For the past three days, I have been seized with a passion for cleaning and organizing the house that my husband describes as “a little scary.” So far I’ve found a missing hairbrush, the video camera, (it was in a lunchbox under some papers under some toys), and the floor; reorganized the bedroom, built a mini-chest of drawers out of cardboard, and returned my mother’s plates–and I’m not even pregnant.
A mere week ago, my limbs hurt whenever I moved. I wasn’t sad or depressed, but it simply felt like pushing boulders every time I needed to walk over to the kitchen.
I woke up this morning with high spirits, sore arms from carrying laundry and a question: is spring cleaning an instinct?
You don’t hear much about fall cleaning or winter cleaning. No one bothers with night cleaning or rainy day cleaning. Only Spring receives special mention for its burst of cleaning.
But the drops in estrogen and serotonin aren’t the only things that spur the desire to clean up. Before your period, your progesterone levels also drop, which combines the impulse to clean with an instinct to “nest.” We see this tendency manifest itself more dramatically in pregnant women, who in their later months of pregnancy have low progesterone levels — which often lead them to go into a frenzy of cleaning house and nesting in order to prepare for the baby.
The PMS-related drop in progesterone is a less-intense version of the same phenomenon.
Well, it’s no myth; winter causes us to be inherently less active and motivated. That’s right; your brain creates melatonin when there is less sunlight on cold dreary days, making you sleepy! Come spring, Mother Nature provides us a natural energy boost by giving us warmer weather and extra sunlight. The dreary days of snow are (hopefully) over and our natural instinct is to explore and interact with others. Although it may seem like a western tradition, cultures from all over the world have been spring cleaning for thousands of years.
Hopefully I can use this newfound energy to write more, because my posting has been deficient of late.
Window Genie (which I suspect is really a window-cleaning service) also notes that spring-cleaning is a cross-cultural phenomenon. I was just commenting on this myself, in a flurry of dish-washing. Do the Jews not clean thoroughly before Passover? Don’t they go through the house, removing all of the bits of old bread, vacuuming and sweeping and dusting to get out even the slightest bit of crumbs or stray yeast? Some even purchase a special feather and spoon kit to dust up the last few crumbs from the corners of the cupboards, then burn them. Burning seems a bit extreme, yet enjoyable–your cleaning is thoroughly done when you’ve burned the last of it.
I would be surprised if “spring cleaning” exists in places that effectively don’t have spring because their weather is warm all-year-long. Likely they have some other traditions, like “Dry season dusting” or “annual migration.” (I find moving an especially effective way to motivate oneself to throw out excess belongings.)
It’s no secret that sales of cleaning and organizing products ramp up in spring, but the claim that our seasonal affection for washing is merely “cultural” is highly suspect–mere “culture” is an extremely ineffective way of getting me to do the laundry.
The claim that Spring Cleaning started in ancient Iran is even more nonsensical. This is simply mistaking the presence of written records in one place and not another for evidence that a tradition is older there. There is no cultural connection between modern American housewives vacuuming their carpets and ancient Iranian cleaning habits.
I do wish people wouldn’t say such idiotic things; I certainly didn’t work through dinner last night because of a love of Zoroaster. It is far more likely that I and the Persians–and millions of other people–simply find ourselves motivated by the same instincts, For we are both humans, and humans, like all higher animals, make and arrange our shelters to suit our needs and convenience. The spider has her web, the snake his hole, the bee her hive. Chimps build nests and humans, even in the warmest of climates, build homes.
These homes must be kept clean, occasionally refreshed and rid of dust and disease-bearing parasites.
Like the circle of the seasons, let us end with the beginning, from The Wind in the Willows:
The Mole had been working very hard all morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said “Bother!” and “Oh blow!” and also “Hang spring cleaning!” and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling to him…
A comic strip in the Guardian recently alerted me to the fact that many women are exhausted from the “Mental Load” of thinking about things and need their husbands to pitch in and help. Go ahead and read it.
Whew. There’s a lot to unpack here:
Yes, you have to talk to men. DO NOT EXPECT OTHER PEOPLE TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING. Look, if I can get my husband to help me when I need it, you certainly can too. That or you married the wrong man.
