Why are Americans stranded in the 19th Century?

evolution or man and woman

attri­bu­tion for image not found

It is no coin­ci­dence that ref­er­ences to Dick­ens became stan­dard fare in the Bush years and are still rel­e­vant to the GOP. The Repub­li­cans are social Dar­win­ists who have inher­ited a phi­los­o­phy from the 19th Cen­tury that they’ve uncrit­i­cally adopted as truth; because the pur­pose of their phi­los­o­phy is to serve the rich and to let the poor know how unfit they are and what a waste it would be to keep them alive at the cost of a few pen­nies. This requires some Olympian gym­nas­tic level sophistry dur­ing cam­paigns when the GOP needs more votes than the tiny and exclu­sive minor­ity that the unfuck-​ingbelievablyrich can pro­vide, until Cit­i­zens United then, whoot! —- hege­monic power, the pin­na­cle of dom­i­nance which is the right­ful heir of white, edu­cated men of Euro­pean descent, and for­mi­da­ble means. Why would they want to shake off the mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal delu­sions of mod­ernism with its sex­ist and racists tropes that they thought was deter­mined by nature and vin­di­cated by sci­en­tific rea­son­ing that some­how con­ve­niently vin­di­cated their con­cep­tion of God, while being con­ve­niently unaware of their own biases? They might have to con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity that they are, intrin­si­cally, no more valu­able than any­one else.

Wouldn’t that be a turd in the punch bowl? Poor, poor lords.

It is no coin­ci­dence that they hate post­mod­ernism and glibly dis­miss it with the over­ween­ing smug­ness of a man dust­ing dan­druff off his suit. For them to under­stand and acknowl­edge that they are not all that is good and right about civ­i­liza­tion would be a nar­cis­sis­tic wound deep enough to threaten their psy­che. We are see­ing white men in the throes of psy­cho­pathic rage, because their pre­cious illu­sions are not being so will­ingly sup­ported by those they have deter­mined to be lessor, sub­or­di­nate, or insignif­i­cant. Yet they con­script all those “oth­ers” to work on their behalf to pro­vide them with recog­ni­tion and com­fort at the expense of those who have the least mate­ri­ally, and socially. How dare these lessor oth­ers speak up on their own behalf or give an account of them­selves that devi­ates from the reign­ing dogma of faux Dar­win­ian reduc­tion­ism and Providence!

Unfor­tu­nately, our au cur­rant sci­en­tifi­cist navel gaz­ing is also invested in an ultra-​Darwinism, that is not Dar­win­ian. Many kinds of sci­en­tists have taken it upon them­selves to dab­ble in phi­los­o­phy and have dressed it as rea­son that is as hos­tile to human sur­vival and dig­nity as the most igno­rant GOP House rep­re­sen­ta­tive deny­ing evo­lu­tion. The far left, cling­ing to the help­less fatal­ism and nihilism of the Dia­monds, Dawkins, and Pinkers of the world are bereft of a phi­los­o­phy to help us nav­i­gate real­ity, much less to exam­ine the human prospect in terms that rec­og­nize human agency, social forces, struc­tural vio­lence, and so on. The far left and the far right are both stuck in bina­ries based on a com­plete mis­un­der­stand­ing and deifi­ca­tion of Darwin’s descrip­tion of evo­lu­tion to the exclu­sion of all else— it is tyranny.

The deifi­ca­tion of sci­ence is as faith-​based as the deifi­ca­tion of any­thing else, because there is no “sci­ence”. There are sci­ences, and they all have their lim­i­ta­tions, per­spec­tives, and meth­ods that don’t apply out­side of their domains. The belief that one has a “sci­en­tific” mind, and so is capa­ble of pon­tif­i­cat­ing objec­tively on any topic is so child­ishly mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal and toxic, that kick­ing it squarely in the nuts may be the best that can be done with it so that we can get on with our human lives, on our human scales, and adapt socially to the chal­lenges ahead of us as a species that has, in a short cou­ple of hun­dred years, gained the power to destroy all of our nat­ural habi­tats and to carry out the whole­sale mur­der of our­selves with the push of but­tons and a twelve minute wait­ing period. Day­dreams of inhab­it­ing other plan­ets is as mean­ing­ful to our sur­vival as the dream of seventy-​two vir­gins in heaven. It’s a dis­tract­ing and cow­ardly fail­ure to deal with human prob­lems as they are, with­out grant­ing spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion to one’s own pet con­struc­tions of a very nar­row, and often use­less sum­ma­tion of what is, writ large, and what that means.

