Beauty is communal. We know what beautiful architecture looks like. Tourists travel from all over the world to see the buildings of Italy, the Baptistry in Florence, the Roman Coliseum, and the cathedrals of France. Or, maybe the fanciful towers of Neuschwanstein Castle. Likewise, Western tourists will go to see Hindu temples in India, or the Taj Mahal, and Buddhist temples in Thailand. The connection between religion and beauty is also significant. A beautiful environment creates a shared place to live that embodies qualities that can be experienced as “home.” Poundbury is a self-consciously created town in England that employs traditional house
designs that most people actively like and enjoy. Liberals correctly see Poundbury as an attack on their individualist mindset and reject it. Individualism is antisocial and thus eschews orderly and beautiful neighborhoods with concordant matching architectural styles that embody group-selected values such as harmony. Instead, they opt for intentional ugliness; either overtly anti-human ugly square boxes, or bizarre monstrosities that represent “originality,” not beauty. Truth, beauty and goodness converge with cross-cultural agreement. There is no Spanish physics and Inuit physics. The same is true of philosophical truths. There are thousands of ways of being wrong, of missing the target, and only one way of being right. Originality is far easier when being wrong or creating something ugly. No talent or intelligence is required for either. Any of us can do it. The only requirement is gall. How impervious are you to social embarrassment? The charlatan who simply stares down his detractors with a sociopathic unblinking stare. Continue reading
Anamnesis is a key feature of Platonic philosophy. It means “to remember.” Plato thought that eternal truths concerning justice, truth, and beauty were present in the human soul and that we had experienced these Form/Ideas in some previous spiritual and heavenly existence. This contains the pleasing idea that we come from the divine and we return to a transcendent realm upon death, as Wordsworth’s poem “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” also implies. Plato thought that imperfect versions of justice, truth, and beauty could be experienced in the course of earthly existence and they could remind us of the true archetypes that exist in the mind of God, to interpolate Christianity into the description.
Edward Dutton points out that there is a ubiquitous human instinct to believe in spirits, the gods, and God. Every single human society has proved as much. It can be anticipated with certainty that when the next hitherto undiscovered Amazonian tribe is encountered, they will believe in God or the gods. Belief in a moral God who is collectively worshiped is tremendously adaptive for a society, as is ethnocentrism; a preference for members of your own community and thus a willingness to fight to expel invaders and to defend yourself and your brethren. Multiculturalism is by that measure, nonadaptive. And then, ethnomasochism and xenophilia would be the ultimate maladaptation. Belief in a moral God is associated with mental health, physical health, good looks, and fertility. Atheism is correlated with mental illness, poor health, and infertility; voluntary or otherwise. Atheism is maladaptive. God or nihilism. Dutton argues that if you are unfortunate enough to be an atheist, you should keep your beliefs to yourself and avoid spreading your nihilism and existential despair to the rest of us, something that I have argued for years concerning nihilist professors. Depression is contagious – even for the otherwise mentally healthy. Continue reading
There are R strategists and K strategists. R strategists are fast life strategists – live fast, die young. Don’t worry about the future. Follow your impulses. If it feels good, do it. That applies to sex, drugs, everything. If the climate is warm and life is not too difficult, people might as well be fast life strategists. People coming from warmer climates follow this modus operandi more than Northern Europeans for historical and geographical reasons. People living through chaotic times where the future is highly uncertain due to political facts, or imagined environmental catastrophe, are also more likely to pursue this way of life.