Get a dayplanner and write things like “grocery lists” and doctors appointments in it. There’s probably one built into your phone.
There, I solved your problems.
That said, female anxiety (at least in our modern world) appears to be a real thing:
(though American Indians are the real untold story in this graph.)
Medco data shows that antidepressants are the most commonly used mental health medications and that women have the highest utilization rates. In 2010, 21 percent of women ages 20 and older were using an antidepressant. … Men’s use of antidepressants is almost half that of women, but has also been on the rise with a 28 percent increase over the past decade. …
Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting children and adults. … Although anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only about one‐third of sufferers receive treatment. …
Medco data shows that women have the highest utilization rate of anti‐anxiety medications; in
fact, 11 percent of middle‐aged women (ages 45‐64) were on an anti‐anxiety drug treatment in
2010, nearly twice the rate of their male counterparts (5.7 percent).
And based on the age group data, women in their prime working years (but waning childbearing years) have even higher rates of mental illness. (Adult women even take ADHD medicine at slightly higher rates than adult men.)
What causes this? Surely 20% of us–one in 5–can’t actually be mentally ill, can we? Is it biology or culture? Or perhaps a mismatch between biology and culture?
Or perhaps we should just scale back a little, and when we have friends over for dinner, just order a pizza instead of trying to cook two separate meals?
Divorce rates are far higher among “modern” couples who share the housework than in those where the woman does the lion’s share of the chores, a Norwegian study has found. …
Norway has a long tradition of gender equality and childrearing is shared equally between mothers and fathers in 70 per cent of cases.But when it comes to housework, women in Norway still account for most of it in seven out of 10 couples. The study emphasised women who did most of the chores did so of their own volition and were found to be as “happy” those in “modern” couples. …
The researchers expected to find that where men shouldered more of the burden, women’s happiness levels were higher. In fact they found that it was the men who were happier while their wives and girlfriends appeared to be largely unmoved.
Those men who did more housework generally reported less work-life conflict and were scored slightly higher for wellbeing overall.
Theory: well-adjusted people who love each other are happy to do what it takes to keep the household running and don’t waste time passive-aggressively trying to convince their spouse that he’s a bad person for not reading her mind.
Now let’s talk about biology. The author claims,
Of course, there’s nothing genetic or innate about this behavior. We’re not born with an all-consuming passion for clearing tables, just like boys aren’t born with an utter disinterest for thing lying around.
Of course, the author doesn’t cite any papers from the fields of genetics or behavior psychology to back up her claims–just like she feels entitled to claim that other people should read her mind and absurdly thinks that a good project manager at work doesn’t bother to tell their team what needs to be done, she doesn’t feel any compulsion to cite any proof of her claims. Science says s. We know because some cartoonist on the internet claimed it did.
Over in reality-land, when we make scientific claims about things like genetics, we cite our sources. And women absolutely have an instinct for cleaning things: the Nesting Instinct. No, it isn’t present when we’re born. It kicks in when we’re pregnant–often shortly before going into labor. Here’s an actual scientific paper on the Nesting Instinct published in the scientific journal Evolution and Human Behavior:
In altricial mammals, “nesting” refers to a suite of primarily maternal behaviours including nest-site selection, nest building and nest defense, and the many ways that nonhuman animals prepare themselves for parturition are well studied. In contrast, little research has considered pre-parturient preparation behaviours in women from a functional perspective.
The overwhelming urge that drives many pregnant women to clean, organize and get life in order—otherwise known as nesting—is not irrational, but an adaptive behaviour stemming from humans’ evolutionary past.
Researchers from McMaster University suggest that these behaviours—characterized by unusual bursts of energy and a compulsion to organize the household—are a result of a mechanism to protect and prepare for the unborn baby.
Women also become more selective about the company they keep, preferring to spend time only with people they trust, say researchers.
In short, having control over the environment is a key feature of preparing for childbirth, including decisions about where the birth will take place and who will be welcome.
