How People Die in America / Gov Facts

One of the most annoying habits of Asperger types is our desire to interject facts into nasty neurotypical debates over “who counts” on the social pyramid – fights over where groups “belong” in the vicious hierarchy that is the American Social Order, and the various and necessary attempts at “rearranging” the “value” of individuals / groups on The Pyramid. One traditional method is “politicizing” “moralizing” “social justice-izing” any and all facets of daily life into conspicuous “tools” of realignment: that is, using a phony “values” argument for improving the status of “minorities” of all types, which in actual practice defends and promotes the inequality of hierarchical social structure.

The totally irrational practice of social “quotation wars” (the chaos of verbal pushing and shoving called “having a national discussion”) utilizing The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, interpretations of the Bill of Rights, accumulated legislation and judicial opinion-decisions, The Bible, patriotic poetry, pop-celebrities, professional athletes, memes from the internet, dead people, pretentious and phony “experts” – bureaucrats and paper-shufflers now unemployed and with revenge on their minds, retired military “minds” from failed wars, and scattered “citizens” wandering the streets is totally “traditional” and “supernatural”. But! All this “word-slapping” is considered by neotenic narcissistic neurotypicals to represent the absolute facts of “reality” that “ought to” dictate outcomes in their actual physical existence. 

The people close to you are dangerous; not strangers. 

Factual information does not exist, except as ammunition for social wars of domination.

This is the case today; it has been the case in social human life from the beginning of “social life” as it replaced earlier “wild human” behavior in natural environments; behavior that was shaped and dictated by the laws of nature – physical parameters. 

One of the “useful” activities of the United States government is the ongoing collection, tabulation, and presentation of “data” on American Life. And the easy access to this information in many forms, notably, “free” and easy internet accessibility. As an Asperger, I find this to be amazing! Pages and pages of PDFs, charts, tables, summaries; categories, subcategories, topics, recent trends, archival reports, historical snapshots, and on and on. A world of curiosity-satisfying “stuff” about “us” – the American People, past, present and projected into the future. 

As a fundamental outsider(that is, an egalitarian who is de facto rejected and ejected  from The Social Pyramid by virtue of a hyposocial, reality-based “brain type”) my interest in “the human experience” begins with what we all have in common: birth and death. The great equalizing facts of all mankind which serve to “shut up” the narcissistic and delusional shouting about who is “more worthy, more valuable, more important” than “the rest of” the species.

Women need to understand that the “character” of the males they choose to associate with is crucial to their safety and mental health and to that of their children. This consideration seems to be “absent” in far too many choices that women make. 

Do neurotypicals care about any of this? No. It’s their fate to fight each other to the end; because the “discussions” always end in violence. Words are the precursors to violence. The structure of a social pyramid of “worth” dictates failure to utilize the facts to solve problems. 

For anyone interested in all that information taxpayers pay the government to compile, the Census Bureau and National Vital Statistics System provide millions of “data” points with which to gain a perspective on American Life. 

 

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Winter / Bare Feet / Aspie Footwear

It’s that time of year again: 80s a week ago; now into the 30s at night. “Hard freeze” forecast this week. My potted flowers hanging on… doomed.

So – one of my “Aspie” adjustments is the problem of footwear, having gone barefoot since May… Outdoor winter boots are no problem; but indoors? My house is almost 100 years old. Frame with no insulation nor carpeting and a dirt crawl space below. Heat is uneven at best and the wood floors are perpetually cold.

That means “house slippers” an odd, neglected (design-wise) and frustrating category of footwear that has barely changed or improved since the mid 1900s.

Today’s choices uphold the “Novelty – neoteny” trend of modern social humans, for whom “childish” footwear applies to adults. 

Crocheting never dies…. and guess what? Leg Warmers are back…

Japanese “toilet” shoes…

This is labeled “fashion tip”

The choices available in “nowhere” Wyoming come down to leftovers shipped here from China via the basement stores of “major national retailers” – pink and purple crap that was unsold from last year…

It’s truly sad that I’ll likely order something cheap and benign from ebay…

Oh look – this is what poor “uncivilized” and savage Native Americans had to “settle for” … 

From the Archives / Essay on Social Petri Dish

One “fun” result of getting a new computer (with a CD drawer, no less) is being able to go back through all those CD back ups that I should have thrown away years ago, but kept. This dates to ca. 2006…

 

Early One Morning in the Universe

Humanity may be stuck on a wheel of incarnation (repeating the same mistakes, generation after generation), but the individual need not be

What if the form and content of human belief come down to a design preference, with the majority of people preferring a hierarchical plan, based on the family: a design fated to bog down in jealousy and unfair treatment: a system based on parental rage – life in a social petri dish that breeds implacable tragedy from which the individual cannot escape, even in death?

At the other end of the spectrum of ideas, and so far, a neglected alternative, is something clean and random and spontaneous: a scheme based on experience, which does not require supernatural affirmation of our collective and primeval family delusions. The fact that the body will die, permanently and forever, opens the imagination to that which lies beyond human control, and frees the individual from bondage to the group, because it is my body, not theirs.

Society tells its children that a glow worm, or some larval stage of development, was inserted into each of their bodies at conception, or at birth, or baptism, or when the sex hormones turn on, depending on the cultural context they were born into and that this ghostly thing was activated by the supernatural, thus causing the child to be alive. In actual practice, we proceed through life guided by infinitely more ancient and practical instructions called DNA. The results are not perfect, certainly. In Homo sapiens, it is apparent that the code results in a brain of dubious reliability. It is painful to admit, but necessary.

The claim is that this supernatural thing will leave my body when it perishes; a thing which is held by the majority of people in my culture to be my true identity, but which is alien to me – unknowable, in fact. A temporary resident that has no particular form or substance, but which is locked in combat with an inherently evil physical body – a body that for as long as I may live, never really belongs to me. This is put forth as a stupendous delusion: I am expected to believe that my real self is on loan from a supernatural source, and my individual abilities and pursuits discarded as worthless except in reference to this source: my status is that of a puppet activated by magic.

