September 29, 2006

Tobasco and Jews

Found an archived link on Sala's site, that tallies up republican votes for Israel compared to Democrat votes. It is relevant to the topic Bookworm brought up, in that Jews vote predominantly Democrat for some reason.

There was also this about LTG Mattis. Something Bush won't talk about and someone who Bush won't support. But for the Jacksonians, Mattis has achieved almost Patton like mystique.

A nice little summary of how to learn about war.

The moral high ground of the Left.

Some British political ugh interrogation, for those interested and those who read Melannie Phillips

End Game Democrats

BLACKFIVE comes off the top rope. I'm not getting in his way.

A quaint discussion on what to do with terrorists, and do terrorists apply under the Geneva Conventions? Simple answer, yes they do.

Reminder from Afghanistan, Michael Yon on CNN

End Game Democrats 2

I can't find that End Game Power Politics post Sala put up. Too bad, it was quite impactful.

I did find this diagram which is curiously interesting in a way.

September 24, 2006

A valid question from hillary?

September 21, 2006

Steven Den Beste - Good and Bad Anime Villains

I was reading your post on that subject, and I got to thinking about the other characters you didn't mention. Notably, the characters in anime that you might not have watched yet, Bleach and Naruto. As well as Atsuyu, the villain in the last episode of Juuni Kokki.

Atsuyu fit your standard of being tempting, an attractive and charismatic figure. True evil isn't true evil without having a bit of debonair flare and charisma. If evil always looked ugly, then it wouldn't be so much of a problem for the human race, the way I see it.

On Hubris, this guy scores a pretty high max, as he just believes he is on the moral high ground, the path of righteousness, and everything shall fall into place one way or another.

Nemesis, is of course conservatively predictable for the villain. It gets high marks for "true justice" as well. Meaning, a reversal, an exposure of fake righteousness, as well as a checkmate execution. The villain got defeated not because he failed, but because everything he was trying to get was exposed as a fake.

The scare factor probably comes in concerning characters that are fooled. I care about those characters, and so there's a bit of fear when those characters fall under the sway of the villain's charisma.

I think Juuni Kokki, or the Twelve of Kingdoms, does an excellent job of portraying human dynamics and human politics. Using the Japanese feudal model, with modifications of course.

It's very ambiguous. You don't really know who is the good guy or the bad guy, or at least you don't comprehend the reasons for it. You know Shoryuu is the good guy from the earlier episodes, but that doesn't automatically make Atsuyu a bad guy. Even when Shoryuu told the Empress that he killed Atsuyu.

I see a lot of this fake righteousness in real life situations. Like the one Bookworm wrote about, concerning do fake liberals and Democrats really care about other people or is this just a facade that fools people.

In Naruto and Bleach, the "menace" factor is extreme, ultra high quality extreme. Their (villains') motivations are easy to understand. And horrible to contemplate.

Naruto and Bleach were inspired by DBZ's creator. Naruto's Kishomoto, because he kept drawing DBZ manga. Bleach's creator, because the DBZ author gave him support when his Bleach manga was rejected by Shounen. Both Bleach and Naruto have a sort of hybrid villain system. In which you start off small, and the small fry villains you fight are only slightly menacing and dangerous. Then when you defeat them, you convert them to your cause. I didn't watch the early episodes of DBZ, so I can't describe the exact correlations. But I do know Piccolo was fighting the main character, and then they fight together. In Bleach and Naruto, the fusion between former enemy and current friend is much much stronger and harmonious. They aren't "allied" because of convenience, like Goku and Vegeta were. But rather because they have the same philosophy now afterwards.

It is similar to Juuni Kokki's large numbers of serial villains combined with DBZ's redemption qualities then. One after another, some alike, some very different. Specifically, the villain progression in Naruto is very well done. Mishimoto gradually scales up the menace factor, the evil factor from small to huge. The sympathy you feel is not for the top villains, but you do feel sympathy for the lives those villains have affected. This being a Japanese animation, you have leader villains with henchemen, bound by loyalty binds and oaths of fealty. So even if there is no sympathy for the top villain, there is much for their sacrificial pawns.

Personally, the main character of the Twelve Kingdoms when she had that confrontation at the end, was very well done. The resolution was quite... final so to speak. It had a very nice dramatic flare as well. He who controls the military, controls the government after all.

A lot of the villains in Naruto and Bleach are after power, pure power. Not power through manipulation, or votes, or having people who follow them. No, this isn't a mass cult following, although there are some elements there but the number of followers are pretty small. The villains mostly seek personal power, power sourced from themselves. They'll use others to get that power, sort of like narcissists. The only thing that matter is themselves, if they have to derive their identity by looking into the mirror of other people's faces, so be it. This is why the menace factor is very high, and the hubris level not so high. They are menacing precisely "because" they are everything they say they are. This isn't hubris, they are as powerful as they say they are, in fact they are more powerful than they look and say. A lot of the fights in Naruto and Bleach are "underplayed". Meaning, like in politics when you lowball. You test a person's power and speed first, using non-serious strikes, then step up the power when you are serious. Percent duty cycles or something.

The right Nemesis for Naruto and Bleach is almost always the main character. The resolutions are also very interesting, in that it maximizes human potential. Meaning, yes the opponents of the main char is fighting for their own personal motivations, but through fighting the main char, they actually are able to fullfill their personal goals much better after they get beaten. As weirdly as that sounds. Counter-intuitive so to speak. At least if you talk to people who see Iraq as a one edged sword. Sometimes getting beaten, like Japan got beaten, is a good thing for your future. Like I said, counter-intuitive for the people who only see things in linear one dimensional images. They are the ones who think that if the enemy is in range of your guns, you aren't in the range of the enemy's guns.

The charisma is... of course present for the villains of Naruto and Bleach. We don't see it, of course, but the followers of these villains do. They feel honest loyalty and true belief, because the followers were helped by the villains in the past. Don't bite the hand that feeds you in other words. We understand but do not approve, and feel sad at their brainwashing and eventual fates.

September 20, 2006

The Police State that is Britain

I found that blog and was intrigued by the writing style.

It is funny how a study with sample of 10 can be considered "scientific." As for taking British chefs seriously, we all know the British are famous for their cooking. My local phone book included advertisements for restaurants featuring American, Caribbean, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Mexican, Pakistani, Persian, Salvadoran, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, but there were none featuring cuisine from any of the British Isles. Even if such knives are useless to all chefs, not just British ones, they are handy in less affluent kitchens. A long, pointed knife is perfect for slicing steaks off of a chuck roast and for tenderizing a Swiss steak.

If long knives are to be banned, shouldn’t all potential weapons be banned? People could slit others’ throats with shorter knives, so those should be banned. Other kitchen utensils such as ice picks and shish-ke-bab skewers could be used as weapons and should be eliminated. Stabbing isn’t the only way to injure or kill people. Every year people are hurt or killed by blunt force trauma. Therefore, heavy cast-iron skillets must also be banned.

Office supplies could also be used as weapons. Letter openers should be banned, as should those old fashioned, long, pointed metal spindles for holding papers. Other office supplies such as large paper weights, heavy three-hole punches and hefty hard cover books must also be eliminated since those can be used to smash someone over the head.

Eva says it in jest, but of course, it is the route Britain is on. See any gels or liquids banned lately on airplanes?

Language, Linguistics, Lightning Round

[An argument I was having over whether the English language was precise because it had many words and definitions or whether all those definitions and words created ambiguity instead of precision] I favor the former, Kevin favors the latter.]

No, it means the same thing, modified by the shades of meaning. It does not mean different things in different situations. Difference logically derives from different logical premises, and different logical premises results in different meanings for words. The meaning for a key and a keystone and the various other 80% of the usages on, is of course, based upon the same logical premise. The same abstract imaginary coordinate in space. Words mean different things when their meanings are not related abstractedly at all.

It’s simple analogy, kevin. You don’t know what a keystone is, you don’t know that the “key” means important? You have problems correlating this

As to the issue that began this thread, I have to agree with DQ on this one–why sweat the small stuff?

with this

A keystone is small, kevin, but it doesn’t mean it should be ignored.


Okay. If you have problems, that’s fine. I can spell it out.

Some of the keystones of a language, that which holds everything together, is its structure, the rules, and the meaning of words. So, even though these things look small, their importance is comparable to the importance a keystone holds for an architectural structure. Small, but if you ignore it or break it, it will cause a systematic crash. Do you understand the answer to your question “why sweat the small stuff” now?

Here’s how you, Kevin, differ with me. I believe that words have meaning, irrespective of how you massage the sentence and the context. You believe words have meaning because you get it from context alone. Your words, not mine. You said it comes down to context. It comes down to context in Chinese, and perhaps intonation of the syllables in spoken form. But not in English.

Context, is also known as the reality part of meaning in language. I am refering, of course, to phasor mathematics. Converting from rectangular to polar, polar to rectangular. The English language is setup so that it has two components. A real, and an imaginary. The imaginary component is the abstract, it is how our thoughts are organized, it does not come from what we see or feel in the world. Mathematics is abstract, but just because it is abstract, does not mean it cannot affect the real world. Thus x and y. i and j for imaginary y, and x for the real x axis. 5 + 5i instead of x,y.

Context is the x coordinate, horizontal axis. The abstract component is the y part, i or j. You believe the meaning of words come from context, without context the meaning of words are confused. There’s two practical applications, one for you, one for me.

You could go with the context model, which Clinton also used when he said “it depends upon what the meaning of is is”. It depends upon the context in which a word is used, to decipher the imaginary portion of that word, its abstract meaning.

Or you could go with my model, in which the real part, context, and the imaginary abstract part, the i, are independent of each other. Only when you convert them to polar form, do they affect each other.

The reason my model is more precise, as an application of the English language, is because I have two independent axis from which to choose variables from. You only have one, context. Words have meaning based upon context, all other methods produce confusion.

My model doesn’t produce confusion, because it allows for the existence of the abstract part independent of the real existing or not. Meaning, words have abstract meanings regardless of how they exist in a sentence, independent of the context even. So instead of the real dictating what the abstract means, the abstract dictates to the real what it is. And vice a versa. My model can do it both either ways. yours is sort of a one way street.

This allows more variables, more precision, and more shades of meaning, without losing the “definition” of a word by changing it into something it is not.

