Miscellaneous content from the original enlightened caveman. Some serious, some not. Take your chances.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Bullets Versus Bombs - Feminism for Dummies

There's a point of view out there that women who are stay-at-home moms are somehow betraying their female gender by letting themselves be type-cast into forsaking their minds and talents for the perennial male fantasy world. This view is, in my opinion, held by women who have never really managed to enjoy the most egregious of female stereotypes, which is of course, that of the bimbo. Name three hot feminists. OK, Patricia Ireland is decent, in that Geraldine Ferraro kind of way, but you still owe me two. But that's beside the point. Since they have not frequently experienced the dance of attraction between a male and a female, many of these women have understandably concluded that there is really is no inherent difference between males and females. Au contraire ladies.

It all comes down to sex cells. Men have little ones, but millions of them, from the first hair under the arm till either death or abnormality; women have big ones, but, on average, one a month, for 30-40 years, and then nothing. Given our genes' goal of using these cells to create offspring, we're talking about the difference between bombs and bullets - each comes with its own strategy.

It may seem odd to use instruments of death as a metaphor for the means of creating life, but this is about building a bridge from what we understand to what we wish to understand. If irony ensues, perhaps it reveals even deeper levels of understanding that as yet still elude us. Anyhow, as bombs are costly to build, there are fewer of them available. They're scarce, you might say, which means the strategy is focused on economizing, hitting just the right target at just the right time. Furthermore, when a target is hit, it makes sense to take full advantage of what the bomb has wrought. Military doctrine generally advises following bombing with ground troops for precisely this reason. But when bullets are employed, a different approach is required.

Bullets are cheap to produce, which means they're highly expendible. You can fire into the darkness with reckless abandon and lose nothing significant. And, given the low odds of hitting anything in such circumstances, there's little sense in exploring the field of fire looking for casualties. You just pop in another clip and wait for the next call to action. Is the picture materializing yet?

The sheer value of a woman's egg has tuned her emotions to be highly selective in choosing a mate. She is drawn to males who demonstrate their fitness, not only as males competing with other males, but as potential fathers. She is drawn to pursue the pair bond, at least until the child is mature. The male, however, has exactly the opposite strategy. He has no reason to be selective. Since males have sex cells aplenty, they are driven for the most part to copulate in a wholesale, indiscriminate fashion. In fact, all other pastimes necessarily take a backseat to reproduction. By spreading their seeds far and wide, males increase the probability that their genes will make it into the next generation. Furthermore, the pair bond is a fool's errand in the world of male sex strategies.

If the male is going to settle down, he'll do so grudgingly and with the most fit female, mainly in terms of looks, he can find. (Looks are paramount to the male because beauty indicates youth, which indicates fertility. He brings the survival skills to the table; she just brings the eggs.) Thus, it's no surprise that the male, in choosing his long-term bomb, looks for a female who not only has a nice and shiny one, but who takes good care to keep it that way. This attractive feature of the male psyche has stark repercussions on female strategies. She has to keep herself attractive and demonstrate a solid aptitude for domestic endeavors. And in the ancestral human environment, it was the ladies that fit this description who got asked to the dance. The rest died old maids, and their genes were never heard from again.

The consequence of this, the genetic side of the gender equation, is what we see all around us. Women choosing to stay home and care for their children is nothing short of natural. They are doing as their genes instruct. Of course, we can and should be willing to discuss the merits of this in today's world. My sense (which is nothing more than common sense) is that it is right for some, and not for others. Those for whom a desire for a career outside the home leads to the exploration of, shall we say, non-traditional child-rearing options have nothing to either feel guilty or proud about. More than anything, we should all be grateful that we live in a world that is prosperous enough and so suffused with the power of free will that women have this choice. They can choose to either do as their genes like or do as they like. But to suggest that being a stay-at-home mom is nothing more than buying into some role that has been pushed upon females by males is ludicrous.

Maybe this feminist nonsense is simply an indication of what happens when a woman tries to defuse her own bomb. Boom.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"(Looks are paramount to the male because beauty indicates youth, which indicates fertility. He brings the survival skills to the table; she just brings the eggs.)"

Both sexes discriminate on physical traits that correspond to evolutionary fitness. Because of the disparity in the initial investment in gametes *much hand-waving here* women have a greater interest in guaranteeing parental contribution from a long-term partner than men. If selection for non-physical traits increases, the relative selection for physical traits necessarily decreases, but neither sex has an interest in being tied down to an infertile mate.

1/28/2005 08:46:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "feminist bitches just haven't had a Real Man" tack isn't even outrageous anymore, it's just immature and tiring.
"There is still far too much insecurity and self-loathing in the minds of men (and women, lest my literary tendencies offend). There is still far too much jealousy and pettiness in human interaction."

1/28/2005 08:51:00 AM

Blogger Chris Wilson said...

Hey, I call em like I see em. And, don't forget, ideas have to be presented in an entertaining way to keep folks interest in these days of information overload. So, though I would never apply my generalization to any individual woman, I have no problem saying that I have yet to meet a hard-core feminist who was even remotely physically attractive. And if you want to deny the psychological and emotional impact that not being physically attractive has on the female psyche, especially in America, go ahead. Feel free to call em as you see em, too.

1/28/2005 10:00:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not that this is at all constructive, but:
Jane Fonda
Ani DiFranco, and
Ada Byron.

Hypatia of Alexandria was reputedly quite the looker as well, but we'll never know. No definition of "hardcore feminist" is given, though I'd wager the above four would qualify. Not that it's relevant.

