Archives for category: Biology

It has been over a month since the last episode of my podcast, so, with my latest episode, I’m starting a new “season.” It sounds better that way than to explain why there was such a long gap between episodes.

Season Two, Episode One.
The Masks Do Not Work; Lockdowns Are “Medieval”

You can stop freaking out now. Watch this video by Ivor Cummins and come to the understanding: THIS WAS ALWAYS KNOWN.

The alarmism was pushed mainly by people who did not know much epidemiology. But there were “scientists” who pushed alarm — including geniuses like Taleb — because they, well, I won’t speculate.

Not being a scientist myself, it took me a while to remember what I had once known. But the shape of those curves: that was known.

So the pandemic panic was perpetrated — pushed onto the population — by people with politics in mind: propagandists. Folks who still pretend we need to change the way civilization works because of this new variant of a virus have embraced error and propound social poison.

Give it up. Those who now understand a bit of the science must resist EVERY political-governmental “lesson” promoted by the alarmists. It is a power grab by the power mad.

No more madness, please. Reason is the answer. A “casetemic” does not a viral pandemic make. But it does make for the madness of crowds, the formation of mobs, and general memetic contagion.

Nevertheless, you can still find “studies” puled in the press purporting that SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 are grave transformative dangers. But what is actually transformative? Ignorance, error, misunderstanding, and lies.


Ivor Cummins considers something I’ve been saying for a few months now, and he considers it a reaonable hypothesis: to the minor extent masks and social distancing have an effect, they may very well be negative. Stay through to the end of the video. 

It’s a bit of a puzzler, though, since one would think masks and other mitigation efforts would alter the curves if effective, and since they did not, how can they alter summertime normal acquisition of immunity?

I’m very curious how this will play out.

But remember: there appears to be scant evidence that mitigation really “flattened the curve.” For we have the data. This doesn’t need to be argued over in white heat. Just look at the data, folks.


And by the way? Cummins calls this latter effect of summertime mitigation in the form of an increased wintertime death toll as “unintended consequences.” I’m iffy about that. I think there are indeed people in government who know this very well and have been pushing it for this reason. They want more deaths in the winter, to call a “second wave” and therefore increase your political demand for mandatory vaccinations, complete with Bill Gates’s nanotechnology to track you.

Normal Americans have lost an important political skepticism, and become bleating ruminants.

Modern politics and the major ideologies, including organized racism, are attempts to make up for the difficulty of managing the commons in a diverse society. 

Nationalism makes up for ethno-diversity by creating an over-arching statist culture to “identify” with, above the level of the kin, kith and ethnic group; woke multiculturalism, like politically correct socialistic agendas before it, counters with a rigid ideological monoculture the better to manage people as ever-more commons are created through socialization.

Neither old-time nationalists nor woke multiculturalists can stand alt-right ethno-nationalists because alt-righters believe — not without some realism — that even vague kinship similarities work better at beating back defection strategies by participants in a commons (which includes funds secured by taxation) than can ideology. Woke multiculturalists especially hate them because, in addition to alt-racists seeking to create a kinship-based monoculture rather than an ideological monoculture, the woke also engage in a characteristic treason strategy of bringing in outsiders to upset existing nationalistic hierarchies, and are more tolerant of anarcho-tyranny than other groups. Alt-racists prefer regular tyranny to anarcho-tyranny.

In both standard, familiar nationalism and woke multiculturalism, a doctrinal ideology is preferred to more natural methods of group solidarity. Obviously ethno-nationalism is anathema to both. It is too “natural” and not “civilized” enough — meaning not artificial . . . and thus “anti-intellectual.”

But classical liberal and libertarian strategies outdo both nationalism and multiculturalism in the doctrinal department by pushing the lateral-thinking move of reducing commons problems — and the inevitable defections (“tragedies” in Garret Hardin’s terminology) — by reducing the number and scope of resources accessed and held in common. Instead of planned against, and fought in a public programs, the Tragedy of the Commons is largely obviated under classical liberal and libertarian programs.

Nationalists understand the move, since nationalism grew out of liberalism, and nationalists are more than willing to use commons-limitation strategies to reduce the over-access problem. Nationalism is a mixed-strategy approach. 

Woke multiculturalists cannot even wrap their heads around the liberal-libertarian approach, since their mindset identifies increasing the scope of common resources as the best way to bring outsiders into the in-group, and thereby upset and re-integrate the hierarchy. (Woke folk often pretend to be against hierarchies, but that’s only a piety to encourage stupid people to join the revolution.)

On this reading, ethno-nationalism seems the most natural course for statism, the most stable course. Doctrinal nationalism, on the other hand, by engaging in ideological nation-building, prompts further ideological development — simply by mimesis, the meme of using ideology to manage the commons encourages the growth of socialism and its variants, which merely take the idea of using ideology to manage commons-access to a daring extreme.

But doctrinal nationalism has obvious advantages in international relations because of its mixed strategy. That is, it can marshal more resources to the state than can the narrower, extremist doctrines of socialism’s fake-anti-nationalism, since it destroys fewer resources. And probably encourages more production of easily-alienable wealth.

Indeed, the genius of the State in ancient times was how it encouraged the growth of easily alienable wealth. Socialists imagine wealth as communally shared and thus inalienable as such, which itself limits the utility of the State as anything other than a driver of human beings — their freedom being the easiest thing to alienate in the commonwealth.

The problem with liberalism/libertarianism is that it gives so little scope for political action that ambitious people find little reason to accept its strictures. Thus ambition alone, but mixed also with greed, would take a minimal state to the nation-state and beyond to dirigisme; add in envy to the ambition-greed mix and at least one sector of the population will almost inevitably demand full socialism.

