New Yorker: Adopting 20 kids is awesome, except for the years of crippling suicidal depression

The August, 2015 issue of the New Yorker is out, with an article about a couple who decided to adopt 20 children, (and have two biological kids of their own.) We have a fancy name for a house like that: orphanage.

There are a lot of names in the article, so I’m going to write this in quick-guide form.

Sue Hoag: Mom. Middle class background (last name Scottish,) came from a family of four. Once read a book about a family that adopted a lot of kids and decided it sounded like a great idea. (I suppose I should be glad that my childhood fantasies were clearly impossible, like “fly like a bird.”)

Hector Badeau: Dad. Lower-class French-Canadian background; one of 16 children.

They married in 1979, (about the same time as my parents) and decided that Jesus–for they are Christian conservatives–wanted them to devote their lives to supporting the oppressed and seeking social justice. They now have great-grandchildren (by contrast, my parents only have grandkids, and they’re still little.)

Children, in order:

Chelsea: Biological child, born 1980. “They had planned to wait a few years to have kids, taking time to pay off their loans for college and the bookstore, but Sue got pregnant a few months after the wedding.” (Translation: they know abstractly that people should behave responsibly, but don’t actually have any impulse control.) Chelsea got pregnant after college but before marriage, but eventually became a productive member of society with a job at a media company in Philadelphia. (Note to those with the paper copy: the electronic version of the story has a correction about the timing of Chelsea’s pregnancy.)

Jose: Adopted from El Salvador, where his parents had died in the war. Stayed out of trouble and is now a programmer for a bank in Zurich. Possibly the most successful of the bunch.

Isaac: biological child. He stayed out of trouble, eventually married and joined the military.

Raj: Adopted from India, premature, cerebral palsy.

These first four children were born/adopted in close succession. The parents then took in several foster kids, and Sue discovered that she sucks at parenting, so Hector became the stay-at-home parent while Sue worked, which seems to have gradually improved the family’s otherwise disastrous finances. Two years spent running a group home for teenage boys: 23 boys.

Joelle: adopted from Florida; fetal alcohol syndrome. She got pregnant while still in school.

Sue decides to have her tubes tied so they can maximize the number of adopted children without any more biological children getting in the way.

“It was their calling to adopt, and if they filled up their family with more biological children their mission would be compromised.”

Abel: 10; SueAnn: 8; George: 7; Flory; 5. A sibling group adopted together from New Mexico.

SueAnn got pregnant at 15, gave the baby up for adoption, then got pregnant again and dropped out of college.

At 28, Abel got sent to prison for 7 years for statutory rape of a developmentally disabled 16 yr old adoptive sibling.

Flory got pregnant twice while still in school.

Here the narrative pauses to describe the emotional high Sue got off adopting children:

“There was something about the difficulty of new children that Sue loved. …

“Sue: It was almost like a high, that new time, getting to know them and the challenge of finding the right school and the right this and the right that. It’s something that, after everyone’s settled, you sort of miss, and you say, Oh it’s time to do that again.”

Obviously Sue suffered from some form of addiction, like a cat-hoarder unable to see the effects of adding yet more cats to her household on her ability to care for the cats she already has.

George: local adoption from a mom who’d read about Sue and Hector and thought they’d be good parents for her unwanted kid.

David: 13; Tricia: 15; Renee: 16; Lilly: 17; Fisher: 18; JD: 19;  and were another sibling group, from Texas. David was deaf; Renee was sexually abused by her father when she was five (and then beaten by her mother for it.) Then their dad got shot and their mom abandoned them. Technically, only the youngest three were adopted; the oldest three were too old for adoption, but were unofficially taken into the family.

“All the teen-ages were nervous about being black in Vermont, but Fishe and Lilly were wildly popular in high school. Lilly was a track star, and Fisher was cool and good-looking.

Fisher: I was popular. It went to my head, I won’t lie to you. All the little white girls saw I was the best dancer in the school, and I was the only black guy.”

