Far Left sociobiology

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The frogs at AlphaPsy point me to this article, Anarchism and Social Nature, in a Left-anarchist publication. The focus of the piece is a review of The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker, and here is the punchline:

We, along with most other ideologies on the Left, have based our theory on a mistaken concept of human nature. We have learned over the years to distrust words like sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, and above all that dreaded buzzword, ‘hard-wired’ – yet we can no longer ignore the fact that these sciences are probably right about human nature.

AlphaPsy has a detailed analysis, so I’ll hand it off to them.

Related: The Conflict Within – The Left’s Version of Creationism, The Turning of the Tide.


  1. Yes, but there was a refrain from that article that was deleted:  
    However, we shall continue to marshal our admittedly wrong denial of human nature when public policy is to be discussed, in such areas as education. 
    As I vaguely remember from reading Steven Pinker’s Blank Slate, everyone (though, apparently the Far Left has not until now) now believes in human nature. But it’s a costless faith that demands no change; tabula rasa is still the foundation of many of those who claim to accept ‘human nature’ as such. 
    The problem with denying tabula rasa, or specifically saying that say, one’s IQ is nearly immutable, is that it unerringly leads to very impolitic conclusions. If humans aren’t playdo, does that mean those “inner city” kids will on average always do relatively badly on such tests as the SAT?

  2. what’s up with the lengthy rejection of “neo-Darwinism”? 
    No one with any sense really doubts that Darwin got the basics right. Evolution does happen; that is not a theory. But controversy still rages over the details of the process. The neo-Darwinists begin from a logical, reductionist and materialist standpoint. Their approach is sometimes called the ?synthetic theory? because it combines Darwin?s principles with the science of genetics founded by Mendel, a science that Darwin knew nothing about. The only possible selection is natural selection, and its mechanism is genetic. They are fundamentalists on this issue. The word ?mechanism? is used advisedly.

  3. yep, there are other errors. heart is in the right place, but the head needz educatin’.

  4. I regret not reading the article before commenting. 
    Biblical fundamentalists insist that we are a separate creation from the animals, our consciousness governed by a ?soul? which is in turn answerable to a ?God? ? do any of us want that idea for a bedfellow?  
    Note how their conception of the truth stems from politics, not observation. Kinda affirms Steve Sailer’s (and others’ I’m sure) conception of leftism as a ‘fashion’ statement, at times. Don’t want to look like those people. (I assume that the author knows his audience, and thus that such an appeal would work.) 
    Apparently, the author ain’t up on his science: 
    we turn it [guilt from eating fats and sweets] inward, causing ulcers and anxiety. 
    The author also criticizes the reductionism of “neo-Darwinists.” But it seems almost obvious, that if they can predict reality better than those fuzzy spiritual guys, there is no arguing about who’s right. Spiritualism and the like is only tenable when the topic at hand is inherently unscientific, or not amenable to scientific methods, leaving no alternative, except ignorance and non-science.  
    There is more hackneyed ‘debunking’ of such ‘right wing ideologues’ as Charles Murray who have not said, eg, that racial differences legitimate discrimination. More conflating of science and morality and a (tactical?) failure to distinguish, straw man arguments, etc. 
    And he’s not even a leftist, in that he said inequality of say, wealth, does not matter. 
    We are all kin 
    But not to the same degree. 
    it doesn?t really matter whether the differences between men and women are innate or imposed by culture. What matters is that we respect those differences (or deconstruct them, when appropriate) and refuse to use them as excuses for domination or discrimination. 
    Somehow, I don’t see the author calling out, or even disagreeing with, his lefty friends on demanding say, more women in science. 
    The leftists will only embrace the science insofar as the science does not bankrupt leftism outright. The author has asserted that which can abide leftism, making the science kosher for ‘em. The odds that leftists (or, shall we say, the leftist establishment) will believe something is a function of the strength of the evidence for it and its “coefficient of friction” with their doctrine.

    There is more hackneyed ‘debunking’ of such ‘right wing ideologues’ as Charles Murray who have not said, eg, that racial differences legitimate discrimination. More conflating of science and morality and a (tactical?) failure to distinguish, straw man arguments, etc.
    i’m a little confused by this.

  6. I meant to say that the author implicitly attributes assertions to Charles Murray and the like assertions he didn’t make. He responds to the fear that “If people are innately different, oppression and discrimination would be justified” with “whether people are innately different or not, oppression and discrimination are not justified, and need not be an automatic consequence of innate differences. Different means different, not ?inferior? or ?superior.? ” as if Mr. Murray and co. had not said that all along. He lumps everyone to the ‘right’ of Pinker into a group of racists and sexists, so it’s a bit unavoidable.  
    There’s also the “if group A is less human than groub B, it would be legitimate to opress group B, therefore all groups are equally human.” Parenthetically, if there are/ we could agree on, qualities that define a human, and the groups differ in them, then technically one group would be ‘more human’ than another, but both are still human, just as a woman can be more feminine than another woman. So that fear isn’t legitimate from the outset.

