Archives for category: Biology

The kick-ass female action “hero” was a novelty with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But after the millionth iteration, it is wearing thin, to say the least.

To say the most? It is a form of misogyny.

How so? It imputes to women the natural and traditional propensities and roles that men admire in men and aspire towards — and that women have desired in men and want men to be. So women are now routinely being judged by a standard that was naturally-cum-fancifully apt almost only for men. This functions as a performative repudiation of femininity, and a triumph of masculinity. It is a strange twist on “trans.” And for men to admire women chiefly for filling masculine roles strikes me as preciously close to the liking of women for being like men.

So, what men and women who assert the value of “female action heroes” (NOT heroines) are really doing is saying “no one really likes women”; that the feminine is disgusting or pitiable and that women, to be admired, should “be more like men” or, better yet, aspire to be “better than men” as understood by unrealistic standards once held by men for themselves.

Like so much of modern politics, and of course feminism, this strikes me as creepily misogynistic.

I am reminded of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where the citizenry is “decanted” not begotten naturally, and where “fatherhood” is a joke and “motherhood” a gross indecency. To the extent that the female superhero theme is not pornography (and that is the source of some of the attraction: watching lithe bodies contorting onscreen for our delectation) it’s a repudiation of the feminine telos.

Which strikes me as misogynistic.

Not hatefully misogynistic. It may not be borne of hate. It is borne of discomfort. Queasiness. Distaste. Discomfort with the natural, the animal reality of our species and our very mammalian success. Our civilization is imagining a new non-animalistic conception of life. It used to be the gods, now it is stefnal superheroes and the looming, all-too-real specter of cyborgian AI.

Decadence, for the most part. But hey: maybe the future is less Brave New World and more Day Million.* But I doubt it.

Of course, we have a choice of dystopias.

* “Day Million” is a terrific short story by Frederik Pohl, as well as a name of a short story collection.

Comparing the coronavirus daily mortality curves* of Sweden and these United States, which looks better, in its general shape? Sweden’s. It looks like the Nordic country has achieved her immunity — without lockdowns. If the country could have only better controlled its old-age home/nursing home crisis, the country’s curve would even look better.

Friends Olof and Rocco and Lee and I discussed some of the problems on a recent LocoFoco podcast:

Note that we ended on that key concept, herd immunity.

But what I really wonder about is this: the slope of the curve: we were told at the beginning that the reason for the “mitigation efforts” was to “flatten the curve,” to distribute the worst cases over a longer stretch of time; we were told that we could not really much change the bulk of cases within the curve, for if you flattened it too much, the curve would re-bulge worse next winter. Could the U.S. mitigation efforts have “flattened” the curve too well, now making it, well, concave, with the recent re-emergence of harsh cases?

There are many factors, though. For it looks like one problem with fatalities is that effective protocols for actually fighting ARDS — the worst extreme cases diagnosis of COVID-19 — have not been nationally implemented, because they would make Trump look good, one of the most effective treatments including HCQ, which the president had touted early.

Is it possible that Trump Derangement Syndrome is responsible for tens of thousands of needless deaths?


* Graphs from the European Union Times and worldometer.

You’re on, Costanza!

It seems like a nifty analogy to me. But the big differences between the two situations are several:

  1. if bombed, survival was, shall we say, not likely, but most people who catch the coronavirus weather through just fine;
  2. the more people who survive the virus, the less of an epidemic it is, since we reach the herd immunity threshold — but the more people bombed and survived had no similar salutary effect for the non-bombed;
  3. what if masks are more like venetian blinds at full open, and they would only diminish the risk by a little, thus giving people false confidence so they would be less likely to go into a shelter when the sirens skirl?
  4. while lights-out was good for manned bombing runs, it made no difference with V-2s — so what if SARS-CoV-2 is more like a V-2 than a bomber run?

There are probably many more, but I think this meets Mr. Alexander’s request for debate.

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I have never once heard a person blathering about “gender theory” ever mention the designators of sexual selection roles in terms of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.

According to standard gender theory definitions, these terms would at least have to be considered, even if discarded.

But no. Never heard anyone say this. Just me. 