Minarchism does not appear to be a stable solution.

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Meme overkill: isn’t the truth rather different? This “meme” found on Gab.com suggests untruths.

Vaccination never works 100% of the time, on an individual basis. The more people who get vaccinated, though, the less likely a contagion will spread into an epidemic. The contagion has trouble spreading when most potential hosts block the spread with their own immune system’s antibodies. It is a matter of the modal potential host: if the modal possible victim of a virus is immune, the virus has trouble spreading, unable to quickly multiply in society. That is the idea of herd immunity.

It is the same as people who have encountered the disease in the wild, and develop antibodies from actually getting and fighting off the contagion: a disease even in a pandemic slows down its rate of spread and then wanes the more people develop antibodies. Even in the worst pandemics not everyone gets infected. Because the herd immunity threshold eventually gets reached.

Vaccination is an attempt to spur antibody growth without actual infection and the risks associated with suffering through the disease. As a mass program, vaccination often makes sense.

The actual incentives to the individual run this: I take the vaccine and hope it works, but others being vaccinated provides extra protection, but . . . others being infected and surviving is BETTER YET.

That is, me getting vaccinated and others suffering through the disease is the best egoistic strategy.

Extrapolate this out and vaccination would seem the most rational social action.

IF WE CAN TRUST THE VACCINE.

That is one big IF. And lack of trust of vaccine producers (merited or unmerited) throws a huge monkey wrench into our calculations of advantage.

Regarding the current “pandemic,” the disease is deadly only to a small set of the population — that set of people who suffer from co-morbidities such as diabetes and Vitamin D deficiency. Those who are healthy tend to do very well.

If healthy people were even a teensy altruistic, and not sniveling poltroons, they would valiantly risk the disease and let those in jeopardy cower in sequestration, waiting for a vaccine.

Meme engineers out to change human behavior use many techniques. The technique used in the visual meme at top is a cautionary case. It suggests something not true: that what is relevant is that “work” versus “not work.” There are degrees. The desire for others to be vaccinated is not irrational, contrary to the innuendo of the meme.

But there are even more rational strategies.

The most rational one is honesty. Not because dishonesty doesn’t “work” but because honesty encourages rationality generally. It works better.

Right now, we could use a lot more rationality. We are ruled by people whose strategy is to increase fear-based reaction and mass compliance to authoritarian demands. And we are surrounded by cowards who, so fearful, cannot accept new information or wait to make up their minds when actual contexts become clear.

These people have succumbed to the meme of servility. Which is worse than SARS-CoV-2 and its co sequent disease, COVID-19. Our civilization can survive even worse plagues, and has. But can we survive mass servility?

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Is it true that girls tend to be attracted to the guys
that give them the least amount of attention?

…as answered on Quora….

No. But women (and girls) are often attracted to men (and boys) who show enough strength and confidence not to fall all over themselves in a mad rush to fawn over the objects of their affection and lust.

Women tend to admire strength, confidence. Men who attend to women too earnestly often turn women off.

There is an antimony here. It may seem schizoid. But we humans have more than one need we aim to fill when we seek to mate, and those distinct needs drive us to behaviors that can seem paradoxical. Some of our desires and standards are buried deep on one level, while others burst out, unmissable, into the open. Though it is dangerous to cite studies that only back up one’s favored point of view, I merely note here that some studies have shown that women tend to prefer different types of men at different times in their hormonal cycles. It might be helpful to learn this lore, which is developing in evolutionary psychology. (I’d avoid “women’s studies” because these “disciplines” — wholly the creatures of feminism and state subsidy — appear relentlessly ideological and unscientific.)

And men, too, have seemingly contradictory and transitory impulses. The lore on this is commonplace. Men are said to “only want sex” (sexual gratification) and yet they move heaven and earth to please women and take care of children.

How the welfare state, feminism and sexual (“gender”) egalitarianism have affected the playing out in individual men and in society of these two quite distinct urges is the subject of ongoing ideological conflict. The current trend of outing creepy, rapey men in politics and in the performing arts (but I repeat myself) for their abusive behaviors is not unrelated.

“The least amount of attention” in the question references, I gather, the “cool stance,” a sexual strategy very common in developed capitalist society. This stance is liken unto “peacock feathers” and other extravagant plumage among birds, and massive antlers in ungulates — aesthetic excesses that subtly signal strength. The idea being that “I am so strong I can afford to ‘waste’ resources on ‘useless’ beauty.” Women are programmed to admire strength. The species would not have survived had they not found mates strong enough to protect them and their babies. The cool stance, as well as drug use (tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, heroin — the more dangerous the stronger the signal) attracts those attracted to power, seeking natural signs of power.

But coolness is just one strategy that can signal male power. Another is behaving like a criminal, like “an asshole.” You know, as in “bad boys.” It is a staple of narrative fiction and feminist dispute to note just how common this is. More obvious signals of male power are wealth (“like my shiny new car?”), athletic prowess, and uniformed military and police service.

Intelligence, of all things, has even been known to serve to attract women. Whodathunk?

So, there are a variety of strategies available, for both men and women, to attract mates.

There is no one dimension, and certainly no single strategy, upon which sexual selection and the mating market play.


See, among many possible references, The Origins of Cool in Postwar America (2017), by Joel Dinerstein (I purchased a copy but have not found time to read it yet; it looks great), and The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature (2001), by Geoffrey Miller.

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.