No one's claiming that innate differences between men and women do not exist. The charitable interpretation would be the assertion "no innate mental differences between men and women exist", which is an empirical claim. While a few feminist writers believe this in the face of some good research, they are, in doing so, making the mistake of conflating physical equality with political equality. Whether men and women are psychologically equivalent shouldn't determine the positive and negative liberties accorded to each. I haven't heard anyone credible arguing for the abolition of the housewife, but for the abolition of tangible social and economic pressures which still bear against women who choose not to raise kids full-time. Understanding that (or agitating for it) doesn't necessitate that you be a homely spinster.

As for the exigencies of hooking readers with ad hominem (ad feminam?) digs and innuendo, there are plenty of writers-- even a few given over to evolutionary psychology-- who have cultivated a following without embarrassing themselves with "[n]ame three hot feminists." I had come across the site a few weeks ago and had read with interest, but if information and comment is as ubiquitous as you've claimed in your defense, it shouldn't be too difficult to find writers who take their readers and themselves seriously.

1/28/2005 11:55:00 AM

Blogger Chris Wilson said...

See? It's not so hard to find a little levity here. Even though it stung a bit, you managed to indulge my insulting generalization. And, in your honor, I retract it. Jane Fonda is indeed quite hot, or at least she was in "Barbarella".

Now to the business at hand.

"The charitable interpretation would be the assertion "no innate mental differences between men and women exist", which is an empirical claim. "

This is where feminists have run off the track. There are *very real* mental differences between men and women. It works like this - the physicality of the brain is organized in such as way as to produce physiological responses to internal and external stimuli. Those responses, in many cases, are our emotions. Indeed, our emotions get first dibs at mounting a response. They are involved before cognition - always. Emotions are a permanent intermediate step between perception and action. Considering the distinctly different reproductive strategies between males and females, it's obvious that the emotions that lead to the necessary actions must be different. Ergo, men and women have different mentalities. This is not to suggest that the sexes don't have more or less the same *cognitive* abilities. I would have a hard time swallowing that. But our emotions are driving the bus a lot more than we think they are. That's important, and it seems to be flat-out ignored by feminists.

"I haven't heard anyone credible arguing for the abolition of the housewife, but for the abolition of tangible social and economic pressures which still bear against women who choose not to raise kids full-time."

I just don't see it. Maybe this is just another case where I've never met Jane Fonda, but what are these tangible social and economic pressures? In fact, it seems to me that the pendulum has swung the other way - stay-at-home moms are the ones who face these pressures. Career women give that look condescension as the homemaker tells them she is a stay-at-home mom. I've even seen these moms defend themselves by saying what they used to do before mommyhood. And this is not even mentioning the rhetoric that sparked this post to begin with - the feminist notion that home moms are buying into a culturally created gender role.

On the economic front, are you going to tell me that the career mom faces more challenges than the home mom? The career mother, assuming she's adequately educated, has a surplus of cash after childcare is paid for. Home mom does not. And please don't bring that nonsense about different pay for females versus males. Pregnant women cost more, in terms of insurance and productivity (accounting for time off durng and after pregnancy). The bottom line is that the comparison is between being a home mom and a career mom. In my view, the balance of economic pressures leans toward the former.

As for embarrassing myself, I can assure that I am not embarrassed in the least. This is fun for me - getting people who would prefer to dwell on the joke, rather than the content, riled up. And if someone else is saying what I'm saying out there, but without embarrassing himself, let me know when you find him so I can mount a massive denial of service attack on his site. This is *my* turf, babe.

1/28/2005 12:38:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether women choose to stay home or not seems these days to be a matter of economics and of what's going on in the world. My generation was pressured into a "one size fits all" mold of domesticity because my parents' had endured 16 years of war and depression and wanted nothing more than normalcy. My juniors rebelled and my childrens' generation did the entire career thing and are back to the stay-at-home ideal. As for being unattractive - oddly enough, I find myself more attractive at 65 than I was in my youth. I was married when I was into the feminist bit, and the mother of two daughters. The problem is, that while our ovaries produce bombs and men's testicles produce bullets, some of us have brains which overlap with those of the opposite sex. "Men think, women feel" is a statistical thing. It's roughly a 60/40 split (or 67/33, depending on who you talk to).

That said, I loathe and despise so much of the woman-on-woman pressure, criticism, and policing which seems to be a historical constant. It seems Woman's other job (aside from being beautiful to catch a man, being domestic to keep a man, and being a mother) is policing other women. Sigh.

Also - while most feminists are straight (unsupported statement, personal observation), almost all lesbians are feminist (ditto), and while they are a minority among women, their concerns should be taken into account, as should those of gay or effeminate men, or for that matter, celibates.

Just my $0.02 - or perhaps the $0.25 on the dollar I never earned?


1/28/2005 01:12:00 PM

Blogger Michael Gersh said...

I spent a portion of my misspent youth hanging around with the real feminists - people like Kate Millet, Jackie Ceballos, and Betty Freidan, so I know from which I speak. These women would never admit that there is any substantive difference between men and women, other than the trivial physical differences. This should show you that these are people who have a very tenuous grip on reality. Contrary to popular misconception, they are all posessed of ambiguous sexuality. While Betty made a traditional marriage work, she held herself like a man. Jackie Ceballos was my best friend's mother, then one day (on the Johnny Carson show, fer chrissakes!) revealed to the world (and her son) that she was a lesbian. Kate Millet similarly had no idea what it was to be a woman, although her sister was pretty hot, and I know this personally beyond any doubt.

What always got me about these women, and their movement, was that their followers were about as far from them philosophically as it is possible to get. Normal female feminists do not want to be equal to a man - indeed, that would be foolish. God and our society have endowed women with a better than half share of this world, so most sane women want to use the tissue of feminism to get an even better deal. They promulgate the myth of an inequality of wages in order to get paid even more than men for equal work, as well as additional privileges. They push the envelope of equality in the bedroom, until many women today complain that real men are impossible to find. They have girlified varsity sports with this title 9 fraud to the point where athletics at many schools are becoming atrophied.