Instead of saying “let’s talk about what the definition of is, is”, I say, let’s talk about combining the abstract definition of is with the context of what situation you wish to use it in conjunction with.

I bolded the word “different” for a reason, you know. It’s more different than just “different”. The previous example is of using the same word in different real locations, with different abstract meanings. This is an example of where the abstract is modified by the real context, creating ambiguous meanings when one word is used many times in different contexts and for different abstract meanings.

If that doesn’t make sense, let’s just say that the sentence I used “different than just different” is what kevin was talking about in terms of the word key. Not the same thing, I think. Can you use context to figure out what I was talking about? Yes you can. But you lack something, and that something is called “precision”. If you can’t tell which part is from which manufacturer, if you can’t tell which part is part of which generation, then you will lack precision in your design work.

The way key is used, refering to kevin’s complaint about the number of variations in the dictionary, is this way.

1. a small metal instrument specially cut to fit into a lock and move its bolt.

9. the system, method, pattern, etc., used to decode or decipher a cryptogram, as a code book, machine setting, or key word.

12. Music.
a. (in a keyboard instrument) one of the levers that when depressed by the performer sets in motion the playing mechanism.
b. (on a woodwind instrument) a metal lever that opens and closes a vent.
c. the relationship perceived between all tones in a given unit of music and a single tone or a keynote; tonality.
d. the principal tonality of a composition: a symphony in the key of C minor.
e. the keynote or tonic of a scale.

Here are the synonymns and antonymns of the word key

Synonyms: basic, chief, crucial, decisive, fundamental, important, indispensable, leading, main, major, material, pivotal, primary, principal, vital
Antonyms: peripheral, secondary

Key=principal object I use to open the lock on my primary structure of residence.

To wrap it all up. Let’s just say that there are 3 components to the meaning of a word. Its contextual real part, its abstract imaginary part, and its polar hybrid part which is both its real part and abstract part combined.

The definitions for key you see here all have the same abstract component. The abstract component of “primary”, “necessary”, that which revolves in your head when you think about what you NEED. That thought, that’s the abstract thought I’m refering to. The “meaning” derives when you have the context. If you are talking about musical instruments, the “key” then becomes that which relates to the context of musical instruments and other similar situations. Context plus abstract, equals polar hybrid.

So, what does this all mean you might be thinking. What does this have to do with what I or Kevin were talking about? It can be wrapped up in a short description, so be not afraid.

“When people choose to use fewer words, and keep using the same words in their vocabulary to mean DIFFERENT things in different situations, then that is imprecision.”

And the single word key means many different things in different situtations–it comes down to the context in which it is used and can lead to confusion, so what again is your point?

Comment by kevin | September 19, 2006

Words that mean different things are words with different polar hybrids. Different situations means different abstract parts of the rectangular coordinate, real with imaginary.

So, how are you able to use the “same” word, to mean different things, in different situations? You can and the Democrats do. Torture is beneath our dignity and the dignity of humanity, therefore torture should be illegal. The CIA torturing someone then, is wrong.

You have one word, torture, with the same abstract coordinate, to inflict pain purposefully, combined with 3 different contextual real coordinates. To inflict pain combined with beneath our dignity, a moral result and meaning. To inflict pain combined with law, making it illegal to inflict pain purposefully. Then finally you have to inflict pain combined with the ethical judgement, that it is wrong, that it should not be done in any situation.

Used in an argument that appears to be logical, and what you have is one method of creating a circular argument using ambiguous semantics, words, and meanings.

Greater precision would automatically expose the illogic, only greater ambiguity can cover up gross deficiencies like the incident I’ve described.

But what does this have to do with the word key? Because the definitions listed for key are for different meanings. Different meanings, of different words, in different contexts. Kevin assumed that all the definitions listed for key were talking about meant that you were going to get a lot of confusion when you use the word multiple words of “key” in the same sentence.

I think that would be correct, but that is why I specified “fewer words”. More words, mean more precision. More variations of that one word, means if you do have two of them, you don’t have to figure out based upon the context what the meaning of the word “key” means. You can actually figure out the context from the meaning of a word, if you lack the context. Or you can figure out the meaning of the word key, from its context. But that is only because there are already numerous meanings for key, used in different situations. Since key has preset configurations, you just look it up.

If you had one word that meant one thing in one situation, only. What would you do if the contextual situation changed? You only have the imaginary part, how are you going to get the real part, then combine them together to get the meaning? Very hard to impossible, and still very imprecise and slow.

Practical application? the word torture.

Not many meanings to that word. So, when I want to use torture to mean good things, for necessary things, do I use torture or do I use another word, hard interrogation methods? Is torture just too… EngSoc to include all the different shades of meaning I demand that it be capable of?

When a person says he doesn’t like torture, does he mean he doesn’t like the infliction of pain on purpose or does he mean he doesn’t like tormenting a person for revenge? How do you tell the difference by context alone? You can’t, because because they are the same word.

1. the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.

holy Christ. You have 3 meanings in one word, for one instance of a definition. I think my model is more preferable. My model, the many definitions for the word key, is more precise than kevin’s model where it says the less definitions the less confusing.

People can decide whatever they want, this was not easy to come up with.

For reference purposes, or just if you are confused. Here’s a logic whatever.

X=real=context=contextual=situation=environment used=X coordinate

y=imaginary=i=j=abstract=pure thought=abstract meaning

polar hybrid form=meaning, the kind of things it means=what you get when you take a word and combine it with the context in which that word is used= x+y. Also x+iy.

Comment by Ymarsakar | September 20, 2006

September 19, 2006

Around the World via the Blogosphere

Here's some stuff I found pretty interesting while surfing the blogs.

Here we had a politician being asked a question about when his family ran away from Judaism. The reaction, priceless.

Then we had a post by Shrinkwrapped about gun control. Useful for those who understand psychology, and recommended for its other salient points.

Finally, we have this propaganda video by Kurdistan. I mean propaganda by, something created to convince people. It is not "advertisement" precisely because this movie was paid for by the Kurdistan government. Thus anything paid for by the government is called propaganda, including probably the BBC in one way or another.

Propaganda is like executions. It all depends upon who uses it, and who it is used upon. Good guys executing child rapists.. not exactly something I'll raise much raucus about. Bad guys executing a raped teenager in Iran? That is a different story. Same with propaganda.

September 14, 2006

Red vs Blue -A battlefield scenario

[Just something I brainstormed while talking about the media and Vietnam, when I read bookworm's post on it]

People are tired of war, they want to go back to winning elections, envying Hollywood, and making money.

The weird thing is, it's like a sports team constantly getting beat, and the fans never likes it. However, the fans (Red Sox) keep rooting for their team. Unlike sports tv, Iraq is only shown piecemeal. So you have all the bad mistakes on the Red Sox being shown, and you can't feel "good" about anything. Meaning, they show you the Red Sox losing, but they never show you the Red Sox scoring anything. So instead of a real game where you see both sides in continuous time, you see snatches that keep your spirit at an all time low always. There's no ups and downs usually going on as with a normal game. Instead of seeing one team score, other team score, we see one team score, other team fumbles, one team scores, other team fumbles, and so forth. Eventually someone might just shut the tv off with that kind of frustration.

You can get people away from despair, by giving a victory party. However, first you have to get a victory. And you can't get a victory if nobody is paying attention to the Red Sox's wins. People do reminder the ecstatic mood when the Marines got to Baghdad. Future failures are to be expected, you can't win all the time. However, there have been few ups and down cycles. The election was notable because it was low, high, low. The invasion, high to low. The second election was high, middle, low, middle.

Reminds me of an AC sinuisoidal wave. The media damps down the morale and spirit of the US people, preventing it from going high or low. The failures are not as painful as pictures of Pallywood. The successes are not as joyful as marriages and promotions, but more like a 1% raise in your salary. Good news, but negligible. After awhile, this kind of mood will break people's spirit and willpower. At that moment, a coup de grace like the Tet Offensive can obviously shatter the will of a weakened people.

You should have heard this general story about two armies clashing on the field of battle. Red Army is fighting a losing battle, ultimately giving ground in order to prevent being enveloped. Blue Army is focused on smashing through the middle of the Red Lines, and defeating the enemy in detail. Blue army sees their side pushing through Red's center, slaughtering all in their way to victory and glory. Blue's soldiers feel uplifted, euphoric, ultimately joyous more or less at the sight. Red's morale is shaking, but holding.

Who will win the battle? The side that perceives that they are going to win. So obviously Red wins because they hid forces behind the Blue lines, allowing Red to hit Blue's forces in the rear at the moment of their victory. By snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, Red has demoralized Blue to such an extent that their morale shatters and they run for it. Blue has thrown down their weapons and is proceeding to leave the battlefield via a rout. How can this be, wasn't Blue winning? How could a small force hidden behind the indomitable Blue Army crashing their way through Red's center to victory, possibly be defeated by a small force from the rear when victory was almost on the tongues of Blue's men?

The reason is simple. It was precisely because Blue thought they were winning, that they were defeated. Perception creates victory, but whose perception of whom however, is not set in stone. It is mercurial, shifting.

Blue by believing that the battle was almost won, dropped their mental barriers. This allowed a small force that could surprise them with shock and awe (the real thing, not the Donald Rumsfeld air force version) to mow down several people at the back of Blue's lines. Blue's formation would shift, appearing to Red's center as if Blue was attempting to run away. Blue would be totally surprised, and even though Blue outnumbers the small force in their rear, panic sets in. You see, Blue believed things were going to happen in a certain way, and when new things occur, they cannot adapt, they panic, they are confused, they are without orders and direction. While Red's center was being pushed inwards, Red didn't run, because Red had orders and knew what to do. Hold the center, that was all. Even though they were dieing in droves to hold the center, they did not break and run. Yet Blue broke and ran after suffering a miniscule amount of deaths compared to that which Red's Center suffered. How could that be? Shock and Awe. The shock of being surprised and killed by a foe that you thought you had defeaten, the awe of Red's Center as they realized that victory was indeed occuring after gruesome hours of holding the line, watching their friends fall on their sides.