Fisher dropped out of college, got three girls pregnant and went to prison for beating one of them. Lovely guy, I’m sure.

JD got his girlfriend pregnant.

Lilly got pregnant during college and dropped out.

Tricia got raped while in high school and had a baby (raised by Hector.)

Renee got pregnant while still in school.

At some point, Sue and Hector start running an adoption agency; Sue has a succession of adoption-related jobs.

Alysia: Severe cerebral palsy, adopted from Texas. The family taught her to walk and dance. Hector was convinced god told him to adopt her. She got pregnant twice before the age of 16, and then had sex with her 28 yr old adoptive brother, Abel, who was sent to prison for statutory rape. Has the intellectual abilities of a third grader.

Dylan: 4 yr old with shaken baby syndrome. Blind, severe brain damage. Adopting him was Hector’s idea. Died at 24.

Wayne: 3 yrs old, Sanfilippo syndrome. Guaranteed death; made it to 25 years old. Sue and Hector were convinced god told them to adopt him.

At this point, even the kids start telling the parents not to adopt anymore kids.

“Isaac: You can only stretch yourself so thin. We’d ask them, Are you sue this is something you want to do, and they said it was something they needed to do, that if they didn’t help this boy then nobody was going to. … ”

Chelsea, [on the subject of adoption]: I’ve never wanted a large family. I’ve witnessed firsthand everything that’s gone into adopting, and I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with that.”

“Sue and Hecor told the children they would consider their opinions and pray on it. Not long afterward, Sue flew down to Florida to bring Adam home. … Most people would think first about how an adoption would affect the children they had; but to sue and Hector, the need of the child who was still a stranger weighed equally in the balance.”

So Sue and Hector didn’t give a shit about their children’s opinions or what was best for them.

Adam: 6 yrs old, Sanfilippo and FAS. He died at 11.

Aaron: 4, Adam’s brother. Adopted after another family sent him back to the adoption agency because he had severe anger issues. Sue and Hector thought he would be good for his brother (they might have been right.)

Geeta: 14, originally adopted by another family from India, but other family decided they couldn’t handle her anymore. She got pregnant twice while still in school.

At one point, 8 refugees from Kosovo were also living in their house; later, 4 from Sudan.

They move into a bigger house that they can’t afford to heat. Family has to huddle together for warmth, along with 4 teenage squatters and various other comers and goers, like runaway friends of their kids. Sue gets a new job, and their marriage begins degenerating.

Sue and Hector are totally mystified at why their kids keep getting pregnant, and swear that they have explained how pregnancy works and even gotten the kids Depo-Provera and the like, but obviously that’s a lie.

Ladies and gents, be responsible: spay or neuter your teenager.

By now, the stress of dealing with all of these kids and their problems has plunged the parents into a black hole of depression, alcoholism, and despair. They can’t get the kids who are the product of people who had no impulse control to control their impulse to fuck. It takes only an iota of understanding biology and heritability to understand why that might be, but the parents don’t seem to have grasped this and instead blame themselves.

“It wasn’t just the awful stuff that hadn’t worked out the way they’d hoped: Only a few of the kids still went to church. None of the kids had adopted kids of their own.”

No shit, Sherlock. If you’d adopted kids from families with a strong impulse to take care of their and other people’s children, they might grow into people with a strong impulse to adopt. If you’d adopted children from conservative Christian families, they might grow into conservative Christians like Sue and Hector. Instead they’d literally castrated themselves and adopted many of their kids from families with no impulse control and severe violence and sexual dysfunction, and they got kids with similar traits. The most functional adoptee, Jose, came from a war zone, and so very well might have had competent, loving parents who died nobly defending their community rather than fuckups.

Not all adopted kids turn out fucked up; most adopting couples are genuinely motivated by the desire to provide a loving home to someone who otherwise wouldn’t have one. Both a strong desire to parent children and a generous, trusting nature toward others are features of NW Euro society, and such people can help make society a nice place to be.