Have you heard anyone consider “Alpha male” or “Beta male” as “genders”?

I am more than aware that I’ve convinced few people of my extreme skepticism of the concept of “gender.” At least, no one has admitted to being convinced. But I have given multiple reasons to abandon, even scorn, the terminology, as unscientific etc.

But considering the nature standard gender talk by gender ‘activists,’ and considering that one can (allegedly) display or define one’s own gender, rather than have it socially constructed or whatever, then at the very least Alpha, Beta, and Gamma, along with Sigma and Omega, and still other of these pack-based terms, would serve just as reasonable terms for a gender as any of those you find in these witless lists of genders.

My thesis, which you may attack at will, is that this is a tell.

This is a tell that “gender research” is bloviating ideological nincompoopery, not anything like science, and the use of it by scientists — legit or manqué — is an embarrassment to all honest thinking persons.

You may say that the “Alpha/Beta/etc. categories are not used by actual ethologists” and I am very interested in what you have to say. Now you begin to think. But that’s not my point. If you don’t see why, think some more.

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Laissez Faire edition, still available on Apple’s ebook platform.

Is it possible to reduce the world population by 50%? Isn’t world over population the cause of all the problems in the world?

…as answered on Quora….

Two questions, eh?

  1. Is it possible to reduce the world population by 50 percent?
  2. Isn’t world overpopulation the cause of all the problems in the world?

The answers are simple:

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

But there are complications:

  1. Many of the ways to decrease populations quickly, especially by half, are of the Thanos-or-worse variety. We do not want to decrease populations quickly. Gradually could be another story.
  2. As economist Theodore W. Schultz explained — and as Julian Simon demonstrated in a more daring and popular form — population is not the huge problem that neo-Malthusian alarmists say it is. Human beings, if they do not rely upon predation and parasitism, and have plenty of opportunities for market coöperation (trade), are what Simon calls “the ultimate resource.”

When we rely upon trade, we must be of service to one another. We engage in trade only when we expect to gain, that is, when both parties to an exchange expect to gain from it. I help you out if you help me. And the more trades occur, the more that competition for each others’ business hones our productivity. The more productive, the more advances in technique and technology we bring to the stock of civilization. This is progress.

Thomas Robert Malthus’s worry in his Principles of Population (1798) was that (a) the rate of agricultural advance would be outstripped by (b) the natural rate of human population growth. He was stumbling towards a modern conception of external economies, of the “market failure” focused on in neoclassical economics. That is where options seen by the individuals as in their best interest yields widespread effects not in the interest of people generally. (Malthus was arguing against the anarchist rationalist William Godwin and his belief that moral progress would lead to an ethical utopia of excellence everywhere.) Basically, the Malthusian fear is that people would be incentivized to reproduce at a socially dangerous rate. Reason would fail — in effect be upended by circumstance.

But Malthus had an interesting analytic mind, and he handled the problem with something more than a glib pessimism. He noted that these two diverging trendlines (agricultureexpanding at an “arithmetic rate” versus population expanding at a “geometric rate”) were offset by other forces, at least on the reproduction trend line.

There were, he wrote, natural checks on reproduction rates, including famine and pestilence and infant death by malnutrition; and there were artificial checks, including sexual abstinence in several forms, most of which he regarded as moral, and some gruesome means, such as infanticide and abortion and eugenics. His worry was that populations would grow to bring misery, and also a rise in immorality out of perceived prudence. He rightly saw that crude measures of packing people in close together, as happened in cities, often breed plague and sexually transmitted diseases. And it is in his spirit — and often inspired by reading his treatise — that many modern prophets of doom have developed the popular anti-population mania. And theirs is indeed a harrowing philosophy, turning otherwise nice and smart folks into anti-humanist immoralists, praising horrific measures of (aack) mass death or (ugh) government repression. This sort of thing inspired the modern environmental movement, where you will find some folks advocating reducing humanity to “a size twice the population of bears.”

But all this misses the “miracle” of modernity: progress.