Red counter-attacks, with renewed vengeance, with a focus on vengeance. Red now believes victory is at hand. Why is that different from Blue's belief that victory was at hand? Because Red came to believe in victory after being at the BOTTOM, near bottom, of the morale scale. Red's morale has skyrocketed, from almost zero. The delta, the change, was from 0 to skyscraper. For Blue, they started off high, and when surprised, their morale shrunk and fell. As with gravity, if you fall from a great height, you hurt yourself. Blue's morale fell from skyscraper heights, to the ground. The acceleration was so fast, Blue's will to fight was broken instantaneously. It's simple force equations. F=v^2m iirc. Velocity being displacement over time. The less time, the more velocity, the more velocity, the more force. Red was losing morale at a very low rate, a low velocity. Blue lost their morale all at about the same time. That has a devastating effect.

The Democrats are so busy focusing on the kill counts, but you do understand that their effect on people and you are not based upon absolute numbers, right? Their propaganda effect is focused through changing your morale, numbers are simply a means to an end. It is the morale, the willpower, the spirit, that counts. It is what restricts your war machines and your body. No matter how strong or how numerous, those who are not willing to act, might as well be frozen in time regardless of their power on paper.

The Democrats do not care about how many die, in so far as the more that die, the more readily they can decrease your morale to fight. Attrition warfare, the lowest and crudest form of warfare.

But as the scenario I painted portrayed with Blue vs Red, it is not numbers that matter, it is time, shock, and awe.

Two generals have used inferior numerical forces to best and defeat superior forces. They weren't "freedom fighters" or "guerrilas" or even terrorists. Guerrila warfare is not some esoteric discipline based upon principles foreign and alien to warfare. It is simply taking a weakened position and purposefully applying it against a stronger position, which is what warfare mostly is about. The strong killing the weak, and the weak trying to survive and kill the strong. In other words, the 21st century of "Siege Warfare". But back to the two generals. Their names were Belisarius and Hannibal Barca. Most infamous, there are many more leaders and generals in history.

Why did Hannibal Barca cross the Alps? Why did Hannibal Barca bait a full Roman Legion across a river with his light numidian cavalry? Why did the generals send an armored push through to Baghdad?

Studying the current war and reading the events about it, is not a good way to understand warfare. Simply because this war isn't over, you can't see what will be or could have been. Looking into past battles however, and you can see the long reaching effects of the actions of both sides.

September 04, 2006

David Brin and Human Evolution

Update:Added Link to Title, so it goes to David Brin's website with the article.

This is something I found, that had some interesting information and conjectures. You should read it if you are interested in male female relationships as well as the health of societies as a whole.

David Brin - Ph.d. © April 1995 (2/89,7/93)

Neoteny and Two-Way Sexual Selection in Human Evolution:

Paleo-Anthropological Speculation on the Origins of Secondary-Sexual Traits,
Male Nurturing and the Child as a Sexual Image

Much progress has been made in tracing the story of human origins, yet mysteries still shroud how we acquired such unique traits as bipedalism, concealed ovulation, and our prodigious brains. Paleo-anthropology suffers from both a dearth of hard data and a surfeit of enthusiastic opinions -- for example, drawing detailed conclusions about evolution from peculiar patterns of fat deposits in male and female anatomies. Or consider the question of why humans have lost nearly all their hair. It has been suggested that this adaptation enabled our ancestors to fill a niche unavailable to other predators -- keeping cool while chasing game under the noonday sun. Alas, this fails to explain why males (the presumed hunters) retain more ancestral hairiness than females, while children have the least of all. 1

As Herbert Spencer once commented about biological speculation -- there is nothing so tragic as a beautiful theory, foiled by an inconvenient fact. Especially in the area of human sociobiology, where evidence is scant and emotions can run high, hypotheses should be offered with good natured humility.

In that spirit I will focus on the trait of neoteny -- or the retention of childlike characteristics in mature members of a species. This process appears so amplified in humanity that we have been called the neotenous clan of apes. Humans much more closely resemble chimp or gorilla infants than adults of either species, e.g. in the smooth, vertical dome of the forehead and the relative ease of bipedality displayed by very young apes. Furthermore, even aged humans often retain a plasticity of behavior that is typically found among animals only in the young. Human emphasis on learned, rather than inherited, behavior, has been widely accepted as a chief driver of this trend, requiring our minds to remain supple and receptive for ever-longer spans.

This range of physical and mental traits may have a variety of unrelated causes and/or mechanisms, nevertheless they fall under the same overall theme of retention of childlike characteristics. (More formally, William Calvin (1991) identifies paedomorphosis ("becoming child-shaped") as juvenilization of the appearance of the end-product, without implications about the mechanism by which it came about. Neoteny has been taken by many authors to mean the slowing of some or all aspects of somatic development.)

Rather than discussing the general neotenization of our species over the last few million years, I wish to concentrate on how neoteny may have become enmeshed as part of a powerful selective cycle, going far beyond its original causes. A complex cycle of sexual selection that may have proved crucial in making human beings unique among animal species.

Our starting point is a perceived dichotomy between adult men and women -- and thus potentially hazardous ground. Although evolutionary biology has lately been defended from a feminist perspective by Patricia Adair Gowaty (1992) and others, caution remains essential when stepping into this arena, hence I will at times seem to belabor the obvious. Let me also emphasize that Homo sapiens appears less riven by sexual dimorphism than most species, and exceptions exist to nearly every generalization. Nevertheless, it seems clear that past and present human dimorphisms are legitimate topics for careful discussion.

While certain neotenous traits seem to be shared equally among the sexes (e.g. curiosity and plasticity of behavior), human females certainly do appear more paedomorphic in outward physical appearance than males. Although they mature at an earlier age, women do not go on to acquire the toughened skin, coarse body hair, thyroid cartilage, bony eye ridges, or deepened voices which are the common inheritance of most adult hominoids and other primates. Jones and Hill (1993) have shown that this generalization remains valid across racial, ethnic and cultural boundaries. Difference in degree of paedomorphism is one of the few truly decisive human sexual-dichotomies, used by most of us in visually distinguishing women from men.

How did this dichotomy come about? In exploring one possible explanation, we may come to see the heritage of human beings as stranger and more poignant than previously thought.
We'll return to the subject of neoteny, but only after first covering some preliminary ground. Often, the hardest step in speculative paleo-anthropology lies in overcoming assumptions. So let us back up and begin by asking a very basic question.

Why is it that a human female generally has to compete with other women to get a mate?

May we stipulate that women do often vie over men? In one contemporary society, the United States, nearly all of the most popular magazines for women trumpet articles advising their readers how to stay competitive in what is portrayed as a desperate struggle to find and keep a mate. American women spend many times more each year on cosmetics than the nation appropriates for space research. (If we add fashion, diet food, plastic surgery, and related activities, costs compare to the defense budget.2) Granted, contemporary America is an extreme case, and even women in secure marriages work on their appearance for a complex of other cultural reasons. Still, no one can reasonably dispute that female humans often do engage in zero-sum contention over an apparently limited supply of suitable males.

Now of course men compete over women, too. But among animals this is only normal. Except for some spermatophore-donating insects, and a few fish and birds, competition between males for sexual opportunity seems almost universal.

Also nearly universal is the far calmer mate-selection process engaged in by females of most species, either accepting the victor in male-male struggles or actively choosing among candidates. This is not to say that females don't compete in nature! The struggle to raise successful offspring is deadly serious. Ethologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (1981) has shown that, among our primate cousins, inter-female competition for status and access to resources may seem quieter than the flashy violence of males, but it is also generally more relentless and complex. Darwin's image of females as demure, passive watchers-and-choosers greatly oversimplified a vast domain of intricate and assertive behaviors, with rivalry as much a feature of the female sex as its vaunted propensity for cooperation. 3

Still, we are discussing a particular type of competition... rivalry to win a mate. And in this narrow area Darwin retains his original authority. Nature's story is nearly always about two sexes with markedly different agendas. For a male, each time he prevents one of his rivals from copulating with a female, that is one more womb which might be induced to carry forward his genetic heritage. 4 The same is not normally true for a female, looking at males. Once engaged in gestation, her reproductive success is unaffected by copulations taking place nearby. When there is an abundance of food, one female gets little or no direct benefit by denying any other female a chance to reproduce, or to be inseminated by the same male. 5

So we return to our central question -- why do human females engage in rivalry over access to suitable mates?

A leading hypothesis holds that humans became paragons of adaptability by emphasizing general, species-wide behavioral and mental neoteny. Further, our offspring are born nearly unformed, or altricial, replacing reflex instinct with lessons drawn from experience and the accumulated wisdom of the tribe, channeled by only the most general of innate predispositions. This process takes a long time, during which our children are helpless as no others in the history of life on Earth.

The presumption goes that human mothers need long-term, dependable partnership to help them carry big-brained, dependent children across the hazardous, exhausting stretch from embryo to maturity. And while some human societies have used brother-sister alliances to fill this need, or communal role-sharing, the majority have left mothers primarily dependent on continued loyalty and aid from the fathers of their children.

To put this in perspective with nature at large, consider the extreme case of the elephant seal.

During each annual mating season, females congregate onshore. If food is plentiful and the beach roomy enough, there is small cause for struggle between females, so most behaviorists used to be drawn to the noisy, extravagant displays of competing males. Known as a "beach master," each bull elephant seal outweighs any female many times over. By threat, bluster, and frequent bloody fights, he drives off all male interlopers to secure a local monopoly over insemination. Females acquiesce to this situation. Indeed, should the bull be away at the far end of his territory, and a rogue male attempt mating on the sly, females will often squall for the beach master to come drive the invader out.

Why do female elephant seals prefer to share one male rather than get individual attention? Turn the question around and consider -- what does the female really need from a male? The answer is sperm, and little else. Female elephant seals, like those of most species, are generally capable of rearing their pups alone. So choice of a mate is determined solely by factors which might reflect the quality of his genes -- his heritable fitness. Is he a healthy specimen, likely to father quality offspring? Will the males he sires likely become beach masters themselves? (Of course these questions are never posed, per se. But natural selection serves up appropriate answers, just as if they had been asked.) It matters little if the bull she has chosen also impregnates scores of other females. That he is able to drive off all comers and defend a beach is testimony to potency he might pass on in his genes. Having secured impregnation, the cows depart with no apparent sentimentality. They got what they came for.