We must make a distinction between movement feminists and people who buy into a portion of the feminist agenda. The movement, today, is a radical lesbian front. The National Organization for Women is an exclusively lesbian club. Most women today who consider themselves feminists would not even recognize the three names I started this post with. They merely would like the extra pay and priveleges, plus the opportunity to get on top whenever they want. But just try to get one to pay for dinner, and boy, you will get no nookie that night!

And as far as hot movement feminists are concerned, Gloria Steinem gets my vote. In her day, she was an awesome piece of ass! Jane Fonda does not qualify, she was never part of the movement, until much later in life when it became cool, while she was no longer so hot.

1/28/2005 05:31:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. MYTH of unequal wages? Title 9 destroying men's athletics? (Well, if they'd nip the football budget a little --- oh, horrors!) 'Real' "feminine' 'womanly' women don't want equality? (Hey! They didn't want the vote, either!) Man --- this blog and the comments have hit everything except the Freud-era theory about us wanting your male organs! (We do. Or I do. Preferably attached to a man who in turn is attached to a mind.)

Oh, have I got a fund-raiser for the Caveman site! I wonder if ebay would accept ads.... naah. Couldn't publish the pictures of the merchandise without the neo-Puritans screaming.

Grinning, ducking, and running,

La Idiote

1/28/2005 09:24:00 PM

Blogger Chris Wilson said...

OK, go to your corners.

We're gonna have a clean fight. No kicking, no shoving, no hitting below the belt.

The topics are:

The MYTH of unequal wages and Title 9 destroying men's athletics.

Now come out swinging.

1/29/2005 01:35:00 AM

Blogger Michael Gersh said...

Yes, Idiote, it is most definitely a myth. According to the nonpartisan and respected National Center for Policy Analysis:

"Women's work-life patterns and their occupational preferences are significant factors in determining wages. Rather than being "funneled" into low-wage, low-prestige and part-time positions, women often choose these occupations because of the flexibility they offer. After adjusting for these factors, scholars find that the difference between men's and women's earnings is very narrow. Those who still cite women's 76 cents for every male dollar as evidence of sexism fail to take into account the underlying role of personal choice. The "wage gap" is not so much about employers discriminating against women as about women making discriminating choices in the labor market."

They analyze the differences between men and women as being more a matter of slick statistical manipulation than a real difference. They say that salaries are within 2 per cent, which sounds about equal to me.

"When women behave in the workplace as men do, the wage gap between them is small. June O'Neill, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, found that among people ages 27 to 33 who have never had a child, women's earnings approach 98 percent of men's.

When women are willing to commit to a job the way men typically do, they get the same wages. When women are willing to take the kind of job that men typically take, they make the same. Things like willingness to leave work because junior has a cold at school are directly factored into wage rates. When women say that these distinctions I have made are sexist, we can return back to my comment, where I pointed out how women typically want a better than even deal.

And, by the way Idiote, when attempting to counter a man's argument, it is preferable to offer a countering point of view, rather than just huffing and puffing. Merely repeating my words and expecting an audience to realize my foolishness shows that you are not used to addressing an audience that is not predisposed to accept whatever you say in the first place. If one examines the issue of wage parity without a preconceived agenda, one can find precious little difference beyond mere anecdotes. Try this one on for size: The kindergarten teacher makes less than the high school physics teacher with a phd. His penis is not the reason for the wage disparity. It is not a gender difference that pays a construction worker more than a clerk. When I was hiring plumbers and paying them as piece workers (so much money per amount of work completed), the men always made more than the few women who were willing to install pipes and toilets. That is because they did more work, not because there was a vagina discount on my labor rate.

And title 9? If you doubt that it has been a disaster for boy's sports, you are not willing to face reality. Or maybe you have not taken the time to have some boys of your own. My boys face a definite limit on slots on the boys teams, based on equality with the number of girls on the girls teams. We recruit girls actively in order to get enough slots for all the boys who want to play. And we can never find enough. Every girl who wants to play soccer has a spot on a team, while many boys are left out. Wake up and smell the discrimination - it all goes your way these days. If you say that this pro-female bias is a way to redress previous wrongs, you might have a point. To deny reality, you should seek a different venue for your fabrications.

1/29/2005 03:53:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK. I won't take on the wage gap because it's been a few years since I did payroll. I don't know the agency or organization your're quoting, so I'll let that go by. However, as a bookkeeper at the University of New Mexico, I heard more about the Title 9 vs Men's sports controversy than I ever wanted to know. Here's what I see:

Title 9 says we need to add more women's sports. There are several things a university can do.
1) Since UNM is a state university, they could ask for more (taxpayer's) money to fund this mandate.
2) They could redistribute the current athletic budget either with or without sacrificing men's "minor" sports.
3) To do so without sacrificing those sports would require taking it from the "revenue-raising" sports - football and men's basketball - which, if they raise so much revenue, why do they need booster clubs and a huge budget? Because UNM's budgeting process *does* match expenses against revenue! And those two "major" sports cost a lot of money.
4) They are, hoever, sacred cows to a good many people, many of them in a position to make their displeasure known, so the money ends up being taken from men's track & field, swimming, wrestling, etc. This is unfair - I'll be the first to tell you it's unfair. However, it is less a direct result of Title 9 than it is of the decisions being made at every step of the way:
Not to fund the mandate
Not to cut a little of the luxurious perks of football and men's basketball.
Therefore to take it from those who can least afford to lose it.
Pity, but there you have it. At UNM, the football tail wags not only the entire athletic department dog (and bitch), but the academic side of the University as well.

I hope this is as reasoned an observation and analysis as one could hope for.