It is no coin­ci­dence that they hate post­mod­ernism and glibly dis­miss it with the over­ween­ing smug­ness of a man dust­ing dan­druff off his lab coat. We are see­ing white men in the throes of psy­cho­pathic rage, because their pre­cious illu­sions are not being so will­ingly sup­ported by those they have deter­mined to be lessor, sub­or­di­nate, or insignif­i­cant— those that have not taken the opin­ions of par­tic­u­lar sci­en­tists, pon­tif­i­cat­ing out of their league, as a cloak of supe­rior knowl­edge and rea­son itself that excuses them from all other meth­ods of obser­va­tion— espe­cially the ques­tion­ing of them­selves. Hav­ing to con­sider their spe­cial knowl­edge to be only a small part of the human project? Hav­ing to admit that most of what they espouse in nei­ther ratio­nal nor author­i­ta­tive in any rev­o­lu­tion­ary way?

Wouldn’t that be a cock­block­ing buzz kill? Poor, poor dudebros.

On the far left, and far right, reduc­tion­ism rules the day. We can­not live in these win­ner take all abstrac­tions. We need to keep talk­ing about human real­i­ties in all their com­plex­ity among all humans. Until we grant our­selves per­mis­sion to address our selves and all oth­ers with­out cling­ing to some abstrac­tion that is richly rewarded with wealth and pres­tige, in an effort to give our­selves and all oth­ers dig­nity that should not have been denied in the first place, we will remain atom­ized, feel­ing help­less, para­noid, and trapped in mean and waste­ful competition.

What say we tell our­selves that we are all human, that we all have intrin­sic value, that none of us need to jus­tify our exis­tence, that we are enough— all of us are enough and all of us are capa­ble of grow­ing and adapt­ing to the good of all. If we learn to deal with our real­i­ties with­out think­ing it nec­es­sary to give “oth­ers” a bum deal, we just might make it out of most of the man-​made messes that are bear­ing down on us right now. We just might find out that most of us are smarter than we’ve been told we are and that we can­not move con­fi­dently and wholly into the world and the future with­out giv­ing our­selves per­mis­sion to fully embrace that we are enough and we can become more— because that’s what humans do. Social evo­lu­tion is not the domain of any ulti­mate author­ity, it is the birthright of all of us and every­thing that is human.

So You Think You Are a Dar­win­ian? by David Stove

scientism: evolutionary psychology


Nature or nur­ture? Dis­pelling mis­con­cep­tions behind the gen­der dif­fer­ences debate– Part I by Cimorene

… regard­ing women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the work­force, many have argued that women are bet­ter suited to being home­mak­ers because the divi­sion of labor between the sexes is “nat­ural”, mean­ing that it hails from ‘prim­i­tive’ times when men were hunters and women were gath­er­ers. Jobs are the mod­ern day equiv­a­lent of hunt­ing, and stay­ing at home is akin to mind­ing the cave and the lit­tle cave-​toddlers, the only dif­fer­ence being that women now do their gath­er­ing at super­mar­kets. First of all, the hunter/​gatherer sexed divi­sion of labor isn’t actu­ally a sci­en­tific fact, there are some sci­en­tists who con­test it. Sec­ond, even if we were to take this nar­ra­tive of human his­tory as given, it’s not really clear to me why we can accept changes like the devel­op­ment of eco­nomic sys­tems or med­i­cine as human inge­nu­ity, and yet when it comes to elim­i­nat­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and sex­ism we seem to be tied up by “nature” and our pri­mate ancestors.