In her book, The Woman That Never Evolved, Sarah Hrdy (1981) shows that harem systems differ dramatically. Some, such as the gray langur monkey, can be much more stressful than that of elephant seals. Langur mothers don't cycle through well-timed mating seasons, but re-enter estrus when their latest child either weans or dies. Also, while a mother langur doesn't need provisioning by a mated male, she does require the security of her troop. For these reasons, the bull langur has no single rutting season. To maximize reproduction, he must "police" his harem year-round. And, since his prime period averages only a few years, it is in his Darwinian interest to see that all local females serve his reproductive needs. One bloody consequence is that a new bull, on taking over a langur troop, often kills unweaned infants so that their mothers will resume ovulating sooner.

So while female elephant seals, gorillas and reindeer can be relatively complacent with their males, females in yet other polygynous species must look on their mates warily. 6 Nevertheless, in all of these species the purely sexual aspects of selection are classically Darwinian... featuring inter-male struggle and various degrees of female choice. Inter-female competition, while pervasive, seldom extends to jealousy over copulation itself.
Let us assign reindeer, langurs and elephant seals to one end of a spectrum labelled harem size -- the number of "wives" a prime male in a species impregnates during his lifetime. Along the vertical axis we then chart ratio of size between adult males and adult females for each mammalian species. By plotting this chart, R.D. Alexander and others (1979) discovered a significant correlation. Species like elephant seals, where solitary bulls struggle to hold herds of breeding females, show exaggerated size differentials between the sexes. Clearly this is not in order for male to dominate female, or else females would presumably have also grown, to compensate. Rather, it is simply because a big male is better at driving off competing would-be inseminators. Successful bulls pass on the trait of largeness to their male offspring.

At the other end of the spectrum are species whose male/female size ratio is near unity, and where harem size is reduced effectively to one. Roughly four percent of mammalian species form "monogamous" pair bonds, with the rate a bit higher among primates, such as gibbons. (It is virtually the rule for birds. Chicks must grow fast to achieve flight before the seasons change. This, plus a high metabolism, means few avian young survive on the labor of one parent alone.)

Now by definition, monogamous species have approximately equal numbers of successful male and female breeders, so one might expect both to behave similarly, competing the same amount with others of the same sex. Each should be as choosy in selecting a mate, and exhibit the same degree of jealousy about copulation. But this is not the case, because most "monogamous" males are not purely monogamous in every sense of the word. Generally, these males do not give their mates so much absolute fidelity as devotion... meaning they will do anything and everything to serve and protect the nest and their offspring. But, given an opportunity to engage in outside sex without risk or harm, they will often take advantage. Such opportunistic philandering by so-called "monogamous" males was until recently hardly discussed. Now, however, we know that it plays a distinct role in the behavior patterns of most such species.

For example, the females of many bird species force prospective mates to engage in lengthy, exhausting courtship "dances" and other displays, before becoming sexually receptive. For years this was thought to involve species identification -- preventing hybrid insemination by a related species. But plumage, scent, and a thousand other simpler markers are available to accomplish the same end. Now it is thought that mating dances serve more directly pragmatic role, by culling out philanderers. Few already-mated males can afford the time and energy -- exhausting themselves in an effort at wooing -- if they already have a mate and nest elsewhere. To male birds, monogamy may not mean absolute fidelity, but it does mean having priorities. 7

Thus, even monogamous species retain dimorphisms of sexual motivation and behavior. Monogamous females must remain careful and choosy, and even "monogamous" males must still prove themselves in order to win fatherhood.
So where do human beings fit in this spectrum? Few comparative ethologists call humanity a truly monogamous species, even by bird standards. Indeed, many men, in both behavior and avowed fantasies, lean toward the attitude of male gorillas, if not elephant seals! Our position on the male-female size ratio chart would appear to suggest that humans have a modest "natural harem size" -- between one point one and one point four -- yet some men spend their lives aiming to achieve the milestone of their bedded "hundred," or even "thousand".

Nevertheless, we also share traits with pair-bonding species. Many men and women are capable of forming tight, long-lasting and devoted associations. Moreover, our offspring are altricial, helpless, nearly impossible for a mother to rear successfully in the wild without at least some outside aid. For a very long time any woman who chose a loyal, dependable mate almost certainly had advantages over one who failed to do so.

In summary, then --

1) It is reasonable to suggest a selected tendency in human females to prefer mating with males who offer effective, committed support, along with their sperm.

2) Given the nurturing demands to be placed on the male she chooses, one can expect female humans to prefer not to share their mates with many other women.

So far we may seem to be belaboring the obvious, but we are discussing matters all-too often associated with strong opinion and emotion, so it's best to move in careful steps.

Now ideally, given desiderata 1) and 2) above, men ought to behave like male birds, and indeed, the "best" of them do seem to follow that pattern. While such men may stray on rare occasions, they seldom do so if it seems home or family might be jeopardized. But human males show an incredible range of motivation and behavior 8 One does not have to reach speculatively back into the Pleistocene to illustrate the difference between mating with "bird-like" or "elk-like" men. Contemporary American society shows the calamitous consequences when women bear children fathered by the latter type, who promise anything, then depart when it's convenient. 8b Hence we have driver number three.

3) A large fraction of human males are not (from a solemn female point of view) suitable for pair-bonding or fatherhood. High male variability probably meant that choice remained an important, even crucial, activity for our female ancestors.

Are quality males a scarce commodity? That's no problem in polygynous species, where females simply share the alphas. But such a scarcity presents severe, even desperate difficulties where females prefer pairing! Adding factor three poses the problem starkly. Human females began competing for mates because they needed the kind of competent, collaborative devotion received by female birds -- but which only a fraction of human males seem inclined or capable of delivering. Hence it is a combination of limited supply and high demand which has created the unusual situation of competition among women for successful mating.

Put in this way, it seems a prosaic, not particularly surprising conclusion to reach after so many paragraphs. And yet, the quandary of human females, and their contention for quality mates, goes far beyond the clichéd plaint of the woman nightclub comic, who bemoans (to fervent feminine applause) the scarcity of "decent men". I contend, in fact, that this dilemma has already radically shaped the flow of human development.

Sexual Selection in Humans

Departing from the traditional view since Darwin, recent biological theory perceives evolution as a sequence of fairly rapid state changes that punctuate lengthy periods of relative equilibrium. There are several ways species can launch into rapid change.

-- Geographic barriers separate sub-populations, isolating divergent gene pools. Long separations result in speciation. If groups are re-united before that point, a sudden influx of stockpiled genes from the isolated reservoir can speed change within the parent stock. 9--

High attrition rates due to new environmental factors can speed adaptation. In particular, ever-changing suites of parasites seem to offer a badly-needed explanation for the existence of "heritable fitness," and even the existence of sex itself. (S.W. Gangestad, 1993.)--

Self-generated adaptation pressure, occurs when a species opportunistically moves into a new niche, thereby encountering new life-threatening dangers. Thus, the novel opportunities offered by, say, taking to the trees, will be for nought unless the species soon evolves a healthy respect for arboreal snakes.--

Another way evolution can accelerate is the major exception to natural selection admitted by Darwin, and the one way species can be said to design themselves. Sexual Selection. The bird of paradise and mandrill are vivid examples of what can happen when female choice of "quality" males becomes tied not just to the male's robustness or fidelity, but to some outward and apparently arbitrary physical display -- e.g. length of plumage or vividness of color.

We will not go into the details of this process, or the ongoing debate over whether or not such traits advertise health or heritable fitness. (Thornhill & Gangestad, 1993). Sexual selection in humans is discussed by Gangestad (1993), where it applies to matters of simple, first-order self interest optimization by human females (the presumed choosers).

What has long escaped discussion are the second-order effects, where "runaway" sexual selection may have resulted in human traits that are as exaggerated as any bird's tail. Nor has there been much investigation of females as objects of sexual-selection, rather than simply as classical selectors.

In "runaway" sexual selection, the selected trait becomes more embedded and exaggerated with each passing generation, requiring the next wave of the selected sex (usually males) to compete from a new plateau, which amplifies the trait even more, and so on. Even if the degree of exaggeration threatens the viability of the species at large -- e.g. the titanic antlers of the extinct Irish elk -- this may not abate the driving competition among individuals for reproductive success. 9 b The models of R. A. Fisher (1958) long ago showed that evolution of a sexually selected trait, and the preference for it, can strongly correlate, with both accelerating in tandem.

Why is it nearly universally males of species who become burdened with huge antlers, giant tail feathers, or other garish exaggerations? A mistake of teleology might claim this is only fair, since females carry the major costs of reproduction, and a larger share of the risk. A more valid explanation lies in the fact that females in these species have a dictatorial veto over which males get to breed. Males wind up being selected to satisfy any criteria females get in the habit of using.

But now let us return to the situation among humans. We have seen that Homo sapiens has a queer arrangement in which both sexes must compete for partners, and both, in turn, must choose. The stage is set for trait-runaway by sexual selection to take place in an unusual two way mode -- acting not only on males, but on females as well.

Human runaway sexual selection? At first glance we would seem too sensible a species for anything like that. We don't appear to have been saddled with burdensome exaggerations like antlers or bright tails. Or have we?

Consider the greatest exaggeration of them all... our powerful, out-sized brains. Not only do large infant craniums put human mothers in great stress while giving birth, the brains within strike some biologists as extremely perplexing. In their cups, philosophical anthropologists can sometimes be heard wondering why humans "overshot" the mental capacity we needed in order to become masters of the planet -- in other words, competent hunter-gatherers with stone tools and fire. That was enough to remove a lot of environmental stress, and should have led to a period of equilibrium. Instead, change only accelerated, until in short order we produced encephalization capable of conceiving mathematics, spacecraft design, and music more precise than any bird or whale could ever produce.

One possible solution to the problem of overshoot is that, quite simply, men and women might once have found the trait of intelligence "sexy" in each other. Brains, then, would be our equivalent of peacocks' tails... except in our case selectivity was shared by both sexes, and in turn both sexes shared in the amplified trait.

Are there other possible pivots of sexual selection? While watching out for cultural interference, consider, what do contemporary men and women say they want in the opposite sex? David Buss (1994), a University of Michigan psychologist, conducted a survey of 10,000 people in 37 cultures on six continents, concerning the traits people find attractive in the opposite sex. Oversimplifying somewhat the results of Buss and others 10 -- those attributes listed as most desirable fit the priorities discussed in section one. Women tend to rank first kindness, intelligence, and self-confidence. Also rated highly were accomplishment, reputation, health, vigor, reliability, and sense of humor. Physical handsomeness, while appreciated, is usually not among the highest mate-choice desiderata, except when the topic is extramarital affairs. Youth is not a major consideration.

