A few weeks ago, Kristor posted a brief but cogent piece on the Orthosphere: “Evolution Is Not a Reason.” Here is a selection:
But note that to say “X came about because of evolution” is only to say, “X came about because X came about.” “Evolution” in that sentence is not an explanation of what came about: it just is what came about, period full stop. Nor is the process of evolution capable of explaining anything; for “the process of evolution” is just another way of saying, “the way things happen.” It tells us nothing about why things happen, or happened. I.e., it doesn’t tell us the reasons that things happen, or happened; doesn’t tell us the logic that informs what happens. To say that X happened because of evolution is just to say that X happened because X happened. It’s obtuse.
This does not at all mean that the research programs of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology are bootless. On the contrary: if there are certain things that seem to go along with the practice of being human, or of being human in society, that should indicate to us not that such practices are meaningless and unfounded, but precisely the contrary. If iterated natural selection is anything other than chaotic noise, it is a way of fitting humanity to the world by a procedure of trial and error. It is a method of learning; and learning is always about something, so that if natural selection is producing an actual order in humanity, that order addresses and responds appropriately to – i.e., is proper to – the nature of reality. When, e.g., evolutionary psychology tells us that women generally prefer to mate with men who show a good likelihood of being able to provide for them and defend them, we may infer that it is objectively better for men to support and protect their wives, than not; i.e., that the preference that men should be providers and defenders is built into the world.
Why does our society listen attentively at the feet of Paul Krugman, Malcolm Gladwell, and Fareed Zakaria but ignores unknown fringe commentators like Lawrence Auster, Lydia McGrew, Bill Vallicella, and Kristor himself? Even among noted academics, men like Alasdair MacIntyre, Roger Scruton, and Robert P. George get short shrifted, while the powerful turn their ears toward the soothsayers for the Zeitgeist. Such a pity.
Getting back to the argument, it has always annoyed me that seemingly intelligent people attribute intelligible causation to chance, by which they mean unintelligible randomness. I wrote in “Is God an Accident?”
I marvel at how clever creatures can draw explanatory principles from the empty well of chance. Chance does not explain; chance merely signifies the complicated levels on which intentional agents experience reality. With apologies to Aristotle, allow me to talk about my fictional pals, Bob and Matt. Bob the bartender owes Matt the Maytag repairman money that he intends to pay him when he sees him again. One day, Bob goes to Best Buy to buy his belle, Betty Sue, a microwave oven. Matt happens to be at Best Buy trying to catch up on the latest developments in the laundry machine trade. Bob sees Matt and pays him. We can say that Bob’s paying Matt when he did was the result of chance. There was agency by both men, but the result of their intended ends was not intended by either one of them. Chance explains an element in the story.
Yet, note that chance only indicates how the intended actions of two agents interelated in a wider theater than their own perspectives. When we consider a theater as wide as reality, what role does chance play? Is it not simply what we might call the order of being’s manifesting itself in motion? When people speak of chance, they often mean random and unpredictable. Yet, we observe everywhere the tendencies of nature and the probability of phenomena that betray an order. The universe has a structure that is intelligible. It has patterns that human reason perceives and understands. When we attribute causality to chance, we simply admit that we remain ignorant of the whole as was Bob of all the facts. Yet, Bob and Matt both acted as agents with will and ends, and they acted so in an orderly universe. Likewise, evolutionary biology does not show that order develops from chaos. Rather, evolutionary biology recognizes that the particular qualities—the particular structure of our universe—gives rise to the multiplicity of life as we know it. There is no way to pass the buck of design to nothing. As the ancients knew, there must be an uncaused cause. When, in thought, we encounter the wondrous beauty and unity of the intelligible world, we recognize such a source. For Bloom, this recognition is an illusion. It is strange to consider how much effort the blinded put forth in order to remain in darkness.