But morality is not castrating yourself and giving away all of your resources to other people. If everyone did that, all of the moral people would die out and be replaced by the children of immoral people. Altruism can persist if returns benefits to your own genetic line (altruism directed at your cousins, for example, can increase the overall number of your genes in the population even if you yourself are less likely to reproduce as a result.)

Morality is a system of mutual obligations between people. You are obligated to your family and friends, as they are to you. You are obligated, to a lesser degree, to your community and nation, as they are to you. You are not particularly obligated to, say, the citizens of another country, just as they are not obligated to you. As such, the Hector and Sue’s first obligations were to the children they already had (and each other.) It is not moral to take in so many children that you can no longer take proper care of them (and when your developmentally disabled kid gets pregnant twice before the age of 16, you are actually doing something wrong.) You are not morally obligated to destroy your own life to help strangers.

Also, for those of you who are considering adoption, remember that no matter how kind and loving and good-hearted you are, you can’t erase who your kids are. That’s not always big stuff, like criminality or pregnancy. It might be little things, like whether they go to church or like to study, how much they talk. Genetics has a huge effect on personality, so any adopted kids are likely to have a very different personality than you do. Chances are good that adoption will not be all peaches and roses; most kids don’t get put up for adoption unless something is seriously defective about their families or themselves in the first place, so be prepared for some pretty severe issues.

Advertisements

Animal Morality

I know it shouldn’t surprise me when people post outright, bold-faced lies about, say, the nature of humanity, but somehow I still stare in shock for a split second or two before struggling with whether or not to respond.

It’s generally a bad idea to respond, another thing you would think I’d have learned by now. No one likes the guy who starts every comment with, “Actually…”

Today’s lie was, to paraphrase slightly due to memory being imperfect, “Animals are so loving and compassionate, even to members not of their own species! Humans totally fail at compassion. We should learn from our ape cousins and ancestors!” The sentiments were accompanied by an adorable picture of an orangutan holding a baby tiger.

Okay, the exclamation points are my own additions.

First, the obvious: This shit is a baldfaced lie. If animals were regularly compassionate and loving to members of other species, lions would be vegans and running adoption agencies for baby gazelles whose parents had fallen victim to unfortunate accidents. If animals were regularly loving and compassionate, we wouldn’t make a big deal out of it every time a hippo and turtle hang out together. Does someone write a picture book documenting every set of human kids who become friends? Or every human who feeds a pet? Of course not. We only document these animal stories because they’re unusual.

Reality is boring. Lies entertain.

“But wait,” I hear you saying, “My dog totally loves me.”

Your dog is the result of thousands of years of selective breeding specifically for friendliness to humans. Also, you give it food. Does your dog give you food?

No.

Anyway, how nice are animals?

“Altruism” is defined (by the Wikipedia, anyway,) as, “behaviour by an individual that increases the fitness of another individual while decreasing the fitness of the actor.” Wikipedia defines “compassion” as a, “response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help.”

I’m not going to even try to define “love.”

Now, the definition of altruism itself hints that inter-species altruism probably isn’t a thing you’re going to see very often, because if the altruist increases the genes of another species at the expense of their own genes, then whatever genes originally drove the altruist to be altruistic become less common. Over time, the inter-species altruist gets replaced by everyone else, and altruism disappears.

This doesn’t mean that no one can ever be altruistic–altruism works just fine if it’s directed at your near kin. Animals that have a strong instinct to care for their family members and a certain level of intelligence can even apply that caring instinct to non-family. But I wouldn’t expect much friendliness from a crocodile.

It does means that claims about widespread altruism among animals toward other animals that aren’t family are probably nonsense.

The vast majority of observed instances of animal altruism involve close kin, pack members, or behavior that would normally be directed toward one’s kin but happened, by accident, to involve a non-related individual. The Wikipedia list on the subject, while incomplete and imperfect, gives a good impression.