“Nesting is not a frivolous activity,” says Marla Anderson, lead author of the study and a graduate student in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour. “We have found that it peaks in the third trimester as the birth of the baby draws near and is an important task that probably serves the same purpose in women as it does in other animals.”
Even Wikipeidia cites a number of sources on the subject:
Nesting behaviour refers to an instinct or urge in pregnant animals caused by the increase of estradiol (E2) to prepare a home for the upcoming newborn(s). It is found in a variety of animals such as birds, fish, squirrels, mice and pigs as well as humans.
Nesting is pretty much impossible to miss if you’ve ever been pregnant or around pregnant women.
Of course, this doesn’t prove the instinct persists (though in my personal case it definitely did.)
By the way, estradiol is a fancy name for estrogen, which is found in much higher levels in women than men. (Just to be rigorous, here’s data on estrogen levels in normal men and women.)
So if high estradiol levels make a variety of mammals–including humans–want to clean things, and women between puberty and menopause consistently have higher levels of estrogen than men, then it seems fairly likely that women actually do have, on average, a higher innate, biological, instinctual, even genetic urge to clean and organize their homes than men do.
But returning to the comic, the author claims:
But we’re born into a society in which very early on, we’re given dolls and miniature vacuum cleaners, and in which it seems shameful for boys to like those same toys.
What bollocks. I used to work at a toystore. Yes, we stocked toy vacuum cleaners and the like in a “Little Helpers” set. We never sold a single one, and I worked there over Christmas. (Great times.)
I am always on the lookout for toys my kids would enjoy and receive constant feedback on whether they like my choices. (“A book? Why did Santa bring me a book? Books are boring!”)
I don’t spend money getting more of stuff my kids aren’t interested in. A child who doesn’t like dolls isn’t going to get a bunch of dolls and be ordered to sit and play with them and nothing else. A child who doesn’t like trucks isn’t going to get a bunch of trucks.
Assuming that other parents are neither stupid (unable to tell which toys their children like) nor evil (forcing their children to play with specific toys even though they know they don’t like them,) I conclude that children’s toys reflect the children’s actual preferences, not the parents’ (for goodness’s sakes, it if it were up to me, I’d socialize my children to be super-geniuses who spend all of their time reading textbooks and whose toys are all science and math manipulatives, not toy dump trucks!)
We compared the interactions of 34 rhesus monkeys, living within a 135 monkey troop, with human wheeled toys and plush toys. Male monkeys, like boys, showed consistent and strong preferences for wheeled toys, while female monkeys, like girls, showed greater variability in preferences. Thus, the magnitude of preference for wheeled over plush toys differed significantly between males and females. The similarities to human findings demonstrate that such preferences can develop without explicit gendered socialization.
Now new research suggests that such gender-driven desires are also seen in young female chimpanzees in the wild—a behavior that possibly evolved to make the animals better mothers, experts say.
Young females of the Kanyawara chimpanzee community in Kibale National Park, Uganda, use sticks as rudimentary dolls and care for them like the group’s mother chimps tend to their real offspring. The behavior, which was very rarely observed in males, has been witnessed more than a hundred times over 14 years of study.
Gonadal hormones, particularly androgens, direct certain aspects of brain development and exert permanent influences on sex-typical behavior in nonhuman mammals. Androgens also influence human behavioral development, with the most convincing evidence coming from studies of sex-typical play. Girls exposed to unusually high levels of androgens prenatally, because they have the genetic disorder, congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), show increased preferences for toys and activities usually preferred by boys, and for male playmates, and decreased preferences for toys and activities usually preferred by girls. Normal variability in androgen prenatally also has been related to subsequent sex-typed play behavior in girls, and nonhuman primates have been observed to show sex-typed preferences for human toys. These findings suggest that androgen during early development influences childhood play behavior in humans at least in part by altering brain development.
But the author of the comic strip would like us to believe that gender roles are a result of watching the wrong stuff on TV:
And in which culture and media essentially portray women as mothers and wives, while men are heroes who go on fascinating adventures away from home.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up in the Bad Old Days of the 80s when She-Ra, Princess of Power, was kicking butt on TV; little girls were being magically transported to Ponyland to fight evil monsters: and Rainbow Bright defeated the evil King of Shadows and saved the Color Kids.