One cannot get one’s organizing principle from unordered chaos. The typical “orthodox” understanding of Darwinian evolution is metaphysical nonsense. I think that evolution occurs, but certainly not by “chance.” The following posts deal with similar topics:
“Meyer’s Intelligent Design”
“Nagel on Evolutionary Naturalism and the Fear of Religion”
“Random Mutation Generator”
“The Hubris of Reductionism”
Ron Unz published an essay in The American Conservative this week that reviews the data in IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen: “Race, IQ, and Wealth.” It is somewhat lengthy for a net rag, but Unz is always worth reading for his honesty in assessing evidence and in asking questions. He argues that Lynn and Vanhanen’s own research in IQ and the Wealth of Nations undermines their position that the average intelligence quotient of a given population results chiefly from that population’s genetic inheritance—a position called the Strong I.Q. Hypothesis. He not only mentions the well known Flynn Effect but also considers the variation of I.Q. in a given population or in closely related populations compared to the economic conditions of the population over time. Unz further argues that population I.Q. tends to rise with urbanization, as urban living provides the mind much practice in skills measured by I.Q. tests. He suggests that a contemporary city dweller may not actually seem “smarter” than his great-grandfather who was a farmer, but his I.Q. would be significantly higher. Similarly, Unz reasons that memory power has decreased with the rise of technology that has reduced the need to exercise memory in today’s society. In conclusion, Unz notes how different studies contradict both the Strong and the Weak I.Q. Hypotheses, and he calls for more research to be done in an area where few people have the courage or the intellectual integrity to do the work.
It seems obvious to me that nature and nurture play a role in human intelligence, as they seem to do in all human development. Moreover, it must be that nature and nurture have interacted and mutually influenced the other throughout human history. Human beings change and are changed by their human (cultural) and non-human environment. Furthermore, I suspect that each person, and in each grouping of related people (from more to less closely related), has a range of ability dictated by nature. Environmental conditions, personal choices, and the catch-all of fortune decide where in that range development actually reaches. As I have previously stated, a youth average in gymnastics ability would likely become much better at gymnastics were he placed in an intensive childhood training program—like that to which the Chinese Communists subject their Olympic athletes. It also seems likely that a boy naturally gifted in gymnastics ability would excel in basic gymnastics without any formal training—just by playing around in his yard. However, such a gifted lad would not even begin to reach his potential if he were raised as a couch potato who never climbed on the monkey bars. Yet, when someone with natural talent has the opportunity to develop his abilities, then he will excel to the heights of human accomplishment. It takes a special person to be Michael Phelps; not everyone can do it, even with the same resources and training. Why should this be different for matters of the mind?
Controlled reproduction—eugenics—clearly works in animal husbandry, even with “mental” qualities such as temperament and intelligence. This holds true not simply for individuals and litters but also for the extended family of a cultivated line—a breed. Certain breeds of dogs, for instance, have certain tendencies, and different breeds display various ability levels, though, as Aristotle observed, fringe exceptions occur in nature. With dogs, intelligence seems to be inherited. Why should we expect human beings to be any different?
Of course, the egalitarian Left has a problem with nature and with her unequal distribution of goods.
This topic reminds me of a comment that I made earlier in the year. In January, MSNBC fired Patrick Buchanan after negro “empowerment” groups complained about his arguments in Suicide of a Superpower, wherein Buchanan asked about the future of an America no longer populated by Old Americans. In response to an article in The Daily Caller about MSNBC’s severing of ties, a commentator named Stan wrote:
The defeat of Nazi Germany on the battlefield in 1945 had the direct consequence that open, honest discussion of race related issues has become forbidden, the ultimate taboo.
Boas-Lysenkoism rules in a true dictatorship not seen since the Soviet Union.
Witness even here on this so-called right wing website, how posters all claim that they are not “racists”, whatever that may mean.
In contrast, every single public figure, scientist, political leader, explorer, philosopher and intellectual in the nearly 3000 years of Western civilization, until the advent of Franz Boas, Lysenko and the Frankfurt School in the 1920-1930s, was a racist, in the real, proper sense of the term.
This madness is the suicide of the West.
Buchanan dared to say what should be obvious to anybody with half a brain.
To which I replied:
Don’t you know that the human race is mystically exempt from the the rules of genetics that we see in all other species? Inheritance and environmental influences on reproduction do not affect the human race. We should dub this Hallowed Truth our “immaculate evolution.” To think otherwise is to go down the slippery slope toward genocide! Or, at least, that is the sermon that I continually hear from all quarters. It doesn’t make much sense to me, but our Betters must be right.
Living creatures are complex, and human beings are especially so. We do not fully understand what makes us what and as we are. However, we know—and have known for millennia—enough about animal life to recognize the importance of inheritance. To what extent the various influences determine our aptitudes and dispositions remains a mystery. We should thus refrain from imposing ideology upon biology. As Unz argues, we need more evidence to reach a solid conclusion.