K strategists have to have higher impulse control. They are future oriented – sometimes planning very far into the future. Food and shelter cannot be taken for granted. Given a tough climate, men, women, and perhaps extended families will have to work in concert towards a common goal. They will need to be prosocial; agreeable, so they can get along with each other, and conscientious; applying themselves steadily to their work. Higher intelligence helps quell native impulses and instincts so that will be selected for. East Asians excel in all these regards. Continue reading
Men have evolved to be disposable protectors of women. Little boys will instinctively pick up sticks and use them as swords and rifles. They will even practice dying. Aaarrrgggh! The fact that women are significantly weaker than men and are less aggressive is not the only reason women make lousy warriors. Dying for your country can seem like a strange concept for a modern liberal-influenced person. But, historically, men knew that in some circumstances, if they were defeated by the enemy, then they would be killed. Maori intertribal wars of conquest, for instance, typically involved killing the men and enslaving the women, though some of them were killed too and some men were enslaved. An Alexander the Great, however, would defeat a region’s army and then merely subjugate everyone as a vassal state. In other cases, people like the Dorians would subordinate the local Ionians via killing, settling, and ousting. Muslims would enslave men and women, white and black, and castrate the men, turning them into eunuchs, and breed with the women. From a genetic and evolutionary perspective, either way, it would make sense for men to fight for the survival of the tribe, and to fight sometimes even to the death since they have nothing much to lose in terms of natural selection. Women, on the other hand, are a valuable commodity. A community’s ability to survive depends on having fertile women with relatively few men needed to impregnate them. Most women will breed with members of the same tribe, or with a neighboring tribe through some exchange program. But, even if their region is invaded and subjugated, and even if the men are killed, they will be generally left alive and still have children. In England, large numbers of people have a Celtic matrilineal line, but Anglo-Saxon or Viking patrilineal line. Celtic women were either forced to mate with the invaders, or they chose the higher status and more successful interlopers voluntarily in the manner of hypergamy. Women’s genes will live on. The subjugated or killed man’s, not so much. Continue reading
The word “homeless” makes it sound as though we are talking about someone who is having difficulty finding accommodation. That is not the case and is very misleading. Prior to about 1980, these people were called “bums,” “indigents,” “vagrants,” and “hobos.” Almost invariably, “bums” would have been alcoholics (drugs were too expensive then) and were very likely to be suffering from mental illness. There was a massive push to close mental asylums by progressives in the 1950s with the idea that somehow mental asylums actually make sane people crazy, and to replace them with “community based” institutions. Most of the latter were never built and many of the more severely mentally ill ended up on the streets and in prisons. There was also a move against forcing the mentally ill to take their medication, based on civil rights. Most mad people do not know they are mad and it is very common for schizophrenics, etc., not to want to take their medication. Paranoid schizophrenics and the like are highly likely to take alcohol or drugs to “self-medicate.”
So, the majority of the homeless are mentally ill and nearly all of them are addicts. Addicts “disaffiliate,” meaning they become exclusively interested in drugs, and will burn all their bridges with friends and family. Someone who is simply having difficulty finding housing will usually sleep on the couch of a relative or friend until he finds something. Addicts and the severely mentally ill make terrible house guests and will often not have that option. Continue reading
The Genius Famine answered many burning questions that have arisen for me over the course of several decades.
- Where are the Japanese and Chinese geniuses if their average IQ is 106, second only to Ashkenazi Jews of 110? (There are very few Chinese Nobel Prize winners).
- As a corollary of that, why do the Chinese just copy American technology through reverse engineering and industrial espionage instead of creating their own? Yes, it is easier, but also derivative and destines them for second rate status.
- Why would someone who came top of his class in English, second to the top when transferred to an élite private school, find the vocabulary of Charles Dickens fairly challenging as an eighteen-year-old? (Names for Victorian ladies’ hats and kinds of wallpaper did not help.)
- Why are there no genius physicists at all anymore; the kind that make real, meaningful contributions to basic theoretical physics? We are still waiting for a grand unifying theory to reconcile quantum physics and relativity and a solution is nowhere in sight. In the first half of the twentieth century, we still had hall of famers, like Rutherford, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Max Planck, and Einstein.
- Where are the genius musicians, poets, philosophers, painters, and novelists? The 1990s saw the mishmash recycling of styles of post-modernism, with seemingly nowhere to go, as though music and literature had exhausted themselves. We had the nihilistic geniuses of Joyce, Picasso, and Schoenberg, in the early twentieth century, all of whom, Dutton suggests, were artistic dead ends. Academics could not have boosted atonal music anymore if they had tried, and it is effectively dead. Though it is true that the past can seem disconcertingly intimidating because there has been a lot of time to accumulate a list of worthy geniuses. But, it has been seventy years from 1950 to 2021. Think of what the physicists did in a mere 40, from 1900 to 1940.
- The late eighteenth and nineteenth century had Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Mahler, Liszt, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Berlioz, Puccini, and Verdi. The twentieth century produced Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, and Schoenberg, and that’s about it. And most people do not even like the last one.
