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The Same Old Story

People often reinterpret past events, recast them in terms of some contemporary ideology. When historians talk about the Monophysites in Byzantine times, they often suggest that those struggle are a mask for a kind of proto-nationalism. Maybe they were: and maybe nobody involved was thinking anything remotely like that. The Communists tried to come up with Marxist interpretations of ancient history, which led them to spend way too much time talking about Mazdakites in Sassanian Persia and the Zealots of Thessalonika . And Spartacus: but at least Spartacus was cool.

Then there are feminist versions of history. Let us never speak of them again.

Generally, this is all crap. But we could at least hope for something new along these lines: bullshit perhaps, but at least fresh bullshit. Obviously
the reality underlying both the Punic Wars and the Crusades is the ancient struggle between EEF and ANE.

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The recent popularity of men choosing to be castrated and wear a dress ( a ‘sex-change’) has some similarities to certain past practices. The people involved had very different things to say about their reasons, but it’s sometimes better to consider actions, rather than words.

The Skoptys were a secret sect in Tsarist Russia, known for castration of men and mastectomy of women.

Nobles, military officers, priests and merchants joined its ranks – not just peasants. In the late 19th century, there were scandals when some high-ups in the Orthodox church were found to be Skoptys. Pull down their pants: surprise! Cf The Kreutzer Sonata.

There may have been as many as 100,000 Skoptys by the early 20th century. The Commies seem to have wiped them out, confirming that there’s a little bit of good in the worst of us.

The Galli, the eunuch priests of Cybele [ Magna Mater], are another example. “The Galli castrated themselves during an ecstatic celebration called the Dies sanguinis, or “Day of Blood”, which took place on March 24.[4] At the same time they put on women’s costume, mostly yellow in colour, and a sort of turban, together with pendants and ear-rings. They also wore their hair long, and bleached, and wore heavy make-up. They wandered around with followers, begging for charity, in return for which they were prepared to tell fortunes. On the day of mourning for Attis they ran around wildly and disheveled. They performed dances to the music of pipes and tambourines, and, in an ecstasy, flogged themselves until they bled.[3] ”

Self-castration was un-Roman and forbidden to citizens, except for the period between Claudius and Domitian. So the Galli were generally foreigners.

Rome officially adopted this cult at a low point in the 2nd Punic war. It lasted for a quite a while: St. Augustine complained about them.

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Charter Schools

I noticed an article by Megan McArdle, We Libertarians Were Really Wrong About School Vouchers . She says “it was reasonable to think,in 1997, that voucher programs could change the world. ”

No, it wasn’t. You had to be a complete fool to think that, operating on a substantially incorrect model of what makes people tick.

I never expected charter schools to have any significant effect. And they don’t.

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I am not a Moron

So said Agustin Fuentes on Twitter, a few days ago. He’s the same guy that said “Genes don’t do anything by themselves; epigenetics and complex metabolic and developmental systems are at play in how bodies work. The roundworm C. elegans has about 20,000 genes while humans have about 23,000 genes, yet it is pretty obvious that humans are more than 15-percent more complex than roundworms. So while genes matter, they are only a small part of the whole evolutionary picture. Focusing just on DNA won’t get you anywhere.”

Fuentes was claiming that we don’t really know that, back in prehistory, men did most of the hunting while women gathered. “Men hunted and fought one another and women did not? For the vast majority of human evolution we do not have clear evidence that only men hunted. In fact, for some ancient humans there is strong likelihood that both sexes did participate in hunting. And, importantly, earlier humans were substantially more robust that we are today…that is, a large percentage of females in the past were more robust than many males are today. Plus, depending on what hunting technology you use, size and muscle density might not be critical factors. Also, the evidence of interpersonal violence is pretty minimal for much of human history, insufficient to see if there was a sex-based pattern. When we do start to see more robust evidence for lethal violence (war-like events) the distribution of injuries and evidence of participation is not biased by sex and until quite recently (last 7,000 years or so). There are no clear biases one way or the other in regards to gender representation in hunting and violence until very recently. Not to say that such differences did not exist but to assert they existed and that they were as they are today is not science, it is speculation.”