Steve Sailer has an interesting post about Adam Carolla’s “controversial” comment that men tend to be the more humorous writers on a comedy production’s staff: “Men are funnier because women are more important.” Of course, there would be exceptions; Tina Fey comes to mind. Sailer then notes that, in response to Carolla’s comment, Kyria Abrahams did some casual research into the material topics of a random sample of male and female stand up comedians. Abrahams writes in “A Woman Explains Why Women Aren’t Funny”:
The subjects the women spoke about were essentially all the same. They were, in short, all about themselves. Their life, their hair, their roommates, their feelings. In other words, all the female comedy was turned inward. Out of five 7-minute sets, there were only three jokes that spoke about outside events and only one joke about politics. It took 28 minutes before I laughed aloud.
The men, on the other hand, rarely spoke about themselves. Jokes about their appearance were used as soft openers in order to lead the audience into the set. This is not to say that male comedians are not capable of being horrible, self-involved, rambling bores. Dear God, are they ever! But out of my personal test group, they were not. They spoke liberally about history, religion, and politics. They spoke in pithy, crafted observations. Never once did they mention they felt fat.
Below is the list of topics I faithfully wrote down as each new premise presented itself (where topics repeated between comedians, I placed a numeric tally after the premise). In alphabetical order:
Apartment is annoying
Being a female comedian (x2)
Dating is awkward (x2)
Did poorly in school
Doesn’t want kids because she’s “selfish”
Hates New York
Her body (x2)
Her mom (x2)
How guys hit on her
It’s hard being a woman, putting on makeup, and wearing heels and stuff
Just got engaged
Just went through a breakup
Roommate is annoying
Sex and condoms
She’s too pretty to do standup (x2)
What she’s wearing
What/who she looks like (x2)
Being thanked on an elevator
Clichés people use
Free AIDS clinics
God won’t help you bowl/God doesn’t exist
Having sex with animals
Holding the phone between your ear and shoulder
How to treat AIDS
If the Jews killed Jesus
Mayan 2012 prediction
People asking him where he’s from
The “ethnic needs” section of the supermarket
The age of sliced bread
The Cyclone at Coney Island
The Roman Empire
The storylines behind rollercoasters
Vegan soul food
What/who he looks like (x2)
White chocolate is racist
The first difference I noticed was how much easier it would be to guess the male comedians by looking at their premises. If you saw “Coney Island rollercoaster” and you know anything about comedy, you immediately know the comic I’m talking about. But, say, did you hear the one about the…vagina? You know the one about the vagina? Am I right, ladies? Oh yes, that one vagina joke. I’ve heard that one!
It’s not that women aren’t funny. That’s a stupid-ass thing to think, since obviously there are funny women.
However, I think female comedians don’t really want to relate to a greater audience. And ultimately, I think their core audience is just fine with this. If bachelorette parties are entertained and gay men are drinking it up, the comediennes are doing their job. Just like Def Jam and the Blue Collar Comedy Tour do what they’re paid to do. A lot of comedy is pandering to a core audience.
Interestingly, when men point out the women they DO find funny, they inevitably point to comedians such as Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman. That is, it’s the women who break this self-involved stereotype—comics who don’t constantly talk about themselves, and if they do, there’s a punchline. Comics who write jokes instead of telling stories. Comics who are harsh and focused and practiced. Women at the top of their craft.
I think that Abrahams nails it; women’s vanity and self-absorption detract from their ability to be funny. Moreover, Sailer finds this to be quite useful to the human species:
In general, men are interested in a wider and less personally relevant range of subjects than women, while women focus more on their own lives and those of the people around them. As a man who is highly interested in an impractically wide range of subjects of little personal import, I say, Thank God for Women.
Unfortunately, the same stubborn in-front-of-your-face practicality of the fairer sex also works against their climbing from the cave. Cows, too, are only interested in practical affairs. Women tend toward the bovine, and that is not an attractive tendency. For similar reasons, women are less likely to be philosophers, poets, perverts, tyrants, or demonically wicked; they more rarely look beyond the horizon of the herd.
Patrick Buchanan reviewed Paul Gottfied’s Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America a few weeks ago in Human Events: “Behind the Crack-up of the Right.” He thereby offers a simple and concise exploration of the main divide among American conservatives:
In introducing his new book, Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America, Paul Gottfried identifies a fundamental divide between neoconservatives and the traditional right. The divide is over the question: What is this nation, America?
Straussians, writes Gottfried, “wish to present the construction of government as an open-ended rationalist process. All children of the Enlightenment, once properly instructed, should be able to carry out this … task.”
For traditional conservatives, before the nation is born, “ethnic and cultural preconditions” must exist. All “successful constitutional orders,” he writes, “are the expressions of already formed nations and cultures.”
