Bad adaptationist arguments, and how not to make them.

For a refresher on the three main categories of explanations for human behavior (adaptationism, constructionism, anti-causalism), see these entries:
Three categories of explanation of human behavior.
How can we explain human behavior?
Where does individuality come from?
Is there such a thing as “evil people”?

I have made no secret that I am a social constructionist. Mainstream seculars, and even some radical seculars, believe that adaptationist is the only “scientific” position that one can take. They are sorely mistaken in that belief, but I acknowledge that they hold that belief. I think they hold it because they believe that biology is “real science” and anthropology is not “real science.” But their adaptationist position not just contradicts all our anthropological data, it’s also quack biology.

I want to talk about some bad adaptationist arguments, which I really wish people would stop making, because they don’t advance the discussion and they just waste everyone’s time.

1. “You’re a constructionist, so you don’t believe in evolution!”

That is a very silly statement. Evolution is a scientific fact, and I do believe in it. Actually, evolution is at the core of my argument. Implicit in this statement is the idea that constructionists don’t believe that the human brain evolved, which is equally silly. Rejecting just-so stories about human behavior does not mean I don’t believe the structures of the brain are a consequence of biological evolution. This is as silly as arguing that anyone who rejects capitalism must therefore reject cause and effect in the production or distribution of resources.

In general, constructionists believe that human behavior can be mostly explained by social incentives, social indoctrination, common values, and so on. There is no way to get from there to a denial of evolution. When we look at social species, we find that, as their minds get more complex and adaptable, their social forms also become more varied and flexible. The fact that humans have greater mental adaptability is in itself the result of evolutionary pressure. The adaptationist view that the brain is hardwired and inflexible does not reflect what we understand about complexity in human beings. If the adaptationist claims that our brain is a simple collection of hardwired modules all solving specific problems, then how did evolution produce such an exquisite immune system and yet produce such a simplistic brain?

If you think someone might not believe in evolution, ask them first. Don’t assume that being a constructionist means they don’t, because there’s no relation between the two.

2. “You’re a constructionist, so you believe in free will!”

As it happens, I do not believe in free will. And there can be no connection between constructionism and free will, because free will is an anti-causal concept, not a constructionist concept! I suppose someone can believe in free will and be a constructionist, although that wouldn’t make much sense: the core belief of constructionism is that human behavior is modeled and molded by the environment, a cause and effect relationship which could not happen if our decisions were unconnected to physical cause and effect.

Don’t use this argument, because it’s simply false. Connecting constructionism with free will doesn’t work.

3. “You’re a constructionist, so you believe in blank slate theory!”

No one believes in blank slate theory any more, it is a discredited idea, and so this is basically an insult, in the same way that “you believe in phlogiston theory!” would be an insult. It’s a way of saying constructionism is old hat and adaptationism is the cutting edge scientific answer. But there’s no science in it anyway. The correct way to ask this is to just not ask it, because it’s insulting.

4. “How can you seriously believe that genetics play no role in human behavior?”

I do think genetics plays a great role in human behavior, we just, again, have a disagreement on how this is happening. In general, the adaptationist believes that human behavior is robotically dictated by brain modules, which are hardwired by genetics, while the constructionist believes that the human brain can adapt to all sorts of different social forms, and is not robotically stuck to one solution (almost always the Western solution, which is then called universal, absolute and eternal).

I think that anthropology proves that the constructionist claim is the correct one, since humans have, and continue to, live under a wide variety of social forms. But whether you agree with that or not, This is the same basic error I highlighted with point 1: the belief that disagreement on the details means that one rejects the entire area of study. This is an arrogant claim, the claim that if you don’t believe in my position then you can’t have any coherent position on the subject.

If you want to use such arguments, keep in mind that other people may rationally disagree with you. If you are interested in dialogue, and not just pointless dismissal, then acknowledge the positions of your opponent.

5. “How can you believe that we are all equal? Some people are just better/more skilled/smarter than others.”

This is the to-go answer when constructionists discuss about the social causes of poverty, for example. I am illustrating here a tendency of adaptationists to conflate different kinds of equality: in this specific case, conflating equality of intelligence or skill with other forms of equality. Certainly no one is disputing the fact that humans are not equal in terms of skills or intelligence (whatever that means exactly). What we disagree about is what this implies in terms of how we should behave towards other people.

