it manifests a bit differently. Blacks in American politics operate under some different rules than whites. Obama was not getting anywhere if he walked around with a nappy afro and a pick sticking out of it. He was never going to get far with the Choom-gang look either. In fairness, a white guy is not getting far if he looks like Kid Rock and a Latino cannot look like Aaron Hernandez. But, blacks are raised to believe they must act white in order to succeed, so they rage against this forced adaptation.

Because all politicians are are special form of sociopath, they see anything less than unconditional love as an unconditional assault. That means when they fall in the polls, they want to rage against the voters. For whites, this usually means blaming their advisers or the media. For black politicians it means blaming that white avatar that always have hovering over them. For lame duck Obama, fading into obscurity, he is free to vent his rage against the people who made it possible for him be in the White House.

Those White-Hispanics Again

This story is getting the usual suspects very upset for all the usual reasons, but the really interesting part is the guy is called Hispanic. Most people think of Hispanics as the little brown guys riding the leaf blower. The guy in the picture looks like he could be auditioning for a show about World War II. Then again, our elites like their Hispanics the same way they like their black guys. That is superficially diverse, but otherwise white.

Barak Obama is the quintessential black guy because he looks black, but is otherwise a typical white guy from upper class white culture. In the case of Hispanics, the archetype is a Caucasian with three names and a Spanish accent. Juan Pablo fits the bill and that’s most likely why he was selected. It is a terribly shallow and fundamentally inhuman way to view people, but American elites are not too concerned about the feelings of the people.

The weirdness of left-wing identity politics is that it strips people of their identity in order to affirm the identity of liberal elites. They declared this guy non-white, despite the fact he was super-white. Put another way, he has to deny himself in order to properly actualize his full identity within the framework of multiculturalism. The whole thing is insane, of course, but nothing about multiculturalism makes any sense when you examine it.

Retiring Science

Poor old Steve Sailer is about to go into overload over the latest big question on the Edge website. The question posed to scientists and pseudo-scientists is “What Scientific Idea is Ready for Retirement?” It is an interesting question for two reasons. One is some ideas in science hang around long after their validity is expired. Despite the philosophy of science stuff that tells us how science is supposed to work, bad ideas still creep in and stick around as truth. Vested interests defend invalid theories for all the familiar reasons.

Most of what makes up psychiatry, for example, is fairly worthless now that we have some understanding of genetics and brain chemistry. The idea that you can talk someone out of being depressed or schizophrenic is ridiculous, but we still have talk therapy. All over America, drug counselors try to talk people out of being addicts, even though it does not work and can never work. There’s money in the old bad idea, so the profession will not let go of it, no matter what’s happening in neuroscience.

The other reason this is a great question is it flushes out the fakers within our intelligentsia. All societies have an intellectual elite. In theory, our intellectual elite is based in reason, so they should always be ready to purge bad ideas. In reality, they are just as superstitious as prior elites, maybe more so. Dumb ideas that support the prevailing secular morality, for example, are protected, while good ideas that challenge it are rejected.

A good example is the second respondent in the list, Nina Jablonski, the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at The Pennsylvania State University. Her idea to retire is race.

The mid-twentieth century witnessed the continued proliferation of scientific treatises on race. By the 1960s, however, two factors contributed to the demise of the concept of biological races. One of these was the increased rate of study of the physical and genetic diversity human groups all over the world by large numbers of scientists. The second factor was the increasing influence of the civil rights movement in the United States and elsewhere. Before long, influential scientists denounced studies of race and races because races themselves could not be scientifically defined. Where scientists looked for sharp boundaries between groups, none could be found.

Granted, anthropology is not science. At best, it is taxonomy. Anthropologists can add to the stock of human knowledge by cataloging, describing and recording human societies, past and present. It is useful to know the daily life of the typical Spartan, for example. That allows us to build a realistic model of Spartan life which can help explain their history as a people and their demise. This kind of information helps fill in the picture of history. It helps us understand why they lived and why they gave way to some other people.

Similarly, detailed descriptions of modern people are useful to real scientists teasing out genetic relationships between collective traits and specific genes. That said, this women should know that race is a real thing and an important aspect the human animal. But, she wishes it were not and would like everyone else to pretend it were not real. She is an example of why many fields are dismissed by the empirically minded. They tolerate and promote unserious people like Nina Jablonski.

The fact is, the modern word is in a race of sorts. One side of the intellectual elite is learning the true nature of human diversity, which increasing looks to be invalidating core beliefs of the ruling elite. The other side of the race is where proselytizers like Nina Jablonski come into the picture. She is trying eliminate any decent from the prevailing orthodoxy before science invalidates it. It’s nice to think that the truth will win out, but the way to bet is the inconvenient science is what eventually gets retired by these people.

The Paranoid Wackos Were Right

The main problem with conspiracy theories is they require things of government and government people, that you never see in real life. Government is big, ponderous and stupid. It is a sledgehammer when it works at all. The sort of precision needed to micromanage the population has never been observed in government. The Soviets tried the hardest, but failed to do any more than murder anyone who go out of line. Even the North Koreans have found it nearly impossible to granularly control their society.

Then there are stories like this one, which show how even the blunt instrument of government can be turned into a sensitive instrument of oppression. A crazy cop or even a crazy cop department can tap into the vast database of information the state and its agents have about all of us. if they find something they don’;t like, even if it is perfectly legal, they can make your life a living hell. The state and its agents can weaponize information to bully and intimidate even the most law abiding citizens.

This cop did not act on his own. It is the policy of the police in Maryland to harass gun owners. The police will never admit to it, but it is so obvious that it is not a secret. The cops say they are just following procedure, which is true, but many are eager to show their enthusiasm. The cop could never have done anything like this ten years ago. In a decade, agents of the state will be able to pull up your medical history at routine traffic stops. Turning the cops into morality police will be just a matter of changing a policy.

This story from last week shows the way. Linking your DNA to an electronic ID like a Bitcoin would solve a lot of the technical hurdles for the surveillance state. DNA is unique and Bitcoin is unique. You can’t fake either one so it is impervious to counterfeiting if it your official ID. All of your transactions would then require some of your DNA, which could be as little as a few skin cells. The technology is not there yet, but within the decade it will be ready. That means everywhere you go can be tracked.

It turns out the paranoid types were right all along.