The Oatmeal, a popular webcomic, recently published Having a Baby vs. Having a Cat. This is my response:
Ironically, the main reason I don’t have a dog or cat is that I don’t like cleaning up poop.
The Oatmeal, a popular webcomic, recently published Having a Baby vs. Having a Cat. This is my response:
Ironically, the main reason I don’t have a dog or cat is that I don’t like cleaning up poop.
As the only heir of the immensely wealthy and powerful Clinton family, Chelsea has been thrust into the public spotlight following her mother’s electoral defeat.
Unfortunately for the Blue Tribe she is supposed to lead, Mrs. Chelsea isn’t too bright. Her Twitter comment was intended as a critique of the claim that Confederate statues and monuments should not be torn down because they symbolize part of America’s history.
This statement depends entirely on churches Chelsea has personally visited. “I have not personally seen this” is a bad argument. All it takes is a few churches she hasn’t attended that happen to have Lucifer statues to disprove her whole point.
And if you know anything about churches, you know that some of them have an awful lot of statues. The Milan Cathedral has 3,400 of them! They cover these things with gargoyles–do you really want to make a political argument that hinges on whether or not there’s a Lucifer in there somewhere?
But you don’t have to travel to famous Italian cathedrals to hunt for the Devil; I have a statuette of Satan defeated by Michel the Archangel about ten feet away on my mantle. Do you know how many statues there are of this guy? Both Popes got together in 2013 to consecrate a new statue of him–complete with Lucifer–in the middle of the holy Vatican City.
If we expand our search to include paintings and stained glass, we find almost endless examples, such as the famous Sistine Chapel frescoes (Michelangelo put the Mouth of Hell right over the Pope’s chair, I hear.)
But even if we limit ourselves to freestanding statues solely of Lucifer himself–not of him being defeated or crushed, not in symbolic form nor painted on the walls, we still have this rather cute little Devil seated outside Marienkirche church in Lübeck, Germany; this large and creepy statue of Lucifer tangled in power lines in the Holy Trinity Church in Marylebone, Westminster; a frightening devil from the church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Rennes-le-Château; Satan pushing the damned into the Leviathan’s mouth, a 12th century Romanesque Carving from the Church Sainte Foy, France; Satan again; carving of Satan being cast out of Heaven from Pisa, Italy; the Devil weighing souls and leading away the damned, Notre Dame, France; another from Notre Dame; devils carved into a church in Lincolnshire, England; a little devil in St. Severin, France; Satan on a pillar, Chatellerault, France; statue of the Devil at the Grotto of St. Anthony, Belgium; and for that matter, there are a lot of frankly obscene carvings in older churches.
We could do this all day, but I think you get the point: there are a lot of depictions of the Devil in Christian churches. Having been raised Methodist is no excuse; somewhere between attending Sidwell Friends, Stanford, Oxford, Columbia, etc., Chelsea has surely learned something about European art.
Considering Chelsea’s level of worldliness–one of the privileged glitterati who get to spend their lives drifting from board to board of different companies and exclusive soirees for the rich and famous–you’d expect her to have at least noticed the carvings on a European cathedral or two.
Even Chelsea’s writing career shows few signs of brilliance: she’s written two books for kids (one of those a picture book) and co-authored one for adults, which has–wow–absolutely rock-bottom reviews. Considering her kids’ books got good reviews, I don’t think this is a troll campaign–it looks like her book is actually terrible.
Unfortunately for the increasingly old and decrepit senior Clintons, lack-luster Chelsea is the only egg in their basket: they have no other kids to prop her up or take the limelight for her.
By contrast, President and first lady George H. W. and Barbara Bush had 6 children–George Walker Bush, Pauline Robinson “Robin” Bush (1949–1953, died of leukemia), John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, Neil Mallon Pierce Bush, Marvin Pierce Bush, and Dorothy Bush Koch. George “W” Bush, although not noted for intellectual excellence, managed to follow in his father’s footsteps and also become President; his brother Jeb was governor of Florida; and Neil and Marvin are doing well for themselves in business.
According to Wikipedia, George and Barbara’s five surviving children have produced 14 grand children (including two adoptees) and 7 great-grandchildren, for a total of 24 living descendants. Chelsea Clinton, while obviously younger, has only 2 children.