If you’re older than me, perhaps you grew up watching Wonder Woman (first invented in 1941) and Leia Skywalker; and if you’re younger, Dora the Explorer and Katniss Everdeen.
If you can’t find adventurous female characters in movies or TV, YOU AREN’T LOOKING.
I mentioned this recently: it’s like the Left has no idea what the past–anytime before last Tuesday–actually contained. Somehow the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s have entirely disappeared, and they live in a timewarp where we are connected directly to the media and gender norms of over half a century ago.
Enough. The Guardian comic is a load of entitled whining from someone who actually thinks that other people are morally obligated to try to read her mind. She has the maturity of a bratty teenager (“You should have known I hate this band!”) and needs to learn how to actually communicate with others instead of complaining that it’s everyone else who has a problem.
People have long wondered if language is an instinct. If you raised a child without speaking to it, would it begin spontaneously speaking? I hear some folks tried this experience on an orphanage, wondering if the babies would start spontaneously speaking German or French or whatever, and all of the babies died due to neglect.
Of course they wouldn’t have started speaking even if they’d survived. We have no “speak French” instinct, but we do have an instinct to imitate the funny sounds other people make and possibly to “babble”–even deaf babies will “babble” in sign language.
Oh, I found the experiment (I think.) Looks like its a lot older than I thought. According to Wikipedia:
The experiments were recorded by the monk Salimbene di Adam in his Chronicles, who wrote that Frederick encouraged “foster-mothers and nurses to suckle and bathe and wash the children, but in no ways to prattle or speak with them; for he would have learnt whether they would speak the Hebrew language (which he took to have been the first), or Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, or perchance the tongue of their parents of whom they had been born. But he laboured in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments.”
That said, we likely do have some instincts related to language acquisition.
If everyone in the world exhibits a particular behavior, chances are it’s innate. But I have been informed–by Harvard-educated people, no less–that humans do not have instincts. We are so smart, you see, that we don’t need instincts anymore.
This is nonsense, of course.
One amusing and well-documented human instinct is the nesting instinct, experienced by pregnant women shortly before going into labor. (As my father put it, “When shes starts rearranging the furniture, get the ready to head to the hospital.”) Having personally experienced this sudden, overwhelming urge to CLEAN ALL THE THINGS multiple times, I can testify that it is a real phenomenon.
Humans have other instincts–babies will not only pick up and try to eat pretty much anything they run across, to every parent’s consternation, but they will also crawl right up to puddles and attempt to drink out of them.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves: What, exactly, is an instinct? According to Wikipedia:
Instinct or innate behavior is the inherent inclination of a livingorganism towards a particular complex behavior. The simplest example of an instinctive behavior is a fixed action pattern (FAP), in which a very short to medium length sequence of actions, without variation, are carried out in response to a clearly defined stimulus.
Any behavior is instinctive if it is performed without being based upon prior experience (that is, in the absence of learning), and is therefore an expression of innate biological factors. …
Instincts are inborn complex patterns of behavior that exist in most members of the species, and should be distinguished from reflexes, which are simple responses of an organism to a specific stimulus, such as the contraction of the pupil in response to bright light or the spasmodic movement of the lower leg when the knee is tapped.
The go-to example of an instinct is the gosling’s imprinting instinct. Typically, goslings imprint on their mothers, but a baby gosling doesn’t actually know what its mother is supposed to look like, and can accidentally imprint on other random objects, provided they are moving slowly around the nest around the time the gosling hatches.
Here we come to something I think may be useful for distinguishing an instinct from other behaviors: an instinct, once triggered, tends to keep going even if it has been accidentally or incorrectly triggered. Goslings look like they have an instinct to follow their mothers, but they actually have an instinct to imprint on the first large, slowly moving object near their nest when they hatch.
