Martin Luther King and the Vampire Rights League

Some of you may remember my ruminations on the evolutionary significance of sociopathy, my tentative musings that it may be not so much a pathology as an adaptation, and my almost pathetic relief (scroll down to Oct 14) when people with actual credentials wonder the same thing and thus make me look like less of a wing nut. In an attempt to regain that status I’ve gone further, describing autistics and sociopaths as entirely different “cognitive subspecies” — only to have Marnie Rice out of Penetanguishene one-up me by describing sociopathy as a process of “speciation”. (It won’t surprise anyone to learn that Echopraxia continues to play with this theme— even going so far as to steal a line from cognitive neuroscientist Laurent Mottron, who claims that describing autistics as people who are bad at socializing but good at numbers makes about as much sense as describing dogs as a kind of cat that’s bad at climbing but good at fetching slippers.)

As everyone agrees, the word for getting rid of a whole subspecies is not “cure”. I’m not quite sure what the right word might be, but it’s probably somewhere between extermination and genocide.  (Let’s call it cultural genocide, in deference to the fact that the biological organism persists even though its identity has been eradicated.)  We’re even seeing the flowering of something like civil rights advocacy, in the form of the neurodiversity movement that’s been picking up steam over the past decade or two.

From what I can see out here, though, that movement seems to be an Autistics-Only club: what’s lacking is any sort of pro-Sociopath lobby along the lines of, say, the American Vampire League from True Blood. One would think that both groups would warrant the same kind of advocacy; the arguments of cognitive subspecieshood apply equally to both, after all. You’re stepping onto a pretty slippery slope when you claim that the occupation of a distinct neurological niche warrants acceptance of one group, but this other group over here — no more responsible for its wiring than the first — should still be wiped ou— er, cured. After all, only a small proportion of sociopaths are actual criminals; most of them operate entirely within the limits of established legal, religious, and political systems. Hell, it’s hard to look at the Citizens Uniteds and Rupert Murdochs of the world and conclude that sociopaths didn’t play a major role in building those systems in the first place. And after all, both sociopaths and autistics tend to be lacking in the whole empathy department [Late-breaking edit: it has been brought to my attention that the word empathy is an imprecise beast which contains at least two different processing modes; and that autistics can actually score higher than baselines along the affective scale.  See the Comments for more details, and thanks to Andrew Hickey for pointing out the problem.] So where’s the neurodiversity community when you need it, hmm?  Where are the advocates speaking out on behalf of sociopath interests (beyond Goldman & Sachs and the other 0.1-percenters, I mean)?

Here’s one.

I do not know the name of the person behind “Sociopath World”; doubtless that’s by design.  He or she (actually, screw it; I’m gonna go with he) refers to himself merely as “The Sociopath” on his contact page, as “M.E.” on Twitter, and as me@sociopathworld.com when he hands out his address (which makes me doubt that the “M.E.” Twitter handle is an actual set of initials).  No matter.  This is either a subtle and very labor-intensive hoax, or it’s your one-stop-shopping center for the interested empath (they call us “Empaths”, apparently, which I find both more precise and less condescending than the “neurotypical” label the Autistic Spectrum types seem to prefer).  The most popular posts end up on the FAQ list: Do Sociopaths Love?  Are Sociopaths Self-Aware? Am I a Sociopath? Can Sociopaths be “Good”? There are helpful how-to pointers:  How to break up with a sociopath, for example (the illustration to the right was taken from that particular entry; at least we know that sociopaths have a sense of humor).

There are pop-culture observations: whether the new Twenty-first-century Sherlock really is a sociopath in the world of fiction, whether Lady Gaga is in real life, the potential infiltration of sociopaths into Occupy Wall Street drum circles. There’s a forum, rife with trolls and assholes and deleted posts; but there’s also legitimate debate there.  And surprisingly, it also seems to function as a kind of support group for people in emotional distress.

You can even, I shit you not, order a Sociopath World t-shirt.