Having one child is an effective way to concentrate wealth, but the Bush family, by putting its eggs into more baskets, has given itself more opportunities for exceptional children to rise to prominence and make alliances (marriages, friendships) with other wealthy and powerful families.
The Clintons, by contrast, now have only Chelsea to lead them.
As a parent, I spend much of my day attempting to “socialize” my kids–“Don’t hit your brother! Stop jumping on the couch! For the umpteenth time, ‘yeah, right!’ is sarcasm.”
There are a lot of things that don’t come naturally to little kids. Many of them struggle to understand that these wiggly lines on paper can turn into words or that tiny, invisible things on their hands can make them sick.
“Yes, you have to brush your teeth and go to bed, no, I’m not explaining why again.”
And they definitely don’t understand why I won’t let them have ice cream for dinner.
“Don’t ride your bike down the hill and into the street like that! You could get hit by a car and DIE!”
Despite all of the effort I have devoted to transforming this wiggly bunch of feral children into respectable adults (someday, I hope,) I have never found myself concerned with the task of teaching them about gender. As a practical matter, whether the children behave like “girls” or “boys” makes little difference to the running of the household, because we have both–by contrast, whether the children put their dishes away after meals and do their homework without me having to threaten or cajole them makes a big difference.
Honestly, I can’t convince them not to pick their noses in public or that broccoli is tasty, but I’m supposed to somehow subtly convince them that they’ve got to play Minecraft because they’re boys (even while explicitly saying, “Hey, you’ve been playing that for two hours, go ride your bike,” or that they’re supposed to be walking doormats because they’re girls (even while saying, “Next time he pushes you, push him back!”)
And yet the boys still act like boys, the girls like girls–statistically speaking.
“Ah,” I hear some of you saying, “But you are just one parent! How do you know there aren’t legions of other parents who are out there doing everything they can to ensure that their sons succeed and daughters fail in life?”
This is, if you will excuse me, a very strange objection. What parent desires failure from their children?
This post was inspired primarily by a liberal acquaintance–we’ll call her Juliet.
Since the election, Juliet has been suicidal. I don’t mean she’s actually tried to commit suicide; (suicidal women very rarely actually commit suicide, unlike suicidal men.) I just mean she’s posted a lot of angst-ridden things on the internet about how she wants to die because Trump is going to destroy everything in a giant fireball, and literally the only thing she has left to live for are her 3 dogs and 10 cats.
Juliet is one of those people who thinks that we are one heavy bootstep away from Holocaust 2.0 (despite such a thing never having happened in all of American history,) and that the US was an oppressive, horrible, quasi-genocidal place up until 4-8 years ago. (She’s the same age as me, so she has no youth excuse for not knowing what life was like 10 years ago.)
I think this is a side effect of really buying into the BLM narrative that the police have just been slaughtering black children in the streets and we are finally doing something about it, and the perception that gay people are a much larger % of the population than they actually are and assumption that forbidding gay marriage inconvenienced people far more than it actually did. (Buying the BLM narrative is understandable, I guess, if you aren’t familiar with crime stats.)
Now, I have lived through elections that didn’t go my way. My side has lost, and I have felt quite unhappy. But I have never rioted, set things on fire, or decided that my life is meaningless and begun envying the dead.
So I got thinking: What gives people meaning? Why do many people feel like their lives are meaningless?
Meaning can come from many sources, but (I suspect) we derive it from three main sources:
1. Worthwhile work
1. Worthwhile work is work that is valuable and inherently satisfying. Farmers, for example, do worthwhile work. Worthwhile work creates a direct relationship between a person’s efforts and the food on their table and their physical well-being, where working harder results in a better life for oneself and potentially one’s friends, family, and community.
Marx (who was not entirely wrong about everything) wrote about how modern industrial factories disassociate the worker from the product of his labor. No individual worker creates a single product, and the individual working harder than expected creates no appreciable effect on the end results. Workers have no control over factories, cannot (typically) implement creative ideas that would improve products or production methods, and basically live at the whims of the factory owners and broad economic trends rather than their own efforts.
(There’s a great irony that Marxism, as actually implemented, just scaled all of the problems of the factory up to the level of the whole society, making entire nations miserable.)
