Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On Darwin on Women

I received this exceptionally potent engagement with the question of Darwin's scientific misogyny from classfellow Alice Knowlden. It is significant for me on several levels, but I wanted very much to hear your positions, responses or analyses.

I was thinking (and discussing with a classmate) about the passage you read of Darwin's theories on sexual selection and women. At the time I found it difficult to understand just why I didn't have a more violent reaction to such statements that, introduced today, would be quite inflammatory. Considering that I am of the ilk who generally reveres Darwin's theories as truth and that they represent a solid explanation of how nature, and in general, humanity works on a whole. Therefore I should, as you say, accept the truth in Darwin's words regarding women. However, I obviously do not. Which lead me to wonder just why this was.

The closing remarks made on this topic, by the student I cannot recall the name of, touched on part of why I think I don't take Darwin's views regarding women so seriously. That is, Evolutionary theory today, although based on Darwin's theories, do not necessarily take everything Darwin hypothesized into account. One of the main components about scientific theory, if I learned anything from my Psychology classes, is that theories are not fact. They can have a huge amount of evidence or supporting materials regarding the theory, but in order to prove that a theory is truth it needs proof. Although they are the closest we have to the truth regarding the progression of our existence, Darwin's theories are still theories. As such, we are still able to work with these theories, fine-tuning them closer to the truth as we gather more evidence and information.

Clearly (or at least hopefully), the notion that men are superior to women is an obsolete one. But a rejection of feminine inferiority, does not necessarily mean a rejection of Darwin's sexual selection. Perhaps it needs just an adjustment of how the theory of sexual selection is viewed or used. Simply stating that women are supposed to choose their partners, and thus have a passive role in their sexuality, while their suitors compete for their attentions and the opportunity to procreate. This fails to take into account the sheer variety of people out there. If Darwin feared the degeneracy of the human race while admitting there are elite people who value morality and progression. Then he is admitting that there are different calibers of people out there all located at varying points on the physical and moral spectrum. Let's provide an example of a wealthy business man who enjoys a variety of benefits of his age and monetary value. He's attractive, is able to work out often to improve his physique, he is easily able to support himself and is quite intelligent. What will he look for in a partner? Is he going to compete for just any girl out there? No, he's likely to compete for an attractive, perhaps also wealthy, physically fit and if he's really smart he'll also look for intelligence in his future partner. He's improved himself to such a point, that he's not looking to share his genes with someone who might provide inferior genes to their offspring. Thus, the kind of women he is looking for is one who has also improved herself to the best of her ability. Women these days and even in history) use many different tactics to improve themselves to better attract a sexual partner or mate, just as much as men do. A successful man or woman is probably not going to settle down with someone with a severe drug addiction or someone who is clearly not as intelligent. Both women and men will select and compete for a proper mate who will only add to their already superior genes. So is it not feasible that although Darwin's theories regarding sexual selection may be true regarding peacocks, but in the complex world of the human race it needs a certain amount of adjustment? It does not necessarily mean that Darwin was wrong, just means that his theories need to conform to how a specific social structure works.

And this is perhaps why I did not jump up and down with outrage in class and perhaps why no one else did either. We can accept that Darwin's theories are the best explanation, but we can also take his theories and understand them with regard to the complex nature of our social structures and realities.

And these realities do not leave much room at all for the notion that men are superior to women.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Permission for use of your scholarship?

As I discussed last week, I would like to use your Group Projects as supporting material for my Engl 105W course. If you have no objection, please send your permission to me by email either with your project or after the course grades are posted on go.sfu. Otherwise, send no permission & your work will not be used.