So. ME is out there, fighting the good fight. He’s getting noticed (at least, his blog gets shitloads more comments than mine, not that that’s a high bar to clear in the wide webby world). He’s showing up on the occasional psych blogroll. So now, I’m going to sit back and see if the neurodiversity community is willing to pick up the torch.  If he is trying to kickstart the Vampire Rights League, though, I think he’s fighting an uphill battle.1

Which only makes sense.  Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t have an easy time of it either.

 


1He’s well aware of this, of course. He discusses that double standard in his post “Am I My Asperger Brother’s Keeper?“, in which he points out that the most obvious difference between Aspies and sociopaths is that the latter group has better social skills.  So why compassion for one group, and vilification of the other? Is it really that the social awkwardness of the Aspies allows us to regard them as children, and therefore unthreatening? Are we really such condescending assholes?

Of course we are. But pretty obviously, sociopaths with charming smiles and firm handshakes are also more likely to prey on us than is someone who has trouble even making eye contact; sociopaths are more dangerous, empirically. ME is not beyond pushing his own agenda. (He points to studies suggesting that autistics can be serial killers too — Jeffrey Dahmer gets cited as a case in point — but there are too many gaps in that claim for me to accept it at face value. As I recall, Dahmer did okay in the social skills department.)

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Tuesday January 31 2012at 02:01 pm , filed under sentience/cognition, sociobiology . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

123 Responses to “Martin Luther King and the Vampire Rights League”

  1. Do we need to, in discussing sociopaths and their “rights,” separate out the group that can successfully navigate normal social environments, from those who end up in jail because they cannot conform to social norms even when it would benefit them? That seems like two groups with two sets of problems?

    Same with autistic spectrum people – there are Asperger syndrome sufferers who aren’t good at normal social interactions, but can live “normal” lives, and then the people with actual full-blown autism who can’t function without special services. They aren’t just not neurotypical, they are genuinely disabled. Which kind of makes them two different populations?

  2. At least there are some specific employment opportunities, if this article is to be believed ;)
    “At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/comment/brian-basham-beware-corporate-psychopaths–they-are-still-occupying-positions-of-power-6282502.html

  3. Damn, great topic. I have no academic credentials, but I have often wondered myself if there was some sort of biological basis for our species to develop offshoots of itself to fill specific niches. It seems to make sense, though the reason, if any, is unclear.

    My best guess would be that it has something to do with coping with constantly evolving technology, and in doing so we develop into several types of specific ‘softwares’ to function/process a certain kind of input; numbers, visual stimuli, and types of pattern recognition.

    I have no idea what this would be for, because evolution never really has any goal in mind. It’d be interesting to see how it turned out though.

    It sounds completely far fetched when I look at what I’ve said, and I could always be wrong.

  4. One of the main points of the neurodiversity movement is to point out that in fact autistic people are *not* lacking in empathy. See http://www.autismandempathy.com/ , and particularly the posts of Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg at http://www.journeyswithautism.com/ where she pretty much comprehensively destroys the pseudo-science that claims that those of us with autism spectrum conditions have no empathy.

    Describing us as being a different species is utterly to misunderstand the nature of our differences. Yes, I process some things differently because I have Asperger’s. But the Asperger’s/neurotypical difference is no bigger than, say, a Christian/atheist or conservative/liberal one.

    And even those (like the egregious Simon Baron-Cohen) who do claim to have scientifically shown that autists lack empathy have claimed that there are two types of empathy – cognitive empathy, the ability to sense what other people are feeling, and affective empathy, the drive to respond with appropriate emotion to the other person’s feelings.

    So according to them, I am unable to perceive what someone else is thinking or feeling. I don’t think this is correct, but I may well be impaired in this fashion compared to someone else, in the same way that their perception of the colour red may be stronger than mine or something. So for the sake of argument I’ll accept that, despite never having seen any actual evidence for it that passes two minutes’ scrutiny.

    What even those who claim we lack empathy agree is that we have affective empathy. In other words, I may hypothetically be less good at telling when my wife is upset than a neurotypical person would. But once I discover that she is upset, it hurts me as much – more – than my own pain does.

    Sociopaths, supposedly, have the exact opposite set of functions – they are perfectly able to tell when someone else is upset or happy or whatever (working cognitive empathy) but just don’t care (no affective empathy).