Nature or nur­ture? Dis­pelling mis­con­cep­tions behind the gen­der dif­fer­ences debate– Part II

When Dar­win coined the phrase “sur­vival of the fittest” he wasn’t refer­ring to whether or not you should only date women who look like Lolo Jones. What he meant by ‘fit’ was ‘bet­ter suited’ to an envi­ron­ment, not phys­i­cally fit or attrac­tive, which is the mod­ern sense of the term. It’s tempt­ing to think of the strongest and fastest as the ones who are best adapted. If you think of lions or tigers, this might seem to make sense, but all sur­vival of the fittest means is that an organ­ism has adapted to live well in its envi­ron­ment. The dung bee­tle in the savanna is as fit as the lion. One of the ways organ­isms “adapt” is through nat­ural selec­tion, which involves cer­tain traits being “selected” over time because the organ­isms that carry them sur­vive and repro­duce and make the trait more com­mon, so much so that the pop­u­la­tion changes to fit its envi­ron­ment. Many biol­ogy text­books use the pep­pered moth to explain nat­ural selec­tion. Orig­i­nally, pep­pered moths were light in color which allowed them to cam­ou­flage well on light trees and lichens in the region where they lived. The indus­trial rev­o­lu­tion and the pol­lu­tion it pro­duced, how­ever, caused many of the lichens to die out and the tree trunks to darken with soot. Lighter moths then stood out and died off because of pre­da­tion. Mean­while dark col­ored moths flour­ished because they then were the ones that could cam­ou­flage easily.

book review: “The Blank Slate” and evolutionary psychology

robert-leighton-make-it-look-like-natural-selection-new-yorker-cartooncar­toon by Robert Leighton

WHAT COMES NATURALLY: Does evo­lu­tion explain who we are? BY LOUIS MENAND in The New Yorker

The insis­tence on dep­re­cat­ing the effi­cacy of social­iza­tion leads Pinker into absur­di­ties that he han­dles with a blitheness that would be charm­ing if his self-​assurance were not so overde­vel­oped. He argues, for exam­ple, that democ­racy, the rule of law, and women’s repro­duc­tive free­dom are all prod­ucts of evo­lu­tion. The Found­ing Fathers under­stood that the ideas of power shar­ing and indi­vid­ual rights are grounded in human nature. And he quotes, with approval, the claim of two evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­o­gists that the “evo­lu­tion­ary cal­cu­lus” explains why women evolved “to exert con­trol over their own sex­u­al­ity, over the terms of their rela­tion­ships, and over the choice of which men are to be the fathers of their chil­dren.” Now, democ­racy, indi­vid­ual rights, and women’s sex­ual auton­omy are con­cepts almost nowhere to be found, even in the West, before the eigh­teenth cen­tury. Either human beings spent ten thou­sand years deny­ing their own nature by slav­ishly obey­ing the whims of the rich and pow­er­ful, cheer­fully burn­ing heretics at the stake, and arrang­ing their daugh­ters’ mar­riages (which would imply a pretty effec­tive sys­tem of social­iza­tion), or mod­ern lib­eral soci­ety is largely a social con­struc­tion. Which hypoth­e­sis seems more plausible?

scientism, Darwinitis, Steve Pinker, and rape


Steven Pinker and the Depoliti­ciza­tion of Rape by Owen Lloyd at Deep Green Resistance

Trig­ger warn­ing: This essay includes detailed accounts of sex­ual vio­lence and may be trig­ger­ing to some read­ers.

It seems to me that if rape is pri­mar­ily about sex, as Steven Pinker con­tends, then the pur­pose of sex for men is to vio­late, humil­i­ate, intim­i­date, shame, silence, and express hatred for women, rather than to unite in love and affec­tion for another human being. More­over, it would seem that men have sex with women for the same rea­sons they rape them: to feel the sadis­tic plea­sure of dom­i­nat­ing another human being, and rit­u­ally bul­wark the sys­tem of male supremacy. And I would not dis­agree if he had said this. For men in the dom­i­nant cul­ture, this vio­la­tion imper­a­tive is our polit­i­cal man­date. How­ever, Pinker doesn’t equate rape with sex to politi­cize sex; instead, he does this to frame rape as apo­lit­i­cal. And beyond apo­lit­i­cal, bio­log­i­cally nor­mal and neutral:

First obvi­ous fact: Men often want to have sex with women who don’t want to have sex with them. They use every tac­tic that one human being uses to affect the behav­ior of another: woo­ing, seduc­ing, flat­ter­ing, deceiv­ing, sulk­ing, and pay­ing. Sec­ond obvi­ous fact: Some men use vio­lence to get what they want, indif­fer­ent to the suf­fer­ing they cause. Men have been known to kid­nap chil­dren for ran­som (some­times send­ing their par­ents an ear or fin­ger to show they mean busi­ness), blind the vic­tim of a mug­ging so the vic­tim can’t iden­tify them in court, shoot out the kneecaps of an asso­ciate as pun­ish­ment for rat­ting to the police or invad­ing their ter­ri­tory, and kill a stranger for his brand-​name ath­letic footwear. It would be an extra­or­di­nary fact, con­tra­dict­ing every­thing else we know about peo­ple, if some men didn’t use vio­lence to get sex. [6]

Strange what some men con­sider to be “obvi­ous”, isn’t it?

Dar­win­ism with­out Dar­wini­tis by Ray­mond Tallis at The Great Debate

I feel that being a good Dar­win­ian means not suc­cumb­ing to Dar­wini­tis; just as good sci­ence stops when we suc­cumb to a sci­en­tism that seems to imag­ine that it is able to explain every­thing. Dar­wini­tis is poten­tially dan­ger­ous, as I will dis­cuss; but it is most cer­tainly bor­ing, first because it is wrong and sec­ondly because it grotesquely sim­pli­fies human­ity. I ought also to warn you that story I want to tell this evening is not stand-​alone: it is part of a much wider explo­ration of human con­scious­ness from a philo­soph­i­cal standpoint.

history: witch hunts, psychiatry, and day care

The Witch, No. 3″, c.1892 lith­o­graph by Joseph E. Baker.

The Real Vic­tims of Satanic Rit­ual Abuse by Linda Rodriguez McRob­bie at
Slate Mag­a­zine

Among the atroc­i­ties that Frances and Dan Keller were sup­posed to have com­mit­ted while run­ning a day care cen­ter out of their Texas home: drown­ing and dis­mem­ber­ing babies in front of the chil­dren; killing dogs and cats in front of the chil­dren; trans­port­ing the chil­dren to Mex­ico to be sex­u­ally abused by sol­diers in the Mex­i­can army; dress­ing as pump­kins and shoot­ing chil­dren in the arms and legs; putting the chil­dren into a pool with sharks that ate babies; putting blood in the children’s Kool-​Aid; cut­ting the arm or a fin­ger off a gorilla at a local park; and exhum­ing bod­ies at a ceme­tery, forc­ing chil­dren to carry the bones.

Mis­takes were Made by Gary Green­berg at Gary at is blog

The Unfor­got­ten Unre­mem­bered… by Dr. Mickey Nardo at 1 bor­ing old man

For­tu­nately, I don’t need to try to sum­ma­rize the story because Green­berg has the pdf of the whole story avail­able [When Psy­chi­a­try Bat­tled the Devil] on his site. It’s really a good read from some­one who was there in the thick of it.
Had I writ­ten about it right off, I would’ve talked about some of those patients I saw back then in con­sul­ta­tion, or how one of the can­di­dates in our ana­lytic insti­tute became a national fig­ure try­ing to debunk this wave of hys­te­ria that swept through the men­tal health com­mu­nity, or maybe how it all fit in the crazi­ness of that period. But right now, that’s no longer the story. The story is why did the Psy­chi­atric Times unpub­lish it?