As for your comments on my style - oh, dear, these hard-core masculinists are SO humorless, aren't they? Can't take a joke ...
Idiot Grrl.

1/29/2005 07:18:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and P.S.: I have a friend who's a kindergarten teacher, and yes, he does make pitiful wages, which is too bad. But perhaps part of that is because he's in a female-dominated field? Because I believe the Bureau of Labor Statistics (it's been a LONG time!) did some sort of study on fields of endeavor which were becoming feminized, the way accounting was in the 1980s, and noted that whenever that happened, wages in that field didn't decline, but they did stay steady (this was a time of increasing wages - only economic historians probably remember that) while their former professional peers kept climbing. That is, the accountant used to have the prestige and pay of the lawyer, which ceased to be the case. There are current studies in the field of medicine which bear out both the gender-based wage gap and the gender-based-specialty wage gap. That is, as women flooded into OB/Gyn, it started to become a lesser-paid field than, say, urology.

I keep an eye on such things because I have two daughters, and their success in the world - as they define it - is important to me. And for success, it helps to have money.

Idiot Grrandma

1/29/2005 08:14:00 PM

Blogger Mephistophocles said...

"Name three hot feminists." Au contraire, my friend - name for me three hot male Chauvinist pigs. No, wait - name one. Ok, ok - without getting too much into ad hominum arguments here, what you're postulating is rubbish. You seem to assume that your average feminist (mis-using the term, see below) is ugly, and has therefore been rejected by men who see her as having zero sex appeal (which you postulate as being the number one reason any man looks for a mate), and therefore she spends her days calling down hellfire on the male gender because she feels rejected. As if every woman in history had nothing better to do than grovel in front of men praying for attention. Contrary to the average macho male belief, women don't live their entire lives begging to have some hunk's children. Turning that around, not every man grovels for the attention of the opposite sex, either - if this is the case, how do you explain homosexuality? How do you explain a person (male or female) who has never been and never will be attracted to a member of the opposite sex? Or for that matter, one who feels equally attracted to both sexes? Based on some very interesting and credible developmental psychological research, it is not entirely out of the question to state that every human being is born bi-sexual, and that social pressure is what makes us desire only one sex or the other.

As a feminist, I should point a common mis-use of the term. I hope you're not, but from what I gather you seem to equate the word "feminist" with the phrase "man-hater." Maybe you haven't read a lot of true feminist writings, or maybe you get your views from Rush Limbaugh (god, please, no) - I don't know, but perhaps we should define the term. While it has certainly been abused by many women who would fall into some or all of these categories, feminism in its true form is not and never was about man-hating, man-degrading, or anything that would slight the male gender in any way whatsoever. Feminism was (and is) about equality - socially, politically, and morally. It's just the idea that men and women are equal - no, not identical. Equal. Of course men and women are different - or else my 8th grade health teacher wasn't with the program. However, contrary to the beliefs of every chauvinist in history, and far too many men (and faux-feminists) today, different does not demand superiority or inferiority. Two objects which are entirely different cannot be described as inherently better or worse than the other - one may state that they like one object more than the other, but any statment regarding superiority or inferiority is nothing more than oppinion. Therefore, the argument that men are better, or that women are better, simply doesn't have a leg to stand on. It's a base and stupid jump in logic. I'm not attacking you with that argument, as it does seem that you would agree. My point is - a true feminist would never say such a thing.

Here's where we part ways, friend. As for your pop-psychological faux-Freud assumption (yes, assumption, and that's giving you too much credit) that the entire spectrum of female emotion grows from her subconcious desire to protect her eggs, I'm ashamed of myself for honoring it with a rebuttal, though I will say that only a man could have written something like that. But even if we abandon all reason and assume that it's even possible, how do you explain a woman who has absolutely no knowledge of the finer physiology of her reproductive system? I'm willing to bet that she will have the same basic emotional structure (social differences considered, of course) as a female gynocologist. Run the same test on a man, and I think you'll find the results are the same. So in a word - puhlease.

Continuing that idiotic madness, what is it that makes you assume that no man has any desire to persue a pair bond - or, as you say - "if a man has to settle down, he'll do so grudgingly"? Are you also postulating that no man has nurturing instincts? I'm not speaking for yours, but I'm pretty sure my father did - and I assure you he was quite interested in the pair bond he enjoyed for 50+ years.

My basic point is this. You assume that all these human behaviors are genetic, and I think that in many cases, you're wrong. In some cases, in fact, you are hillariously attributing relatively recent (and even regional) social pressures to all of humanity in every place in the world at every point in history, and then using this as a defense for your argument that these things must be genetic. I think that's the key, really - stay at home moms aren't at all doing what is genetically natural. They are either doing what they want to do, or they are bowing to social pressure. This is the case in many things other than that - a woman who decides to have no children and persue a career may be bowing to social pressure also, or she may also be simply doing what she wants to do. Speaking plainly, I really don't think genes have anything to do with it.

1/31/2005 08:35:00 PM

Blogger Chris Wilson said...

I guess I have a lot to respond to here.

1. Title 9. I have to say that the cult of the athlete irritates the shit out of me. Perhaps not surprising to anyone, but the lens through which I view the world has me perceiving sports in general (the games, the athletes, the fans, etc.) as this giant allegory of caveman proceedings. That said, however, I recognize the inanity of requiring parity between girls sports and boys sports. The fact is that sports that people want to watch generate money, which attracts investment, so to speak. Until people want to watch girls sports, the money won't be there. And the "field of dreams" argument doesn't fly - they built the female pro soccer league, but no one came.