Malthus failed to see what Herbert Spencer saw in the early 1850s: coöperative humanity can indeed fight against the Malthusian trap, flipping the trend lines so that agriculture can grow exponentially more productive than the rate of population reproduction . . . and in turn spurring increased populations to be increasingly productive. The only thing we would have to give up? The militant, regimented means of social organization, instead embracing “industry.” Which in this case was the predecessor to the industrial revolution, the agricultural revolution. Spencer saw trends on Malthus’s agriculture forecast that would raise the line several orders of magnitude.

Interestingly, Spencer almost came up with the theory of natural selection in this work. But he only applied his notion of a ratcheting up of living standards by means of competitively coördinated coöperation to the social world, not to the long-term cycles of plant and animal descent. “Missed it by that much,” as Agent Smart said in Get Smart. It is for this reason that sociologist Jonathan Turner inverted the infamous “Social Darwinist” charge against Spencer: Darwin, really, was a “biological Spencerian.” Spencer spiffed up his approach a decade later, for the final section of his Principles of Biology. And in the process he gave us the turn of phrase “survival of the fittest.” Though it has been trendy (for a full century, actually) to look upon Spencer’s viewpoint as a ghastly exercise in cruel theoretics, Spencer was actually emphasizing peaceful coöperation and presenting humanity with a remarkably positive vision. J.D.Y. Peel, in his study of Spencer, said that the British philosopher-sociologist “out-Godwinned Godwin”! But Spencer did this not by hoping for a triumph of Reason, but by merely noticing the flourishing that is possible with distributed patterns of collaboration sans an over-arching plan.

The amazing thing? He was basically right.

Spencer was actually presaging what today’s more realistic economists and demographers understand perfectly well. And, what is more — less: today’s best researchers notice that as human societies get wealthier, the rate of reproduction goes down.

In Schultz’s terminology, parents swap “quantity of children” for “quality of children.” In mere agricultural societies, children can be productive in farm life and in resource extraction; in industrial societies, for people to be productive they have to decelop their skillsets more markedly, so parents opt to expend resources to “invest” in their children’s “human capital.” So, that old black magic of having scads of children ceases to increase the chances of family success, but, instead, tends to reduce it.

That is one big reason why people, today, tend naturally to produce fewer children than in the past.

One might think that this would be completely scuttled by the lowering of childhood death rates, but for a number of reasons, this does not appear to be the case.

And, yes, populations are indeed declining in the First World — and as the rest of the world catches up (and in my lifetime the poverty rate has declined markedly with the expansion of the extent of the market), the general reproduction rate will level off. In Europe, the white population is veering to the opposite-of-“Malthusian” trend: demographic collapse. In the United States, were it not for immigration and recent immigrants’ higher reproductive rates, America, too, would see population decline.*

Demographic collapse is actually probably going to be a bigger problem in the future than the “population explosion.” It is the implosion that would more likely destroy civilization.

But here we have another offsetting trend: technological progress.

The great heterodox genius Samuel Butler, not long after publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) argued that the next form of evolution will be machine evolution. This was played for science-fictional interest in his dystopian romance (or is that utopian comedy?) Erewhon (1872), but now we are really seeing this kick into high gear, as we approach something like a social Singularity (see Ray Kurzweil).

About the time of Malthus, there arose the legendary “Ned Ludd,” who saw only devastation in the destructive creation of technological advance. And since then there have been worriers who see mainly the death of labor in “labor-saving devices.” And like Malthusianism, Luddism, if true, would have meant the death of free labor and our whole civilization a century ago. The opposite is the case: technological advance increases worker productivity, leading to a general increase in wealth and welfare. The “trouble” is, people have to adapt to the machines.

Perhaps the challenge of population decline will not be so bad, as machine evolution makes our lives better and better. Maybe, in Richard Brautigan’s poetic lines, we shall be “watched over by machines of loving grace.”

The real challenge will be political.


* The downward trend line is exacerbated by welfare state interventions, and the high rate of abortions, too. But for this analysis I need not get into to it.

In the 1990s, I judged Bill Gates’s business practices to be more than a little dodgy, even creepy.

A friend informs me that his philanthropic education initiatives were ridiculous but thankfully short-lived.

His current population-reduction obsession lurking behind his vaccination obsession is creepiest yet, and seems of a piece with his business ethics.