In reality, the vast, vast majority of animals in this world do not give a shit about members not of their own species. Most of them don’t even care about members of their own species who aren’t family, and some will even eat their own children.

What about claim two, that humans suck at compassion?

Certainly some of us do. Humans aren’t as nice as I wish we were. Compassion, trust, kindness, etc., are all traits I would like to see more of in humans. But compared to animals, we look like Mother Theresa. How many animals set out little houses, baths, and seed-filled feeders for other animals? How many animals buy cancer treatments for their pets? For that matter, how many animals feed and care for a pet, period?

These behaviors are almost exclusively human.

Humans adopt orphans, run into burning buildings to rescue each other, fund social welfare nets, and spend a lot of time trying to prove to each other just how much they care about each other. Movies and novels basically wouldn’t exist without our capacity to empathize with strangers.

Humans support this level of altruism because our societies have bred us, like dogs, for it. (And since different societies are different, that means that different societies have bred different types/levels of altruism and compassion.) It is only in modern, first-world societies that we see anything resembling wide-spread altruism. Slavery–generally outlawed throughout the West in the late 17 or 1800s–is still common throughout many parts of Africa and the rest of the third world. If you really want to break your heart, just go read about Cambodian children sold as sex slaves at the age of 5. (Clearly the solution is more orangutans.)

(Seriously, what is the point of having a military if we don’t occasionally swoop into those brothels, behead everyone running the place, and then leave their heads on pikes about the city as warnings to everyone else?)

How about the final claim: Should we learn from the other apes?

Which do you think is friendlier, your dog or a wolf? The dog, obviously.

Human society has been getting steadily less violent for about as long as we’ve managed to account. Everyday life in non-state and pre-state societies is/was about as violent as Russia during WWII, only a bit more spread out. Chimpanzees, like wolves, are well-known for their violence. They wage war, form alliances to overthrow their leaders, and murder chimpanzee babies in order to breed faster with their mothers.

But what about bonobos?

I’ll grant that they have a lot of sex. They’re also known to be less aggressive than chimpanzees. This is not the same as being less aggressive than H sapiens. Until I see some data on bonobo homicide, I’m going to continue suspecting that bonobos are more violent than humans. Remember, some human societies–25 of them, though several of those are teeny–have gotten their murder rates down below 1 in 100,000 people. Since 50,000 is the high end estimate of number of bonobos on earth, if even one bonobo kills another bonobo once every two years, they’d still have 6x the homicide rate of Japan.

Not to mention that, unsurprisingly, empathy and “emotional intelligence” appear to correlate rather well with regular intelligence–and since humans are noticeably smarter (on average) than chimps, gorillas, bonobos, or tigers, this implies that we are probably better at empathizing with others, feeling compassion, and being generally altruistic.

This is pretty obvious to just about anyone who has ever had to deal with a bully, or looked at the average IQs of criminals.

 

All of which leads us back to our initial quandary: Why do people tell (and believe) such obvious lies?

I posit two reasons:

1. The other is but a foil for the self, and most people don’t really process words into their exact meanings, but into internal feeling-states. So when they say, “Animals are so caring and compassionate; we should be more like them,” they actually mean, “I like being caring and compassionate; you should be more like me.”

2. People who are caring and compassionate tend also to be caring and compassionate about animals, so thinking nice things about animals because it makes them happy.

Most of the time, people seem to remember that crime rates are actually lower among humans than among wild animals, and so don’t get too close to bears. (Sometimes they forget, but Gnon has his way with them.) But I do occasionally encounter people who really, truly seem to believe this. They really think that humans are irredeemably evil, and the world would be better off without us. But a world without humans would be a world with even less empathy and compassion than our current world, not more.

 

Amygdalaaas

So, building on last night’s potential revelation, let’s review what we may or may not know about amygdalas.

I had read (summaries of) studies indicating that conservatives have larger amygdalas than liberals. From this I concluded that amygdalas were likely to be involved in some sort of processing that produces more conservative results.