    So even those who claim that autistic and sociopathic people both have ‘no empathy’ seem to think it’s a different thing called empathy that we lack.

    For all I know, sociopaths may be being similarly maligned. But what I definitely *do* know is that claims that autistic people have ‘no empathy’ are untrue. and to literally dehumanise us as you do in this post is to practically beg for us to be treated the way all other dehumanised minorities have been treated throughout history.

    I really expected better from you.

  5. Andrew:

    Yeah, I kinda knew when I posted this it might hit some hot buttons. I even considered not posting at all for fear of offense. But no: people offend *me* all the time on this blog: I reserve the right to return the favor.

    Firstly, you seem to regard my description of your clade as cognitively distinct — “literally dehumanising”, as you put it — as a negative thing. I can only conclude that you haven’t hung around the neighborhood very long. You say you expected better from me, but you have no grounds for any expectation at all if you think that my discussion of cognitive subspecies in any way implies condescension or derogation. I’m widely regarded as a misanthrope (inaccurately, I’d argue, but the perception is out there); you should take it as a compliment when someone like me describes you as belonging to a different species. The baseline human state is not one I think anyone should aspire to. Seriously, you sound as though you’ve never actually read any of my fiction.

    Secondly, I didn’t say that autistics *lack* empathy — I said they tend to be lacking in the empathy department. My understanding is that as a group, autistics are less empathic than baselines; I still think that’s a fair statement. Perhaps it’s factually wrong, in which case I will gladly stand corrected (but you’re gonna have to cite more than personal feelings to prove that); but even if my statement is in error, it is not an insult. A claim that the sky is green can be inaccurate, but it is not value-loaded; same thing. Again, anyone who’s read any of my stuff will know that I attribute no moral value to variations in cognitive circuitry. Different niches, different solutions, evolution in action.

    You are an experiment of Nature. So am I. Get over it.

    I remain deeply skeptical of the equivalence you draw between autistic/baseline and Christian/atheist. I’ve read a little bit on the neurological differences along both axes, and as far as I can tell there’s no comparison.

  6. Dahmer had severe social issues growing up. I picked up a comic book written by Backderf, who went to high school with Dahmer, and he was deeply, deeply disturbed. So much so that people who didn’t know him said he had the stench of death on him.

    http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,230442,00.html

  7. I wouildn’t say you shouldn’t post for fear of offence – far from it.

    You may not intend describing autistic people as a different species as an insult – and I don’t take it that way, as it happens (I don’t offend easily). But what it *does* do is contribute to a rhetoric of us as being ‘other’, and in a way that cuts to the core of what most people describe as human. I expected more from you in this regard not because I didn’t want to be insulted (your blog, your rules, and I’ve been reading your blog for about three years now, off and on,so I do know the form), but because I would have thought you could see how dangerous rhetoric like that can be.

    Incidentally, I have read quite a bit of your fiction, and voted for The Things in last year’s Hugos. I understand that you don’t see the baseline of humanity as aspirational, and that you didn’t intend the post to be offensive. I didn’t take offence, and I apologise if it appeared that I did. But however you intended the words, saying a group of people are literally distinct from the rest of humanity, and repeatedly comparing them to a hated group like sociopaths, is something that can be very, very dangerous to members of that group.

    As far as the factual accuracy of autistic people lacking empathy, read through some of the pieces in Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg’s blog that I linked earlier, where she looks at the papers that supposedly demonstrate this lack of empathy. It’s pseudoscience on the level of phrenology. I’m absolutely agreed that we’re both ‘experiments of nature’, and that there is no moral value to differences in the brain. I don’t have a problem with people stating facts about autism. If you’d said “autistic people have a tendency to go on at tedious, long-winded length when the person they’re talking to wished they’d shut up half an hour ago because they don’t know when they’re boring people” for example, I’d be fine with that, because it seems to be true.

    But what you’re doing is the equivalent of saying “Jewish people are just naturally more avaricious than everyone else, it’s been proven. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, live and let live, but they are.” It’s not only factually untrue, but it also perpetrates a harmful stereotype – one which is no less harmful even if you personally don’t think it a bad thing.