Again oversimplifying, men seem to evaluate women in two stages. Stage one begins and ends with physical attractiveness -- manifested in terms of health, youth, and secondary sexual characteristics. These alone are generally enough to give rise to at least mild sexual fantasization. A whole new domain opens however, when men contemplate marriage or committed alliance, at which point some men contemplate the very same traits listed in the previous paragraph -- the sorts of things that might help determine a woman's suitability as a long-term partner and ally. The mere existence of stage two in human males is actually quite remarkable, as mammals go -- a strong sign of men's movement toward a more monogamous reproductive strategy, in which his choice is as nearly important to him as a woman's is to her. As we have seen though, this applies only to some men.

But let's go back and consider a man's stage one. Health and youth, as prime triggers of initial male arousal, make Darwinian sense. For while sperm is cheap, it makes little sense to deposit any where it will do no good. On selfish-gene terms, a male will be attracted to copulate with a female young and healthy enough to be fecund. 11

But what of those pronounced secondary female sexual characteristics which make up the third trigger of male arousal? Here we see strong indications that women have been competing with each other for quite some time, and a degree of "runaway" has indeed taken hold to dramatically alter their form and destiny.
One exaggerated female secondary sex characteristic is large breasts. Back in the 1960s, some anthropologists proposed that the "purpose" of these enlarged glands -- often far greater than needed to produce milk for nursing infants -- was to attract males to desire copulation. Some even suggested that breasts mimic the twin globes of the buttocks, and became adaptive as a way to entice males to mount face to face. This hypothesis has major flaws.

1) We now know a sub-species of chimpanzee, the bonobo, or pygmy chimp, which routinely mates face to face without any such adaptation. So do orangutans.

2) Anyone thinking that a typical male, once already aroused, needs enticement to mount simply does not understand males, period.

Anyway, the problem for human females was never to get males to copulate, but to get them to desire more than just one copulation... to willingly offer partnership lasting beyond the blush of youthful fecundity. Exaggerated breasts do nothing to enhance this, at least not directly. I will soon propose that their evolution was much more convoluted than that. 12

But first, let us return at last to another secondary characteristic, one with far more influence than large breasts, or even youth and beauty, over a man's willingness to consider a woman a possible mate. After all, tastes toward those attributes vary considerably, among societies and from era to era. Even hourglass figures, which Devendra Singh (1993) finds to be desired across cultural boundaries, only serve as an anchoring mean around which considerable variation in desirability is seen.

We have already mentioned this other trait, which is an obligate attraction-trigger, in that its absence can be a nearly universal turn-off of male desire. This trait is some degree of neoteny of physical appearance -- or paedomorphism. Consider the obvious. Failure to retain certain childlike body attributes can be extremely prejudicial to a woman's opportunity to breed. Give or take a shadow, here or there, we know that most human males simply will not be attracted to copulate with, or pair bond to, women possessing beards! Nor are bony eye ridges, thick necks, or basso voices considered feminine. In their presence, even monumental breasts or perfect hourglass figures will not compensate.

If any trait is a likely candidate to have "run away" with women, as they competed and were chosen by men, it is very likely to be outward physical neoteny. There are several reasons why this makes evolutionary sense.


We were already headed in that direction. As stated earlier, humankind needed to become neotenous in order to retain into adulthood our child-like, flexible brains and personalities. This was especially crucial for the acquisition of language. With juvenilization already under way in some areas -- in neural wiring and behavior -- it is reasonable to suggest the trend might become the focus of sexual selection, taken in additional directions by one sex, under strong selection pressure from the other.
Neoteny is a general fall-back variable. We are not the only species to go neotenous. Under our selective influence, most breeds of dogs now show substantial neoteny over a wide range of independent attributes, from physical form to behavior. In fact, juvenilization may be looked at as nature's way of allowing a species to back out of an evolutionary corner and try again, starting with a fresher, more plastic set of traits. 13
Neoteny is directly correlated with the very trait human females needed to attract in males. Consider the strange situation... human females were in competition with each other for mating, so they started developing external traits to attract males. But the problem was not simply to attract a male to desire copulation (which is trivial) but to attract the right type of male. In other words, the type of male given to protective or nurturing impulses.

Men are not langur monkeys. But even if infanticide played a role in our past behavior, there was also the countervailing tendency of tenderness to children. Studies by Robinson, Lockard and Adams (1979) showed that an infant's face -- especially smiling -- causes pleasure response at an involuntary level in many adult men, as well as large majorities of women. Countless tales of heroism by firemen and others who have risked their lives for the children of strangers show that this trait is well advanced, if not universally distributed among human males.

It is not at all preposterous, then, to suppose that when runaway sexual selection occurred in human females, it took off down a path that caused the external juvenilization of women... and that this was adaptive because it helped engender feelings of tenderness and protectiveness in some males. Tenderness which, in turn, might have been reinforced by female choosiness, so that trait was genetically rewarded in males.

The result may have been a cycle which continued round and round, accelerating with every loop... producing with each new generation females who were marginally more neotenous and choosy, as well as males who were marginally more likely to care what happens to their lovers and offspring. Such a cycle would have been self-feeding, self-reinforcing, and exceedingly powerful. 14

The Effects of Two-Way Human Sexual Selection

Not only are human females compelled to compete for mates, something uncommon in most species. They appear also to have been the sex most changed (at least in outward appearance) by runaway sexual selection in Homo sapiens, making women the least primate-looking of all higher primates. In comparison, males have been left relatively untouched.15

Moreover, there is a predictable and tragic consequence to the development of neoteny as an emblem of adult female attractiveness. Consider it this way. Sexual selection requires two partners in order to work, first the sex under competitive stress (normally males, but in this case women) among whom a certain fraction are "chosen". If some trait has a high correlation with reproductive success, the prevalence of that trait will increase in the next generation. And true runaway will accelerate even faster if the choosers change as well -- becoming ever more critical and demanding of that trait. So if paedomorphism was women's runaway trait, there's every reason to picture men growing ever more attracted to paedomorphism in women, at a matching pace. Obvious enough, so far.

But paedomorphism means resemblance to children! Consider the bizarre dilemma, then. In order to attract quality mates -- protector types -- women began taking on the external features of the objects of the protective impulse -- children. This was rewarded, presumably, with reproductive success. But it also meant that men began associating with sexual desirability the very outward traits which are most directly associated with childhood!

The calamitous sickness of sex with pre-pubescents is one of the nastier features of our species. It is denounced by the majority, yet persists at low levels in all cultures, posing a dilemma for those contemplating a better tomorrow for our descendants. But now we might suggest one possible explanation of the origin of this dysfunction. It may derive, at least in part, as an aberrant offshoot from the two-way cycle of runaway sexual selection just described. If ever there was proof that evolution is not planned, this is it. An undergraduate could have predicted the tragic consequences.

Fecundity, health, neoteny... these are superficial signs which human males came to associate with feminine sexual attractiveness. Unfortunately, this boat-load of attributes was without a tiller, headed on a collision course with the best interests of the very children the whole game is about in the first place! What was needed was an emergency adaptation to help sane human males tell children apart from adult, fecund women. It is at this point, I contend, that human females developed a secondary set of exaggerated physical traits, not to elicit sex from males but in order to help high-end males across this tragic trap. One of the most pronounced of these secondary traits was the ballooning of women's breasts.

A male does not need the stimulation of breasts simply to desire copulation. But amplified breasts, along with the waist-pelvis flair, do add to a suite of characteristics which give a normal adult male permission to admit his arousal, even to himself. They are not so much signals to indicate fecund femaleness as indicators of female adulthood. Healthy men are probably protected from sexual impulses toward children by a set of interrupt switches. These switches are by now so well developed that most men are scarcely aware of the beginnings of arousal by borderline pubescents... and feel shame when that arousal even momentarily reaches consciousness. 16 It is the unfortunate failure of such switches that provokes some to behave aberrantly. Likewise, it was the successful introduction of those switches that caused the majority of men to need more than just health and neoteny to experience the full flux of desire.

So women were off again, down the steep slope of competition. All else being equal, the desirable males were more attuned to women with fully developed breasts than to those whose glands were sufficient for nursing, but compact as a chimp's. Today, in order to help win the desperate game, North American women spend the annual budget of some small nations "correcting" a physical condition which has nothing to do with any illness or incapacity to nourish their young. Breast augmentation joins other types of cosmetic surgery -- procedures designed to restore the appearance of health and neoteny. It is a sign not only of the stresses faced by women naturally, but how these have been amplified and exaggerated by contemporary society.

In this context, one might be tmpted by an unusual interpretation of the "Venus-Ishtar" stone figurines found in neolithic sites -- depicting female forms with exaggerated breasts and hourglass figures. Perhaps they were portable and artificial permission cues, serving much the same function as the milder forms of pornography do today, allowing solitary males to release pent-up physiological tension that accumulates behind a dam of inhibitions that pre-date any religious stricture.

Notwithstanding such speculative asides, we are drawn to one unmistakable conclusion. In the strange story of humanity, it is the female who has been forced to wear the equivalent of bright, garish plumage, even though she is still the one with the most exhausting task in reproduction, and still the one with the most to lose. This combination is without known parallel in nature.

We are a strange clan, indeed.

Social Implications

One could be bloody-minded and suggest the present quandary will take care of itself, since presumably the children of "reindeer" men will be less successful than those whose fathers help nurture them. It has been said that the archaic term, illegitimacy, could be applied to a deadly plague sweeping the United States in the late Twentieth Century -- one than corelates more closely with childhood poverty, death and disability than any other group of causes, including accidents and infectious agents. If failure of men to assist in the raising of their children has such consequences, it might eventually result in the genetic rewarding of male nurturance, so that men equilibrate about a new "best" strategy, centered closer to shared child care. 17 Alas, in the context of a modern and compassionate society, this laissez-faire approach is callous, slow, and no solution at all.