The man appears to be earnest — but like a socialist dictator is earnest.

I used to mock anti-vaxxers. But the likelihood of me accepting to be vaccinated by a concoction Gates were pushing is getting close to zero.

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Jean-Paul Sartre defined history as “that long road that led to me.” But, let’s talk “existential threat” — not the solipsism of an existentialist. What specific history led to the current debacle of the lockdowns?

That it is a debacle is becoming all-too-clear. As I’ve explained, here and on the LocoFoco Netcast: “It’s the productivity, stupid!”

But how did we get here?

How did we get to the place that we allow governments to just shut everything down based on a virus scare?

Well, part of it is: accept a real scary prediction and over-react. The prediction was wrong. It came from a serial prophet of doom — one who had to resign from his government post because he twice broke the quarantine/lockdown order he had publicly suggested and defended. This Neal Ferguson character was off by orders of magnitude in past predictions, and this time was hardly any better. Where he had numbered COVID-19 deaths in the millions, what has come to pass, so far, number in the thousands. And, it turns out, so far not even as bad as a normal flu among the healthy population. It’s a nasty killer mainly among the very old and the immune-compromised. Still, this is NOTHING LIKE the Spanish Flu.

But what drives the mania for lockdown overkill? I’ve argued that progressives love it for a rather simple reason: it conforms to their values, it “fits”: the lockdown overkill “feeds their prime conceit, the notion that the freedom of all must be sacrificed for the good of the most vulnerable.”

But why would non-progressives fall for it? Out of a willingness to obey? Merely out of fear? Paul Jacob offers a more sophisticated theory (citing my line, nicely):

Shutting down capitalism almost worldwide may prove to be grandest disaster of all time. Folks on the margin of poverty in poor countries are already starving. Though scads of people seem to think we could ride out a lockdown indefinitely just by cashing government checks, the problem is that if we don’t produce, we cannot buy and consume products.  
It’s not about money, or profits as such. “It’s the productivity, stupid!” 
Elon Musk put it this way: “If you don’t make stuff, there’s no stuff.” 
A “universal basic income” won’t help if the re-distributed money chases few-to-no goods.
So how did we come to believe that we can just shut down most business activity and still survive?
Maybe the idea seems plausible because many people already do not work to survive. As their numbers have increased, our civilization has forgotten that they survive upon the work of others. 
We guffaw at young children who, when their parents say something they want is too expensive, they innocently respond, ‘well, just go to the cash machine!’ But the more people rely upon checks and bank deposits from the government — for any reason — the harder it is to remember that the power to buy stuff doesn’t ultimately come from government. With taxation, redistribution and inflation thrown into the mix, even adults think of government as Cash Machine. 
And the Cash Machine as a model for the economy.
To fight a virus, the world has shut down production — as if we do not survive by producing goods in order to consume them.
Government has reduced capitalism — and us — to absurdity.

Paul Jacob, “Cash Machine Cachet” (Common Sense with Paul Jacob, May 18, 2020).

The theory here is akin to “the money illusion,” where normal people tend to confuse the nominal prices of goods over time with “real prices,” not understanding that money changes value over time. (Or, as Irving Fisher put it, ‘We simply take it for granted that “a dollar is a dollar”—that “a franc is a franc,” that all money is stable, just as centuries ago, before Copernicus, people took it for granted that this earth was stationary, that there was really such a fact as a sunrise or a sunset. We know now that sunrise and sunset are illusions produced by the rotation of the earth around its axis, and yet we still speak of, and even think of, the sun as rising and setting!’) But here the illusion is that since money buys goods, and we get money from the government, government supplies goods!

There are many illusions like this in society. (The most notorious I call the Beneficiary Focus Illusion.) And this one strikes me as close to Karl Marx’s Alienation Theory, but works like this: whereas under barter producers are buyers and buyers are producers, under a money economy the buying is separated from the producing-and-bringing-to-market — by the monetary mechanism itself. Thus human beings do become alienated from their productive activities, so separated are they from their consuming activities. That is, buying and selling become radically different activities. And the Economic Man of a commercial society is not One Who Exchanges, but two different people: One Who Produces and Sells, on the one hand, and One Who Buys, on the other. The more these two are separated, or compartmentalized, Paul Jacob argues, the easier it is to forget that production is key to consumption. What’s key to consumption is money, and the government can give us that.