From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that people desire to do things that result in eating and don’t really want to obey others in huge, impersonal systems where their actions don’t have any obvious impact on their personal well-being.
Due to technological changes, most of us have far nicer, healthier, well-fed lives than our ancestors, while simultaneously our jobs have become far less instinctually fulfilling, because we simply don’t need that many people producing food or hand-making clothes and furniture anymore. So few of us–my acquaintance included–are likely to have actually fulfilling work.
2. People live–literally–for their families. Throughout the entirety of human history, almost 100% of people who survived infancy and lived long enough to reproduce and continue the human line were people whose families cared about them and took care of them.
Yes, women post inordinately about their children and grandparents babble on about their “grandbabies,” but this is exactly as it should be; from an evolutionary perspective, your descendents are the most important thing in the world to you. All of our efforts are ultimately aimed at the well-being and survival of our children; indeed, many people would sacrifice their own lives to save their kids.
To give a personal example: having kids (well, one at a time, so kid) was probably the single most significant event in my life. Not just because of the predictable changes (less sleep, more diaper changes,) but also because of the not-subtle at all but somewhat difficult to describe complete and utter re-orienting of my entire “self.”
In real life, I am a very shy, retiring person. A few weeks into kiddo’s life, I became concerned that something was wrong, and at that moment, I knew that nothing and nobody would stop me from getting my child to the doctor. My normally shy, fearful personality was dust before the needs of my child.
People talk about “female empowerment.” This was empowerment.
(Luckily, everything turned out fine–colic is a very common problem and in many cases can be treated, btw.)
Perhaps not surprising, all of the people I know who are distressed because their lives lack meaning also do not have children. Indeed, the person I know who went the furthest down this road was a father whose wife left him and whose small child died, leaving him utterly alone. Without any purpose in his life, he stopped working, stopped interacting with the world, and became homeless: a kind of living death.
The devastation of loneliness is horrible.
And yet, despite living in the richest society in pretty much all of human history, we’ve decided en masse to cut the number of children we have. Gone are the days when children had 7 siblings and 40 cousins who all lived nearby and played together. Gone are the neighborhoods full of happy children who can just walk outside and find a playmate. We moderns are far more likely than our ancestors to have no children, no siblings, no spouse, and to live 3,000 miles away from our own parents.
Juliet, as you may have guessed, does not have any children. (Hence the cats.)
3. The power of religion to bring meaning to people’s lives almost needs no explanation. Religious people are happier, more fulfilled, and live longer, on average, than atheists, despite atheists’ strong concentration among society’s richest and smartest. I’ve even heard that priests/ministers have some of the highest work satisfaction levels–their work is meaningful and pleasant.
In times of suffering, religion provides comfort and soothes distress. It provides the promise that even horrible things are actually part of some grand plan that we don’t understand and that everything will be all right in the end. The idea that death is not permanent, your sins can be forgiven, or that you can influence divine powers to make the world a better place all make people happier.
Now, I am not saying this because I am a religious person who wants you to follow my religion. Like Juliet, I don’t believe in God (though I do believe, metaphorically, in GNON, which does let me attribute some “purpose” to the grand variety I see around me. Things do not always go my way, but unlike Juliet, I live in a world that at least makes sense.)
Work, scaled up, is the business of taming the land, building homes and cities and ultimately a country. Family, scaled up, is the tribe, the clan, and the nation. And religion itself is highly grounded in both land and family.
Juliet, being a very smart, sensible person, (who does not believe in sexist nonsense like evolutionary psychology,) looks at all of the things that give meaning to people’s lives and dismisses them as absurd. Religion is obviously delusional; having children is an inconvenience; and while she’d love a meaningful job if she could get one, these are hard to come by. Having rejected or been denied all of the things that normally give people meaning, she finds that life is meaningless.
We do have one source of meaning left: politics. As Moldbug famously noted, liberalism is neo-Puritanism is the religion of America, simply shorn of that Constitutionally inconvenient “God” business.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by
their Creatorwith certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
With nothing else to provide meaning to their lives, not even the mild nationalism of thinking their own country/society a generally nice place, lonely atheists with empty jobs have turned to politics to fill the void. If they can save the whales, or the refugees, or the gay people, then they will have achieved meaning. In reality, this dedication is often quite shallow, a fly-by-night concern with the lives of strangers that lasts until the next pressing hashtag pops up.