But what does the amygdala do? Articles indicated involvement in the disgust reflex. I concluded that people who are more easily disgusted are just more likely to feel disgust in response to novelty.

But, Frost brings up a good point: has the initial orientation/amygdala data been confounded by researchers failing to control for ethnicity? If researchers have classed, say, Muslims who vote Labour as liberals, then obviously the data is meaningless?

There is an to solve this conundrum: Just find some data that controls for ethnicity and measures liberalness or conservatism, (rather than use self-reported orientation). If no suitable studies exist, do one–go to some rural college, collect an ethnically similar cohort, give them a quiz about their attitudes toward novel foods and other such non-emotionally charged things that seem to correlate with political orientation, and then scan the brains of equal numbers of liberals and conservatives and see what you get. If you find some sort of correlation, repeat the experiment with other ethnicities. If you find nothing, widen your scope to compare whites from different areas, or whites who are further apart in political orientation. If you still find nothing, do a multi-ethnic study and see if the initial results were just ethnic differences in party affiliation.

Recent articles further indicate that my interpretations may have been wrong, or that the picture is more complicated than I realized, eg, Neural and cognitive characteristics of extraordinary altruists, “Functional imaging and behavioral tasks included face-emotion processing paradigms that reliably distinguish psychopathic individuals from controls. Here we show that extraordinary altruists can be distinguished from controls by their enhanced volume in right amygdala and enhanced responsiveness of this structure to fearful facial expressions, an effect that predicts superior perceptual sensitivity to these expressions. These results mirror the reduced amygdala volume and reduced responsiveness to fearful facial expressions observed in psychopathic individuals.”

This does not support my “conservatives have larger disgust reflexes becuz amygdalas,” theory, but would be consistent with a “extremely conservative people were mis-categorized as liberals in other studies,” result.

More research is necessary.

The Genetics of Altruism

As I touched on earlier, there is probably something genetic underlying people’s attitudes toward altruism, or at least a genetics-environment interaction.

To be clear, we are looking at the pattern of “conservatives have a small network of people whom they would sacrifice a great deal for, and a large # of people whom they don’t really care about, with a fairly sharp distinction between them” vs. “liberals have a large number of people about whom they care a moderate amount, with no sharp distinction between levels of caring,” aka “high tribalness” vs. “low tribalness”.

Lots of other people who are not me have done a TON of work on this subject, so I am not even going to attempt to summarize all they have said and done. For now, I’m just going to try to keep this short, and limit it to my own best suspicions:

Conservatives probably are, or were socialized by, people who are genetically more closely to their communities (or ancestral communities) than liberals.

In technical terms, we are talking about levels of consanguinity. In slightly more popular terms, we’d call it levels of in- or out-breeding. Unfortunately, the term “inbred” is an insult in American (western) society, because we have strong cultural norms (memes) on the subject (memes not shared with many other parts of the world, which have very different opinions on the subject of optimal marriage partners.)

To be clear: I am NOT saying, “Hur hur hur, conservatives is dums becuz they marry their cuzins.” This is a discussion of *comparative* levels of consanguinity in one’s ancestors and in one’s community, not whether or not one married one’s cousin or raped one’s sibling.

Now, a bit of necessary background: Different people (and regions of people) have different levels of consanguinity. For example, the descendants of a group of one hundred people who got stranded on a tiny island in the Pacific with no outside contact with the outside world for a thousand years, even if they have scrupulously followed the no-cousin-marriage rule, will obviously all be very closely related to each other, and genetically distinct from outsiders. Two individuals chosen at random from this island will be very genetically similar, sharing many (if not most) traits, and sharply different from outsiders.