    As for the equivalence I’ve drawn, that’s something we’ll have to agree to disagree on, because I don’t know of any comparative studies of these things that would be persuasive. What I can say though is that I have an easier time understanding the motives and emotions of neurotypical members of the political party I support than I do understanding those of Asperger’s people with different political views.

    Had I just been offended, I’d have just turned away in disgust and gone off to one of the many other websites out there. It’s precisely because you’ve struck me in the past, from your writing, as someone who is intellectually honest that I wanted to point out that your statements are simply factually incorrect.

    Check out a few of the posts on Cohen-Rottenberg’s blog. This one – http://www.journeyswithautism.com/2011/09/19/my-reply-to-simon-baron-cohen/ – is a good place to start, and the posts it links to. I think if you’ll read her critiques of the research methods, you’ll come to the conclusion that you are, in fact, simply factually wrong on the question of whether autistic people have impaired empathy.

    (Apologies for what is probably an overlong comment, I am too tired to write a shorter one. I won’t clog up these comments further unless you address something directly to me).

  8. But, when you really think about it, a successful sociopath is one who has convinced the world that he isn’t one. The people who are obvious sociopaths are the ones who are really bad at it; the rest of us have just been good at fooling everyone.

    I say this tongue in cheek, but i think that i am closer to the mark than any of us would like to admit.

  9. I’m teaching at a junior high school in Japan, and one of the most interesting differences in curriculum that I’ve noticed, is the inclusion of a ‘moral education class’. It seems to be more than just morals though. For example, in the class, the students might read a story about someone being cruel to another person, and the students are then told who to sympathize with in the story (“Doesn’t it make you angry that they did that?”).

    I asked one of the teachers about it, and they told me that although some students probably naturally feel these sorts of emotions (empathy), others don’t, and need to be taught how to react.

    This is purely anecdotal of course, but it looked to me to indicate a cultural difference in how empathy is perceived.

  10. I apologize that my comment is clunky. I am very tired, but want to make sure to say something because I think it is important, and afraid I will not have time if I put this off.

    Your language in this post seems rather unusually crude (as in imprecise) and at times possibly insensitive to me, uncharacteristic of you. (Also, human reproductive history seems awfully short, evolutionarily speaking, for subspecies to already be emerging, but I’m not an evo bio so . . . feel free to contradict me there)

    re insensitivity of language, as I percieve it:

    1. Calling people “autistics” vs “people with autism” does seem to be dehumanizing language, reducing people to a single trait. For the sake of your argument, yes, that characteristic is foremost, but imagine calling women “wombs”? My example is extreme, but, I think, still worth considering.

    2. Given that all of the other living species on this planet are generally considered nonsapient or borderline sapient, being considered not h. sapiens sapiens in our culture becomes by extension being considered nonhuman, which by extension means animal, because that is the primary template for nonhuman in our culture (which tends to disregard the rights of nonsentinent nonhumans, as you know only too well), and “Others” are constantly animalized (and thus implicitly stripped of sapience and agency) in one way or another, whether by objectification descriptors, or otherwise. Hence I can see why this might be a touchy subject. Eugencists used similiar language, and thus their shadow haunts the language of your argument.

    So, although the concepts you describe are interesting, the scientific rhetorical frame within which you explore them tends to be overshadowed by pseudoscientific atrocities which use(d) as ploys the same things you benevolently posit as concepts.

    Also, given historical echoes I noted above, comparisons between biological groups and ethnic ones (re. use of the term genocide) also has troublesome intellectual precedents.

    Re crude:
    lack of empathy, I think you have to define what you mean by empathy more precisely.

    Do you mean perception, as in reading people; emotion, as in feeling emotions in sympathethic response to those of others; or understanding, as in being able to intellectually understand others’ emotions? These are three different things. And the concept is probably more complex still . . .

  11. I enjoyed how you snuck the “most of them operate entirely within the limits of established legal, religious, and political systems. Hell, it’s hard to look at the Citizens Uniteds and Rupert Murdochs of the world and conclude that sociopaths didn’t play a major role in building those systems in the first place.” part in as though that were a reason why we SHOULDN’T fear sociopaths.