Creation stories, devised by primeval tribes and salvaged or scavenged or embroidered by civilizations of size and material sophistication, fail the pure design test, which requires consonance with Nature. These schemes begin by naming and claiming pieces of existence, an approach to conceptualizing the environment that is understandable in primitive circumstances, hatched by the need for power in the childhood of humankind. The leap our ancestors made to magical connections between objects and ideas is significant in animal evolution, but faulty. Our ancestors had to be satisfied with what their brains could do constructively, which is to make analogies.

Many of these early connections are elegant, while other myths are positively stupefying, perhaps because the original symbolism is lost to us. Many stories that have come down to us betray the weaknesses in human memory, just as each copy of an image is farther removed from the original and loses its distinction. What we have is a cultural junk drawer jammed by absurdities, which have been patented by repetition and fanciful interpretation, which served our species in their time, but we now hoard these errors at terrific cost; cultural ideas have not kept pace with technology. Mythology has become an end in itself. Reality is lost.

Like the genetic code itself, human culture is both repetitive and additive. Genetic information is not thrown away; unnecessary bits are instead stashed in great unused collections of instructions, which is why most of our DNA matches that of both extinct and existing species; why the human fetus recapitulates evolution, why each of us is a portable portion of an ancient sea. Nature is conservative, and yet favors the workable mutation and the turning on and off of old switches.

By means of language and technology, human beings also gather vast amounts of information. Certain knowledge remains active in a culture, some lies dormant: certainly, not all information is of equal value. The results are a mixed affair. An advance in technology may be valued because it can be used in war, while its peaceful uses are ignored, or eventually borrowed and put to a different use.  An idea may be valued because it sanctions the rights of ruthless rulers. A war may be fought because it appears to be motivated by moral good, but which in reality merely exploit greed. There is no way to judge cultures as a whole any more than we can judge DNA, or the results of evolution.  And yet, we do, because we can, because we have a brain built to contrast and compare; ideas are a product of human thought, but most ideas are  not at all helpful to survival.

Our peril to ourselves and to the life of the planet lies in obsessing over and hoarding bits of cramped opinion that will never produce a picture of existence that is new in any way. The picture that mankind persists in using as its model of the universe was created by ignorant and fearful minds that were driven by the necessity of wresting control from a powerful environment, but we are mature and ought to have learned something from the history of our species. Our current picture is as jumbled as those clots of discarded DNA; useful, not useful.

We are perfectly capable of accepting the totality of the universe in an attitude of respectful silence, in recognition of what we do not know, and with a comprehensive view that doesn’t require a beginning and ending point in us. We are the sole creature to arise on earth (as far as we know) to have the ability to view the many threads of existence. Throughout life, each of us will perceive these mysteries in changed ways, even if we are not aware of it. That is, we learn.

For our species, the universe of mind is whatever we make of it. Despite this creative attribute, physical reality does exist, and we are ultimately powerless when faced with this truth. From deep within us great fear arises, causing us to cast our theories, dreams, imaginings, fears, and limitations onto a sublime unknown. We write our own story, one that explains how it was all meant to be, but these ‘meant-to-be’ stories are wishes designed to soothe our nerves and explain our cruelty. Why do we need to deflect ownership of our perpetual violence, cruelty, and destruction when this is actual behavior?

We respond to beauty as strongly as to food or sex. Beauty is inherent in physical reality: contrary to what one might assume, mathematicians and physicists understand this best, since mathematics is the language of physical reality. What could be more beautiful and concise than E=mc2? We are a product of physical reality, therefore beauty is built into us. Beauty is the motivation for civilized and sane behavior, for kindness and for learning. Why paint animals in the deep recesses of a cave, why labor for decades to erect temples, why undertake near-fatal journeys just to collect fantastic and beautiful materials from around the earth, if not to participate in a beauty that is also within us? What we desire from beauty is fusion with the universe.

What has happened to mankind that our cultures are so out of balance with the physical world? Beauty and light did not leave our world, but are abandoned by the mass of human beings for various dreary versions of existence, in which every living thing is worthless when compared to profit. These plodding schemes are crowded and disorganized and not beautiful at all because they do away with possibility. Tangled loops of anti-knowledge go around and around in the minds of those who are stuck on limits within the brain. But the universe does not stop evolving in order to satisfy their need for a finite answer, and yet the mass of humans dwell on the tired details of texts and rituals that ignore common experience. We think that the universe will become whatever we want it to be, but whatever it may be, it exists ‘as is’ and we merely constrain our knowledge with beliefs, preferences, and delusions.

I feel more free as a body that will die, than believing that something unnatural will leave my body, to proceed onward and upward into a supernatural domain. Most of it seems a design preference. There is something clean and spontaneous in a design that is not required to house itself in levels of existence freed only for a time from the great overseeing One. I fear I am a renegade soul out to proceed on my way alone.

 

 

 

 

History as Literature / Lewis Mumford The City…

THE CITY IN HISTORY

Lewis Mumford / Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1961

“Mid the wanderings of Paleolithic man, the dead were the first to have a permanent dwelling: a cavern, a mound marked by a cairn, a collective barrow.”

“The city of the dead antedates the city of the living. In one sense indeed, the city of the dead is the forerunner, almost the core, of every city. Urban life spans the historic space between the earliest burial ground for dawn man and the final cemetery, the necropolis, in which one civilization after another, has met its end.”

______________________________

No computer replacement yet; I’m at the library, frustrated! My “vacation” from blogging will not do. I must blog!

Anyway: I’ve been going through piles of books to “dispense with” and reacquainting myself with the small stack of those which I return to again and again for inspiration and reference, and vitally, the handful of ideas that set me off on a journey many years ago toward understanding human behavior (which as an Asperger, is/was a critical topic. It is my hypothesis that Asperger types have a hyposocial, visually-based brain organization that “resembles” that of pre-social “Wild” Homo sapiens.)

The giant effort, The City in History, by Lewis Mumford, is one of those books. I have never read all 576 pages of exhaustive details; the quote above occurs near the beginning, and “struck me” immediately with its importance to modern human destiny; not predestined destiny, but the path of human civilization as it has played out over the previous 10-15,000 years of humans becoming domestic “urban” humans, a distinction that has become more “real” to me as I have explored this “thing” called Asperger’s.