2. Meph - you have heretofore shown yourself to be quite with it, but I've seen a lapse in objectivity in the last post. I sensed the demeanor of one who is offended. I can respond to at least half of your comments with this reminder -

Genes plus environment equals what we see. When I talk about genetically influenced characteristics, I am suggesting that the genes would push the organism in one direction or another behaviorally *without the influence of the environment*. As I have pointed out countless times before, we, as modern humans, have demonstrated the ability to culturally overcome the aims of our genes.

"...how do you explain a woman who has absolutely no knowledge of the finer physiology of her reproductive system? I'm willing to bet that she will have the same basic emotional structure (social differences considered, of course) as a female gynocologist."

Indeed, these women have the same emotional infrastructure, and thus the same primary emotional drives - protect the eggs, find a fit and fatherly mate, protect the child *forever*. That's what the *genes* want. Culture, as I've said, can override the genes. That's the good news story here. You think it's a coincidence that poorer, less educated people have more children than more affluent educated people? This is, along with many other factors, due to the fact that the educated and cultured (not trying to sound snobby here) have been taught to manage their emotions.

"Continuing that idiotic madness, what is it that makes you assume that no man has any desire to persue a pair bond - or, as you say - "if a man has to settle down, he'll do so grudgingly"?"

Again, the entire point of this blog apparently zoomed past you while you were seething at my assertions. I *never* suggested that men don't pursue the pair bond. I was reiterating that the genes certainly do not want the male to be monogamous. It's simply counter to the optimum sex strategy.

"You assume that all these human behaviors are genetic..."

Wrong again. I'll not beat this dead horse any longer.

But the tip off for me that your emotions were driving the bus, Meph, was this gem:

""Name three hot feminists." Au contraire, my friend - name for me three hot male Chauvinist pigs."

That's just this side of, "Oh yeah! Well you're dumb!" Come on, even if I limited my list to past winners of "People's Sexiest Men Alive," I could probably come up with 100.

Look - bottom line - I'm not trying to suggest anything about women being inferior to men or any such thing. I happen to be about as pro-women as you can be. I keep asking my wife to allow me to bring more home, but no dice. In any case, this discussion and this blog are all about understanding what our genes drive us to do, all the while recognizing that this is not irrevocable power. Furthermore, I think it's critical that we acknowledge that our genes are influencing us more than we think they are. The fact is that women *are* emotionally driven by their eggs. That doesn't mean they cannot behave otherwise. Moreover, the ones who control their emotions to live rationally deserve considerable credit from those around them. It isn't easy, especially at certain times of the month.

"Oh, no he didn't," she thinks. "He did not just say that." Uh, yes he did. It's time to get real folks. We're different. Not better, not worse, but different. Our genes have different objectives. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can dispense with thinking that "Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus" is due to the boundless insight of some interpersonal supergenius. It's all biological. That's why it makes sense.

1/31/2005 11:32:00 PM

Blogger Chris Wilson said...

Oh yes, and to Idiot Grrrl -

"Because I believe the Bureau of Labor Statistics (it's been a LONG time!) did some sort of study on fields of endeavor which were becoming feminized, the way accounting was in the 1980s, and noted that whenever that happened, wages in that field didn't decline, but they did stay steady (this was a time of increasing wages - only economic historians probably remember that) while their former professional peers kept climbing."

What happens when something becomes feminized? Is it fair to say that more people are doing the job than were doing it before? It has to be, unless men are leaving the profession in equal or greater numbers than women entering it. So, unless the workload increases proportionally to the number of new people, basic economics tells us that the pay should not increase. In fact, if you have enough of a surplus in workers, the pay should go down. So, what some would attribute to gender-based pay disparity is easily and more reasonably attributed to supply and demand.

I'm with Gersh, it's a myth.

1/31/2005 11:39:00 PM

Blogger Mephistophocles said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/01/2005 12:19:00 PM

Blogger Mephistophocles said...

Caveman, in all honesty, there's only two things I was seething about, and really they're both contained in your first paragraph. The first is the juvenile "how many feminists are hot" nonsense, and really, you shouldn't be suprised by a few ruffled feathers over that. Enough said. The second is your very bad mis-use of the term "feminist." I'll assume for the record that this was done either in ignorance or without the intention to offend.

My second point in this post, which I certainly hoped I made objectively, is this. I am not convinced that these behaviors you describe can be attributed primarily to genetic makeup, and you didn't offer any scientific evidence of the assertion. You seem instead to base everything on your own personal observation. My point is only that you've made a very broad, all-inclusive statement without a whole lot of hard evidence to back it up. Bring me the studies, and you may convince me. It seems to me, however, that from a psychological standpoint it is very likely that the vast majority (if not all) of human action, whether male of female, is determined not by genetic makeup, but by social factors.

Here's the main problem, as I see it. Assuming that one's actions are primarily driven by genetics, we bring into play several views which were wildly popular from about 1600 and into the 19th century, especially in Europe, and which were very detrimental to society as a whole, and particularly the lower classes. If one assumes that one's genes dictate one's behavior, then it becomes nearly impossible for this person to change their standing in society. For example, if I am born the child of a thief and a prostitute, then according to the idea that my genes determine my behavior, I will in all likelyhood either be a thief or a prostitute, or perhaps both. During the 19th century, I would have failed to aquire any sort of reputable position in society unless I secured the goodwill of a benefactor higher on the social ladder that me. However, assuming that one must be a criminal because one's parents passed on criminal genes is popppycock. If I am a criminal, it will be because of the social influence of my criminal parents, not their genes. Genes do not dictate behavior - they only dictate physical attributes - nothing more. My genetics are a bit rusty, but if my mother the prostitute had red hair and my father the theif had black hair, then I assume I may have one or the other depending on the dominant gene - but no behavior or occupation or social place is dictated by these genes.

