Re: War Gods?

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Thu 11 Mar 2004 - 11:41:24 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "psychohistory?"

    Help me -- this post has bloated out of control!!!

    There was a dutch family that carried a faulty monoamine oxidase A gene
    (possibly X-linked) that is thought to have led to a string of violent males in the family line -- google "monoamine oxidase dutch family violent" (minus the quotes) or have a look at one I picked at random:

    This is the chemical wash thing again though -- this wasn't a gene 'for' a behaviour. This is as close as it ever gets -- they're all like this
    (if they're anything at all) and frankly, waving one of about three large hormonal levers is just vacuous in my opinion. For starters, there is nothing particularly human about these responses seperate from other mammals (even other classes, I don't know) so you can't really employ them in arguments about human behaviours, even for the stone age; you could only make mammal-level arguments at best.

    And yeah -- waltzing isn't from a 'gene for', it's just a loss of proper function (rhythmic circuits are ubiquitous in motor control, so dysfunction often appears rhythmic). Anyway I know that wasn't the direction of your argument so I won't get stuck in to that.

    Btw Robin Baker actually lectured me -- he taught a really good behavioural course that, for me, outright killed the idea of real altruism _ever_ existing in animals (and by extension, humans). However that course was the only serious science he came near. His own research was largely nonsense (the hypotheses about humans are quite ridiculous, and have been repeatedly debunked where not completely laughable in the first place). In the end he got 'moved on' because he and at least one of his postdocs used to seriously (i.e. physically) sexually harass, and occasionally sexually assault (when drunk enough), female students on his field courses (which he ran and staffed). He also used to get female students to report the stage of their menstrual cycle to him throughout his courses (perhaps to play Randy Thornhill-style games, or to
    _repeatedly_ study the myth that women 'synchronise' [also debunked], or maybe he just liked the feeling of power over them that came from intimate knowledge of them). His whole life seems to have been spent justifying his own immaturity around women -- I'd like to ask him about the rape thing to confirm this. And btw there is _no_ justification for rape in humans from biology. None. Just leave it alone.

    There is also _no_ sperm competition in humans -- his idea that what are in fact faulty (low motility, double headed, tailess etc.) sperm are
    'linebackers' assisting the progress of essentially healthy sperm, would be extremely funny, if the media hadn't jumped on it (along with a lot more, equally ridiculous conclusions based on sparse data at best). If you sup with Robin Baker, take a very long spoon. He knows the media jump when you say 'sex', and he is a british man that can talk about sex without going red (therefore he is a freak worthy of the limelight acc. to our media buddies), although thank god enough people have slagged him off to various authorities (especially after he got a Radio 4 programme all to himself a few years ago, in which he paraded all this shite, only to be debunked by others in the same series!) that you don't see much of him these days. Looks like he ran abroad.

    Anyway I think there may be several strands of EP. Keith yours seems less contentious, but the problem as I see it is that as more and more of the contentious stuff is removed it ceases to be a field at all. Who are the people that were permanently announcing 'genes for' all sorts of behaviours a few years ago then? Not EPers? If not then I have been mistaken, for which I apologise. I'm sure it's a bigger church than you're letting on.

    As for whether I or the media missed the point, I can assure you it's the media that worries me (even if I missed the point I think the consequences would be rather small). Point is the media have some agendas, and the moment any scientist opens their mouth, they are waiting to slot the info into one of a few pigeonholes, so you _must_ be
    _incredibly_ careful when talking to them (and you'll still get screwed). Remember the debates over whether 'criminal' genes would get you off, or get you the death penalty? Randy Thornhill (the poisonous little ****) has given more succour to bigotted misogynistic men than every other fictional evil lothario combined, because he is "a scientist" (apparently).

    Media interest in science is limited to things that they can crowbar into one of six(ish) pigeon holes: cures, gadgets, exploration, sex, bad people, why-are-we-here. Let's remember the context in which we do our science, and have our debates.

    P.S. As for Stockholmitis -- I can't believe you need much more than
    (a) people's usual response to bullying; (b) long term adrenaline stimulation (disoriented, feeling good but not quite sure why), added to
    (c) the secret desire of many people to be in _any_ situation that makes them more important and potentially visible (e.g. fantasising about shipwrecks or even stuck lifts, where people would be forced to get on with you and learn to appreciate your good side because they can't leave), which adds to the mild euphoria of (b) and makes you more likely to be socially bold, and finally (d) the fact that just about everyone has some redeeming features (and often kidnappers are not evil masterminds -- just recruits with doubts like all other soldiers), so given enough exposure you will start to like _some_ of them (now if you could find an example where all the terrorists were much loved by the end, regardless of who was less nasty than who, then I'd listen). This bonding even happened a bit during the Munich games incident (Jews warming to [_some of the_] arabs with guns)!

    I just don't think you could measure a hormonal reponse (now that we've officially abandoned 'hard-wired' genetic control) that would be distinct from that seen in other similar (but non-hostage) situations like, say, a group trapped in a widerness after a crash, or under a building after an earthquake -- predominantly because, as you said (in so many words), these are big levers. Incidentally I'd say the facility to accept people you would normally find unacceptable (hostage situation or not) is just a case of weighing what matters (on a semi-subconscious level). When you're at the cinema you are intolerant of people sniffing
    -- in a life raft I think you would be more tolerant of the sniffer. You don't argue about minor differences when you perceive a risk to your life, but that isn't a program -- its a side effect of being human -- we are most concerned with our biggest threat, and scale other threats appropriately. Again this just drops out of a totally meme-like-thing/ecologically-based model of mind.

    There is a great graphic novel I read years ago called The Watchmen, where a rich super scientist guy (a la Bruce Wayne -- dontcha just love those guys -- where are they now eh) faked an alien invasion to stave off an imminent world war three.

    I definitely remember something about having a job, better check...

    Cheers, Chris.

    derek gatherer wrote:

    > --- Keith Henson <> wrote: > At >
    > About the most complicated behavior I know about
    >>that is directly linked to
    >>a gene is "waltzing" in mice.
    > Pleiotropy.
    > Here's a recent book on the subject:
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      Chris Taylor (
      MIAPE Project --
    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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