Modern social destiny, and the “type” Homo sapiens that created it, (and whom continues to be created by hypersocial environments), was not a collective direction decided upon by “mankind” but the result of individuals pursuing survival. Climatic change and other natural geologic processes forced the dependence on agriculture and sedentary life; the “idea” of controlling nature must have seemed to be a great and victorious reality at the time, which could only be “good”. This quest remains the central “self-glorification” of modern techno-social humans, but from this one step, disaster has followed.

Mumford’s book is filled with the grandiose “narrative” that archaeologists and anthropologists envy – (frustrated novelists that they are.) Historians are free to “do this” – history has always been a scheme of cultural focus; mythology with either a few facts, or a deluge, added to “support” the myth. Our mistake is in thinking that mythology is “false” and has no value, and that history must be “scientific” – which it is not. It is literature that serves to remind us of the hundreds of millions of lives that have been lived, and great writers like Mumford remind us that “we are not IT” – that is, the supreme and intelligent species that fulfills some imaginary “historical” evolutionary destiny, but instead, our behavior shows us to be one more repetition of the necropolis stage of civilization.

Human self-domestication / Martin Brüne

Open Access

On human self-domestication, psychiatry, and eugenics

Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 20072:21

DOI: 10.1186/1747-5341-2-21

© Brüne; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2007

Abstract

The hypothesis that anatomically modern Homo sapiens could have undergone changes akin to those observed in domesticated animals has been contemplated in the biological sciences for at least 150 years. The idea had already plagued philosophers such as Rousseau, who considered the civilisation of man as going against human nature, and eventually “sparked over” to the medical sciences in the late 19th and early 20th century. At that time, human “self-domestication” appealed to psychiatry, because it served as a causal explanation for the alleged degeneration of the “erbgut” (genetic material) of entire populations and the presumed increase of mental disorders. (This is a misconception on the part of psychiatry and medicine, and in itself does not prove-disprove self-domestication- me)

Consequently, Social Darwinists emphasised preventing procreation by people of “lower genetic value” and positively selecting favourable traits in others. Both tendencies culminated in euthanasia and breeding programs (“Lebensborn”) during the Nazi regime in Germany. Whether or not domestication actually plays a role in some anatomical changes since the late Pleistocene period is, from a biological standpoint, contentious, and the currently resurrected debate depends, in part, on the definitional criteria applied.

However, the example of human self-domestication may illustrate that scientific ideas, especially when dealing with human biology, are prone to misuse, particularly if “is” is confused with “ought”, i.e., if moral principles are deduced from biological facts. Although such naturalistic fallacies appear to be banned, modern genetics may, at least in theory, pose similar ethical problems to medicine, including psychiatry. In times during which studies into the genetics of psychiatric disorders are scientifically more valued than studies into environmental causation of disorders (which is currently the case), the prospects of genetic therapy may be tempting to alter the human genome in patients, probably at costs that no-one can foresee.

In the case of “self-domestication”, it is proposed that human characteristics resembling domesticated traits in animals should be labelled “domestication-like”, or better, objectively described as genuine adaptations to sedentism. (Agreed – me)

Introduction

The term “domestication” refers to a goal-directed process through which humans have changed physical features of plants and animals by replacing natural through artificial selection to adapt these species to specific human needs. In animals, domestication-associated changes also include behavioural characteristics, which, above all, have led to a reduction of aggression and an increase of “tameness” [1]. At least since Darwin’s pioneering work on domestication [2], biologists have controversially debated whether several aspects of domestication-induced traits in animals could similarly be present in humans, and this issue has recently been reconsidered [1, 3]. Even earlier, however, philosophers have been plagued with the question of man’s place in nature. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1755), for instance, had argued that “civilised” living conditions would have negative consequences, subsumed under the term “degeneration” [4]. Conversely, in the 1940s, the German philosopher Arnold Gehlen proposed a self-domestication theory of Homo sapiens, according to which domestication would, on one hand, induce biological maladaptedness through abandoning natural selection, but, on the other hand, open new prospects for cultural development [5]. Similarly, recent humanism has highlighted the positive aspects of a presumed human domestication such as to prevent “brutalisation” of human societies (comment in [6]).

Whereas philosophers have extensively discussed putative effects of human self-domestication in terms of moral values, by the turn of the 20th century psychiatrists became interested in the hypothesis of human self-domestication, because it seemingly provided a causal explanation for what was perceived as signs of degeneration of the human genepool (“erbgut”) (Again, a concept promoted by practitioners of psychiatry and medicine, and not a scientific effort into the proof-disproof of self-domestication. ) [7].

In 1857, the French psychiatrist Benedicte Morel sought to introduce objective measures in support of the concept of “degeneration”, suggesting that subtle physical abnormalities would indicate the deterioration of mental health and also account for delinquent behaviour, because such deviations would be most prevalent in mentally ill and criminals [8]. Indeed, by the turn of the 20th century, with increasing biologising of psychiatry, leading professionals were concerned about the seemingly rising number of hospitalised patients and searched for biological explanations, leaving aside social factors [9]. Hence, the hypothesis of the domestication of man was welcome, and, in light of the then prevailing cultural pessimism and upcoming eugenic idealism put forth by August Forel and Alfred Ploetz [10], readily adopted as rationalisation of a host of unresolved questions in psychiatry and related social issues. It is perhaps not exaggerated to state that this one-sided biological view of mental disorders and handicaps also contributed to what followed in Germany under the Nazi regime.

Albeit modern human biology may be largely free of moral allegations, there seems to be a need for discussing the possible impact of biological findings and hypotheses on contemporary conceptualisations of mental health and treatment options of psychiatric disorders. This premise is based on the fact that biological ideas have always been at risk of socio-political misuse, (and I contend that this is exactly what is happening in ASD and Asperger research and diagnosis) and on the concern that the advent of new genetic techniques may be tempting to “improve” human genetic material and eliminate unwanted traits, part of which could erroneously be attributed to human self-domestication.