    That’s exactly the problem, at least in theory… even if they do operate within established limits, a) that may only be because that’s the better overall strategy for themselvs, but if a time comes when a ruthless murder, or for that matter genocide, is their best move, they’ll go at it with nary a doubt, and b) they’re classically far more adept at getting themselves in positions where they can change the rules to benefit themselves at the expense of others, and there’s not a rule against that.

    A utopian world where sheep and wolves live together in harmony works fine for the wolves, and fine for the sheep… so long as the wolves never get hungry. And if you get elected to the animal congress on the basis of a ‘sharpest teeth’ contest, then pretty soon the wolves could all be law-abiding citizens and the sheep could be even worse off than if there were no rules at all.

    That said, I’m not entirely sure where I fall on the issue, because we’re not actually dealing with wolves and sheep, but people, and where there aren’t always good solutions to thorny problems.

  12. Question: what if sociopathy is the real baseline? Or was an earlier evolutionary adaptation that might have not worked out so well survival & perpetuation of the species-wise, and affective empathy emerged later, as an evolutionary response to sociopathy’s “failure”. Maybe we empaths are the subspecies, or began than way.

    Maybe we still are.

  13. I, too, have wound up perusing sociopathworld.com on occasion. In my humble opinion, I am one of those sort of folks that adopts the label “freak magnet”, except that for me, it’s less of the people I would consider mere “freaks” (those I usually like or at least cheerfully tolerate), and more of the people I’d consider “sociopaths”. Hence the googling, and hence the visits to sociopathworld.com.

    It’s important to distinguish between the mere sociopath and the more dangerous psychopath. If one thinks of a sociopath as a “socialized psychopath”, one might be on the right track. A sociopath can’t much care what other people — in one-to-one interactions — think, but they can and do care what large numbers of people think, even if mostly because otherwise those large numbers of people will gang up on them if they sufficiently offend. A psychopath doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks.

    As to autism and sociopaths, I was watching Discovery channel or some such, covering the subject of autism, sub-subject, “Theory of Mind”. One professor type got a 30-second sound bite in which he stated “it’s not that autistics are so alien, it’s just that they have no way to model what normal people are thinking. Contrast that with a sociopath, who understands perfectly, but just doesn’t give a damn”.

    This is possibly the important bit: many people operate throughout their adult lives with an internalized moral system which does largely have basis in empathy, “the Golden Rule”, or some such equation. Such persons are effectively restrained from most violence and most evil, and the restraint is internal to themselves. We see a maxim in Law to the effect that “ethics are meant to impose externally those tendencies which in a good man would express from within”.

    In perhaps most people, such internal restraints are of such force that even in the face of invasion by a most cruel and heartless enemy, it takes 8 to 12 weeks of military Boot Camp to break down the internal restraints and replace them with a new socialization that allows them to kill other human beings. Yet for most people, the main thrust of this may be a sort of re-socialization where the recruit learns to see his unit and buddies as people and to see other people as not-people; the essential mechanism is learning to de-humanize, to demonize, the enemy. What is not a person may be killed without remorse, that’s the psychological trick that must be installed for most people to become effective soldiers.

    Yet for some recruits, the real problem will turn out to be that they are perfectly willing to apply weapons to human targets, but will do so equally against people sharing the same uniform, if not upon their actual comrades. But, believe it or not, I actually digress.

    Peter Watts and many other folks might feel free to rail against the idiocy of believing in Sky Fairies or the Giant Purple Space Squid or whatever. But I think that there is value in the fact that some people will internalize an external system of morality, even when couched in terms of unprovable mythos and improbable deities. Why?

    In the same way that autistics need a rule book to help them navigate a concept of other minds, sociopaths need a rule book to help them navigate the society of people who have that rule-book built in. I think that society has long realized this, even if it never articulated it in so many words. Leaving out notions of “the God spot” is something we might want to do, yet we might wonder why it seems to be so widely distributed. Perhaps that’s because it’s an alternative to internal concepts of Moral developing on their own as they do in most people; if someone doesn’t develop those Morals as they emerge from adolescence, they’ve already been taught a set of rules that tweaks their “God spot” when they are doing what their society has declared to be right. Ethics proceeding from theology, thus, must substitute for Morals in people who haven’t any.