So the point I'm arguing is that I think it's a bit off to assert that genetics may dictate anything beyond physical appearance and make-up (also including, of course, physiology, some forms of disease or weakness, etc). Any farther than that, and you're into the laughable pop-psychological realm of the subconcious, which has absolutely no backing in hard science. My thesis: all human action is decided by social influence.

2/01/2005 12:25:00 PM

Blogger Chris Wilson said...

Alright! Now we have something fun to work with. Meph, based upon your statements, whether you know it or not, you're adopting the argument of a dualist - one who sees the mind and brain as distinctly different. So, you would say that behavior is all nurture and no nature? But the brain, its size, composition, etc, you'd have to agree is at least partially defined by genes, right? All I have to do is to connect these two ideas and your assertion evaporates.

BTW, this is not my opinion based upon my own experiences, this is well-established science - the mind *is* as the brain does. Here's how it works.

Your nervous system perceives something, which kicks in a cascade of neurons firing in your brain. The results of those neurons firing plus other neurons that were already firing are fed as input into preconfigured survival programs in your brain. Those programs are your primary emotions - fear, love, anger, etc. As the stimulus and responses work their way up through the levels of abstraction in your brain, they compete with other responses for space in your consciousness. In some cases, you act in a certain way because you consciously choose to. In other cases, the stimulus response loop never makes it to your consciousness, so you aren't even aware of why you've behaved the way you have. Bottom line, your genes are directly responsible for the make-up of your brain's emotional programming. Moreover, in terms of primary emotions, we share them with other higher mammals.

Now for the scientific evidence. I'd recommend that you read at least one of these three books:
1. DesCartes Error by Antonio Damasio
2. The Emotional Brain by Joseph LeDoux
3. The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker

Hell, read The Moral Animal by Robert Wright. It's there, too.

The gist of what you'll find is significant evidence that human behavior is modulated in large part by the physicality of the brain, which is directly influenced by our genes. We are not the blank slate that William James envisioned. We come to the party with pre-wired dispositions. They are malleable; that is true. But it is simply incorrect to say that human behavior is entirely dictated by social factors. Our genes are very heavily involved, more than any of us would care to admit.

You'll read about twins reared apart in completely different environments who have personalities that are staggeringly similar. You'll read about individuals with localized brain damage who exhibit startling deficiencies in very specific areas of emotional acuity. In the end, you'll see that I am not blowing smoke in asserting that the size of sex cells in human beings has a direct impact on the emotional infrastructure of the different genders, which has an indirect impact on the behaviors exhibited. It's real. So, just for fun, Meph, let me ask you this:

What would it mean to you if I were right? Would it change your perspective on life in any appreciable way? I have long believed that the likelihood of someone accepting the truth of a situation is directly proportional to what's at stake. So what's at stake for you here? (This is not a challenge. It is a sincere question.)


2/01/2005 01:07:00 PM

Blogger Mephistophocles said...

Caveman, don't flatter yourself - it would take far more than a mediocre coffee-shop philosopher to change my mind on this, and I assure you that many better than yourself have tried and failed. That's not a challenge either, and it's not meant to offend. However I find it highly presumptious and arrogant of you to say such a thing. You're hardly well read enough to really discuss this on the level it deserves, as proven by the fact that Demasio and Pinker are the best you can come up with. That aside...

I am a dualist - at the very least in an espistomological sense. I am not completely sold on ontological duality, however - in this I point you in the direction of Roger Sperry and Arthur Wigan. Really, you should read Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy (preferably in the Latin, otherwise use Veitch's translation).

In my oppinion, this is the biggest hole in your theory. If our behavior is in fact genetically hard-wired, then we were designed. (Oh darn, he says - not THAT debate again). Yes, that debate. Unfortunately, we gotta go there, friend. If we are genetically hardwired, and those genes are in fact exactly the same as the caveman's then we haven't changed a bit. Nope - not one iota, because we're all born in exactly the same condition as the caveman was. We haven't evolved - we're still the same old humans - just building a little bit each time on the successes of our fathers, but born the same as them. So evolution, and natural selection, then, is an illusion. All we've accomplished, then, is the result of building on the knowledge of our parents. And most importantly, the caveman was created. Somebody gave him what folks might call instinct - what you call genetically hard-wired behavior. Information requires intellegence. There's no debate there.

The second hole in your theory is the fact that you seem to be rejecting blank-slate theory. I will accept that there are in fact certain things that are hardwired into the human mind - for example, the way a baby knows to suck it's mother's breast for nurishment, the fact that babies will begin to breathe the moment their born - their heart beats, their eyes open, etc etc. So there's something in there that's genetic - but here's where we part ways. All that stuff I just listed really doesn't have a whole lot to do with the way that baby is going to behave when he's 10 or 30 or 70 years old. It's experience and social influence/pressure that will determine this, and very little if anything in the way of genetics.

The third and perhaps most startling hole is the fact that you seem to be rejecting the ablility of humans to learn. I can't believe you'd make this mistake, so I must be misinterpreting you somehow, but I'm using this paragraph as a basis:

"As the stimulus and responses work their way up through the levels of abstraction in your brain, they compete with other responses for space in your consciousness. In some cases, you act in a certain way because you consciously choose to. In other cases, the stimulus response loop never makes it to your consciousness, so you aren't even aware of why you've behaved the way you have. Bottom line, your genes are directly responsible for the make-up of your brain's emotional programming."

So that's hardwired, then, and can't be changed. So much for bettering one's self - I guess if I got a bum lot of genes then I'm screwed - better give up now. So much for teaching. I'm not going to really bash you on that one, since I can't believe you wouldn't take it into consideration. But I would like to hear a rebuttal - based on your theory of genetic hard-wired behavior, how do you explain the ability to learn?