It’s an irony of the first order that Richard’s story begins with the fact that we’ve for­got­ten about that whole inci­dent. I cer­tainly had. And he was ques­tion­ing why? And then the Psy­chi­atric Times who ini­tially loved the story sum­mar­ily pulled it, for­get­ting it all over again. Any­way, have a read, it’s quite a piece…

When Psy­chi­a­try Bat­tled the Devil by Dr. Richard Nolls

This arti­cle was pub­lished in the Psy­chi­atric Times then removed. This link is a link to a down­load in PDF for­mat. It’s very def­i­nitely worth the time and space.Dr. Noll’s essay describes the high-​ranking psy­chi­a­trist who was respon­si­ble for the Satanic Rit­ual Abuse panic. Among other things, Glo­ria Stein­ham jumped on the band wagon as so was a “fem­i­nist” lit­er­ally par­tic­i­pat­ing in a witch hunt aimed pri­mar­ily as low paid child­care workers.

book review: DSM by Sam Kriss


Dead­pan Com­edy: Sur­real Draw­ing of a Dystopian Future by Samuel Gomez

Book of Lamen­ta­tions by Sam Kriss atThe New Enquiry

If the novel has an over­bear­ing lit­er­ary influ­ence, it’s undoubt­edly Jorge Luis Borges. The Amer­i­can Psy­chi­atric Asso­ci­a­tion takes his tech­nique of lift­ing quotes from or writ­ing faux-​serious reviews for entirely imag­ined books and pushes it to the limit: Here, we have an entire book, some­thing that pur­ports to be a kind of ency­clo­pe­dia of mad­ness, a Library of Babel for the mind, con­tain­ing every­thing that can pos­si­bly be wrong with a human being. Per­haps as an attempt to ward off the uncom­mit­ted reader, the novel begins with a lengthy account of the sys­tem of clas­si­fi­ca­tions used – one with an obvi­ous debt to the Bor­ge­sian Celes­tial Empo­rium of Benev­o­lent Knowl­edge, in which ani­mals are exhaus­tively clas­si­fied accord­ing to such sets as “those belong­ing to the Emperor,” “those that, at a dis­tance, resem­ble flies,” and “those that are included in this classification.”…

DSM-​5 describes a night­mare soci­ety in which human beings are indi­vid­u­ated, sick, and alone. For much of the novel, what the nar­ra­tor of this story is describ­ing is its own soli­tude, its own inabil­ity to appre­ci­ate other peo­ple, and its own over­pow­er­ing desire for death – but the real hor­ror lies in the world that could pro­duce such a voice.

study: psychiatry, medical illness misdiagnosed as mental illness

painting inspired by migraine

Sarah Raphael, Strip Page 8 (Detail), 1998, acrylic on can­vas with papier maché collage

Med­ical dis­or­ders among patients admit­ted to a public-​sector psy­chi­atric inpa­tient unit. at PubMed.org

Active and impor­tant phys­i­cal dis­or­ders are com­mon among patients admit­ted to psy­chi­atric inpa­tient units. Some patients’ men­tal symp­toms are caused or exac­er­bated by undi­ag­nosed med­ical con­di­tions. Addi­tional research is needed to define cost-​effective med­ical eval­u­a­tion meth­ods for patients in this set­ting and to devise ways to con­vince pro­gram admin­is­tra­tors and staff to imple­ment them.

Understanding the Victims of Spousal Abuse” by Frank M. Ochberg, M.D.

battered women

Under­stand­ing the Vic­tims of Spousal Abuse by Frank M. Ochberg, M.D. at Gift from Within

Spouse abuse has his­toric roots. Females have been bought and sold and bartered, rit­u­ally branded and muti­lated, denied edu­ca­tion, land own­er­ship, means of travel, and are not yet full part­ners in own­ing and con­trol­ling the major insti­tu­tions of this world. In a polit­i­cal sense, the female gen­der is engaged in a long march from slav­ery, still eclipsed in the shadow of patri­ar­chal dom­i­nance. When par­ity in power is sought, too often the seeker is pun­ished. Behind closed doors the pun­ish­ment may be swift, explo­sive and brutal…

… not every ther­a­pist is equipped to help the woman who wants to change the habits that helped her endure abuse. In fact, many ther­a­pists make mat­ters worse. They do this by announc­ing their skep­ti­cism. They do this by with­hold­ing support…

There­fore three caveats are offered for those seek­ing counseling:

1. Shop Around. The first or sec­ond coun­selor may not be right for you. This rela­tion­ship will be very impor­tant. You should feel com­fort­able and you should be sure your coun­selor is com­fort­able with you.