By contrast, take a city founded at the confluence of several major trade routes, in the midst of relatively hospitable territory. People from different ethnic groups come and go in the city, marrying and leaving descendants. Any two randomly chosen citizens could easily be more closely related to and share more genetic traits with people from hundreds or thousands of miles away than with each other. So long as no one imposes segregation, a few thousand years of mixing (or a couple of generations, take your pick,) will produce a community of descendants who are distantly related to lots and lots of people, but less closely related than the islanders to their own immediate families. Where the islanders are sharply distinct from the rest of the world, the citizens blend gradually into the world.

This implies that islanders actually share more genes with their children than the citizens. Island-altruism toward one’s family or virtually anyone on the island will therefore propagate the individual’s genes. The citizens, who share fewer genes with their own children and immediate family and only a few with their neighbors, do not benefit as much genetically from altruism. The citizen who dies for their fellow citizen is closer to an evolutionary dead end, eliminating most of their altruism from the gene pool, while an islander who dies for their fellow islander has saved a much larger proportion of their genes. However, it is not in the citizen’s interest to do nothing for their fellows. After all, those guys do share some of their genes. The citizen, then, will display low-levels of altruism toward lots of people, without much ability to distinguish “us” from “them” (because there is no sharp “us” or “them”), but not massive sacrifices beyond the small level of genetic sharing. The islander will sacrifice readily for their fellows, but has no reason to sacrifice for outsiders.

Now, truely isolated islanders are a rare exception, as they are unlikely to have much of an adaptation for dealing with outsiders due to it never coming up. With no notion of “outsiders”, such communities can be quite nice–socialistic to the point of being indistinguishable from liberal communities, even. Japan comes immediately to mind. Yes, the Japanese have had a bad history of trying to conquer the outside world and I would characterize the people as generally conservative, but Japan itself is a socialisty state with far more equality and social cooperation than the US.

American conservatives, by contrast, interact with and are affected by the outside world far more. They consequently have a much more active hostility toward outsiders.

Implication: the idea that conservatives don’t support socialism is simply a side effect of living in a multi-ethnic society. Conservatives support socialism for themselves, but not for people whom they see as outsiders. (Which is, of course, genetically sensible.) Liberals support socialism for a much broader group of people, which is sensible for their genetics. The difference between these two groups in this discussion lies not so much in their treatment of their own, but in the nature of the distinction between “their own” and “not their own”, and their willingness to extend altruism beyond their own.

Disclaimer: I have followed a genetic train of reasoning here. As I noted, memes and genes go together; it’s entirely possible that we could get identical results just by raising people in tightly-knit culturally united communities or loosely-knit culturally diverse communities, with the results being entirely environmental. In reality, I suspect there exists a semi-complicated interaction between peoples’ natural inclinations and the environment they’re raised in and/or live in, where some people are well-adapted to certain environments and will thrive in them, and others are mal-adapted to those environments and become stressed out (perhaps pathologically so,) and would probably be better off elsewhere.

Sociopaths within, sociopaths without

A few posts back, I made a comment to the effect that liberals tend to be “good people” (or at least well-intentioned people) who are concerned about sociopaths.

I feel like this comment deserves some explanation, because it comes across as harsher than intended toward conservatives.

Conservatives would kill themselves to save the people they love. My mother would literally give me her good kidney if I needed it; she has stated on many occasions that she would die for her grandchildren.

Conservatives are disproportionately employed in the riskiest fields that require risking their lives to save or protect others, like fire fighters, police, and military. They also take on shitty, dangerous jobs simply to feed their families, like crab fishing and coal mining.

The flipside to that extreme level of altruism is that you simply cannot extend it to everyone. You cannot die for just anyone.

Suicidal altruism can only exist if it makes the individual’s genes more likely to persist into the future.

If I die to save my childrens’ lives, then my genes will continue to exist, because they (each) carry half of my genes, and in their genes they carry some altruistic sentiment. Not sacrificing myself to save my children means that my genetic line ends with me, and with them dies my lack of altruism.

But if I die to save the life of a stranger, orphaning my own children, someone else’s genetic line is more likely to continue, while mine is more likely to end as my orphans starve. If a stranger cannot reciprocate my altruism, then being altruistic to them lessens the chance of altruistic genes in the future population.