As I said before, and you haven't done it yet - bring me the numbers. Don't talk about some fantastic case of twins amazingly having the same personality, or other circumstantial evidence that seems to maybe support your theories if you look at it right - isolate a gene that dictates a behavior and show it to me. I'll jump at it if that's the case - if there's a gene that determines, say, a rapist's or murderer's behavior, then for heaven's sake, let's find a way to isolate it and turn it off ay birth. I am of course open-minded, but as it is, I'm not remotely convinced.

To sum up, then. Those things that are hard-wired into humans are, for lack of a better word, instinct - basic survival skills needed to live past infancy. They are exactly the same in every human. This, in my mind, proves my point - while brains are biologically different, and this is genetically determined, every human will have the same instincts. While mind and brain may be related, they are not one and the same. As one grows and learns, experience and social influence determines the behavior of that being, covering and masking the basic instincts that human was born with. Consider a soldier who has been trained to react in a certain way to gunfire. While an untrained person will freeze up, a trained soldier will react by taking cover and returning fire. This reaction is immediate and not premeditated. The genetic makeup of the individual has nothing to do with the reaction. Their experience (and/or social influence) has everything to do with it.

So I stand unchanged - behaviour is determined by social influence (or experience, if you prefer), therefore making it easily manipulated and trainable. No behaviour is determined by genes alone, save those basic instincts demonstrated by organisms at birth.

2/01/2005 06:07:00 PM

Blogger Chris Wilson said...

"My point is only that you've made a very broad, all-inclusive statement without a whole lot of hard evidence to back it up. Bring me the studies, and you may convince me."

Apparently, I mistakenly interpreted this as the statement of an open-minded skeptic, one who had not spent any serious time studying the science (given the lack of direct refutation). So, I figured I'd offer up some well-known and *readable* books, that are explicitly referenced, in order to bridge the gap. Pinker and Damasio certainly fit that bill. From your response, however, it seems that there is no gap, except perhaps for my lag behind your fancy Latin.

(I don't read academic papers very often. For better or worse, given my time constraints, I have to rely upon editors to distill that level of knowledge into something I can digest.)

In suggesting that you'd surely change your mind, I was incorrectly assuming that you'd never given the matter much thought. My bad. That said, there are still misunderstandings between us.

Envision this with me. Imagine the nervous system as a highway that runs along the very middle of your body. It dead-ends at the base of your brain (your brain stem), the tips of your fingers, and at the tips of your toes. Along this highway, especially around the extremities, there are onramps and offramps of nerves. These onramps and offramps carry traffic to and from the brain.

The incoming signals from the main highway through the body dump out into the brain, which is organized as concentric circles of neural networks. At the lowest levels, the levels closest to the brain stem, these networks are simple - they handle survival instincts and autonomic functions (heartbeat, etc.). So the incoming neurons make their way through these networks, kicking them into action, but they also send output signals as input up into the higher levels of neural networks, which also send output signals back down to the brain stem. The higher you go, the more complex things get, the more cognition is involved. Eventually, at the very top, all of the levels of neural networks are so *connected* that the result is consciousness, which, among other things, is the awareness of self and the awareness of thinking.

It just so happens that there is a *malleability* gradient as you move up from lower networks to higher networks. The lowest, simplest networks are controlled exclusively by DNA; they're hard-wired. At some point moving up, the network starts to become malleable, it starts to modify itself based upon personal experience. The more complex the network, the more malleable the network.

This is a very crude approximation of how I understand things to work in human brain. It easily allows for your assertion that the genetic part is the survival skills part, but the higher level behavior is entirely malleable. So we should have a common foundation to build on. Where I think we depart is in our assessment of where the level of malleability lies. In my view, it is does not include our most basic emotions, such as the ones controlling our sex strategies.

The *perception* of basic emotions, such as fear, love, and anger, is entirely disconnected from their function. The books that I've read, pedestrian though they may be, discuss a large body of research that demonstrates this by exploring galvanic responses to stimuli. The conclusion is that these emotions are physiological first, and that our conscious awareness of the these physiological reactions produces the experience of fear, for example, *after the fact*. The point is that much of our emotional life happens below the level of consciousness - not every stimulus produces a physiological response that gets its attention.

This does not suggest that we cannot learn. Indeed, any musician can tell you that conscious repetition can produce skills that happen well below the level of awareness of individual movements. Same goes for a soldier in combat. What it does suggest is that our "...emotions did not evolve as conscious and infinitely malleability feelings. They evolved as behavioral and physiological specializations, bodily responses controlled by the brain, that allowed ancestral organisms to survive in hostile environments and procreate." (Joseph LeDoux, The Emotional Brain).

Again, our most basic emotions are operating at levels below any appreciable malleability potential. The drives are there, no matter what. Evolutionary psychology deals specifically with how genetically driven behavioral adaptations were not only possible, but necessary. The quest for status, the tendency toward reciprocal altruism, kin selection - these are the staples of human behavior that were responsible for the survival of Homo sapiens when all other hominids died out.

Fortunately, however, the higher levels, the malleable levels can manipulate or deliberately disregard these non-malleable motivations, especially in a modern world where a vast amount of culture is installed over the course of development to adulthood.

"We haven't evolved - we're still the same old humans - just building a little bit each time on the successes of our fathers, but born the same as them."

You're dramatically underestimating the impact of what we learn as we mature. Haven't you ever watched Tarzan? :-) The malleable layers of our brain are assimilating an almost inconceivable amount of information about our environment and our place in it.

"As one grows and learns, experience and social influence determines the behavior of that being, covering and masking the basic instincts that human was born with."