2. Change Coun­selors If You Must. Early in a ther­a­peu­tic rela­tion­ship you may feel betrayed or insulted. Since sen­si­tiv­ity to rejec­tion is often a prob­lem for per­sons deal­ing with inter­per­sonal issues in ther­apy, you deserve a coun­selor who you can trust. If a coun­selor can­not deal with your anger, you might be bet­ter off elsewhere .

3. Endure Once You Find the Right Coun­selor. Those who are out of an abu­sive rela­tion­ship, but strug­gling to find a sense of per­sonal worth, con­sis­tency and secu­rity, will often have stormy times in ther­apy. Your job is not to please your ther­a­pist, but your ther­a­pist will be pleased if you reach your goal of independence.

In sum, spouse abuse hap­pens because our so called civ­i­liza­tion is not that civ­i­lized and men get away with beat­ing women. Women stay with these men for sev­eral rea­sons, includ­ing fear, iso­la­tion and unusual forms of love. Leav­ing is dan­ger­ous for many, dif­fi­cult for most. A com­mon long term con­se­quence of abuse is an inter­per­sonal and intrap­er­sonal con­di­tion that includes depres­sion, rejec­tion sen­si­tiv­ity, anger and dif­fi­culty with trust. Coun­sel­ing for vic­tims should be prac­ti­cal, mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary and geared to secu­rity needs. Ther­apy for those who are safe but not fully “whole” is a longer, more demand­ing process.

Ther­apy is not the answer; we must do more than treat the wounded. Spouse abuse is a long stand­ing, entrenched prob­lem. For­tu­nately, there are expe­ri­enced, effec­tive sur­vivors com­mit­ted to chang­ing this cruel aspect of human his­tory. We who treat and teach can do no bet­ter than to join hands with them.

For more on women and the Stock­holm Syn­drome see the free online book Lov­ing to Sur­vive: Sex­ual Ter­ror, Men’s vio­lence, and Women’s Lives by Dee L. R. Graham

biomedical research: unreproducable


Bad research ris­ing: The 7th Olympiad of research on bio­med­ical pub­li­ca­tion by Hilda Bas­t­ian at Sci­en­tific American

Why is there so much un-​reproducible research? Ioan­ni­dis points to the many sources of bias in research. Chavalar­ias and he trawled through more than 17 mil­lion arti­cles in PubMed and found dis­cus­sion of 235 dif­fer­ent kinds of bias. There is so much bias, he said, that it makes one of his dreams – an ency­clo­pe­dia of bias – a supremely daunt­ing task.

What would help? Ioan­ni­dis said we need to go back to con­sid­er­ing what sci­ence is about: “If it is not just about hav­ing an inter­est­ing life or pub­lish­ing papers, if it is about get­ting closer to the truth, then val­i­da­tion prac­tices have to be at the core of what we do.” He sug­gested three ways for­ward: we have to get used to small gen­uine effects and not expect (and fall for) exces­sive claims. Sec­ondly, we need to have – and use – research report­ing stan­dards. The third major strat­egy he advo­cates is reg­is­ter­ing research: pro­to­cols through to datasets.

government works: Kitt Peak National Observatory


Spi­ral Galaxy IC342 at the Kitt Peak National Observatory

Spi­ral Galaxy IC342 is located roughly 11 mil­lion light-​years from Earth in the con­stel­la­tion Camelopardalis, “the giraffe.” Its face-​on appear­ance in the sky — as opposed to our tilted and edge-​on views of many other nearby galax­ies, such as the large spi­ral galaxy Androm­eda (M31) — makes IC342 a prime tar­get for stud­ies of star for­ma­tion and astrochemistry.

The image, obtained in late 2006, was taken using the 64-​megapixel Mosaic-​1 dig­i­tal imager on the May­all 4-​meter telescope.