The general right-wing view is that the worth of an individual is tied to how much they contribute to society (as measured by profits, diplomas, specific jobs, or accomplishments). Adaptationists tend to be right-wingers because their belief that some people are worth more than others can only make sense if people are born with superior or inferior minds. Belief in the soul does not provide such justification (although Christians still believe some people are naturally inferior due to racist or sexist beliefs), and neither does constructionism. Most constructionists are radicals, and the radical position is that all individuals should treat each other as equals, except for those people who attack others’ freedom or rights. The “equal” in this sentence does not refer to equality of intelligence or skill, but to equality of values: that we should treat other people’s values as being as important as our own, unless those values support aggression against innocent people.

In that sense, we are equal, and the proposition “we are all equal” is not refuted by the proposition that “some people are more skilled than others.” The correct refutation would be something like “there are people who are born natural superiors and people who are born natural inferiors.” Indeed, many people have argued this, and continue to argue it, about people of color, women, children, poor people, and so on. So far, they have always been wrong.

In order to not make these kinds of arguments, take into account the equivocations that are made on the word “equality.” Do not use that word unless you are specific in what you are describing. If the question had been formulated “how can you believe that we are all equal in skill?” then the silliness of the question would have been exposed immediately, and there would have been no discussion needed.

Existential Comics on: existentialism, foreign policy, and meaning.



From Existential Comics (1, 2, 3).

The Girls and the Grasses

A now-famous text, at least in radfem circles, by Lierre Keith. Go read it, if you have any patience for online reading.

If feminism was reduced to one word, it would be this: no. “No” is a boundary, spoken only by a self who claims one. Objects have neither; subjects begin at no. Feminists said no and we meant it.

The boundary of “no” extended outward, an insult to one being an injury to all: “we” is the word of political movements. Without it, women are cast adrift in a hostile, chaotic sea, holding our breath against the next Bad Thing. With the lens of feminism, the chaos snaps into sharp focus. We gave words to the Bad Things, then faced down denial and despair to see the pattern. That’s called theory. Then we demanded remedies. That’s what subjects, especially political subjects, do. Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British suffragettes, worked at the Census Office as a birth registrar. Every day, young girls came in with their newborns. Every day, she had to ask who the father was, and every day the girls wept in humiliation and rage. Reader, you know who the fathers were. That’s why Pankhurst never gave up.

To say no to the sadist is to assert those girls as political subjects, as human beings with the standing the comes from inalienable rights. Each and every life is self-willed and sovereign; each life can only be lived in a body. Not an object to be broken down for parts: a living body. Child sexual abuse is especially designed to turn the body into a cage. The bars may start as terror and pain but they will harden to self-loathing. Instilling shame is the best method to ensure compliance: we are ashamed—sexual violation is very good at that—and for the rest of our lives we will comply. Our compliance is, of course, his control. His power is his pleasure, and another generation of girls will grow up in bodies they will surely hate, to be women who comply.

Sex work is not “empowering.”

“One of my best friends, a girl I have known since I was like 16, is a “sex worker”. She was abandoned by her father and abused by her unstable mother. She has multiple learning disabilities, processing difficulties, and executive dysfunction. She has never received proper treatment or diagnosis other than being labeled with a form of Autism in early elementary school.

She is the single mother of a child conceive by the man who, when she was fresh out of HS, essentially kidnapped her to the other side of the country and pimped her out to support his crack habit, all while starving and beating her almost to death.

She risked her life to leave, only to be left completely dependent on her still-abusive mother (who not only starves and degrades her, but also refuses to allow her to see a psychologist because the mother “doesnt believe in mental illness” and considers people on psych medication to be “drug addicts”).

Her mother also refuses to get her the testing that would possibly entitle to her to some sort of social security disability benefits, job placement programs, and other resources for the disabled. Her mom also regularly steals her meager WIC checks and food stamps allowances as ‘rent’. She’s going through all sorts of programs and on all sorts of waiting lists trying to do the right thing and get into a work placement program and she’s being strangled by red tape and bureaucracy.
She is the strongest woman I know but she is also, in every sense of the word, a vulnerable person.