To a point, you're exactly right. What I am suggesting is that our basic emotions, our sexual drives, in particular, are only masked *by conscious choice*. If we do not deliberately disable them, they will control our behavior. The drives that came pre-installed in our minds are always working beneath the surface. They are a part of our nature as humans, which is why we can read Homer and Plato and recognize and empathize with the human experiences depicted therein.

"All we've accomplished, then, is the result of building on the knowledge of our parents."

and our parents parents and their parents parents and on into antiquity. Yes, this is it. If you don't think the evidence is there, fair enough. But I don't see you putting forth anything that refutes what I've asserted. Furthermore, I don't think you can use the absence of definitive evidence of certain genes for certain behaviors as a fair reason for doubting the basic concepts I've laid out. That is another topic entirely - it is well-known that genes work in complex networks, which means isolating particular genes for particular phenotypes is a fool's errand.

So here I've detailed the broad evidence for my assertions. I'll admit that there are holes. However, in terms of evidence, I still don't see how you could prefer dualism. If it's right, so much of what I've discussed must be wrong, and *that* I can't figure out how to accept. Does this change anything for you?

Oh yes, and let me conclude with this - even one who has read only one book may be right if the book was right. It's not the purveyor of the idea that matters; it's the idea itself. Seems like you'd know that.

2/02/2005 01:37:00 AM

Blogger Mephistophocles said...

"So here I've detailed the broad evidence for my assertions. I'll admit that there are holes. However, in terms of evidence, I still don't see how you could prefer dualism. If it's right, so much of what I've discussed must be wrong, and *that* I can't figure out how to accept. Does this change anything for you?"

Ok, I should go ahead and get something out of the way, especially if we continue to spar in the future. Please don't ever take anything I say to you personally - though I meet with vast critism even among the elite by saying this, a good argument is simply two or more persons stating and defining their position. I have no intention to change anything you believe or think. If I did, I'd be using a persuasive, teaching technique, not critical analysis of your thoughts and rational statement of my own position. If I slam your source or even your abilities, it's never meant to offend. Offending someone accomplishes nothing in a good argument or debate. It's not that I think you are offended, and I appreciate your ability to stick with objective argument when weaker minds would degrade into insults - otherwise I wouldn't be sparring with you. Still I thought it should be said.

You've very acurately described the point at which we part ways. If I've understood you correctly, you seem to think that genetics dictate far more than just looks, physiology, and instinct - namely, emotion, character, even personality. However, you state that these last three I named may all be overridden by conciousness - that is, as someone grows, learns, and gains experience, they may make a concious descision to act against their genetically hardwired emotions, character, etc., and take another action. But if one acts against their hard-wired behavior, it will always be (at least at some level) a concious action. My main dissent with this view stems from the consequences of this argument, which I don't think you've really dealt with. The first and most obvious, is the fact that we must declare obsolete the statement that all men are born equal. If genetics dictate the things you've described, then social or economic disadvantages are not the only ones we face at birth. We must deal with the bad set of genes we inherited from our bloodline as well. The reason I have a major problem with this idea is the fact that it seems to be disproven every day. Children born to derelict parents, and adopted by intellegent, caring parents capable of providing a solid education will in adulthood show no evidence of having been born to criminals. By the same token, a child born in a good environment, but abandoned or orphaned into a bad environment will likely develop into a criminal. I even think this works across gender lines - a girl raised to believe she is a boy, playing the role of a boy throughout chilhood will in adulthood show nothing more than physical signs of femininity, and vice versa. If what you're saying is true, then none of this should be the case - child born to derelicts raised in a good environment should, throughout his life, be struggling terribly with his own hard-wired behaviour, possibly to the point of massive identity crisis or even suicide. It would seem that this would be even more poignant to the child of high birth living life in a bad atmosphere. This is one of the most tangible things I can't except from argument from hard-wired emotions.

So I state that the only things hard-wired into the human being (or animal, even) are basic survival instincts (non-exauhstively, the need to feed, avoid pain, reproduce, etc). Beyond this, whatever is in the person's behavior has been decided by society, parents, experience - external stimula. I believe that we love, fear, hate, etc. because we have been taught to do so. A child whose parents or environment were devoid of love will not show love in adulthood, and he will only begin to love if he experiences love.

There is another point in this discussion that we haven't gotten into yet - and it's a point I am personally undecided on. There is something else that may in fact be hardwired into the human psyche, or it may not be. It's the perception of pleasure and pain. Why does a baby laugh when you tickle him, and cry when you pinch him? This may often be mistaken for emotion, but I don't think it can really be defined that way. If I was forced to pick between one view or the other, based on the evidence I've seen and studies that have been done on the subject, this would be the only other thing I would accept as hard-wired. From the point of birth, we natually like that which gives us pleasure, and dislike that which causes us pain. Again, I really don't think it's fair to describe this as emotional - I think if anything it's just a chemical reaction in the brain, and emotions (at least from my point of view) are more than that. But even to say that it's a chemical reaction is to admit that it's hard-wired into the human psyche. The only reason I'm not quite ready to take one side or the other in that argument is the fact that even this statement brings with it other deeper philisophical implications that I'm not completely convinced about.

So maybe, Caveman, we will have to agree to disagree. You've stated your position adequately enough for me to respect it, and I hope I've done the same. Still, if you're up for it, we can take it farther - this would take us into the realm of the existence of the soul, though, which is deep stuff. Fun, but it would probably make the fireworks in this discussion look tame. :-)

2/02/2005 01:34:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said: "I find myself more attractive at 65 than I was in my youth."


Speaking as a man, I don't even know you, and I KNOW that's complete B.S., at least WRT your looks. Even if you weighed 200 pounds at 20, and 120 now, guys would rather look at the 20-YO. Of course, they'd REALLY rather look at the 120-pound 20-YO, and will ignore the other two types in favor of her.


4/25/2005 02:25:00 PM


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