The amount of charity (altruism, help,) people are willing to extend to each other therefore has a lot to do with how much they can afford to risk the other person not reciprocating. If you can guarantee that the other person will reciprocate (“cooperate”, in the Prisoner’s Dilemma,) your kindness, then you will be likely to be kind to them. If the other person can defect without consequences, then you would be a fool to help them.

Liberals and conservatives show different patterns of altruism, suggesting that they perceive different patterns of cooperation/defection and are possibly genetically distinct from each other.

Conservatives display very high levels of altruism toward their kin, friends, groups they identify with. They display comparatively low levels of altruism toward strangers, whom they will readily kill in order to save their loved ones.

Liberals display low levels of altruism to a much wider range of people. They are much less willing to risk their lives to save anyone (few liberal firefighters or marines,) but they are also less willing to kill random Iraqis on the off chance that one of them might be a potential terrorist.

The two groups perceive threat differently–conservatives see strangers as basically threatening, while liberals assume that strangers have no particular reason to cause them any harm. Conservatives would rather kill ’em all and let god sort ’em out, whereas liberals do not believe in god and would rather just make friends.

I recently posed a moral dilemma to several of my relatives: A man’s wife is dying of cancer. A doctor has invented a miracle drug that will cure the cancer, but he’s charging a million dollars a bottle and the man simply cannot afford it. Without the medicine, his wife will die.

Should he steal the medicine?

Now, my sample size is very small, (N=6), but the pattern has been amusingly consistent. The conservatives answer automatically–of course they would steal the medication. (One person launched into a discussion of the importance of properly casing the joint, so that you don’t get caught and go to jail, but I’m counting that as “would steal.” Another person objected that I must have the question wrong, because there was absolutely no way anyone would ever answer “no”.) The liberals, by contrast, equivocated. The question made them uncomfortable. I got responses like, “He should work/appeal to charities to save up/raise enough money,” and general refusals to fully answer the question.

To the liberal, conservative behavior toward the strangers looks sociopathic. To conservatives, liberal behavior toward their loved ones looks sociopathic. (Liberals see themselves as merely trying to be nice to everyone, of course, whereas conservatives see no real point in being nice to people who might try to kill them.)

Now, I feel I should stop for a moment and note that there are plenty of strangers toward whom conservatives are not openly hostile. Conservatives do a lot of charity work. There are many parts of the world where religious groups are pretty much the only people trying to help people and make their lives less desperately poor. They also adopt more kids than liberals. But the flipside of that greater willingness to cooperate is coming down much harder on defectors.

Liberal and conservative philosophical approaches to the world and political positions make a lot of sense in this light. Conservatives emphasize the importance of personal sacrifice and duty, that is, reciprocating to those who have shown you kindness in the past. For example, a conservative would argue that you should make personal sacrifices to help a parent in need, even if that parent is kind of an ass, because they are your parent and they used to wipe shit off your butt. For the conservative, group memberships and strong relationships with others are of prime importance, and trying to change all that is not tolerated.

Liberals tend toward anomie. They believe that relationships between people should be voluntary and mutually beneficial (fun, a virus-value,) and that you don’t “owe” people for past kindnesses that you didn’t necessarily want or even ask for, or that may have been delivered under some form of duress that made you unable to say no (being a child who can’t wipe their own behind counts as a form of duress.) Liberals believe that it is acceptable to sever relationships that do not benefit the individual, and are more likely to see others as individuals, rather than as members of some group.

To the conservative, a mother has a duty to her unborn child (and the child, a future duty to their mother.) To the liberal, there is no such duty.

I hope it is obvious that both views, if taken to extremes, cause problems. Society functions best when people have some flexibility to determine their duties and obligations, rather than having everything dictated to them at birth, and it also requires that people have some confidence that others will reciprocate altruism, otherwise everything falls apart.