Certainly we should put even greater effort into social conditioning, to try altering the ratio of "storks" to "reindeer" among human males. No doubt education can change the proportionate distribution of types. Unfortunately, those who expect a complete panacea out of socialization are likely to be disappointed. What good will it do to exhort boys not to act like elk, if they see elk-style men having success?

A better remedy might be to help women and girls learn to judge better -- to tell apart the various types of men -- and to distinguish a sincere promise from mere words aimed at an immediate end. In other words, use the tools of science to help young female Homo sapiens do what most females of other species do -- choose as well as they can, despite the complexities of modern context. For many, this could make the difference between a successful, happy life and eventual abandonment in poverty. Indeed, the pages of most womens' magazines seem obsessed with exactly this effort -- floundering chaotically toward alchemical prescriptions for choice-directed happiness. This effort currently receives virtually no support from feminist intellectuals, who consider the approach ideologically anathema, holding that woman should not base her happiness on marriage or successful mate-choice, even though such success, when achieved, demonstrably leverages improved lives for women and children in all contexts and at all social levels, and furthermore that same success can be perfectly compatible with actualization in career and other areas of life. In other words, a woman who chooses a mate well is also more likely to succeed in areas beyond home and marriage.

Even if a program teaching girls to make wise choices were implemented and highly effective, there would still be a rub; for so long as the goal is "one man for each woman" the rules of a zero-sum game continue to apply. There will be winners and losers, and the spectacle of females fiercely competing for quality mates will continue.

Finally, humanity may soon have the power to plan and execute alterations to its own genetic heritage. It's conceivable that a few prunings of DNA might excise the worst ancient reproductive behaviors, while retaining desirable protective drives. Brin (1992) describes how amazonogenesis might be added to the suite of impressive capabilities of the human womb, effectively ending male social dominance. Such programs would demand careful thought, and the wisdom to put them into effect only by consensus... a task almost as daunting politically as scientifically.

None of this implies the situation for human beings is hopeless. Through a combination of methods we might improve matters to the point where we are merely uncomfortable, instead of painfully confused. But one realization clearly emerges out of this discussion -- there is no design possible for a human utopia. Whatever society we put together will at best be a network of compromises.


It happens all too often that this sort of speculative essay is taken too seriously, by both authors and all-too easily persuaded (or outraged) readers. Evolutionary paleo-sociobiology is a subject which, for lack of solid facts, is all too prone to emotional, egotistical or wishful posturing. It is well to recall that one can only go so far by spinning reasonable-sounding scenarios. Those I have presented here are mere conjectures. I claim nothing more.

Secondly, open discussion can only do good here. Once people of good will, both men and women, are better aware of the hand dealt them by evolution, they must almost certainly grow better at playing it.

And there is an up side in this odd tale of runaway selection, as expressed movingly by Sarah Hrdy (1981, p.14)

... it will be well to keep in mind a central paradox of the human condition -- that our species possesses the capacity to carry sexual inequality to its greatest known extremes, but we also possess the potential to realize an unusual social equality between the sexes...

For all its tragic implications, this cycle of mutual selection has meant that both genders experience much the same range of emotions during their lifetimes. True, men and women seem at times to concentrate on different priorities, which come into sad conflict in our present culture. But standing back, one can say without any doubt that both girls and boys grow up knowing what it's like to feel the fear and excitement of initiating an encounter, as well as being the one to evaluate or choose, to accept or refuse. In most species these activities are strictly reserved for one sex or the other, but men and women both experience rejection, and each knows all the happy and aggravating phases of bonding. This may help women and men empathize with each other to a degree I would suspect is unprecedented between the sexes in nature, where males and females have little experience of each others' ways. Those who perceive only the gulf between men and women should take note.

Finally, although we may have stumbled about blindly in our million years of feverish adaptation, and while we now find ourselves boxed in, with little hope for anything like utopia, there is no cause for shame. If we are awkward and uneven in our adaptations, it is because we are a people still in rapid flux. One cannot hope or expect that a species will be perfectly at peace with itself when it is still in furious transition from what it once was, toward what it eventually may become. The first species ever to have some control or choice about that destiny.

Compassion is the trait we may be most proud of. Ironically, it can have come from nowhere else than the bizarre story of our ancestors' competition for reproductive success.


1. Joseph Carroll suggests that the discovery of fire my have been a driver for both hairlessness and the acquisition of clothing. "Removable fur has obvious advantages if you are experimenting with fire." (Personal correspondence.) This might also explain why the smell of burning hair is so repugnant to most people.

2. Ironies abound. Are nine-hundred dollar toilet seats worse than facial creams whose ingredients cost five cents, but which are sold at the equivalent of five thousand dollars a gallon? One cosmetics company executive explained, "We don't sell products. We sell hope."

3. Dr. James Moore, of UCSD, tells of female grey langur monkeys inciting males into battle over them. The female role certainly needn't be passive. It remains, however, nearly universally selective.

4. Even where males don't battle directly over matings, competition exists. Male chimpanzees often take turns mating with females in estrus. But they also have huge testicles, producing vast amounts of sperm. Reproductive advantage apparently goes to the male who produces enough to overwhelm his rivals' contributions. Male gorillas, who practice close harem-tending, have testes that are minuscule, by comparison.

5. Exceptions include red phalaropes and jacanas, species of birds in which the nurturing parent is the male, who is left alone with the egg while the female goes off in search of yet another male. Among phalaropes it is the female who is larger and brightly feathered, and who performs elaborate mating rituals to prove her worth to the selective male. The "choosy" sex is generally that with the most to lose from a bad call.

6. Hrdy has shown that philandering by females can be adaptive in stress-filled situations such as the langur monkey troop. Females often evade the chief bull to mate with promising young male outsiders who stand a chance of ousting him. This apparently helps confuse those outsider males over paternity, causing them to refrain from infanticide when and if they do take over. Such an adaptive path might have been followed by human females, explaining both concealed estrus and the ability to engage in subtle sexual deception. In any event, this mode of female philandering is distinct from the issue we are discussing -- how women were trapped into having to compete for the ability to reproduce at all.

7. A stereotype appears to have some basis, then. The spectrum of males ranges from langurs and reindeer (animal Don Juans?) all the way to swans and storks (Jimmy Carters?) ... from committed polygamists all the way to those who are almost completely reliable -- who are tempted, but then ponder home and say, "I guess not." ***

8. For "variability" we might replace "volatility" or even "instability." To illustrate this, from 1960 to 1986, the proportion of women attending University of California Medical Schools rose from under five percent to forty percent. Over the same period, the female population of California prisons also started around five percent... and stayed there. Clearly women are learning assertiveness, but being selective about applying it. Males' former near monopoly on violent crime has not shifted, despite all recent changes in the stressful lives of American women.

This is not to say that men are automatically bad guys. Rather they appear to show a degree of variability that is exaggerated even among primates. Consider why this high variability makes sense. First, humanity's recent rate of evolution appears to have been rapid, and Darwin showed that selection acts on variability. Among males, especially, a successful sport can pass on new, adaptive traits generously, while omitted male "failures" have little consequence. If this argument smacks of "group selection", careful re-phrasing can put the same idea in context of "selfish genes." Finally, the twin forces of sexual selection and change of reproductive strategy, have very probably contributed to making human males unstable, variable, and perhaps a little "crazy".


9. Prof. William Calvin of the University of Washington contends that the ice ages acted on humans as a genetic "pump." During boom times, populations of competent, versatile northerners would have expanded in relative isolation. When the ice returned, these groups only partly died back, but also would migrate south, infusing new traits into the (larger) parent population.

9 b. An analogy would be if human females found the "wild, romantic drifter" type of male irresistible, despite the harm such types do to society's ability to maintain subtle networks of interdependence. Naturally, this could never happen; it is just a hypothetical situation.

10. This generalization appears to hold particularly well for women who report a low frequency of sexual relations, especially extra-marital affairs. Gangestad (1993) accounts for this in an interesting way, presenting a theory of tradeoffs between a male's "investment potential" (IP) and his "heritable fitness" (HF). When women are not looking for a permanent mate, or have complete independence from any need for outside resource assistance, there appears to be a tendency to seek males on the basis of outward physical traits associated with genetic superiority (HF). In other words, when women need men only for seed, their attitude may swing toward that of elephant seal females. Throughout most of human history, however, a life-or-death need for loyal help (IP) probably helped drive the more prevalent attitudes reported by Buss.

11 A woman's fertile period is much narrower than a man's time as a potential father. This biological fact bodes poorly for those hoping propaganda alone might end the youth-fetishism of American males. While "good" men who have bonded to their wives can love them and continue to find them arousing until senescence -- and "age-ism" can, indeed, be ameliorated by good upbringing and consciousness-raising -- it is nevertheless almost certainly wired-in for the outward emblems of fecundity -- youth and health -- to be arousing to men. Like it or not, this is part of the foundation from which all future attempts at improved socialization and mitigation must commence.

12. I choose to concentrate on breasts here because the case is clearer. Regarding other pronounced female traits -- e.g. broadened pelvises and narrow waists -- runaway sexual selection may have been a contributing factor. For instance, Devendra Singh (1993) finds that a ratio between waist and hip circumference of 3:4 is seen as attractive in women of almost any culture, despite wide variability in taste concerning overall "plumpness." Thornhill and Gangestad (1993) contend that estrogen causes exaggerated fat deposits in the gluteal-femoral region (thighs and buttocks) while testosterone causes deposit in the abdominal region. This ties in with their theory that human sexual selection is based on choosing mates whose appearance shows averageness plus symmetry, modified by those features exaggerated by testosterone in men and estrogen in women. Those hormones, in turn are involved in hypo-active immune systems, so such exaggerations would advertise that here is a healthy individual who has parasite resistance to spare. Alas, by that standard, beer bellies and male pattern baldness should also be deemed attractive in males, as well as violent, irrational behavior.

In any event, sexual selection cannot have driven the widening of the female pelvic girdle any faster than the punishment of horrible death inflicted during a difficult childbirth, as the cranial size of human infants expanded prodigiously. With all of this complications in mind, the decision to focus on breasts seems clear-cut.