To the old right, America as a nation and a people already existed by 1789. The Constitution was the birth certificate the nation wrote for itself, the charter by which it chose to govern itself. The real America had been born in men’s hearts by the time of Lexington and Concord in 1775.
In a recent issue of Modern Age, Jack Kerwick deals with this divide.
Irving Kristol, he writes, and quotes that founding father of modern neoconservatism, saw America as “a ‘creedal’ nation, a nation to which anyone can belong irrespective of ‘ethnicity or blood ties of any kind, or lineage, or length of residence even.’”
“For Kristol and his ilk,” Kerwick goes on, “one’s identity as an American is established by nothing more than an intellectual exercise whereby one rationally assents to the propositions encapsulated in the Declaration.”
“Given this unqualified quasi-religious commitment to ‘the Rights of Man,’ (for a neoconservative) America must be future-oriented, for as long as human rights are threatened, and regardless of where they are imperiled, her work in the world will never be complete.”
Though the neocons may have read and found inspiration in Strauss, I do not think that we can blame Strauss for their folly. Strauss, who read and knew Plato’s Republic better than most everyone, understood that the philosopher does not owe his being a philosopher to the city. In that sense, the man of truth lives apart and beyond the confines of the city. However, philosophers are necessarily few, and the foolhardy project of enlightening the masses—of making the city beyond itself—is not one that Strauss would have entertained. The laws of human society are fixed, and the city—and common men—have their own way of being. They are material conditions for the higher life of the few who live in the city. Were we to destroy the city, there could be no philosophical life. Strauss understood this, and that is why politics so interested him and his disciples. Perhaps, the neoconservatives made for poor students.
Lawrence Auster offers mordant commentary to the widespread newspeak of American police and media: “LAPD coins new phrase for rampant black homicide of non-blacks.” Auster responds to a Los Angeles officer who referred to the murder of a restaurant cook by a group of black customers as “a random dispute that went tragically wrong.”
“It was a random dispute that went tragically wrong.” That is so perfect. Over the years VFR has many times discussed the dishonest euphemisms that police spokesmen use for black homicidal violence against non-blacks, particularly variations on the phrase, “An X gone wrong,” but this may be the best ever. Let us analyze it.
First, there is the “random dispute.” The term shields the reading public from the hateful knowledge that blacks, and only blacks, create such “disputes” continuously, especially in fast food establishments, where they initiate arguments and fights with the management about slow service, incorrect bills, the employees’ “racism,” and so on. No one is guilty or responsible in a “random dispute,” it is something that just happens by itself, having no more moral content than dust particles floating about at random in a ray of sunlight.
Second, somehow, this random dispute, all by itself, “goes tragically wrong.” It’s not a matter of a human being pulling out a gun, aiming it at another human being, and shooting him dead. No. It is the dispute itself which “tragically”—the word “tragically” again underscoring the absence of any culpable intention—goes in a bad, indeed the baddest, direction.
The overwhelming majority of homicides by blacks, especially homicides of non-blacks, where politically correct police spokesmen have the strongest need to cover up the truth, could be described as random disputes gone tragically wrong.
I propose that Detective Nuttle, in recognition of his signal contributions both to American English and to racial comity, receive the National Award for Best Obfuscatory, Non-Judgmental Euphemism for Black Homicidal Mayhem.
Further, I propose that in instances where the defendant is black the penal codes of all fifty states and the District of Columbia replace the words “homicide” and “murder” by the phrase “random dispute gone tragically wrong.” We would then have such crimes as “Random dispute gone tragically wrong in the first degree,” “Random dispute gone tragically wrong in the second degree,” and so on. The creation of a new class of crimes for black defendants is justified on the basis that since white racism has for the last four hundred years systematically stripped blacks of their humanity, including the capacity to make moral choices, it is racist to attribute criminal intent to black defendants the same way it is attributed to non-black defendants.
Finally, each Monday morning’s edition of the Chicago Tribune could have headlines like this:
Random Disputes Gone Tragically Wrong Spread Across the City.
Over Weekend, 50 Random Disputes Go Wrong, Ten of Them Tragically.
My friend Andrew sent me the following image some time ago; I thought it fitting for the day:
To be fair to the founders, they did not propose democracy as the American system of government. Yet, over the last two centuries, Americans have largely adopted mobocracy as the regime under which they prefer to live. Civics courses, history books, political speeches, and public policy have mirrored the shift in public opinion. A constitution is not really written on paper but in men’s hearts. As we continue to see, our republic transforms as the people transform.