So if you find people strangely compelled to do something that makes no sense but which everyone else seems to think makes perfect sense, you may be dealing with an instinct. For example, women enjoy celebrity gossip because humans have an instinct to keep track of social ranks and dynamics within their own tribe; men enjoy watching other men play sports because it conveys the vicarious feeling of defeating a neighboring tribe at war.
So what about racism? Is it an instinct?
Strictly speaking–and I know I have to define racism, just a moment–I don’t see how we could have evolved such an instinct. Races exist because major human groups were geographically separated for thousands of years–prior to 1492, the average person never even met a person of another race in their entire life. So how could we evolve an instinct in response to something our ancestors never encountered?
Unfortunately, “racism” is a chimera, always changing whenever we attempt to pin it down, but the Urban Dictionary gives a reasonable definition:
An irrational bias towards members of a racial background. The bias can be positive (e.g. one race can prefer the company of its own race or even another) or it can be negative (e.g. one race can hate another). To qualify as racism, the bias must be irrational. That is, it cannot have a factual basis for preference.
Of course, instincts exist because they ensured our ancestors’ survival, so if racism is an instinct, it can’t exactly be “irrational.” We might call a gosling who follows a scientist instead of its mother “irrational,” but this is a misunderstanding of the gosling’s motivation. Since “racist” is a term of moral judgment, people are prone to defending their actions/beliefs towards others on the grounds that it can’t possibly be immoral to believe something that is actually true.
The claim that people are “racist” against members of other races implies, in converse, that they exhibit no similar behaviors toward members of their own race. But even the most perfunctory overview of history reveals people acting in extremely “racist” ways toward members of their own race. During the Anglo-Boer wars, the English committed genocide against the Dutch South Africans (Afrikaners.) During WWII, Germans allied with the the Japanese and slaughtered their neighbors, Poles and Jews. (Ashkenazim are genetically Caucasian and half Italian.) If Hitler were really racist, he’d have teamed up with Stalin and Einstein–his fellow whites–and dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima. (And for their part, the Japanese would have allied with the Chinese against the Germans.)
The murder victim, a West African chimpanzee called Foudouko, had been beaten with rocks and sticks, stomped on and then cannibalised by his own community. …
“When you reverse that and have almost two males per every female — that really intensifies the competition for reproduction. That seems to be a key factor here,” says Wilson.
Jill Pruetz at Iowa State University, who has been studying this group of chimpanzees in south-eastern Senegal since 2001, agrees. She suggests that human influence may have caused this skewed gender ratio that is likely to have been behind this attack. In Senegal, female chimpanzees are poached to provide infants for the pet trade. …
Early one morning, Pruetz and her team heard loud screams and hoots from the chimps’ nearby sleep nest. At dawn, they found Foudouko dead, bleeding profusely from a bite to his right foot. He also had a large gash in his back and a ripped anus. Later he was found to have cracked ribs. Pruetz says Foudouko probably died of internal injuries or bled out from his foot wound.
Foudouko also had wounds on his fingers. These were likely to have been caused by chimps clamping them in their teeth to stretch his arms out and hold him down during the attack, says Pruetz.
After his death, the gang continued to abuse Foudouko’s body, throwing rocks and poking it with sticks, breaking its limbs, biting it and eventually eating some of the flesh.
“It was striking. The female that cannibalised the body the most, she’s the mother of the top two high-ranking males. Her sons were the only ones that really didn’t attack the body aggressively,” Pruetz says …
Historically, the vast majority of wars and genocides were waged by one group of people against their neighbors–people they were likely to be closely related to in the grand scheme of things–not against distant peoples they’d never met. If you’re a chimp, the chimp most likely to steal your banana is the one standing right in front of you, not some strange chimp you’ve never met before who lives in another forest.
Indeed, in Jane Goodall’s account of the Gombe Chimpanzee War, the combatants were not members of two unrelated communities that had recently encountered each other, but members of a single community that had split in two. Chimps who had formerly lived peacefully together, groomed each other, shared bananas, etc., now bashed each other’s brains out and cannibalized their young. Poor Jane was traumatized.