In this article, I shall (1) deal with the biological evidence for human self-domestication and the historical development of the idea, including its entanglement with political opportunism during the Nazi epoch in Germany; (2) outline how and why the self-domestication hypothesis was adopted by leading (German) psychiatrists, and possibly contributed to positive and negative selection programs during the Third Reich in Germany; (3) finally argue that the debate between philosophy, biology, and other medical sciences including psychiatry necessitates a common language for further interdisciplinary exchange of ideas, as well as awareness of the dangers of naturalistic fallacies. (Halleluiah! It’s about time!)

More next post…..

Part 2 Human self-domestication / Martin Brüne

Part 2

Human self-domestication – the development of an idea

Charles Darwin was the first to systematically examine biological changes in species under artificial breeding conditions. Even though he did not refer to the question of human self-domestication in his two volumes on Variations of Animals and Plants under Domestication [2], Darwin proposed clear definitional criteria for the process of domestication. He emphasized (1) that the domestication of animals is more than taming, (2) that it represents a goal-oriented process for human purposes, (3) that the variability of physical and ‘mental’ characteristics is greater in domesticated species than in their wild ancestors, including the occurrence of dwarfism and gigantism, (4) that the behavioural plasticity and educability of domesticated species is greater, and (5) that the brain size of domesticated animals is smaller than that of their wild ancestors’.

In spite of these unequivocal definitional criteria, Darwin was remarkably vague regarding the possibility that humans could have undergone domestication. In The Decent of Man [11], he wrote the following (the most critical phrases are highlighted in italics by the author): “It is, nevertheless, an error to speak of man, even if we look only to the conditions to which he has been exposed, as ‘far more domesticated’ (Blumenbach 1865) than any other animal. … In another and much more important respect, man differs widely from any strictly domesticated animal; for his breeding has never long been controlled, (this is not true! The social hierarchy is a reproductive selection machine!) either by methodical or unconscious selection. No race or body of men has been so completely subjugated by other men, as that certain individuals should be preserved, and thus unconsciously selected, from somehow excelling in utility to their masters. Nor have certain male and female individuals been intentionally picked out and matched, except in the well known case of the Prussian grenadiers;” (p. 29) … By contrast, in another paragraph Darwin stated: “We might, therefore, expect that civilized men, who in one sense are highly domesticated, would be more prolific than wild men. It is also probable that the increased fertility of civilised nations would become, as with our domestic animals, an inherited character …” (p. 45–46). (Darwin was a man of his time and class; likely oblivious to de facto social selection. People married and reproduced within their “proper place” on the pyramid.

With respect to brain size Darwin argued, however, that in contrast to domesticated animals the human brain and skull has increased over time. Nevertheless, in the chapter on human races, Darwin reiterates that “man in many respects may be compared with those animals which have long been domesticated, …” (p. 178); and later: “With man no such question can arise, for he cannot be said to have been domesticated at any particular period” (p. 183). And finally: “With our domestic animals a new race can readily be formed by carefully matching the varying offspring from a single pair, or even from a single individual possessing some new character; but most of our races have been formed, not intentionally from selected pair, but unconsciously by the preservation of many individuals which have varied, however slightly, in some useful or desired manner” (p. 188). In summary, although Darwin did not hold a clear position concerning the possibility that domestication could have taken place in homo sapiens, he pointed to the fact that no scientific proof in favour of such a hypothesis existed, particularly, due to a lack of goal-directedness or conscious selection of traits. However, he also made clear that humans might share some characteristics typical of domesticated animals such as increased fertility.

In the biological literature following Darwin, the term “domestication” became increasingly poorly defined. The criterion of intentional and goal-directed selection, which according to Darwin’s definition was critical for domestication, was largely replaced, at least with respect to humans, by the equation of culture and civilisation with domestication. (One example of intentional goal directedness: The Harem – females selected for social position, connection to allies or subjugated nations, tameness and beauty and continually replenished with youthful baby producers. A broad “blood” base (genetic pool) was available: a veritable farm for producing “top males” for the continuation of a dynasty.

An extensive evaluation of the topic was put forward by Eugen Fischer in his essay on Die Rassenmerkmale des Menschen als Domestikationserscheinungen (“The racial characteristics of man as a result of domestication”, 1914) [12]. A couple of years later, Fischer became known for his publication of Grundriß der menschlichen Erblichkeitslehre und Rassenhygiene (“Outline of human genetics and racial hygiene”), which he edited together with Erwin Baur and Fritz Lenz in 1921 [13]; all authors later became leading authorities in Nazi eugenics and supported the legalisation of sterilisation and dismantling of welfare institutions to reinstitute the laws of natural selection [10].

( A prime human conceit that has ravaged the planet: we are so intelligent that our blunders-efforts at reshaping natural processes and entire ecologies are de facto  improvements on nature. WE ARE NOT THAT SMART!)

In his essay on the domestication of man, Fischer suggested that domestication should be defined as a condition in which “the nutrition and reproduction has been influenced over a number of generations by humans” (author’s translation). In line with these greatly relaxed definitional criteria of domestication, Fischer reasoned that humankind should be considered domesticated from the beginning of its existence. (We were never wild animals?) Fischer considered racial differences to be the result of domestication, because “almost all characteristics of human races could be found in domesticated animals, except for the low variability of the external ear and the lack of dappling of the skin or hair.” Interestingly, Fischer regarded blond hair, blue eyes, and bright skin colour of Europeans as signs of domestication-induced partial albinism, as well as, dwarfism and gigantism in some populations, racial differences concerning the disposition for obesity, temperament, character and intelligence. Even “the permanent female breast indicates domestication much like the udder of domesticated cattle” (author’s translation) [12]. However, the point that “Aryans” should be carriers of outstanding signs of domestication was apparently overlooked, a point to which I will return in the discussion. Remarkably, however, the very same attitude towards domestication and racial hygiene including support of sterilisation was also found in leading Jewish scientists such as Richard Goldschmidt, who was Professor at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biology in Berlin-Dahlem [14]. Goldschmidt argued that the abandonment of natural selection and “radical extermination of the unfit” (Goldschmidt, 1933, pp. 214; author’s translation) ought to be replaced by positive and negative eugenic measures (apparently, Goldschmidt later realised that the Nazi regime held an even more radical position regarding eugenics and was expatriated by the Nazis in 1935; he was appointed Professor of Genetics and Cytology at Berkeley, CA). Even anthropologist Franz Boas, who was not a racist and strongly opposed the Nazi regime, described curly hair, variation in stature and increasing or decreasing pigmentation of the skin as signs of human domestication, but was inconclusive about how much environmental and genetic factors contributed to these variations [15]. Thus, although Fischer and colleagues may, to a certain degree, have had an opportunistic interest in mixing scientific ideas with political claims, the association of acknowledging the self-domestication hypothesis with eugenic consequences during the 1930s was not only an issue for racist scientists. (The misconception / mixing of non-scientific social, political, and religious beliefs has not disappeared in psychology. Biological sources are sought for justification of  discrimination. These prejudices do not negate the possibility of domestication, but unfortunately, have made it a “shady” subject for study. The same problem taints psychology and its support and contributions to American Eugenics movement.) 