The left wing have a conception of themselves as good, compassionate and kind. They have compassion for the less well-off, who suffer, while conservative people have no compassion.
Findings of Verhulst et al.
What Verhulst et al. found was that being left wing is predicted by being low in agreeableness, low in altruism, low in empathy, i.e., being selfish, low in compassion, and low in conscientiousness – i.e., low in impulse control and rule following, high in neuroticism, mental instability, feeling negative feelings strongly like jealousy and anger, with the feeling that the world is an awful place, and having low self-esteem. Left wingers try to gain self-esteem by claiming to be morally superior and asserting they are left wing in order to seem morally superior. Neuroticism is associated with the feeling that the world is unfair and wrong. Continue reading
In the usual roadside picnic, travelers might spread out a picnic blanket, take out a hamper, and help themselves to lunch. In the process, they might carelessly discard a banana peel or two and then drive off. The Strugatsky brothers imagine such a situation, except the travelers are aliens in a spaceship and the “banana peels” they throw out have the effect of altering space and time in the immediate vicinity. Roadside Picnic details the unintentional consequences of this brief terrestrial visit. The Zone is the remnant of this sojourn. There is a place within it that makes the deepest wishes of someone come true. Unfortunately, like certain ominous fairy tales where, for instance, someone wishes that he might never die and is turned into a rock, since rocks do not die, human beings do not necessarily know what their deepest, darkest desires might really be, so there is a huge potential for things to turn out badly. Certain people known as “stalkers,” really “guides,” guide people through the Zone in order to minimize their chances of dying and to maximize their success. The after effects of the alien visit include pockets of intense gravity that will crush a man if he steps into the wrong area. In the novel, one of the stalkers decides to exploit a teenager for his own purposes. He reasons that the kid will be shallow and that his desires will be worthless, so, instead of protecting him, the stalker will use him in the fashion of a mine sweeper to protect himself, in direct violation of his duty to the kid. Stalkers are paid for their services. The novel ends with great pathos. The stalker watches in horror as the youth runs toward his goal shouting “Happiness for everyone,” not at all the selfish and stupid thing the stalker was picturing, only to see the boy’s spine twist and rupture as the boy enters a gravity field. Continue reading
Charles Murray, in Coming Apart, points out that the American experiment in minimizing the extent of the powers of the federal government, is premised on self-governance involving honesty, industriousness, religiosity, and morality. European visitors in the early nineteenth century often considered Americans uncouth, but they also regarded them as unusually moral, for instance, regarding the rarity of infidelity between spouses, practically de rigueur in France. Once that self-governance diminishes, all is lost. The more base, primitive, and impulsive the population, the more a hardline is required to achieve order. George Washington wrote: “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” This is because morality depends philosophically on religious ideas, such as the notion that man is made in the image of God, but also because church-centered communities will have various kinds of social enforcement of moral norms, and, for the least developed among us, it is fear of God that stops pathological behavior. Continue reading
Scott Adams claims that hearing just one side of an argument by an expert is worthless since one is in no position to argue back, the alternative point of view remains unknown, and one is likely to be illegitimately convinced. I am self-conscious about this observation because many of the articles I have my students read largely present just one side of an argument. Sometimes, this is because a topic like moral subjectivism, or cultural relativism, involves flat-out contradictions and thus cannot be true. There is no “other” side, rationally speaking. The other pedagogical rationale for one-sidedness is where students have already been relentlessly pummeled with the opposing view. Such is the case with moral and cultural relativism. In fact, there are topics of which students have been so brainwashed and overexposed that unless they hear it from me they will probably never hear it. For instance, every single student, seemingly, is convinced that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Aesthetic subjectivism seems so obviously true to them that there is no need whatsoever to reintroduce the idea to them. The only job in the classroom is to make them aware that this view may well wrong – or more accurately, be a partial truth. The fact that male birds use beauty to attract mates, and we humans agree entirely that they are beautiful, despite there being not the slightest biological purpose or selection process being applicable, given that human women do not and never have bred with birds (Leda and the Swan, where Zeus rapes Leda in the form of a swan, was a) fictional, and b) rape), is an interesting case of cross-species, not merely cross-cultural, agreement about what is beautiful. Continue reading