I think there is an instinct to form in-groups and out-groups. People often have multiple defined in-groups (“I am a progressive, a Christian, a baker, and a Swede,”) but one of these identities generally trumps the others in importance. Ethnicity and gender are major groups most people seem to have, but I don’t see a lot of evidence suggesting that the grouping of “race” is uniquely special, globally, in people’s ideas of in- and out-.
For example, as I am writing today, people are concerned that Donald Trump is enacting racist policies toward Muslims, even though “Muslim” is not a race and most of the countries targeted by Trump’s travel/immigration ban are filled with fellow Caucasians, not Sub-Saharan Africans or Asians.
Race is a largely American obsession, because our nation (like the other North and South American nations,) has always had whites, blacks, and Asians (Native Americans). But many countries don’t have this arrangement. Certainly Ireland didn’t have an historical black community, nor Japan a white one. Irish identity was formed in contrast to English identity; Japanese in contrast to Chinese and Korean.
Only in the context where different races live in close proximity to each other does it seem that people develop strong racial identities; otherwise people don’t think much about race.
Napoleon Chagnon, a white man, has spent years living among the Yanomamo, one of the world’s most murderous tribes, folks who go and slaughter their neighbors and neighbors’ children all the time, and they still haven’t murdered him.
Why do people insist on claiming that Trump’s “Muslim ban” is racist when Muslims aren’t a race? Because Islam is an identity group that appears to function similarly to race, even though Muslims come in white, black, and Asian.
If you’ve read any of the comments on my old post about Turkic DNA, Turkey: Not very Turkic, you’ll have noted that Turks are quite passionate about their Turkic identity, even though “Turkic” clearly doesn’t correspond to any particular ethnic groups. (It’s even more mixed up than Jewish, and that’s a pretty mixed up one after thousands of years of inter-breeding with non-Jews.)
Group identities are fluid. When threatened, groups merged. When resources are abundant and times are good, groups split.
What about evidence that infants identify–stare longer at–faces of people of different races than their parents? This may be true, but all it really tells us is that babies are attuned to novelty. It certainly doesn’t tell us that babies are racist just because they find people interesting who look different from the people they’re used to.
What happens when people encounter others of a different race for the first time?
We have many accounts of “first contacts” between different races during the Age of Exploration. For example, when escaped English convict William Buckley wandered into an uncontacted Aborigine tribe, they assumed he was a ghost, adopted him, taught him to survive, and protected him for 30 years. By contrast, the last guy who landed on North Sentinel Island and tried to chat with the natives there got a spear to the chest and a shallow grave for his efforts. (But I am not certain the North Sentinelese haven’t encountered outsiders at some point.)
But what about the lunchroom seating habits of the wild American teenager?
If people have an instinct to form in-groups and out-groups, then races (or religions?) may represent the furthest bounds of this, at least until we encounter aliens. All else held equal, perhaps we are most inclined to like the people most like ourselves, and least inclined to like the people least like ourselves–racism would thus be the strongest manifestation of this broader instinct. But what about people who have a great dislike for one race, but seem just fine with another, eg, a white person who likes Asians but not blacks, or a black who like Asians but not whites? And can we say–per our definition above–that these preferences are irrational, or are they born of some lived experience of positive or negative interactions?
Again, we are only likely to have strong opinions about members of other races if we are in direct conflict or competition with them. Most of the time, people are in competition with their neighbors, not people on the other side of the world. I certainly don’t sit here thinking negative thoughts about Pygmies or Aborigines, even though we are very genetically distant from each other, and I doubt they spend their free time thinking negatively about me.
Just because flamingos prefer to flock with other flamingos doesn’t mean they dislike horses; for the most part, I think people are largely indifferent to folks outside their own lives.
The autist’s greatest strength–and weakness–is his deficiency in the neural mechanisms of mimicry. Without the necessary feedback loops, he fails to subconsciously adopt of his peers’ words, actions, and beliefs, leaving him is free to develop his own–caring little about how strange they seem to everyone else.
At his most unfortunate, the infant autist lacks even the instincts necessary to imitate the mouth-shapes and mouth-sounds of his parents, leaving him unable to develop speech. Some of these autists understand speech perfectly well, but simply cannot produce it.