In the 1920s, another, entirely independent biological concept was adopted from embryology to explain human self-domestication. The Dutch anatomist Louis Bolk (1926) [16] postulated that adult humans would resemble juvenile apes, and that the retention of juvenile characteristics of the ancestral species into adulthood of the descendant, referred to as “foetalisation” or “neoteny”, could be associated with the process of domestication. For example, the zoologist Max Hilzheimer (1926/1927) argued that “the recent European should be considered the most progressively domesticated form whereas Neanderthals were much less juvenilised” (author’s translation) due to the more pronounced retention of juvenile traits in anatomically modern humans compared to Neanderthals (at that time, it was not known that Neanderthals were not ancestral to anatomically modern humans) [17]. The parallel drawn between domestication and neoteny is interesting in light of the currently resurrected debate about human self-domestication (see below).

In the 1940s Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz’ published some speculations on the relation of human psychological capacities to the process of domestication. In his article Durch Domestikation verursachte Störungen arteigenen Verhaltens (“Domestication-induced disorders of species-typical behaviour”, published in 1940) Lorenz reiterated parallels between the living conditions of civilised inhabitants of metropolitan areas with domesticated animals, which he thought indicated signs of degeneration [18]. (The assumption of “degeneration” damaged scientific research.)

Lorenz proposed that the intensity and frequency of instinctual patterns of behaviour were altered under these conditions, leading to a hypertrophy of some instincts due to a lowered releasing threshold and to a functional disruption of species-typical behaviours. Beside the alleged domestication-associated morphological features in human beings, such as shortening of the extremities and of the base of the skull, atony of the muscles, and obesity, which he later subsumed under the term ‘Verhausschweinung’ (a term hard to translate that roughly compares the physical appearance of human beings with domesticated pigs), Lorenz described a domestication-associated diminished social sensitivity and a functional disruption of love, marriage, and the “copulation drive”. Apart from his appallingly coarse language, which conformed to the writing style of that time, Lorenz did not refrain from discussing racial hygienic consequences such as the “extermination of ethically inferior people.” Moreover, and from our perspective today virtually ridiculous, Lorenz proposed a positive selection for Anständigkeit (decency) and for the physical ideal of the ancient Greek. (As modern western “civilized” and Christian people, we applaud ourselves for having high ethical and moral standards, but what is the underlying goal of military, economic, and cultural invasion by any nation? It’s murder, rape and pillage – virtual extinction of peoples and cultures – on a massive industrial scale. “Democratization=Domestication” How many so-called primitive tribal people, religious minorities, and any “outgroup” that is labeled enemy, or any enemy at all is “cleansed” of its heritage, values beliefs and practices by military, social and corporate actions? Civilian casualties, millions of displaced refugees – hypocritically disguised as the inevitable consequence of the mysterious “fog of war.”)

By contrast, in his chapter on Psychologie und Stammesgeschichte (“psychology and epistemology”, first published in 1943) [19] Lorenz took over Arnold Gehlen’s idea that human beings were specialised in being non-specialised. Gehlen had acknowledged Bolk’s and Hilzheimer’s hypotheses as scientific proofs for his thesis of man as “Mängelwesen” (“deficient being”). Following Gehlen, Lorenz highlighted man’s lack of physiological specialisation while rejecting the hypothesis of deficiency. In contrast to his earlier exclusively negative approval, Lorenz now accepted the hypothesis of domestication-associated neoteny, which accounted for the positively asserted human “Weltoffenheit” (“cosmopolitanism”) and persisting explorative behaviour. This was new, since he now ascribed to neoteny a variety of human behavioural and psychological features in addition to his physical characteristics. Even in his later writings, however, Lorenz stuck to his culturally pessimistic attitude, while partially backing off from his writings during the Nazi regime.

Since the 1960s, both the foetalisation and the domestication hypotheses concerning humans have been refuted by various scientists. Starck (1962), for example, criticised that Bolk’s hypothesis had been so broadly accepted simply because the many problems of explaining human evolution could be resolved with apparent ease. According to Starck, hairlessness and the reduction of pigmentation of the skin (a geographic phenomen due to varying solar radiation) were more reliably explained by chance mutations rather than by foetalisation. Moreover, the retention of juvenile characters (i.e. neoteny) did not sufficiently explain the increased variation of traits under domestication [20]. In addition, Herre and Roehrs (1971) rejected the human self-domestication hypothesis for its lack of goal-directedness and artificial selection of traits; nor was there evidence for a “wild” ancestral human species from which a domesticated homo sapiens should have derived. They further argued that a reduction of instinctual patterns of behaviour in human beings could also better be explained by a more sophisticated cortical control rather than domestication [21]. (Objections based on the lack of scientific evidence at the time and the resistance to Homo sapiens the animal.)

As with many scientific ideas, these hypothesis of human self-domestication has recently been revived as a possible explanation of changes of human physical traits since the late Pleistocene changes include the reduction of body size and decrease in skeletal robusticity, modifications in cranial and dental features including reduction in cranial capacity, shortening of the facial region of the skull and maleruption of teeth, and reduction in sexual dimorphism. In contrast to earlier biological writings, other domestication-associated features observed in animals such as an increased variation in skin colour, increasing fat storage, earlier sexual maturation and activity, and reduction in motor activity are not discussed with respect to human self-domestication in recent accounts [1]. It is indeed plausible to assume that these changes could have taken place due to the creation of an artificially protective environment after humans adopted a more sedentary lifestyle in the Neolithic period, thereby relaxing natural selection pressures. (But! selection pressures changed and increased due to selection by a new urban and dietary environment that required behavioral and reproductive adaptation.  Reproduction became controlled by social customs, class barriers to reproduction partners, and selection of females for tameness.)