It’s as though the desire to care for one’s family does not dissipate simply because one is barren, but instead gets transferred to strangers (or animals) who are unlikely to return the favor.
I mean, take another look at that poem, which I’ve seen about a dozen SJWs post. How many of these women are going to have even one child, much less an army of them (mixed race or not)? How many of these women are already married and are effectively declaring that they intend to betray their own husbands? How many of them could, after having babies with a dozen different men, afford to raise and care for them by themselves, without depending on the horrible, Trump-run white-supremecist state for help? (Suing men for child support is depending on the state.)
No. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people posting the poem have no intention of acting on it. Someone else can do the actual work of making babies and raising the next generation of social warriors.
Juliet’s suicidality stems from the fact that she cannot achieve meaningful political change (or even just attach herself symbolically to it) because she lives in a democracy where the majority of people can just vote to do something else. Everything she has worked for, her entire identity as a “good person,” everything that provides meaning in her life has been destroyed just because some guys in Ohio are concerned about feeding their families.
This post is over, but I want to add a post script: Juliet is not even remotely Jewish. Her family is not Jewish; she has no Jewish ancestors; she has no connection to Israel. People blame a lot of stuff on Jews that I see Gentile women also doing, while plenty of religious Jews are perfectly sane people. The meaning deficit affects people of every religions/ethnic background.
One of my kids enjoys watching YouTube cooking videos, and they’re nearly 100% women making cakes.
Women’s magazines focus exclusively on 4 topics: men, fashion, diets, and cupcakes. You might think that diets and cupcakes are incompatible, but women’s magazines believe otherwise:
Just in case it’s not clear, that is not a watermellon. It is cake, cleverly disguised as a watermellon.
(YouTube has videos that show you how to make much better cake watermellons–for starters, you want red velvet cake for the middle, not just frosting…)
Magazines specifically aimed at “people who want to make cakes” are also overwhelmingly feminine. Whether we’re talking wedding cakes or chocolate cravings, apple pastries or donuts, sweets and women just seem to go together.
If men’s magazines ever feature food, I bet they’re steak and BBQ. (*Image searches*)
The meat-related articles do appear to be a little more gender-neutral than the cupcake-related articles–probably because men don’t tend to decorate their steaks with tiny baseball bats cut out of steak the way women like to decorate their cakes with tiny flowers made out of frosting.
It’s almost as if women have some kind of overwhelming craving for fats and sugars that men don’t really share.
I was talking with a friend recently about their workplace, where, “All of the women are on diets, but none of them can stay on their diets because they are all constantly eating at their workstations.” Further inquiries revealed that yes, they are eating sweets and pastries, not cashews and carrots, and that there is some kind of “office culture” of all of the women eating pastries together.
The irony here is pretty obvious.
Even many (most?) specialty “diet” foods are designed to still taste sweet. “Fat-free” yogurt is marketed as a health food even though it has as much sugar in it as a bowl of ice cream. Women are so attracted to the taste of sweet sodas, they drink disgusting Diet Coke. Dieting websites advise us that cake topped with fruit is “healthy.”
When men diet, they think “eat nothing but protein until ketosis kicks in” sounds like a great idea. When women diet, they want fat-free icecream.
I don’t think it is just “women lack willpower.” (Or at least, not willpower in the sense of something people have much control over.) Rather, I think that men and women actually have substantially different food cravings.
So do children, for that matter.
Throughout most of human history, from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists, the vast majority of women have specialized in obtaining (gathering, tending, harvesting,) plants. (The only exceptions are societies where people don’t eat plants, like the Inuit and the Masai, and our modern society, where most of us aren’t involved in food production.) By contrast, men have specialized in hunting, raising, and butchering animals–not because they were trying to hog the protein or had some sexist ideas about food production, but because animals tend to be bigger and heavier than women can easily lift. Dragging home and butchering large game requires significant strength.
I am inventing a “Just So” story, of course. But it seems sensible enough that each gender evolved a tendency to crave the particular kinds of foods it was most adept at obtaining.