No need to work. Bob Black’s wet dream!

But this alienation — an “economic contradiction,” in Proudhon’s phrasing — has not led to a communist utopia or to an anarchical mutualism. It has led to masses of people accepting an end to production as a solution to a viral menace, with living off of government checks and direct deposits as “enough” economically to tide us through the downtime.

Yes, this is an absurdity.

But this one isn’t a funny absurdity.

Unless we die laughing?


Tarl Warwick has just come out with a video explaining how idiotic a lockdown society is:

Quotation from Irving Fisher, above, is from The Money Illusion (1927).

Lockdowns in the first world will cause deaths because of untreated disease, and will lead to suicide and madness and violence. Depending on how long this crushing of capitalism goes on, we could see starvation here in America and Britain and the rest of the first world.

But it is leading, quickly, to the death of marginal peoples elsewhere, around the world, people on the edge of poverty who have no stocks of food in their pantries and whose lesser-developed countries have less supply warehoused and in the supply chains.

Millions of people.

Dead.

Starved and suffering.

Brown people, mostly.

The lockdown is now strongly ideologically aligned, with progressives being generally gung ho for shutting down all or most commerce. This will make progressives’ guilt in pushing the debacle of Prohibition seem like a baby fart in a hurricane.

Supporting lockdowns will in the future be seen as akin to genocide.

Consider this a ‘pro tip.’ Repent now and save yourself guilt later.

Sen. Ted Cruz alerted us, weeks ago, to the uncomfortable fact that the U.S. Government had helped fund the Wuhan research into the coronavirus:

But what is at issue is obviously not just a matter of funding.

A coronavirus was developed specifically to make it infectious to humans. From bats. There is an academic paper trail. Here it is, courtesy of Dr. Peter Breggin, who calls it “the perfect weapon.” Check it out:

Breggin famously and successfully opposed the once-common practice of lobotomization.

Is it our coronavirus? No, says Breggin, but it is very similar. “Closely related.” He believes the current virus was made from this, or used it as a first attempt.

I do not know if the almost-in-the-open yet-still-clandestine development of the current offending coronavirus was a result of scientific hubris and government incompetence, as we ‘hope,’ or the result of something like the international cabal that Tony Blair mentioned so soon after 9/11.* But Americans, programmed to despise conspiracy theories (by the CIA!) will likely avoid the whole subject because, well, they love their murderers, and despise some ‘other’ side’s murderers.

My takeaway is pretty consistent with my past findings: our governments are evil and their spokespeople should not be trusted.


* Blair’s statement about an international conspiracy is one of those pregnant admissions that most folks avoid thinking about:

Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization with ties to a global network, which has been in existence for over ten years.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, New York Times, October 05, 2001

I do not know which “global network” (conspiracy) is involved in our current crisis. But I suspect at least one is indeed in play.

It was the bicentennial of Herbert Spencer’s birth, on Monday, so I threw together a celebratory podcast episode, of sorts.

And, in that ninth outing of the LocoFoco Netcast, I blew through the theory of dysgenics so fast that I did not clearly distinguish (a) my thoughts from Spencer’s, (b) the best case for these ideas, especially in the theory of (c) incentives and disincentives, (d) inculcation of virtue and success, and (e) concern for the welfare of the worst off. Indeed, I am pretty sure I came off as a callous Social Darwinist, leaving Spencer and myself open to the usual criticisms.

That is what I get for being in a rush.

But then Jim Gill, who joined me for the final segment, had even harsher things to say!

Which means that I will have to quickly put up a follow-up episode. I am thinking it will have a subtitle: “Let’s ‘Nuance’ This Up a Bit.”

Which is something Bill Bradford used to say.

And Jim and I will do just that.

But how bad, really, did we get? You can listen at LocoFoco.net, or on the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, et al.:

LocoFoco Netcast #9: My Herbert Spencer Problem — and Ours.

The video of the new episode is uploading to YouTube, and will take a while.

twv