13. Consider a leap of speculation. It might be proposed that, since it is males who are the usual crucibles of sexual selection, it is the male in most species who also starts out with an intrinsically broader range of variability... or ways to misread the blueprint. It is, after all, upon minor excursions from the old floor plan that sexual selection must act. While this variability guarantees a higher failure rate, and even occasional monsters, it also offers great rewards to the successful sport or variant. Thus a modest degree of instability may be inbuilt in males. On the other hand, the female reproductive pattern in most species is conservative, no female is likely to profit enough from wild excursions from the norm to make the risk worthwhile.

But what if, suddenly, it is females who must compete, subjected to the tyranny of external choice? Then their very stability in following the species plan may turn into a disadvantage, robbing individuals of the sort of variability upon which a successful runaway leader depends. But there is always neoteny. Given that women were doomed to be swept into a (more typically male) runaway race of change and adaptation against each other, neoteny may have been the easiest path to take. This is, of course, an extremely tentative extrapolation.

14. Indeed, the drive toward female paedomorphism may have added synergistically to the brain-behavior neoteny trend discussed before... possibly helping to make us the mental giants of Earth.

15. Note that this dichotomy is particularly pronounced in the so-called Caucasoid races. In some other groups, males seem to differ less from females in hirsuteness and exaggeration of female breasts is less pronounced. Nevertheless, women of all races appear visually less apelike than their brothers.

16. Evolution is not planned. In order for my scenario to take place, we need a plausible cost to males, of not following the road I describe. Clearly sex with children is unprofitable, a waste of sperm and distraction. Moreover, once human life span lengthened enough for parents to expand their supervisory role, there would have been a drive for moms and dads to forbid other males to sexually assault their children. If this were enforced severely, one could imagine men developing a hesitancy about mating with any female lacking adulthood cues.

17. Almost no human society is known that did not exhibit the practice of polygyny, in one form or another. But natural hunter gatherer societies appear to have varied widely in the criteria used for selecting "chiefs" -- (defined as those males invested with both tribal authority and accompanying reproductive advantages). In some clans, protector types seem to have been chosen, with active participation in this selection by female councils. In others, more brutal types prevailed simply on the basis of fighting ability, and females lacked any voice in determining who would become a chief and have multiple wives. Note that the difference among native tribes was not whether there was polygyny by alpha males, but who set the criteria for its implementation. (Among the Cherokee, a chief could not choose his second wife. When the first wife felt ready, she would select someone she could get along with, and he had at best a veto. Also, family-abandonment was a major crime.) These two archetypal patterns appear to have rewarded profoundly different male personality traits, both of which persist today.

If we call serial-monogamy a sequential form of polygyny, the rate in supposedly monogamous contemporary America is clearly much higher than it was in most aboriginal tribes. It is left to the reader to decide which category of male is having the most reproductive success today -- the "user" type, or faithful "dad" types. Despite greater death rates associated with the "inseminate-and-leave" strategy, it clearly produces a lot of offspring... and will continue doing so until our "tribe" changes its partly-polygamous mating practices, or at least re-defines its implied criteria for choosing "chiefs".

For their assistance, conversations and criticism, the author would like to thank -- Dr. Joe Miller, Dr. James Moore, Dr. Gregory Benford, Dr. Paul Levinson, Dr. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Dr. David Buss and Dr. Cheryl Brigham.


Alexander, Richard D., Hoogland, John L., Howard, Richard D., Noonan, Katherine M. & Sherman, Paul W. (1979)
"Sexual dimorphisms and breeding systems in pinnipeds, ungulates, primates & humans." in Evolutionary Biology & Human Social Behavior, N.A. Chagnon & W. Irons (eds.), Duxbury Press.
Brin, David (1992) Glory Season. New York, Bantam Books.
Calvin, William (1991) The Ascent of Mind, New York, Bantam Books.
Buss, David M. (1994) The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, New York, Basic Books.
Fisher, R. A. (1958) The Genetic Theory of Natural Selection (Second Edition). New York, Dover.
Gangestad, S.W. (1993) "Sexual Selection and Physical Attractiveness: Implications for Mating Dynamics." Human Nature, 4, 205-235.
Gowaty, P.A. (1992) "Evolutionary Biology and Feminism." Human Nature, 3, 217-249.
Hrdy, Sarah (1981) The Woman That Never Evolved. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
Jones, D. & Hill, K. (1993) "Criteria of Facial Attractiveness in Five Populations." Human Nature, 4, 271-296.
Robinson, C. L., Lockard, J.S. & Adams, R. M. (1979) "Who looks at a Baby in Public." Ethol. Sociobiol., 1: 87-91.
Singh, D. (1993) "Body Shape and Womens' Attractiveness: The Critical Role of Waist-to-Hip Ratio." Human Nature, 4, 297-331.
Thornhill, R. & Gangestad, S.W. (1993) "Human Facial Beauty: Averageness, Symmetry, and Parasite Resistance." Human Nature, 4, 237-269.
About the Author

As a scientist, David Brin acquired his a Ph.D. from the University of California, taught university physics and writing courses, and has participated in interdisciplinary activities at UCLA's Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life. As a New York Times bestselling author, Brin has won Hugo, Nebula, & Locus Awards for his novels and short stories, including The Postman, Earth and Glory Season. He recently spent two years living in France with his wife, Cheryl Brigham, who was then a researcher at the University of Paris. They now live in San Diego County with two toddlers and about a hundred very demanding trees.

Misc not now used
Dian Fossey (1984) documented infanticide among gorillas. Fascinating work on North American antelope (see Nat.Hist.4/89) shows that styles of polygyny can change with circumstances within a single generation of a species, shifting over several years from a territorial-based system (males covering all females within a defended range) to a harem system, in which a male defends his rights to several specific females, wherever they might go. This variability of style within an overall theme is reminiscent of what we see in human societies.

Moore, Dr. James, Anthropology Dept. UCSD, Private Communication. Formal citation forthcoming.
Fossey, Dian (1984) "Infanticide in Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla berengei) with Comparative Notes on

Chimpanzees. Infanticide: Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives, Glenn Hausfater & Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, eds. New York, Aldine Pub. co.
Hrdy, S.B., (Ibid.)
Daly, Martin & Wilson, Margo, Homicide, ____________________________________

How Intimidation and Torture work

Neo Neocon has a podcast up I recommend you listen to.

Such things as Stock Holme syndrome, aka identifying with the aggressor, is how someone taken captive defends his captives, if only because he feels relieved that nothing worse was done to him. This fear, this motivation to survive, is imprinted on the genes. Compare this with GitMo and what the terrorists say and do after being released.

Why do terrorists attack their captors with words and actions, during and after their captivity, but not Centanni and other hostages under Islamic Jihad? It is because intimidation and torture work. You've heard that torture just makes people lie. Did Centanni lie about his good treatment, did other hostages lie about their good treatment? No, to them, it was good treatment. And it was exactly what their captors wanted them to say. Torture works not by applying pain and forcing you to do what we want, torture breaks your spirit so that you want to satisfy the torturers in the fear that they will do worse if not satisfied. Because GitMo military guards are not allowed and do not torture and intimidate, the terrorists feel no fear and are free to retaliate. Yet many more organizations are applying pressure to close GitMo, while few pressure Islamic Jihadists to do the same. Primarily because Islamic Jihad does the effective thing and either kill the hostages, using them up, or releasing them after using them up. President Bush doesn't make use of his prisoners as bargaining chips, he doesn't say "do this, or I'll kill your friends 1 a day".

Most people will see my solutions and applications as extreme and counter-productive. What they don't understand is the psychology of current humans at play. An incorrect perception of current positions, will lead to incorrect moves, if you know your chess. Brutally dismembering terrorists doesn't create a lashback because of how things are. Brutally dismembering innocent people like the Nazis and Arabs did and do, is counter-productive precisely because the situation is different for them. It doesn't matter what back lash is available. There are ways around it, even if it does exist. You remember the fog of war? Not only does it mean you can't predict the future, but also that things that seem strong and secure now, will become weak and vulnerable almost magically later. Same goes for strong points. If you think it will be a lashback, if you do this, then I can change things so that in the future, there is no lashback. If you don't think there will be a lashback, I can change reality so that it makes your perceptions wrong. Perceptions are just perceptions of the now, not the future. THe fog of war allows deception, it allows planning and setting up of current positions so that the future positions are more favorable. Simple strategy, like chess. Develop your pieces, get your people into position, do things now and then act when the consequences of your actions come into fruition.

Iran - The historical context

I just checked out a link I had and got to this post where I made a comment on. The comment section is pretty good, since the opponents actually have a clue what is going on historically.

A shrinkwrapped post on Iran

The below is my comment considering the times.

So, for example, the lesson of the Munich Crisis of 1938 isn't that the Allies should have gone to war then (it is worth noting that there is no particular reason to think that they would have done any better then than they did in 1940), it's that they should have taken the right steps many years earlier.

The modern Iranian situation works the same way. We in the West are paying the price for decades of short-sighted actions that only encouraged long term strife. In this the Iraq invasion is only the latest -- if one of the most glaring -- example of how we've blundered into potential disaster. After 9/11 the US had the political capital and goodwill to help stabilize the region, but instead we squandered it in a heavy-handed way that alienated our allies while antagonizing potential enemies. Power is always more impressive when not used. Our struggles in Iraq have only served to demonstrate American WEAKNESS.

Allan has a point. It is about taking the right steps ahead of time, so that you end up with a mate and a win. However, Allan's perspective dictates that to him, his right step is trying to form connections that are useless in today's world. How he derived all this from the more or less correct historical facts he laid out, is an interesting phenomenon.

For example, after Allan said that Germany could have avoided war by avoiding the naval arms race with Britain before 1914, Allan was correct. And he should have learned from that little tid bit, the lesson that the US should have ignored France and the Un instead of havng an arms race for votes in the UN. The UN precipitated the war with Iraq the moment the US allowed the methodology (inspectors) to partake of the shine of US prestige and approval.

As for Munich, it's either way. Neville believed he shouldn't go to war right now, right then, because he believed he had a chance at peace. Much as Allan here believes he can have peace by using this non-existent post 9/11 mysticism in the world. There's always more than 2 options here. Allan can see things in hindsight, their causes, but he interprets it and learns from it incorrectly. This produces some curious end conclusions concerning the current war.

Now that a genuine threat has emerged -- a nuclear armed Iran -- we lack the political support and perhaps resources to deal with it in a unilateral way.