Exercise wears down muscles; protein is necessary to build them back up. Protein fuels active lifestyles, and active lifestyles, in turn, require protein. Our male ancestors’ most important activities were most likely heavy labor (eg, building huts, hauling firewood, butchering game,) and defending the tribe. Our female ancestors’ most important activities were giving birth and nursing children (we would not exist had they not, after all.) For these activities, women want to be fat. It’s not good enough to put on weight after you get pregnant, when the growing fetus is already dependent on its mother for nutrients. Far better for a woman to be plump before she gets pregnant (and to stay that way long after.)
Of course, this is “fat” by historical standards, not modern American standards.
I suspect, therefore, that women are naturally inclined to eat as much as possible of sweet foods in order to put on weight in preparation for pregnancy and lactation–only today, the average woman has 2 pregnancies instead of 12, and so instead of turning that extra weight into children and milk, it just builds up.
Obviously we are talking about a relatively small effect on food preferences, both because our ancestors could not afford to be too picky about what they ate, and because the genetic difference between men and women is slight–not like the difference between humans and lizards, say.
Interestingly, gender expression in humans appears to basically be female by default. If, by random chance, you are born with only one X chromosome, (instead of the normal XX or XY,) you can still survive. Sure, you’ll be short, you probably won’t menstruate, and you’ll likely have a variety of other issues, but you’ll be alive. By contrast, if you received only a Y chromosome from your parents and no accompanying X, you wouldn’t be here reading this post. You can’t survive with just a Y. Too many necessary proteins are encoded on the X.
Gender differences show up even in fetuses, but don’t become a huge deal until puberty, when the production of androgens and estrogens really cranks up.
Take muscle development: muscle development relies on the production of androgens (eg, testosterone.) Grownups produce more androgens than small children, and men produce more than women. Children can exercise and certainly children who do daily farm chores are stronger than children who sit on their butts watching TV all day, but children can’t do intense strength-training because they just don’t produce enough androgens to build big muscles. Women, likewise, produce fewer androgens, and so cannot build muscles at the same rate as men, though obviously they are stronger than children.
At puberty, boys begin producing the androgens that allow them to build muscles and become significantly stronger than girls.
Sans androgens, even XY people develop as female. (See Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, in which people with XY chromosomes cannot absorb the androgens their bodies create, and so develop as female.) Children produce some androgens (obviously,) but not nearly as many as adults. Pre-pubescent boys, therefore, are more “feminine,” biologically, than post-pubescent men; puberty induces maleness.
All children seem pretty much obsessed with sweets, far more than adults. If allowed, they will happily eat cake until they vomit.
Even though food seems like a realm where evolution would heavily influence our tastes, it’s pretty obvious that culture has a huge effect. I doubt Jews have a natural aversion to pork or Hindus to beef. Whether you think chicken hearts are tasty or vomitous is almost entirely dependent on whether or not they are a common food in your culture.
But small children are blissfully less attuned to culture than grownups. Like little id machines, they spit out strained peas and throw them on the floor. They do not care about our notion that “vegetables are good for you.” This from someone who’ll eat bird poop if you let them.
The child’s affection for sweets, therefore, I suspect is completely natural and instinctual. Before the invention of refined sugars and modern food distribution systems, it probably kept them alive and healthy. Remember that the whole reason grownups try to eat more vegetables is that vegetables are low in calories. Grownups have larger stomachs and so can eat more than children, allowing them to extract adequate calories from low-calorie foods, but small children do not and cannot. In developing countries, children still have trouble getting enough calories despite abundant food in areas where that food is low-calorie plants, which they just cannot physically eat enough of. Children, therefore, are obsessed with high-calorie foods.
At puberty, this instinct changes for boys–orienting them more toward protein sources, which they are going to have to expend a lot of energy trying to haul back to their families for the rest of their lives, but stays basically unchanged in females.