Similarly, the idea that foetalisation and domestication could be related has recently been highlighted in a seminal paper comparing anatomical features and behaviour of apes and humans [3]. The authors argue that changes in social structures of early humans, compared to our closest living relatives, the chimpanzee, could have favoured the selection against aggression, and that such selection was accompanied by a reduction of sexual dimorphism in humans and the retention of juvenile characteristics in body shape and behaviour. Interestingly, a parallel development has been proposed in the bonobo, which displays more neotenic physical features and is much less aggressive compared to the common chimpanzee [3].

From a biological perspective the greatest dispute with regard to physical changes in anatomically modern humans akin to domestication pertains to a slight but measurable decline of brain volume from around 1,400 cm3 to roughly 1,300 cm3, which could be interpreted in further support of the human self-domestication hypothesis. However, this decline in stature was accompanied by a reduction in body size such that the allometric brain-body relation remains unchanged [22]. In contrast to humans, domesticated animals show a large disproportionate decline of brain size by up to 30%, especially of the sensory perceptual centres, compared to their wild ancestral species, yet no such pronounced decline has convincingly been demonstrated in any human population.

We have a huge stumbling block in the investigation of self-domestication in humans: Which “human” is our wild ancestor?

Part 3 next…

How Animals Think / Review of Book by Frans de Waal

How Animals Think

A new look at what humans can learn from nonhuman minds

Alison Gopnik, The Atlantic 

Review of: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

By Frans de Waal / Norton

For 2,000 years, there was an intuitive, elegant, compelling picture of how the world worked. It was called “the ladder of nature.” In the canonical version, God was at the top, followed by angels, who were followed by humans. Then came the animals, starting with noble wild beasts and descending to domestic animals and insects. Human animals followed the scheme, too. Women ranked lower than men, and children were beneath them. The ladder of nature was a scientific picture, but it was also a moral and political one. It was only natural that creatures higher up would have dominion over those lower down. (This view remains dominant in American thinking: “The Great Chain of Being” is still with us and underlies social reality)

Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection delivered a serious blow to this conception. (Unless one denies evolution)  Natural selection is a blind historical process, stripped of moral hierarchy. A cockroach is just as well adapted to its environment as I am to mine. In fact, the bug may be better adapted—cockroaches have been around a lot longer than humans have, and may well survive after we are gone. But the very word evolution can imply a progression—New Agers talk about becoming “more evolved”—and in the 19th century, it was still common to translate evolutionary ideas into ladder-of-nature terms.

MAN ILLUS

Modern biological science has in principle rejected the ladder of nature. But the intuitive picture is still powerful. In particular, the idea that children and nonhuman animals are lesser beings has been surprisingly persistent. Even scientists often act as if children and animals are defective adult humans, defined by the abilities we have and they don’t. Neuroscientists, for example, sometimes compare brain-damaged adults to children and animals.

We always should have been suspicious of this picture, but now we have no excuse for continuing with it. In the past 30 years, research has explored the distinctive ways in which children as well as animals think, and the discoveries deal the coup de grâce to the ladder of nature. (Not in psychology!)The primatologist Frans de Waal has been at the forefront of the animal research, and its most important public voice.

In Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, he makes a passionate and convincing case for the sophistication of nonhuman minds.

De Waal outlines both the exciting new results and the troubled history of the field. The study of animal minds was long divided between what are sometimes called “scoffers” and “boosters.” Scoffers refused to acknowledge that animals could think at all: Behaviorism—the idea that scientists shouldn’t talk about minds, only about stimuli and responses—stuck around in animal research long after it had been discredited in the rest of psychology. (Are you kidding? “Black Box” psychology is alive and well, especially in American education!) Boosters often relied on anecdotes and anthropomorphism instead of experiments. De Waal notes that there isn’t even a good general name for the new field of research. Animal cognition ignores the fact that humans are animals too. De Waal argues for evolutionary cognition instead.

Psychologists often assume that there is a special cognitive ability—a psychological secret sauce—that makes humans different from other animals. The list of candidates is long: tool use, cultural transmission, the ability to imagine the future or to understand other minds, and so on. But every one of these abilities shows up in at least some other species in at least some form. De Waal points out various examples, and there are many more. New Caledonian crows make elaborate tools, shaping branches into pointed, barbed termite-extraction devices. A few Japanese macaques learned to wash sweet potatoes and even to dip them in the sea to make them more salty, and passed that technique on to subsequent generations. Western scrub jays “cache”—they hide food for later use—and studies have shown that they anticipate what they will need in the future, rather than acting on what they need now.

From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that these human abilities also appear in other species. After all, the whole point of natural selection is that small variations among existing organisms can eventually give rise to new species. Our hands and hips and those of our primate relatives gradually diverged from the hands and hips of common ancestors. It’s not that we miraculously grew hands and hips and other animals didn’t. So why would we alone possess some distinctive cognitive skill that no other species has in any form?

De Waal explicitly rejects the idea that there is some hierarchy of cognitive abilities. (Thank-you!) Nevertheless, an implicit tension in his book shows just how seductive the ladder-of-nature view remains. Simply saying that the “lower” creatures share abilities with creatures once considered more advanced still suggests something like a ladder—it’s just that chimps or crows or children are higher up than we thought. So the summary of the research ends up being: We used to think that only adult humans could use tools/participate in culture/imagine the future/understand other minds, but actually chimpanzees/crows/toddlers can too. Much of de Waal’s book has this flavor, though I can’t really blame him, since developmental psychologists like me have been guilty of the same rhetoric.

