Re: War Gods?

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Thu 11 Mar 2004 - 01:29:30 GMT

  • Next message: derek gatherer: "Re: War Gods?"

    At 10:19 AM 10/03/04 +0000, Chris wrote:
    >Actually that last post read a little fierce. I think I need to explain
    >that: My blanket loathing of all things EP (sorry) stems from the fact
    >that if these complex behavioural suites are under genetic control,

    I don't think that anyone in the EP camp would make that claim, at least not directly. Genes build brains that operate bodies that exhibit complex behavior. However, those brains *do* have obviously evolved psychological mechanisms such as mother-infant bonding, pair bonding, those that are turned on in capture-bonding, and attention-reward. *All* of these are of the "flood the brain with chemicals" variety. While these floods will reward behavior or even cause it (flight) they are hardly "complex behavioural suites are under genetic control." Another universal psychological trait is to diminish within the group fighting when the group is attacked. It too might be of the chemical flood type, but that's uncertain.

    About the most complicated behavior I know about that is directly linked to a gene is "waltzing" in mice.

          "A Japanese book, Chingan Sodategusa, detailed popular early breeds
    -- the albino, dwarf and waltzing mouse (so named because the mouse appeared to dance, a behavior, scientists later learned, that stemmed from an inherited inner-ear defect)."

    >then more fundamental stuff like sexuality (and a string of nasty
    >dysfunctional behaviours)

    I think drug addiction, which sure can be a dysfunctional behaviour, is being understood in terms of EP and brain reward circuits shaped by evolution.

    The extreme version of capture-bonding (Elizabeth Smart, Patty Hearst) is rare enough to mystify people, but I think that understanding that people
    *have* such a trait is important in treating battered wives, or controlling hazing.

    >*surely must be*, which (apart from having been squarely squashed through
    >proper research) opens a rather ugly can of fascists.
    >Randy Thornhill is an abhorrent name that springs to mind.

    It has been ages since I read Thornhill. I don't remember him *promoting* rape, just trying to understand the origin of a behavior that
    *is* abhorrent and less successfully speculating about ways we might compensate with a psychological trait that is way out of step with the modern world. I probably should reread Thornhill and do a post on this subject.

    In a species that depends on pair bonding and a lot of paternal investment, rape as a reproductive strategy would only be possible if it were a rare strategy. That means it would be done by either a very few individuals or as an uncommon behavior for a larger number. You might want to read Baker's Sperm Wars. Very disturbing book, but hard to fault at the science/EP level. (Getting the name spelling right turned up this:

    >Anyway I do have solid unemotional objections to EP (like the effect of
    >genetic drift in a world with a much cheaper parallel copying mechanism);

    I have no idea of what you mean here.

    >but those rational objections become rather emotional when I see what I
    >believe to be nonsense paraded by the media as the reason why bigots and
    >rapists should be unconcerned by their pathetic worldview.

    Either you or the media are completely missing the point.

    Keith Henson

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