ETA: I have found two more sources/items of relevance:
Calorie information effects on consumers’ food choices: Sources of observed gender heterogeneity, by Heiman and Lowengart:
When it comes to what we eat, men and women behave differently: Men consume more beef, eggs, and poultry; while women eat more fruits and vegetables and consume less fat than do men. … The gender differences in preferences for healthier foods begin in childhood. Previous literature has found that girls choose healthier food and are fonder of fruits and vegetables than are boys. Boys rated beef, processed meat, and eggs as more desirable than did girls. …
Sensory (taste) differences between the genders are the second most widely ventured explanation for the differences in food choices, although it is not clear that such genetic differences actually exist. While the popular media argue that females prefer sweetness and dislike bitterness, while males may enjoy bitterness, academic literature on this matter is less conclusive. The bitter taste receptor, gene TAS2R38, has been associated with the ability to taste PROP (6-n-propylthiouracil),
one source of genetic variation in PROP and PTC taste. Individuals who experience bitterness strongly are assumed to also experience sweetness strongly relative to those who experience PROP as only slightly bitter. While previous studies found that inherited taste-blindness to bitter compounds such as PROP may be a risk factor for obesity, this literature has been hotly disputed.
The distribution of perceived bitterness of PROP differs among women and men, as does the correlation between genetic taste measures and acceptance of sweetness. A higher percentage of women are PROP and PTC tasters, sensing bitterness above threshold. It has been suggested that women are more likely to be supertasters, or those who taste with far greater intensity than average.
(I have removed the in-line citations for ease of reading; please refer to the original if you want them.)
Well, I don’t remember where this graph came from, but it looks like my intuitions were pretty good. males and females both have very low levels of testosterone during childhood, and duing puberty their levels become radically different.
Americans really love dogs.
So much so, that it feels really dickish to point out that dogs aren’t actually humans and we don’t actually treat them like full family members. Maybe this is just the American difficulty with shades of gray, where such an argument is seen as the moral equivalent of eating puppies for breakfast, or maybe extreme dog affection is an instinctual mental trait of healthy people, and so only abnormal weirdos claim that it sounds irrational.
As we discussed yesterday, pet ownership is normal (in that the majority of Americans own pets,) and pet owners themselves are disproportionately married suburbanites with children. However, pet ownership is also somewhat exceptional, in that Americans–particularly American whites–appear globally unique in their high degree of affection for pets.
Incidentally, 76% of dog owners have bought Christmas presents for their dogs. (I’ve even done this.)
Why do people love dogs (and other pets) so much?
The Wikipedia cites a couple of theories, eg:
Wilson’s (1984) biophilia hypothesis is based on the premise that our attachment to and interest in animals stems from the strong possibility that human survival was partly dependent on signals from animals in the environment indicating safety or threat. The biophilia hypothesis suggests that now, if we see animals at rest or in a peaceful state, this may signal to us safety, security and feelings of well-being which in turn may trigger a state where personal change and healing are possible.
Since I tend to feel overwhelmingly happy and joyful while walking in the woods, I understand where this theory comes from, but it doesn’t explain why suburban white parents like pets more than, say, single Chinese men, or why hunter-gatherers (or recently settled hunter-gatherers) aren’t the most avid pet-owners (you would think hunter-gatherers would be particularly in tune with the states of the animals around them!)
So I propose a different theory:
Pets are (mostly) toy versions of domestic animals.
Europeans–and Americans–have traditionally been engaged in small-scale farming and animal husbandry, raising chickens, pigs, cattle, horses, sheep, and occasionally goats, geese, turkeys, and ducks.
Dogs and cats held a special place on the farm. Dogs were an indispensable part of their operations, both to protect the animals and help round them up, and worked closely with the humans in farm management. Much has been written on the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep, but let us not overlook the relationship between the shepherd and his dog.
Cats also did their part, by eliminating the vermin that were attracted to the farmer’s grain.
These dogs and cats are still “working” animals rather than “pets” kept solely for their company, but they clearly enjoy a special status in the farmer’s world, helpers rather than food.
For children, raising “pets” teaches valuable sills necessary for caring for larger animals–better to make your learning mistakes when the only one dependent on you is a hamster than when it’s a whole flock of sheep and your family’s entire livelihood.
Raising pets provides an additional benefit in creating the bond between a child and dog that will eventually transform into the working relationship between farmer and farm-dog.
Empathy has probably played an important role in animal domestication–the ability to understand the animal’s point of view and care about its well being probably helps a lot when trying to raise it from infancy to adulthood. People with higher levels of empathy may have been better at domesticating animals in the first place, and living in an economy dependent on animal husbandry may have also selected for people with high levels of empathy.