That's not true. Every resource that is required to deal with Iran, Bush already has. What is stopping him is lack of will, and people like Allan here I believe, misinterpret lack of will to be lack of resources.

If we go in without proper international support and/or provocation on the part of Iran it will end up a political disaster.

Even while talking about being unilateral, they still think and believe in proper international support. There is no proper international support because the international community is on the side that pays them and the side that can and will destroy them. Demonstrate power and they'll flock to you. Demonstrate weakness, and they will be on you as vultures.

After 9/11 the US had the political capital and goodwill to help stabilize the region, but instead we squandered it in a heavy-handed way that alienated our allies while antagonizing potential enemies.

If a person really believes that, then he believes people can be convinced not to blow themselves up through pep rallies and "salesmen". That person believes as Neville Chamberlain did, that peace was possible because he was very good at making a "deal". This isn't about deals, this is about power, who has it, and who is willing to use what they have.

September 02, 2006

Genetics and Fate

[Latter reply to a debate concerning what determines a person's fate and limitations]

I use the word "proof" not in the mathematical sense, but in the sense that a scientific hypothesis can be proved within the limitations of data and observations, using additional data.

It's not incompatible with you're system, Earl.

First, you are conceding that height is genetic, I believe.

That's a very vague thesis, Earl. Is the ocean wet? Is the sky blue? We have to get into specifics.

Why? This belief is only an inference from observations that we’ve made

When I said specifics, I mean specifics in relation to what genetics does when applied to specific things. When you talk about genetics being height or height being genetics, that is the specificity I hold in memory when I talk about how this that and the other are on one list, while others are on another list. The relationship between height and genetics, are specific, they should not be treated in a general format. That loses fidelity and sharpness of clarity.

When you outline your thoughts on the connection between height and genetics, you will find that it does not include every other thing you have listed as alike the contrast.

If I can show you that this is so for intelligence and disease, will you then concede that we have NO genetic limitations?

Genetics does not seem to be a coherent whole, attached as a singular entity. Meaning, if you can take it and apply it to one sector of human affairs, that does not mean everything else becomes just like that one application. So let's say if you can construct a model demonstrating that there are limits for intelligence and disease based upon known and proven DNA sectors and configurations. So what. We are not specifically talking about what genetics do or do not do, we or I, are talking about the strict human limitations of a person as opposed to his archetypal DNA structure. We can base our consideration of human limitations on genetic limitations, but that is not set in stone nor is it guaranteed to be the correct method in determining human limitations, as opposed to genetic limitations. Obviously genes have a limit, they are a biological system. All physical systems, which includes the biological as it obeys the conservation of mass and energy, have limitations that are consistent with other like systems.

Human limitations, are not a physical system, it does not obey the logical mandates we would otherwise assume holds.

Second, you neglected to mention Mozart. I know of few to no other toddlers who were performing/writing music as he did. Why is that…..if musical talent is equally distributed and its emergence depends solely on environment, then does it seem likely that the fame and wealth available to someone whose child was such a prodigy would not have tempted them to do whatever Mozart’s father did? Or did he know a secret that has escaped everyone else?

That is not the model that I choose to support, however. When I say that humans have limitations that are not strictly based upon their genetic pre-destined limitations, I mean exactly that. I do not deny that there are advantages confered upon a person when he is naturally gifted at a specific field in human endeavour. However, I do contest that the end result, the end human limits achieved or not achieved, is predominantly or even entirely based upon motivation, environment, and the shaping of the human personality/soul.

Mozart was trained early on as a performer, because his father was obsessed more or less with music and having a child prodigy. That kind of obsession produces character, a specific kind of character in a child. To please his father, to do well, and to utilize his gifts. Would a father have as much absolute end result success, if his child was not gifted in music? I believe that to be a positive answer, in so far as the child has an equal motivation. Mozart's motivation was to please his father, to do well, to work the music, and to learn music which he was good at. Those things that you are good at, you tend to specialize in, do you not. If a child is not good at music, what can you do to make him want to be good in order to balance out the natural advantage of a Mozart? Mozart's motivations come from his unique circumstance. If you can equal that motivation, your human limitations have now changed.

Let's say musical talent was distributed more or less equally. If being a musician pays nothing, and being a doctor pays a lot, which do you think fathers will attempt to motivate their sons to go into irregardless of what their sons really are good at? This is not a useful model to demonstrate anything, to presume that musical talent is spread out and ask why it doesn't show up. You end up more involved in human socioeconomic straits than with genetics.

I think that a FAR likelier story (not proved by science, just the inference to the best explanation) is that musical talent is NOT distributed equally to all of us.

SInce that has nothing to do with why if you worked, trained, became as motivated as Lance Armstrong and still could not be on his level, what worth is it to say whether talent is distributed or not? You didn't begin this by talking about where talent was distributed. You just defacto said that some people could not achieve the level of an Armstrong and what not. If you are going to go with talent distribution, then that only determines where people start, not where they end. Since you began with the end goal, your current subject does not support that end you are striving for.

If height is limited genetically, why is it such a stretch to think that maximum muscle size is also limited in that way?

For one thing. Bones suffer from what is known as support problems, basically physics. Muscles operates based upon biology, not physics. In physics, steel does not become harder the more you use it or the more stress is placed upon it. Bone is not steel, but it is limited simply because of gravity and what purpose it serves. It's always a stretch to compare the Sun and the Moon, the atom and the ion, anti-matter and matter. Strength from body building, comes from years of building muscle because muscle gets better the more it is used. Arnold, who used bodybuilding as a way to get out of poverty, had more of a motivaton to utilize those years building up muscles, then some guy living the high life at hollywood training at a gym.

As bones grow larger and longer, they require ligaments that are genetically designed for a certain specific range of weight and size. Artificial growth does not work as nature designed things to work. Muscles do not require bone, since muscles move themselves. The limitations for height as opposed to muscle are not the same. Therefore whatever data you collect on the data, are not comparable. Those observations are independent of each other, you cannot just construct a hypothesis using data from two independent things and then just link them together without the correct correlations.

I trained hard - twice a day, watching my diet, etc.

Let's think about this and analyze it.

Does this story support my idea that mile-running ability is unequally distributed and that if Eddie and I did PRECISELY the same training regiment he would always have a genetic advantage over me? Or does it support (NOT “prove”) your contention that mile-running ability is equally distributed and that if Eddie and I trained in preciselythe same way, we would end up with the same time in the mile?

I wouldn't really care whether ability is unequally distributed or not. But that, as i mentioned above, was not where you started from. You started with the thesis that people like you and others, cannot achieve the level of skill and ability of current top dogs. Cannot, meaning as in never, always limited, predestined by birth. Your story supports the theory that he who has a lead, can maintain that lead if he doesn't slack off. That's just physics, force and acceleration, inertia. A mass in motion, will tend to stay in motion until an equal and opposite force stops it.

I don't contend that basic genetic predispositions do not accelerate a person's skill, ability, and talent set. What I contended, was that genetics are neither the majority or primary causes of whether a person reaches the height of power and skill.

You're going down an irrelevant path here. You need to explain why genetics predetermine people's careers and potential successes. You need to explain why you think early successes in a person's life brought on by genetic talent or other factors does not increase people's motivations. You need to then explain, why a person is limited by his genetics, when in fact, he is limited by his personality, life goals, and motivational construct.

See, it really doesn't matter who has what talent, on what kind of distribution system, or in which time date. What really matters, is whether you can adequately construct and explain your hypothesis, your hypothesis being that genetics pre-determine a person's fate, regardless of any other factor.

I don't need to believe that genetics are "equally distributed", for you to be wrong. As I explain, your theory is wrong simply because how far people go is determined by their motivation and early life experiences. But I don't arrive that the point using inductive logic, the kind of logic you use when you think of science and experiments, Earl. Genetics only matter in the sense, that it molded their early life experiences and gave them additional reason to excel. Thus, Lance's superiority to you, is not his genetics, it is his motivation. He pushes his limits all the time, you believe some are the way they are because they were born that way.

I'm done with the conclusion, now here's the other miscellaneous stuff.
Well, Ymarsakar - perhaps you’re correct and if I’d really applied myself, I could have been the equal of Van Cliburn, but you know what…..? Much as I admire my potential in all kinds of ways, I don’t think so. I don’t have the same genetics as Van Cliburn, and the evidence is pretty firm that that counts.

That's right, Earl. You don't think so. You think you don't have the same potential, the same limitations, because you don't have the same genetics. You base your thinking on genetics, your conclusions on your hypothesis concerning genetics.

The science does not bear out your hypothesis, Earl. We can break the science apart into many things. But since I already wrote my conclusion more or less, I'll just list the fundamental difference between one belief of a person and what science supports. Science supports specific DNA structures that allow greater initial performance than the competitors. What science does not support, is that Earl could not have been the equal of Van Cliburn, only because Van's genes are not Earl's genes. That's not an experiment science has done, with any sort of good accurate result.

People are not like other people because their souls are not the same, their personality are not the same. These are the primary reasons and causes for differences amongst individuals. Genetics do not decide good and evil, genetics do not decide success or failure. In fact, genetics is a crap shoot, it's nature's way of gambling and see who wins or not. Genetics Do Not Matter. Only victory and success matters, power and skill over your rivals. That is nature's goal, genetics are a means to an end. It is not the end goal itself. Because genes are not the end goal, they can be surpassed and bypassed. If you can't go through a wall because your genetics have spoken, then you can go around, dig under, climb ontop. Victory, however, cannot be bypassed, it cannot be stolen or fake copied. There is no way to make it so that we do not "need" victory, we will always need it. Genes, can be bypassed and circumvented, because genes are not the end goal while victory is.

What does all this have to do with you believing that I am contending that people are born with an equal amount of potential and talent? I don't care what they are born with, that's the whole point. It's what you end up as that matters. It doesn't matter if you use genes, a time machine, science, pseudo-limbs, or whatever to get at the end goal.

You can't use science to create models to determine whether a person's potential is determined by A, B, or C. Well you could, but you wouldn't succede. There are too many variables, you can't isolate specific variables you need in your experiment, and various other problems that arise. You think in terms of experiments, how can I experiment to see whether me and my friend here the runner, can end up the same if we did the same training regiment. Because the scientific methodology is inadequate to the task, you have to use something else. Just like with genes, if you can't do things one way because your genes said you can't fly, find a way around it.