Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Susan (
5 Sep 1996 19:36:51 GMT (Bryant) wrote:
>In article <50hvd4$>, Susan <> wrote:
>> (Bryant) wrote:
[bits snipped]

>I mean, short of a molecular geneticist pin-pointing the exact loci in
>question, how would one demonstrate genetic "bases" of traits that are
>fixed (invariant, like the number of limbs) in a species??

True it's difficult. But there's an epistemological problem with simply
assuming that traits, particularly complex behavioral ones, are genetic.
And if it isn't genetic, then the kinds of adaptive significances those
traits have are different, and have different implications, than if they
are genetic. For example, violence may or may not be more genetic or
more cultural in origin. But "explaining" it is different if it's more
genetic than if it is more cultual.

>The Thornhills went to a lot of pains to be
>clear about the naturalistic fallacy. Short of just declaring some
>topics taboo and not worth understanding, what are we to do but be clear
>about such things and move on? Whether something is a biologically
>viable strategy or not has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is
>moral or should be legal or not.

But,as we've discussed before, it often has those implications outside of
professional circles. I have never read the Thornhills so I can't
comment on their presentation. But I do understand the fear that such
theories can generate, whether or not they intended it. By describing
something as a viable strategy, it makes it normal rather than
pathological. And for many people, this makes it in some way

>Infanticide is a horrible act, but we understand much more
>about how to prevent it, what the cues are for new mothers, now that we
>have looked at it through a Darwinian lense.

Well, we can disagree about that one. IMO, behavior may be understood in
Darwinian terms, but it doesn't explain why people do it. When a mother
decides to abort her female fetus, it isn't because of Darwinian
adaptation, it's because her culture has taught her that there are
different implications in having boys versus girls, and she has decided
to not get involved in raising a girl. Stopping her from doing it is not
a matter of explaining Darwin, it's a matter of changing her cultural

>This notion that the evolutionary term "adaptive" has some kind of positive
>meaning has got to be confronted and erased from the public psyche!

Along with such misunderstood words as "genetic" and "evolution!"

>There has been no problem at all with Thornhill's and other folks'
>analyses of rape in non-human animals (no uproar, I mean).

Well, what does that tell you? That's what I'm saying! That discussing
human behavior has different implications than discussing ducks. And
while there may be reasons why it might be nice if it weren't so, it is.

>Now, having read his paper, I think a lot remains to be studied in terms
>of rape being a specific mating adaptation in humans instead of a
>behavioral side-effect of coercive and sex-seeking modules. But the way
>to get at whether this null hypothesis is viable is to first rigorously
>test the adaptation hypothesis. Not one of Thornhill's critics has bothered.

I don't disagree. But I still maintain that the popular understanding
has to be addressed, because it does exist.

>>>Ah, Earth First! meets the sufferagettes?
>>Hmm. Thinly veiled reference to the eco-feminists of Rush Limbaugh's
>I forgot about ecofeminism. Are they neo-Luddites? :)

Or "neo-Luddettes".....?

>Actually, the original EF! crowd called themselves "Rednecks for Wilderness."

Hmm. Now there's an image!

>I understand. But look: we're not nice creatures. Rape is a nasty
>business. Does anybody really expect a nice, "acceptable" explanation
>for it occuring? Or murder? Or infanticide? Or warfare?

No. But I think, as I said above, that the issue is more one of deviance
versus normalcy. Suggesting that it has its uses implies that that it
might be seen as normal, not as pathological. For many people, this now
means that is more difficult to condemn. While you might find
Fausto-Sterling's idea of it being a criminal defense silly (I also read
your other post!), I don't find it so far-fetched, at least
philosophically. As a culture, we still largely believe that biological
stuff is difficult to control, and going against it is almost unhealthy.
Look at homosexuality. If it turns out that there is a biological
component to it, that will make it much more acceptable for some people,
who would otherwise condemn it if it seen as a "lifestyle choice."
"Well, they had no choice." Do you really find it far-fetched to think
that at least some people will buy the same argument about rape?

>Objectivity is a leap for all of us. Personal pain and ideology or
>religion exasperate the situation, absolutely. That doesn't mean it's
>wrong to try, though. If nobody tries to understand these things, we
>sure as hell aren't going to learn how to *stop* them from happening.

Agreed. I just maintain that there are ways to deal with these things
that might cause less personal pain, and that while I don't think it is
the responsibility of every researcher to consider all the possible uses
their research may be put to, I also think it is naive to pretend that
these implications don't matter to the pursuit of "pure science", which
some researchers do.




"Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps."
-- Emo Phillips