At his most fortunate, the autist, immune to other people’s preconceived notions, revolutionizes some field of science or math–or both:
Here is buried Isaac Newton, Knight, who by a strength of mind almost divine, and mathematical principles peculiarly his own, explored the course and figures of the planets, the paths of comets, the tides of the sea, the dissimilarities in rays of light, and, what no other scholar has previously imagined, the properties of the colours thus produced. Diligent, sagacious and faithful, in his expositions of nature, antiquity and the holy Scriptures, he vindicated by his philosophy the majesty of God mighty and good, and expressed the simplicity of the Gospel in his manners. Mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so great an ornament of the human race! He was born on 25 December 1642, and died on 20 March 1726/7.—Translation from G.L. Smyth, The Monuments and Genii of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and of Westminster Abbey (1826), ii, 703–4.
Evolution is a fabulous principle, but it can only do so much. It has yet to give us titanium bones or x-ray vision, nor has it solved the problem of death. It even gives us creatures like praying mantises, who eat their mates.
Genetically speaking, men and women are actually quite similar, at least compared to, say, trees. There’s a great deal of overlap between male and female instincts–we both get hungry, we both fall in love, we both think the Ghostbusters remake was an abomination.
While evolution would like* to code for perfect men and perfect women, since we are the same species and ever male has a mom and every female has a dad, genetics ultimately can’t code for perfect men and perfect women. *yes I am anthropomorphizing
Remember, there are only two chromosomes which code for sexual development, the so called XX (female) and XY (male). Both men and women have at least one X, but no women have a Y.
It doesn’t work out that men are, like, expressing half female genes and half male genes, since the Y chromosome blocks the expression of some of the female genes. However, men still have those genes.
Sexual antagonism or “sexual conflict” occurs when a genetic trait that makes one sex better at reproducing makes the opposite sex worse at reproducing:
Interlocus sexual conflict is the interaction of a set of antagonistic alleles at one or more loci in males and females. An example is conflict over mating rates. Males frequently have a higher optimal mating rate than females because in most animal species, they invest fewer resources in offspring than their female counterparts. Therefore, males have numerous adaptations to induce females to mate with them. Another well-documented example of inter-locus sexual conflict is the seminal fluid of Drosophila melanogaster, which up-regulates females’ egg-laying rate and reduces her desire to re-mate with another male (serving the male’s interests), but also shortens the female’s lifespan reducing her fitness.
In humans, for example, women benefit from being thin and short, while men benefit from being tall and bulky. But a short, thin woman is more likely to have a short, thin, son, which is not beneficial, and a tall, bulky man is likely to have a tall, bulky daughter–also not beneficial.
Whatever instincts we see in one gender, we likely see–in some form–in at least some members of the opposite gender. So If there is–as some folks around these parts allege–an instinct which makes women submissive to invading armies, then it likely affects some men, too.
For the few men who do survive an invasion, not protesting as your wife is gang raped might keep you alive to later reproduce, too
I don’t really do domestic politics, but what do you guys think of Trump’s SCOTUS pick?
I’ve been working on some material about instincts and thought this was an interesting graph, relevant to my theory that pregnancy/childbirth have a physical (chemical/hormonal) effect on women, causing their mothering instincts to kick in (mothering isn’t nearly as useful before you have kids as after,) which in turn causes a change in attitudes toward abortion.
Obviously the graph proves little, because people who don’t approve of abortion are predisposed to have more children than people who do. What I really want is a time-based graph, measuring attitudes before and after pregnancy. But I’m having trouble finding that.
And here’s a graph of pension obligations. Pensions: they’ve got serious issues.
On to comments of the week. First I’m reposting Unknown128′s question because I can’t answer it, but maybe one of you folks can:
I wanted to ask what the German Nazis view on IQ and IQ testing was. From what I know they didnt realy percieve intelligence as a very valuable trait in the first place, prefering physical strenght, endurance and “nordic racial traits”. They bred warriors not thinkers. Also one does hear that they banned IQ testing or at least strongly disliked it.