In other words, people who treated their dogs well have probably been more evolutionarily successful than people who didn’t, pushing us toward instinctually treating dogs like one of the family. (Though I still think that people who sell cancer treatments for cats and dogs are taking advantage of gullible pet owners and that actually treating an animal just like a human is a bad idea. I also find it distasteful to speak of adopted dogs finding their “forever homes,” a phrase lifted from human adoption.)
However, if you’ve ever interacted with humans, you’ve probably noticed by now that some would give their dog their right kidney, and some would set a dog on fire without blinking.
(I am reminded here of the passage in Phillipe Bourgois’s In Search of Respect in which the anthropologist is shocked to discover that violent Nuyorican crack dealers think torturing animals is funny.)
I have been looking for a map showing the historical distribution of domesticated animals in different parts of the globe, but have so far failed. I’d be most grateful if anyone can find one. To speak very generally, Australia historically had no domesticated animals, South America had llamas, North America had dogs, African hunter-gatherers didn’t have any, African horticulturalists had a chicken-like animal, and then Europe/Asia/The Middle East/India/other Africans had a large variety of animals, like camels and yaks and horses and goats.
…a deletion variant of the ADRA2b gene. Carriers remember emotionally arousing images more vividly and for a longer time, and they also show more activation of the amygdala when viewing such images (Todd and Anderson, 2009; Todd et al., 2015). … Among the Shors, a Turkic people of Siberia, the incidence was 73%. Curiously, the incidence was higher in men (79%) than in women (69%). It may be that male non-carriers had a higher death rate, since the incidence increased with age (Mulerova et al., 2015). … The picture is still incomplete but the incidence of the ADRA2b deletion variant seems to range from a low of 10% in some sub-Saharan African groups to a high of 50-65% in some European groups and 55-75% in some East Asian groups. Given the high values for East Asians, I suspect this variant is not a marker for affective empathy per se but rather for empathy in general (cognitive and affective). [source]
The Shors are a small, formerly semi-nomadic group from Siberia. I haven’t found out much about them, but I bet they had dogs, like other Siberian groups.
Frost hypothesizes that extensive empathy developed as part of the suit of mental traits that made life possible in large communities of bronze-age hunter-gatherers along the Baltic:
This weak kinship zone may have arisen in prehistory along the coasts of the North Sea and the Baltic, which were once home to a unique Mesolithic culture (Price, 1991). An abundance of marine resources enabled hunter-fisher-gatherers to achieve high population densities by congregating each year in large coastal agglomerations for fishing, sealing, and shellfish collecting. Population densities were comparable in fact to those of farming societies, but unlike the latter there was much “churning” because these agglomerations formed and reformed on a yearly basis. Kinship obligations would have been insufficient to resolve disputes peaceably, to manage shared resources, and to ensure respect for social rules. Initially, peer pressure was probably used to get people to see things from the other person’s perspective. Over time, however, the pressure of natural selection would have favored individuals who more readily felt this equivalence of perspectives, the result being a progressive hardwiring of compassion and shame and their gradual transformation into empathy and guilt (Frost, 2013a; Frost, 2013b).
Empathy and guilt are brutally effective ways to enforce social rules. If one disobeys these internal overseers, the result is self-punishment that passes through three stages: anguish, depression and, ultimately, suicidal ideation. [source]
Someone has been reading a lot of Dostoyevsky. But I’m wondering if the first ingredient is actually farming/animal husbandry.
1. People with high levels of empathy may have had an easier time domesticating animals/raising domesticated animals, creating a feedback loop of increasing empathy in farming populations.
2. This empathetic connection was strongest with dogs and cats, who aren’t meat to be slaughtered but human partners.
3. Children assigned the task of raising dogs and cats bonded with their charges.
4. Modern “pets” are (living) toy versions of the working dogs and cats who once helped manage the farms.
1. Do you have a pet?
2. Do you think pets should be treated like family members/humans?
3. Would you shoot your pet for a million dollars?
B. Yes, but I would use the money to raise 100 abandoned animals out of suffering.
D. That’s a terrible question! What kind of sick fuck makes up a question like that?
From an evolutionary perspective, childlessness is as bad as death: either way, your genes die with you. (Unless you’re a bee or ant, which you’re not.) Quite obviously, you are descended from people who successfully reproduced, not from the millions of creatures throughout Earth’s history who didn’t. Adaptations that led to your ancestors reproducing got passed down to you, while adaptations that failed to make your ancestors reproduce didn’t. As a result, the vast majority of us have a rather strong inclination to do whatever it takes to reproduce.