As de Waal recognizes, a better way to think about other creatures would be to ask ourselves how different species have developed different kinds of minds to solve different adaptive problems. (And – How “different humans” have done, and continue to do, the same!) Surely the important question is not whether an octopus or a crow can do the same things a human can, but how those animals solve the cognitive problems they face, like how to imitate the sea floor or make a tool with their beak. Children and chimps and crows and octopuses are ultimately so interesting not because they are mini-mes, but because they are aliens—not because they are smart like us, but because they are smart in ways we haven’t even considered. All children, for example, pretend with a zeal that seems positively crazy; if we saw a grown-up act like every 3-year-old does, we would get him to check his meds. (WOW! Nasty comment!)

Sometimes studying those alien ways of knowing can illuminate adult-human cognition. Children’s pretend play may help us understand our adult taste for fiction. De Waal’s research provides another compelling example. We human beings tend to think that our social relationships are rooted in our perceptions, beliefs, and desires, and our understanding of the perceptions, beliefs, and desires of others—what psychologists call our “theory of mind.” (And yet horrible behavior toward other humans and animals demonstrates that AT BEST, this “mind-reading” simply makes humans better social manipulators and predators) human behavior our In the ’80s and ’90s, developmental psychologists, including me, showed that preschoolers and even infants understand minds apart from their own. But it was hard to show that other animals did the same. “Theory of mind” became a candidate for the special, uniquely human trick. (A social conceit)

Yet de Waal’s studies show that chimps possess a remarkably developed political intelligence—they are profoundly interested in figuring out social relationships such as status and alliances. (A primatologist friend told me that even before they could stand, the baby chimps he studied would use dominance displays to try to intimidate one another.) It turns out, as de Waal describes, that chimps do infer something about what other chimps see. But experimental studies also suggest that this happens only in a competitive political context. The evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare and his colleagues gave a subordinate chimp a choice between pieces of food that a dominant chimp had seen hidden and other pieces it had not seen hidden. The subordinate chimp, who watched all the hiding, stayed away from the food the dominant chimp had seen, but took the food it hadn’t seen. (A typical anecdotal factoid that proves nothing)

Anyone who has gone to an academic conference will recognize that we, too, are profoundly political creatures. We may say that we sign up because we’re eager to find out what our fellow Homo sapiens think, but we’re just as interested in who’s on top and where the alliances lie. Many of the political judgments we make there don’t have much to do with our theory of mind. We may defer to a celebrity-academic silverback even if we have no respect for his ideas. In Jane Austen, Elizabeth Bennet cares how people think, while Lady Catherine cares only about how powerful they are, but both characters are equally smart and equally human.

The challenge of studying creatures that are so different from us is to get into their heads.

Of course, we know that humans are political, but we still often assume that our political actions come from thinking about beliefs and desires. Even in election season we assume that voters figure out who will enact the policies they want, and we’re surprised when it turns out that they care more about who belongs to their group or who is the top dog. The chimps may give us an insight into a kind of sophisticated and abstract social cognition that is very different from theory of mind—an intuitive sociology rather than an intuitive psychology.

Until recently, however, there wasn’t much research into how humans develop and deploy this kind of political knowledge—a domain where other animals may be more cognitively attuned than we are. It may be that we understand the social world in terms of dominance and alliance, like chimps, but we’re just not usually as politically motivated as they are. (Obsession with social status is so pervasive, that it DISRUPTS neurotypical ability to function!) Instead of asking whether we have a better everyday theory of mind, we might wonder whether they have a better everyday theory of politics.

Thinking seriously about evolutionary cognition may also help us stop looking for a single magic ingredient that explains how human intelligence emerged. De Waal’s book inevitably raises a puzzling question. After all, I’m a modern adult human being, writing this essay surrounded by furniture, books, computers, art, and music—I really do live in a world that is profoundly different from the world of the most brilliant of bonobos. If primates have the same cognitive capacities we do, where do those differences come from?

The old evolutionary-psychology movement argued that we had very specific “modules,” special mental devices, that other primates didn’t have. But it’s far likelier that humans and other primates started out with relatively minor variations in more-general endowments and that those variations have been amplified over the millennia by feedback processes. For example, small initial differences in what biologists call “life history” can have big cumulative effects. Humans have a much longer childhood than other primates do. Young chimps gather as much food as they consume by the time they’re 5. Even in forager societies, human kids don’t do that until they’re 15. This makes being a human parent especially demanding. But it also gives human children much more time to learn—in particular, to learn from the previous generation. (If that generation is “messed up” to the point of incompetence, the advantage disappears and disaster results – which is what we see in the U.S. today). Other animals can absorb culture from their forebears too, like those macaques with their proto-Pringle salty potatoes. But they may have less opportunity and motivation to exercise these abilities than we do.

Even if the differences between us and our nearest animal relatives are quantitative rather than qualitative—a matter of dialing up some cognitive capacities and downplaying others—they can have a dramatic impact overall. A small variation in how much you rely on theory of mind to understand others as opposed to relying on a theory of status and alliances can exert a large influence in the long run of biological and cultural evolution.

Finally, de Waal’s book prompts some interesting questions about how emotion and reason mix in the scientific enterprise. The quest to understand the minds of animals and children has been a remarkable scientific success story. It inevitably has a moral, and even political, dimension as well. The challenge of studying creatures that are so different from us is to get into their heads, to imagine what it is like to be a bat or a bonobo or a baby. A tremendous amount of sheer scientific ingenuity is required to figure out how to ask animals or children what they think in their language instead of in ours.

At the same time, it also helps to have a sympathy for the creatures you study, a feeling that is not far removed from love. And this sympathy is bound to lead to indignation when those creatures are dismissed or diminished. That response certainly seems justified when you consider the havoc that the ladder-of-nature picture has wrought on the “lower” creatures. (Just ask ASD and Asperger children how devastating this lack of “empathy” on the part of the “helping, caring fixing” industry is.)

But does love lead us to the most-profound insights about another being, or the most-profound illusions? Elizabeth Bennet and Lady Catherine would have differed on that too, and despite all our theory-of-mind brilliance, (sorry – that’s ridiculous optimism) we humans have yet to figure out when love enlightens and when it leads us astray. So we keep these emotions under wraps in our scientific papers, for good reason. Still, popular books are different, and both sympathy and indignation are in abundant supply in de Waal’s.