In order to provide for her son, she has resorted back to ‘sex work’. She doesn’t talk about it much. In fact, the only thing she’s said since taking it back up took my breath away.

We had just finished painting Halloween pumpkins with her little son. The baby decided he was hungry, and attempted to open a fresh bag of cereal that we’d just picked up from the store. He wound up breaking the bag open, and everything spilled out over the yard. The cereal all spilled out, and some eggs were ruined; maybe 6 dollars worth of food. We were cleaning it up and she broke down crying. “He doesn’t get it.” She kept saying, over and over. “He doesn’t get what I had to do for this.”

There’s nothing empowering about a mentally disabled abuse survivor sobbing on her front lawn over a single broken bag of groceries because it means she’ll have to be raped again, sooner than expected, to keep herself and her child alive.

I’ve said it before and Ill say it again, if you buy sex in any form, you are a rapist who deserves a painful death and I personally hate you. This is not some one-off shock story, either. These are the girls you are buying. Most of their stories are even worse, a lot of their stories start as children. If you can perpetuate that and still live with yourself you need to be removed from this earth.”

Questions for radical feminists by Future Female Leaders

Future Female Leaders, a conservative site for young women, has a list of “10 Questions We Need Radical Feminists To Answer Pronto.” These questions were written by one “Aryssa D,” which has in her bio “When she is not being ‘oppressed’ by the patriarchy…” So this right away tells you the level of feminist discourse on this site. These are a bunch of conservatives who don’t believe in feminism. This is all the more obvious because they have no clue what radical feminism is. And this is a general confusion amongst conservatives: they pretend to address radical feminism while talking about liberal feminism, they pretend to address liberal feminism while talking about radical feminism, and in general it is very clear that they have no interest whatsoever in knowing what the fuck they’re talking about (but what’s new, right?).

Liberal feminists are not much better, but their ignorance is motivated by ideology and hatred, instead of an aversion to basic logic and general mendacity like conservatives. I am not saying that the latter is better. In most feminist respects, conservatives are worse than liberals. But I still don’t like being confused with their nonsense. And these questions are a great demonstration of the utter confusion that conservatives experience when they try to confront feminism.

1. How is being pro-choice, or pro-abortion, supporting equality for all: mother, father, and baby?

This, combined with question 3, indicates that they believe radical feminism is about equality. This of course is incorrect. Liberal feminism preaches gender equality, while radical feminism preaches the end of patriarchy (that social institution that the author herself doesn’t believe exist, which makes her about on par with 9/11 truthers and vaccine deniers). Radical feminists reject equality under the law because this equality would not address the root of the prejudice and exploitation of women.

The anti-abortion position is not a position of equality, because it is fundamentally an anti-woman ideology. Their objective is not to lower the number of abortions (because there are many means they could take to accomplish this, and they don’t do any of them). Their objective, as indicated by their actions and rhetoric, is to punish and torture women. So a conservative should not be asking such a question, since the answer will inevitably be: it supports equality more than your anti-abortion position.

Furthermore, the anti-abortion position has no respect for the child side of the equation either. They don’t give a shit if a baby is born with compromised health. They don’t give a shit if a baby is born unwanted or in a family that can’t raise it. They don’t think babies have any rights at all. So what is there for them to be equal to?

So the question is entirely out of line. As I wrote about in my new book A New Approach to Procreative Ethics, we can only analyze procreation through the three sides of the procreative triangle, mother, father and child, by looking at antinatalism and childism, two frameworks that belong to the radical side of politics. The standard views on procreation only look at one side, that of the father (and its abstract patriarchal extension in “the economy”). Being pro-abortion supports the equality of all because it takes into consideration the rights and needs of potential children, something which no other position does. It’s not that the pro-abortion supports equality better than the other positions, but that there’s just no contest.

2. Do you really believe that American women are horribly oppressed when there are women out there that cannot vote, drive, file for divorce, etc?

This is the standard “they have it worse elsewhere” argument. The main problem with this argument is that it’s used as a weapon against women everywhere, not just in Western countries. Middle class women are told they have it better than poor women and women of color. Poor women and women of color are told they have it better than women in India. Indian women in cities are told they have it better than women in rural areas. In all cases, the message is always: “shut the fuck up!” Likewise, this conservative woman wants feminists to shut the fuck up. A strange argument to make on a list of question which, you would assume, is meant to open discussion, not close it.