Do you know anything specific?
This has been a relatively low comment week, but awards go to Leonard:
The reason why you’re seeing more antifa stuff now is that the communists have lost control of the Potemkin government. It’s not that they didn’t exist; it’s that rioting did not serve much political purpose. Pressuring Obama from the left was easy enough without violence. So using violence was fairly senseless.
My understanding is Antifas evolved or are a subset of anarchist and socialist groups mainly focussed on combating fringe nationalist parties like the National Front (UK) or the Front National (FRA), whatever their equivalents were in other Western Europe countries etc, in the 70s-90s. Honestly they’re just black bloc dickheads who want to pretend they’re fighting Hitler.
The general dressing in black and breaking stuff style of leftwing activisim is known as black blocs. Basically just dress up in black cover your face and break things. I think it was popularised as a tactic originally against groups like the IMF and WTO, in the US at least it was probably due to “The battle for Seattle”, that was opposition to the WTO. You get routine riots and mischief by groups who perform the same behaviour for various left wing causes all around the world. I think Oakland has a lot of those guys behaving like dicks semi-consistently. …
One of the theories that undergirds a large subset of my thoughts on how brains work is the idea that Disgust is a Real Thing.
I don’t just mean a mild aversion to things that smell bad, like overturned port-a-potties or that fuzzy thing you found growing in the back of the fridge that might have been lasagna, once upon a time. Even I have such aversions.
I mean reactions like screaming and looking like you are about to vomit upon finding a chicken heart in your soup; gagging at the sight of trans people or female body hair; writhing and waving your hands while removing a slug from your porch; or the claim that talking about rats at the dinner table puts you off your meal. Or more generally, people claiming, “That’s disgusting!” or “What a creep!” about things or people that obviously aren’t even stinky.
There is a parable about a deaf person watching people dance to music he can’t hear and assuming that the people have all gone mad.
For most of my life, I assumed these reactions were just some sort of complicated schtick people put on, for totally obtuse reasons. It was only about a year ago that I realized, in a flash of insight, that this disgust is a real thing that people actually feel.
I recently expressed this idea to a friend, and they stared at me in shock. (That, or they were joking.) We both agreed that chicken hearts are a perfectly normal thing to put in soup, so at least I’m not the only one confused by this.
This breakthrough happened as a result of reading a slew of neuro-political articles that I can’t find now, and it looks like the site itself might be gone, which makes me really sad. I’ve linked to at least one of them before, which means that now my old links are dead, too. Damn. Luckily, it looks like Wired has an article covering the same or similar research: Primal Propensity for Disgust Shapes Political Positions.
“The latest such finding comes from a study of people who looked at gross images, such as a man eating earthworms. Viewers who self-identified as conservative, especially those opposing gay marriage, reacted with particularly deep disgust. … Disgust is especially interesting to researchers because it’s such a fundamental sensation, an emotional building block so primal that feelings of moral repugnance originate in neurobiological processes shared with a repugnance for rotten food.”
So when people say that some moral or political thing is, “disgusting,” I don’t think they’re being metaphorical; I think they actually, literally mean that the idea of it makes them want to vomit.
Which begs the question: Why?
Simply put, I suspect that some of us have more of our brain space devoted to processing disgust than others. I can handle lab rats–or pieces of dead lab rats–without any internal reaction, I don’t care if there are trans people in my bathroom, and I suspect my sense of smell isn’t very good. My opinions on moral issues are routed primarily through what I hope are the rational, logic-making parts of my brain.
By contrast, people with stronger disgust reactions probably have more of their brain space devoted to disgust, and so are routing more of their sensory experiences through that region, and so feel strong, physical disgust in reaction to a variety of things, like people with different cultural norms than themselves. Their moral reasoning comes from a more instinctual place.
It is tempting to claim that processing things logically is superior to routing them through the disgust regions, but sometimes things are disgusting for good, evolutionarily sound reasons. Having an instinctual aversion to rats is not such a bad thing, given that they have historically been disease vectors. Most of our instincts exist to protect and help us, after all.
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.
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.
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.