Additionally, if you are interested in a copy of your Final Essay being used as a resource package available on Library Reserve for my modified version of our course taught as at the 300-level this coming term, please send me a paper or electronic copy after the course grades are posted on go.sfu.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Guest Speaker

We have a guest speaker at Friday's lecture: WHO researcher Dr. Bruce Alexander -- one of the world's leading scholarly authorities on addiction. Dr. Alexander's upcoming book for Oxford University Press, The Globalisation of Addiction, is an explicitly Darwinian account of the epidemic of addiction in first- and second-world countries as being a degenerating consequence of free-market capitalism. Dr. Alexander has also authored a recent study for the Centre for Policy Alternatives, The Roots of Addiction in Free market Society, which is available online in portable document format. You can read about him in Britain's Daily Telegraph and Guardian.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Final Essay

The final essay is thirty-five hundred words, with an open topic, due in my Department mailbox at noon on August 13th. While I did catch the groans, this is a WI course, and therefore draught and revision is mandated: thus, a draught of the thesis paragraph must be submitted, corrected and approved, and the revisions incorporated into the final version.

The essay must be a scholarly engagement with the major course theme -- degeneracy and progressivism in light of Charles Darwin and the death of God -- an involve at least one primary course text and one of the essay handouts.

By all means stop into office hours, or make an individual appointment, to chat about possible directions.

Friday, July 13, 2007

More Ought-from-Is-ism?

This article itself asks the question of the scientificity of this practice:
Mr. Hill's expertise: studying facial expressions and eye tracking to find out what consumers genuinely think about a new product.
In other words: People can lie, faces rarely do.
For the past two decades, Mr. Hill has been refining what he calls the art of "brain science" -- finding ways to use technology to tap what is largely undefined. That is the art of examining the 3,000 combinations of eye and muscle movements in the face that say so much more than words do.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Victorians on Evolution and Nationalism

An succinctly informative web page on the use of evolutionary doctrine to support English nationalism -- effectively, to show degenerate Irish and progressing English (& Scots at times) can be found here, from the Nebraska Department of Education.

Darwinian Reductivism on Women, Men & Sex

I wonder what your responses are to this current example of an analysis of social phenomena cast in terms of a reductivist form of Darwinian, adapted from Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa, to be published by Perigee in September 2007. Degeneracy or Progressivism?
Human behavior is a product both of our innate human nature and of our individual experience and environment. In this article, however, we emphasize biological influences on human behavior, because most social scientists explain human behavior as if evolution stops at the neck and as if our behavior is a product almost entirely of environment and socialization. In contrast, evolutionary psychologists see human nature as a collection of psychological adaptations that often operate beneath conscious thinking to solve problems of survival and reproduction by predisposing us to think or feel in certain ways. ....
The implications of some of the ideas in this article may seem immoral, contrary to our ideals, or offensive. We state them because they are true, supported by documented scientific evidence. Like it or not, human nature is simply not politically correct

"What's wrong with this question?"

For us gramamrians:
CONNOISSEURS OF PEEVE-OLOGY, here comes the book you'll love to hate. "She Literally Exploded: The Daily Telegraph Infuriating Phrasebook," a collection of despised English usages, is now available on Amazon in the UK and Canada. More>>>

The New Victorians

Found via Arts & Letters Daily, with a tidy George Eliot reference:
But recent years have seen a breed of ambitious, twentysomething nesters settling in the city, embracing the comforts of hearth and home with all the fervor of characters in Middlemarch. This prudish pack—call them the New Victorians—appears to have little interest in the prolonged puberty of earlier generations. While their forbears flitted away their 20’s in a haze of booze, Bolivian marching powder, and bed-hopping, New Vics throw dinner parties, tend to pedigreed pets, practice earnest monogamy, and affect an air of complacent careerism. Indeed, at the tender age of 28, 26, even 24, the New Vics have developed such fierce commitments, be they romantic or professional, that angst-ridden cultural productions like the 1994 movie Reality Bites, or Benjamin Kunkel’s 2005 novel Indecision, simply wouldn’t make sense to them. More>>>

Rod Stewart Opposes Degeneracy

Frankly, I love this news story from today, regarding the recent "Live Earth" event:

Rocker Rod Stewart was so unhappy at the colourful language used at Saturday's Live Earth concerts - he pledged to cut out swearing at a recent gig.
Comedian Chris Rock's foul-mouthed appearance at Live Earth London prompted TV host Jonathan Ross to apologise to viewers.
And when Stewart played at Rioch Arena in Coventry on Tuesday, he promised to pay £10 to each member of the crowd if he swore.
He says, "I listened to people effing and blinding during the Live Earth Concert last weekend and it just sounded so cheap.
"If you hear me swear on stage I'll give you all a tenner."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cardinal Newman and Hugh Grant

The following section from the extract we read last class of John Henry, Cardinal Newman's The Idea of a University is a salient example of his the relevancy, characteristic of the nineteenth Century, to present-day culture, easily sepearable from its contemporary context: in Newman's case, his religious tone, substance and intent.

The section was brought to my mind when reading a recent media reflection (online here, from Britain's The Independent) of the American prostitute with whom the English actor Hugh Grant was caught by the police. Read it for yourselves and see if it is not a perfect illustration of Newman's prediction, drawn from his insight into ...."the ethical temperament of a civilized age," that "....it is detection, not the sin, which is the crime."
But, if we will make light of what is deepest within us, nothing is left but to pay homage to what is more upon the surface. To seem becomes to be; what looks fair will be good, what causes offence will be evil; virtue will be what pleases, vice what pains. As well may we measure virtue by utility as by such a rule. Nor is this an imaginary apprehension; we all must recollect the celebrated sentiment into which a great and wise man was betrayed, in the glowing eloquence of his valediction to the spirit of chivalry. "It is gone," cries Mr. Burke; "that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour which felt a stain like a wound; which inspired courage, while it mitigated ferocity; which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice lost half its evil by losing all its grossness." In the last clause of this beautiful sentence we have too apt an illustration of the ethical temperament of a civilized age. It is detection, not the sin, which is the crime; private life is sacred, and inquiry into it is intolerable; and decency is virtue. Scandals, vulgarities, whatever shocks, whatever disgusts, are offences of the first order. Drinking and swearing, squalid poverty, improvidence, laziness, slovenly disorder, make up the idea of profligacy: poets may say any thing, however wicked, with impunity; works of genius may be read without danger or shame, whatever their principles; fashion, celebrity, the beautiful, the heroic, will suffice to force any evil upon the community.
And of course, any number of public persons (Paris Hilton the apotheosis and pure gift to the pedagogue) prove his remarks on celebrity and wicked behavior, the acceptance of.

Degeneration in Contemporary Culture

I believe that this article is as close to an uncontentious example as one gets of modern degeneracy....
Giorgio Armani junior ad sparks polemic in Spain
The advertisement shows a little girl in a bikini. The investigation started a few days after Dolce & Gabbana was forced to pull an image from Spain showing a woman pinned to the ground by a man as other men looked on.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Muscular Christianity & Missionary Cricket

From classfellow L. McC.:

The Irony of the Mission: How the Trobriand Islanders Pervert the Spirit of a Jolly-Old Pastime
The facts about this unique form of cricket, as I presented them in class, were a little bit misinformed. The English Anthropologists (headed by the Polish father of modern anthropology, Bronislow Malinowski) did not introduce Cricket. It was the the English missionaries who followed them, around the turn of the century, who brought Cricket to the Trobriand Islands. The adaptation of the sport had not been intended by these misssionaries; they merely wanted to offer an alternative pastime to the highly sexualized "Yam Dance" already practiced among the islanders. It was the islanders themselves who "transformed the game into an outlet for tribal rivalry, mock warfare, community interchange, sexual innuendo, and an afternoon of riotous fun" (Berkeley Media LLC).

This, then, fits the view presented in lecture of organised sport as the method by which the 'muscular Christianity' movement countered degeneracy within, and promoted purity of, masculinity. The dominance of English sport -- Association football (also known as 'soccer), cricket and rugby are inorder the three most popular sports in the world: baseball and American football are variations of English games rounders and rugby respectively -- thus created throughout the world is an incalculable legacy of this movement.