Of course it’s wrong for women to be unable to drive or divorce. To argue that saying Western women are oppressed means that other women are not even more oppressed is silly. To advocate for Western workers is not to argue that workers in Chinese sweatshops are not being oppressed. A person can hold two positions at the same time, one group of people can be oppressed while another group is even more oppressed, and we can recognize those facts. It’s not rocket science.

3. How do you hold yourself on such a pedestal for promoting “equality for all women” but then bash women who do not agree with you?

As I already pointed out, radical feminism has nothing to do with equality. Beyond that, radical feminists do bash women who claim to be feminist but promote anti-feminist ideologies, conservatives and liberals alike. There is nothing contradictory between holding to an ideology that is against the patriarchy and bashing people who promote the patriarchy. Feminism does not promote the belief that all women’s positions are equally valid. Feminism is a political ideology, not a book club.

4. Why do you consider government restrictions on abortion “politicians being all up in your business” but are happy with politicians and the government dictating which healthcare you must have, what you must learn in school (Common Core) and taxing you left and right?

Again, there is this profound confusion of radical feminism with liberals. All of these things are liberal constructs. While there are disagreements, radicals are generally not in favor of government schooling or government-controlled health care. We reject the notion that education or health care must be left to some hierarchical system and put outside of the hands of the people who are “served” by it. I’m certainly not “happy” with any of those things. I don’t like the tax money going to the military (no matter which one). I don’t like children being brainwashed by public/private factory schooling. I don’t like health care left in the hands of the government or megacorporations. And none of this has anything to do with radical feminism specifically.

5. Why are you more concerned about fictional characters on fictional television shows getting fictionally raped than real men having their real lives ruined by very false rape accusations (I’m looking at you, Rolling Stone)?

I have never heard any radical feminist complain about specific fictional rapes. Yes, obviously the prevalence of rape culture in the media is a bad thing. It is an important issue. It is certainly more important than false rape accusations, which are not an issue. Studies have shown that the prevalence of false rape accusations is no greater than false accusations of other crimes. People who are victims of false accusations have their lives turned upside down, but this is not specific to rape. Is that a bad thing? Of course. Is it more of a problem than rape culture? No.

6. Why have you let Lena Dunham become a spokesperson for your cause, a woman who has admitted to taking advantage of her younger sister sexually and doing “anything a sexual predator might do”?

Lena Dunham is notoriously a liberal activist. I don’t know much about American culture and even I know this. She has nothing to do with radical feminism. I can’t believe anyone would be this stupid.

7. Do you really think being able to walk around topless is a freedom that women need to live a good life?

No, and I haven’t see any radical feminist advocating for toplessness. The topic of Femen and other “nude protests” only invokes ridicule in radical circles. Being able to walk around topless is not a necessary freedom. It would be nice if women could walk around topless without being harassed or being treated as sex objects, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

8. How do you make supporting the right to abortion a tenant of feminism when the majority of abortions performed worldwide are due to the child being female (gender-selective abortions)?

This is an argument of a kind similar to “how can you support right X when these people over there misuse it so badly?” But rights are not attributed on the basis of them being used wisely or misused. In fact, a conservative should agree on that one point: that rights are supposed to be inalienable and are not contingent on how they are being misused (gun rights anyone?). For a conservative to turn around and say that the right to abortion should be rejected because it’s being misused is rather silly.

As a pro-abortion advocate, I believe that any abortion is a good thing, no matter what the purpose is, even if it’s motivated by hatred of women. Would I rather people didn’t hate women? Yes, but only radical feminism can provide any situation to that state of affairs. Conservatives have no answer to the hatred of women, since they deny its causes.

9. When you say “Teach men not to rape” are you meaning to imply that men have been, in the past, taught TO rape, or that men are the only people capable of rape (Mary-Kay Letourneau, anyone?)?

Another unoriginal argument, this time of the “women do it too” variety. Yes, women can rape too. So what? There is nothing in the concept of rape culture which implies that only men can rape. Likewise, we also live in a death culture, but there are also people who are compassionate and who don’t promote violence. Not many people, but they do exist. Any culture necessarily has dissidents, otherwise it’s a cult dogma, not a culture. There is a difference.