Someone (Will@Evolving _Moloch) criticized this as a good candidate for the most misleading paragraph ever written. The folly of youth! When you’ve been around as long as I have, sonny, you will realize how hard it is to set records for stupidity.

Fuente’s para is multidimensional crap, of course. People used to hunt animals like red deer, or bison, or eland: sometimes mammoths or rhinos. Big animals. Back in the day, our ancestors used stabbing spears, which go back at least half a million years. Stand-off weapons like atlatls, or bows, or JSOW, are relatively recent. Hunters took big risks & suffered frequent injuries. Men are almost twice as strong as women, particularly in upper-body strength, which is what matters in spear-chucking. They’re also faster, which can be very important which your ambush fails.
So men did the hunting. This isn’t complicated.

Which contemporary hunter-gather societies followed this pattern, had men do almost all of the big-game hunting? All of them.

Pregnancy is not that big a deal for the average predator: females keep hunting successfully when gravid. But for humans it’s a big deal. And human infants are unusually helpless, take a long time before they can do much for themselves. Do you think Cro-Magnon men nursed the rugrats?

The bit about’the evidence of interpersonal violence is pretty minimal for much of human history” is true in a sense: for much of human prehistory, we don’t have much evidence, period. Data is particular sparse for our main direct ancestors, in Africa: we just don’t have many hominid skeletons from there. We have an order of magnitude more Neanderthal skeletons: limestone caves are way better than slightly acidic forest floors for preserving bones, the local farmers and construction crews in Europe are educated and call a prof when they stumble onto something, etc.

We know more from European remains, Neanderthals, homo antecessor at the Atapuerca caves, etc. Cannibals. A strong sign of interpersonal violence, if you ask me.

People used to have much thicker skulls. More than once, an h. erectus skull has been mistaken for a turtle shell. Why? To keep out the rain? Clubs. Why did skulls become gracile? Distance weapons largely replaced clubs, so there was less payoff for thick skulls. Just as guns ended plate armor.

Do our close relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, kill each other? Sure. All the time.

Low levels of interpersonal violence in the Pleistocene? Crap. Gender equalitarianism in distant prehistory ? Also crap: it never happened. You’d have to be a moron to believe that.

Look, feminists aren’t happy with human nature, the one that actually exists and is the product of long-term evolutionary pressures. Too bad for them. When they say stuff like “It should not simply be assumed that the exclusion of women from hunting rests upon “natural” physiological differences. “, they just sound like fools.. ‘natural physiological differences” exist. They’re as obvious a punch in the kisser.

Suppose you wanted to construct a society with effective sexual equality – which is probably just a mistake, but suppose it. The most effective approach would surely entail knowing and taking into account how the world actually ticks. You’d be better off understanding that about 6,000 genes (out of 20,000) show significant expression differences between the sexes, than by pretending that we’re all the same. You would to make it so: by hook or by crook, by state force and genetic engineering.

Similarly, if you want to minimize war, pretending that people aren’t warlike is a poor start – about as sensible as fighting forest fires by pretending that trees aren’t flammable.

My advice to Agustin Fuentes, about not being a moron: show, don’t tell.

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Orcas, killer whales, have occasionally attacked (and in a few cases killed) their trainers, but to the best of my information, no human being has ever been eaten by an orca.

Why the fuck not? Are we not good enough for them?

This also implies that no orca has ever eaten a black person. There can be only one explanation.

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There was a rumor, about a tumor, nestled at the base of his brain

Jacob Sullum, in Reason, says that there’s no chance that a detailed pathological study of Stephen Paddock’s brain will explain why Paddock committed mass murder.

He quotes Szasz. A mistake.

Sullum’s claim is incorrect. Now and then we manage to recognize a pathology that underlies someone’s crazy. Once in a while we even understand it. I’m not saying that the odds of finding an explanation of this atrocity in an autopsy ( in our current state of knowledge) are good: they’re not. But sometimes it works.

Strokes, lesions, trauma, infection, cancer, circulatory disorders, firing a steel rod through your head – all can make people act even screwier.

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