I know this is incredibly basic stuff, but you wouldn’t believe the number of people I have encountered who swear that humans do not possess instincts related to reproduction.
Males and females have followed a different historical path toward reproduction, for both the obvious reasons (women bear the brunt of childbearing,) and some less expected ones. Like that, while about 80% of women historically reproduced, it looks like only 40% of men did.
What happens when people don’t have children? On a biological level, something needs to kick in and get them out there, where they can meet people and fuck. Or overthrow society, kill all of the other males, and then fuck. After all, the continuing existence of society means nothing when you don’t have kids.
When men have children, their testosterone drops. The more time men spend around their children, the more their testosterone drops. This is very sensible: it prevents men from murdering their children.
Since American society has, since its founding, afforded enough resources for most men to marry and have children, the normal state for American males by their thirties has been relatively low testosterone. Today, however, millions of people are choosing not to have children, do not live with their children, or are delaying childbearing for decades.
Men who do not have children/live with them do not have this drop in testosterone. They have the testosterone of evolutionary failure, of increasing aggression until, well, they reproduce or die. (Or just get old.)
If I really wanted to embarrass people, I could tell of some of the absolutely nutty things men I know have done to try to get laid. Rational thought and risk assessment go completely out the window. People act like they have gone mad.
The evolutionary pressures on women have been different, but I can’t imagine that they were non-existent. Like men, they probably find pregnancy and babies calming–meeting people requires aggressive, social behavior that (often) leads to violence, but raising babies requires being a quiet, responsible homebody. It’s probably not a coincidence that childbirth triggers, in some women, actual depression.
Women with no children seem, at least anecdotally, highly aggressive. Their willingness to overthrow society is well-known.
On the plus side, childlessness probably drives a certain amount of creativity. The childless can take more risks, and are driven to succeed. But this is not to say that high levels of aggressive hormones are, long term, great for your brain or overall health.
Without ceremony, religion is empty.
Without children, it’s pointless.
Without a strong sense of ethnicity, religious identity disappears.
People go to church because they have kids. It happens almost mechanistically. People go to church when they are little kids, because their parents force them to. Then they move out of the house and stop attending–even the devout ones. A decade later or so, they have kids of their own and start feeling the yearn for some sort of religion in their childrens’ lives–something to teach their kids the ethical norms, values, and traditions of their culture–and so they head back to the church of their childhood.
Remember, religion isn’t just a bunch of factual statements about god. If it were that, there wouldn’t be a lot to say. It’s not something people logically believe, because if they did, the children of Muslims in Pakistan would be just as likely to turn out Christian as Muslim. Religion is about culture/ethnicity–it’s a specific subset of culture/ethnicity that happens to sometimes involve a deity. That is, Pakistanis like Allah just like Finns like Deathmetal.
People want to teach their kids to be good people, to be good members of their communities and follow the values of their ancestors, and this is where religion comes in. People go to church specifically for the purpose of getting someone else to spend half an hour trying to
cram civilization into their kids teach their children morality, culture, etc. Heck, we even invent extra deities (Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny,) to reward and punish children, just to get them to behave.
The fewer children people have, the less need they feel for church. People who have no children have little need for it at all–after their period of non-church attendance as young adults, they will most likely continue not attending church for the rest of their lives. People with one kid feel some slight need for church, but can survive without it. People with multiple children are eager to send them off to Sunday school for a half hour while they go enjoy the relative peace and quiet of a nice little worship service.
But with birthrates dwindling, smaller households become increasingly atheistic over the generations.
Of course, you may object that there is an obvious causality in the other direction–some religions are explicitly natalist. Mormons, Hasidic Jews, Quiverfull Christians, and Muslims come immediately to mind. However, these groups are a minority among Americans; they can’t explain the overall tendency of religious Americans to have more children. Thus, it seems more likely to me that either the kinds of people who want lots of children also happen to be the kind of people who want to go to church, or that having lots of children actually drives people to go to church.
Stay tuned for Part 3, Religious Identity is Ethnic Identity.