By the same vein, men are not explicitly taught how to rape. There is no one out there except PUAs going “here are the steps you need to follow to coerce a woman into sex,” but even most PUAs are more coy about it than that. Men are taught the mindset that tells them sex with women is necessary, allows them to see coercive sex as acceptable, and are taught the means by which they can bring it about. No one needs to tell young men how to rape because they can add it all together fairly easily.

When we say “teach men not to rape,” we mean to imply that when a man rapes a woman, the man is responsible for the act, not the woman. For any other crime, this is implied and generally agreed upon. Few people blame the victim of an assault, a theft, or a kidnapping. We do not teach potential victims of assault, theft, or kidnapping that they are to blame if they are actually targeted, or that being victimized is a moral failing. To do so would be laughable. It is equally laughable to do it in the case of rape.

10. Do you really think the original feminists, the women who fought for the right to vote, would be proud of you fighting for the right to bare your lady parts, abort your children and shame men into submission like you claim they would?

I don’t think the author has much insight into the minds of first wave feminists, since she doesn’t seem to know anything about the development of feminist thought at all. I know nothing about their psychology, and so I really have no idea if they would be proud of breastfeeding, abortion, or BDSM (I’m not sure what the “shame men into submission” is supposed to refer to, so I assume it has to do with that pet liberal feminist cause).

A more important question would be: should WE be proud of it? Taking a historical view, first and second wave feminism were movements that aimed at removing oppression, and therefore they were on the right side of history. Liberal feminists and anti-feminists are on the wrong side of history. I don’t think we should be proud of the mainstream acceptance of BDSM, because it is a step backwards in feminist thought, but I do think we should be proud of the growing acceptance of breastfeeding in public and of abortion rights, as these advance women’s well-being against patriarchal objectification. Conservatives demand that we see women as walking incubators and inherently dirty bodies. We must reject these views as backwards, and I certainly don’t think anyone should be proud of them. The fact that any human being would be proud of such views is the really shameful thing here.

Achewood on: the good ol’ days, alcoholism.


From Achewood (1, 2).

Who wishes they had never been born?

A mildly interesting abstract from the American Journal of Sociology. Make of it what you will…

Although juvenile suicides in the United States are negligible, the wish never to have been born occurred to about 30 per cent of a widely scattered sample of adolescent boys and girls. This wish occurred most frequently among children with high scores (poor adjustment) on a test of neurotic traits and also among those rated by their teachers as poorly adjusted socially, emotionally, and on conventional moral traits. It also occurred most frequently among children from homes which lacked harmony and intimacy between parents and children. Social contacts were less closely associated with the wish than were home conditions. The wish never to have been born, which may be considered as an evasive attempt at adjustment, indicates both a poorly adjusted personality in the child and lack of unity and harmony in the home.

Are we at peak trans yet?

Nina Paley addresses the future where the trans cult will be over, and reflects on what we will think about this bleak period of backlash.

So right now we’re in the midst of a kind of Liberal mass hysteria. There have been crazes like this in the past: actual witch hunts, McCarthyism, the lobotomy fad of the mid-20th century, the “false memories” of the 1980’s. It could be worse; maybe it will still get worse. But like other trendy hysterias, this will pass.

And when it does, what will you, my (former?) friends, be saying about it?

“Oh that, that time was so weird!” you’ll say, perhaps with an eyeroll or giggle.

Or, “I always knew it was wrong.” You’ll think you were the one who stood up for sanity back then. You’ll forget that you were in fact declaring you were on “the right side of history,” virtue-signaling with your civil-rights-appropriating memes, while shunning and condemning women like me. You will forget.

You will forget that you said “sex is a spectrum, we don’t understand biology.” You’ll forget you vehemently argued that “female brains” can be trapped in male bodies, “it’s SCIENCE!!!” You’ll forget you said “assigned male at birth” as if sex is assigned by transphobic doctors and not observed by anyone with eyes and a brain. You’ll forget that every time someone pointed this out you said “intersex and clownfish!!!” as though they disproved reality, because of some creationist-style sciency-science-denial that supported your politics.