    Yet as we’ve seen time and again, throughout history, and as Peter D comes close to suggesting, the people who are writing the rules or administering the rules have frequently acted as if they are above those rules, or change the rules. Yet some of the systems which lasted the longest seem to have checks-and-balances either written into them or which remains because of long-standing tradition. One wonders it, perhaps, the college of Cardinals chooses from among them the person who is the most fervent believer, the one with the best grasp of the mythos, or the one who is most inherently a Good Man not in need of any external rule-set, and thus in that case the person most inherently unlikely to re-interpret the rules to favor the wolves to the detriment of the sheep.

    Having spent a lot of time in those dark corners of the internet where people seem to be excessively interested in the vampiric lifestyle, I’m struck by Peter Watts’s question to the effect of “so who speaks for the sociopaths”; it’s similar to my own question of “why would anyone claim or even admit to be engaging in vampiric practices”. There’s an astonishing lot of stuff out there which seems to be people trying to reconcile their notion of needing a strange diet with notions generally in direct opposition to actual sociopathy. I mean, would a sociopath go to such lengths to try to explain themselves, to shed light into darkness? Well, other than to lure in more victims. ;)

    When I first ran into sociopathworld.com I thought that’s what it was, evil trying to represent itself as less than totally harmful or at least as something not to be so rightly feared. I’m less sure, now, and we should probably all spend some time reading there.

  14. Provocative idea and a great starting point for some sort of satirical novel (William Buckley is probably prowling for a new concept so hopefully someone else gets to it first) but wouldn’t it go against a sociopath’s best interest to even admit that he/she is different in this way? I just can’t see sociopaths joining together in common cause, even if it was some kind of Mandeville “Fable of the Bees” style endeavor.

    A social movement by and for sociopaths would be, by definition, inimical to broader social interests–the ideological analogue of a Juarez drug cartel. That sociopaths play an important role in human affairs is probably true. But how could societies as hypocritical as the ones we’ve constructed countenance their organized existence?

  15. Hi Andrew:

    Thanks for your followup — I checked out the links you offered up, and followed them to a few more, and yeah: turns out there’s this whole two pronged cognitive-vs-affective thing going on, two processes that seem to have been conflated as one even in most of the technical literature to date. I found Rogers et al‘s findings especially intriguing insofar as they show that autistics (autists? — don’t worry, Val, we’ll get to the semantic issues below) are actually (as you reported from your own experience) significantly more empathic than us baselines when you strip away the cognitive simulation and cut right to affective responses. So, thanks for setting me straight on that; I’ve gone back and edited the post to reflect the new info.

    Of course, my immediate reaction upon reading this stuff was Wow, supercharged mirror neurons; I’ve been reading about that. Although it turns out that some folks are all over those studies as well (although I was unimpressed by Anne Corwin’s rebuttal; she tended to straw-man the arguments she was attacking — she cites a quote containing the phrase “provides evidence”, and later misquotes it as “prove” — and ultimately she has to admit that the authors’ conclusions are “certainly not ridiculous” before switching into political mode). Either way, though, excellent point: sociopaths and autistics only share a “lack of empathy” if you bundle two disparate phenomena under that one label. In my defense, it seems as though a lot of mainstream expertise has been doing exactly that for years; Rogers et al presented their research as one of the first to even try to disentangle the threads.

    (Also, I hope I’m not walking into another minefield by provisionally accepting this cognitive/affective distinction; Cohen-Rottenberg objects to the term cognitive empathy in her reply to SBC, but as far as I can tell her objection is primarily political, not scientific. Which brings us to…)

    “But what you’re doing is the equivalent of saying “Jewish people are just naturally more avaricious than everyone else, it’s been proven. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, live and let live, but they are.” It’s not only factually untrue, but it also perpetrates a harmful stereotype — one which is no less harmful even if you personally don’t think it a bad thing.”