Perhaps the combination of scientific research and moral sentiment can point us to a different metaphor for our place in nature. Instead of a ladder, we could invoke the 19th-century naturalist Alexander von Humboldt’s web of life. We humans aren’t precariously balanced on the top rung looking down at the rest. (Tell that to all those EuroAmerican males who dictate socio-economic-scientific terms of “humans who count”) It’s more scientifically accurate, and more morally appealing, to say that we are just one strand in an intricate network of living things.

About the Author

Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and an affiliate professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley.

Days of Relief / Ignoring the Social Condemnation of Asperger’s

The past few days I’ve been ignoring Asperger’s, the “social disease” as characterized by psychologists (and their misuse of “neuroscience” to “prove” their ugly prejudices) because I decided to finally revamp my blog (formerly Some People are Lost – now Miss America Gone Wrong) and have been taken back in time to a productive period, when I began to discover myself as a person that I could like.

MAGW is important to me because it was written (1991-1992) when I didn’t know that the “condition” existed. Asperger’s was “created” around that time, and until very recently, females were excluded, mainly because male psychologists (and most males) dismiss females when it comes to “brain abilities” in engineering, math and the sciences. Women can be “biology types” because – they have uteruses. Ironically, most psychologists are female today, which is not a “compliment” to the field. Whenever a job category is overtaken by women, it means that the field has lost status and that the pay scale has dropped.

In 1991 I was in graduate school, serving time in the academic Gulag run by male assholes. It’s that simple. I finally and totally rebelled over bad treatment, and frankly, the overt hatred of females that I’d “put up with” my entire life.

When I googled “recent research” in Asperger’s this morning, the same old crap appeared – an onslaught of “studies” that claim to prove that Asperger people are robotic deviants; fictitious claims that the “bounty hunters” are closing in on the brain defects and genetic mistakes that make us social outcasts.

No one seems to even raise the question as to why being “hyposocial” and intelligent is considered to be a state of pathology – literally a “social crime” being misrepresented as biological pathology.

Why must each and every Asperger-type individual begin life as a “broken” human? And, once labeled, no matter how well we manage to survive in a hostile social environment, we can never prove that we are a legitimate type of Homo sapiens. We are guilty, and remain guilty of a social crime, without the opportunity to prove our status as “part of” our species. We are literally considered to be lower than chimps, monkeys, rats and mice on the mystical supernatural and magical “empathy scale” – which somehow is granted the “new definition” of what is “required” to be considered a “real” human being.

My “escape” from social tyranny twenty-six years ago was fueled by disgust –  I had no intention other than relief for a few weeks before I again would have to take on survival in “American social reality”.

Surprise! It was the happiest time in my life. I began to uncover the “me” that was buried under a lifetime of “being told who I was” – and I liked the person who began to be revealed as I left behind the social order that classifies, defines and injures human beings. The people I met were often in the “same boat” (or RV, tent or car) as myself: refugees from a cruel and unjust economic and social system that had kicked them to the curb – and declared them to have no value.

What is disturbing, is that this system has grown in strength and callous brutality  over the past three decades.

 

 

 

 

 

gONE fREE gONE wILD / New Blog

It was a chore, but I finally have a new blog for my travel journal in a new format that’s actually accessible and readable! The old version was Some People are Lost, which will disappear once I check for anything I’ve missed.)

And the journal has a new – old name. I had changed it because I thought that the first title – courtesy of a Texan who appears in a couple chapters – over-promised on what the content was like, but after so many years with the wrong title, I realized that he was not talking about the content, of which he had no knowledge, but he was referring to me. I think it’s an old Texas saying, but he applied it rightly, as only a Texan can.

It’s good to remember that I was thoroughly Asperger at the time, but utterly unaware of that situation.

Miss America Gone Wrong

“There She Goes”

It’s all there, but needs tweaking and illustrations.

http://gonefreegonewild.wordpress.com

Just the Facts, Ma’am / Black and White Thinking

untitledfacts just-the-facts

Neurotypicals label fact-based thinking “black & white thinking,” because neurotypicals don’t believe that facts are facts.  

Asperger individuals are ‘put down’ for responding to the environment as if it were a literal place (it is) and we are accused by social typicals of black and white thinking. Black and White Thinking, as used by social humans, means that they react to the factual basis of reality as a type of “cheating” because they don’t accept facts as facts. Facts are devoid of nuance, imagination or optimism. That is, facts cannot be “made up” to invent personal universes. Aspergers are fact-oriented. The universe we inhabit is a literal universe. Physical limits and relationships do exist and can be described and predicted mathematically. Social humans don’t like this truth (that facts exist) one bit, so a dislike of Asperger individuals is a case of Kill the Messenger.

Social humans believe that the manmade “social” environment is all that exists and there is a general ignorance of the restrictions and consequences of natural forces, or that humans are subject, like it or not, to the Laws of Nature. Facts and ‘yes or no’ situations don’t exist for neotenic social people. There is always a way around a problem: everything is negotiable; denial and outright lies subvert reality.

Social humans spend enormous time and energy on attempts to avoid reality; the mirage of negotiability is an essential tool used in denial. Hope, optimism, and prayer, and recently, New Age ‘psychic’ methods and bogus health schemes are sold to anxious people who can’t resist exempting themselves from being a real live human being by having a special relationship with a higher magical power (big parent.) In the United States, the firm belief that power can be obtained by imitative magic (purchasing knock offs worn by celebrities, and adopting their narcissistic  behavior) has become necessary to the economy.

A mirage that universal limits and laws are negotiable seems to placate neurotypicals. Many Christians believe that they have a direct line to Mr. Negotiator-for-Jehovah, Jesus – who can now be reached by smart phone Apps.

jesus-cell-phoneThis is the social environment; conditions are uncertain and stressful. Asperger people, not being socially indoctrinated, accept facts and find social machinations a waste of human potential, because they are. What social people denigrate as black and white thinking is rational fact-based thinking, using a science-based wealth of knowledge and common sense. The universe is  infinitely more simple, beautiful and complex than social humans can imagine. Too bad that they don’t know what they are missing.