  7. yeah, there was a lot of dumb shit in that article. that being said, it is a step in the Right direction to reality :)

  8. The odds that leftists (or, shall we say, the leftist establishment) will believe something is a function of the strength of the evidence for it and its “coefficient of friction” with their doctrine. 
    That’s pretty much a universal human trait, not something specific to “leftists”. Most people on the conservative side of politics also struggle with empirical realities that clash with their traditions and dogma. We’re just not built to be rational calculating machines.

  9. Mesk, I’d agree, but the right happens to be right far more often than the left. Libertarianism tends to be very doctrinaire, and I despise it for that; but it is still right quite often, (while still having glaring errors, like open borders). Not at all to say that libertarianism constitutes the entirety of the right.

  10. “Here, fortunately, Pinker?s case is rather weak. In his chapter on violence, he gives many examples of apparently innate violent behavior, but all of them come either from our culture or from indigenous cultures under threat from Western civilization. The peaceful nature of most indigenous and matricentric peoples, before they ran up against the aggressive West, is well documented in the journals of early explorers and anthropologists.”  
    I wonder which specific early explorers and anthropologists he is refering to? This is not my impression of the vast majority of the pre-Boasian body of literature on exploration and anthropology.

  11. Sounds like something I might’ve written 5 or 6 years ago, and look how far and how quickly I’ve changed. Some stuff hasn’t changed, of course — if you accept 1) the high heritability of IQ, 2) the central role this trait plays in accounting for social status, and 3) a Rawlsian political view, then the argument for remuneration for effort rather than output becomes stronger. Imagine you were unfortunate enough to be born with an expected adult IQ of 80 (“unfortunate” in a complex, advanced society, obviously). 
    It also debunks a popular view that high-status people attained their station through sheer willpower, and those who languish are lazy — not lazy, just dumb. Factors other than intelligence play a role in determining social status, but IQ is the strongest player. 
    In a system that remunerated effort, it really would be the lazy who languished and the determined who succeeded. Conscientiousness, or some similar measure, is also moderately heritable, but personality traits are baseline dispositions, not abilities. So, even if someone prefers not to work a lot, you can alter their behavior by lighting a fire under them. If they failed to respond, then you might say “too bad for them.” You couldn’t say the same about the current system where IQ plays the dominant role — you can’t light a fire under below-avg people and expect them to get smarter, lamenting that it’s their own fault for failing to respond to the incentive. Likewise, provide as strong of an incentive as you want, but I won’t grow any taller than what my genes (mostly) and chance factors (less so) will allow.

  12. a Rawlsian political view, then the argument for remuneration for effort rather than output becomes stronger. 
    But the public, at least in America, would reject such ‘extremist’ views. So the left is always under the burden of showing that their plan will make us richer, happier, etc. They aren’t casting their position as morally superior, at least when speaking to popular audiences. If they did, they’d have as much power as the libertarian party, which does exactly that. 
    Even if I agreed that Rawlsianism is morally superior, I would still worry over it’s deleterious economic effects. 
    But yeah, I feel at once both angry, stupid and guilty that conservative pundits say, blame minorities for their bad performance in school on their parents, because the pundits have been barred from discussing (euphemistically speaking) human biodiversity. Of course, leftists find HBD scarier than laziness —> poverty.

  13. Human life and thought are more complex than “left” and “right” convey. Neither is inherently scientific; both, traditionally, appeal to reason/science in support of their suggested political and social recommendations. The several attitudes characteristic of each are inherent, to varying degrees, in each of us. 
    Until the advent (approximately) of Marx’ introduction of the idea of ideology (in essence, a systematic apologetics incorporating truth when possible, falsity where necessary–in support of the behavior and aspirations of a group, identified by Marx as an economic class), the terms signified merely positions in the legislature with respect to their agreement with established political tradition. Marx changed that by popularizing his ideology doctrine. When we (currently) speak of ideology, we misuse the term to simply pertain to a “belief system” or “world view” but many, within any such belief system, invoke something akin to Marx’ original meaning when describing the view of their opponents. In that sense (“ideology” implying either deliberate or group-induced falsity ), the idea was not original to Marx; he merely gave it a certain respectability by incorporating it as en element in his doctrine of “class struggle.”  
    No one who has read Marx with any semblance of analysis can escape the conclusion that anyone who actually believed what he said was what most of us would agree was insane. Yet many “on the right,” while deriding the left’s long refusal to acknowledge seemingly obvious and presumably “scientific” truths, are not themselves immune to a different lure: that of deriving further conclusions, which, though suggested, perhaps, are far from being identical or the inescapable conclusions of the actual truth established. Indeed, some on the right seem as eager to impose their own specific regime of all-round “planning” for the betterment of society (WRT to policies regarding immigration, education, language, reproduction, crime and punishment, national defense, resource utilization, health maintenance, the environment, and the apportionment of paying for it all). Though the left seems more prone to beliefs contrary to reality, many opposing seem blithely unaware of the potential harmful effects of policies and laws–the inevitable, ubiquitious “unintended consequences.” 
    Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with “If you (insert here some backward or repellent social behavior), you’re probably a redneck!” a la Jeff Foxworthy. But the fact is, that if you subscribe to the very general premise that there’s a facet of human behavior called economic and that any formulas, equations, or calculations are useful in the attempt to describe and understand such behavior, you’re probably (and even unbeknownst to yourself) a leftist!