    There’s a profound issue here. I completely accept your point that statements with a “dehumanizing” effect have traditionally been used to marginalize people. I understand that though some of us make such statements in a value-neutral way, most don’t. Where we part ways, I think, is that you (and Val, and probably lots of others) think I should show more sensitivity in light of that history; that I should rein in my remarks because, in the current social setting, it doesn’t take much to turn them into something destructive even if that wasn’t my intent. To thumbnail my own perception, you think I should take politics more into account when talking science, especially highly speculative (and potentially junk) science.

    My problem with that is you end up censoring legitimate discussion at the altar of political convenience. After all, the Eugenics movement (for example) used Darwinian logic to promote an agenda of unmitigated evil. How dare I apply natural selection to people when we all know what lies at the end of that road?

    To take the anti-Semitic example you’ve just cited and deliberately push another huge hot button: What if that comment about Jewish avarice wasn’t “factually untrue”? Or let’s go for broke and suppose that Philip Rushton’s race-based findings weren’t such pure sloppy bullshit: what if there actually were significant differences in, say, intelligence between different ethnic groups? Biologically there’s no reason that couldn’t have been the case. There are lots of physical differences between ethnicities; skin tone, bone structure, vulnerability to diseases. There’s no evolutionary reason why there couldn’t be cognitive differences as well.

    Just to be absolutely clear, I know of absolutely no evidence that this is the case — which is why making such claims is rightly considered offensive while the equally race-based statement that, for example, blacks generally have more dermal melanin than whites is utterly uncontroversial. But now we’re looking into the workings of human brains; now we’re in a realm where, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe it’s warranted to make the assumption that humans are the only sapient species on the planet. I’d put odds that any of a half-dozen species might share that feature (or bug) with us. And frankly, I don’t give a shit if a bunch of ignorant douchebags talk about “Theory of Mind” as though it were some kind of magic key to get into the Executive Human Washroom. I don’t care about condescending hacks who use “not normal” as an insult. I prefer to deal with the concept, not of humanity, but of personhood: and I’d rank the poor brain-dead meat sack called Terri Schiavo well behind any cognitively-normal elephant, or killer whale, or bonobo. When I suggest that folks like you, Andrew, might be members of a different “cognitive subspecies”, I think that’s deeply cool. I think that you are deeply cool because you are different from me. If you’ve read my stuff, you know this already: even if all you know is what you read in yesterday’s post, you’ll know that I’m on the side of those who’d throw out huge chunks of the DSM, who’d reclassify pathology as adaptation. I’m one of the guys saying you shouldn’t be cured, because there’s nothing to cure.

    Those words have been poisoned, you say? I can’t use them because others use them in such exclusionary ways? Fuck that! It’s the other people who are misusing the language, and the fact that they’re in the majority doesn’t make them right any more than the majority who say we should “teach the controversy” means the Creationists are onto something. Look how the LGBT community repossessed words that were originally intended as insults. Why can’t we do the same thing? Why do we have to adopt ever-slimmer editions of the Newspeak Dictionary, why do the fucktards have to win just because they got here first?

    Thus endeth the rant. That particular rant, anyway.

    Next, next… Ah. Val:

    “Your language in this post seems rather unusually crude (as in imprecise) and at times possibly insensitive to me, uncharacteristic of you.”

    Maybe not so uncharacteristic. But I hope I’ve addressed this in my response to Andrew.

    “(Also, human reproductive history seems awfully short, evolutionarily speaking, for subspecies to already be emerging, but I’m not an evo bio so . . . feel free to contradict me there)”

    We’re not even talking about the history of the human race; we’re talking about a hundred years, tops. Which is why I use the term “cognitive subspecies”, to distinguish it from the biological kind. I think there might be certain Lamarckian processes at work here; but that’s a whole other posting (actually, it’s a whole other book; and I’m editing that one right now).

    “Calling people “autistics” vs “people with autism” does seem to be dehumanizing language, reducing people to a single trait.”

    Convenient shorthand, no more. Do you find terms like “Mundane”, “Neurotypical”, or “Empath” objectionable, in context? (I’m not asking rhetorically; perhaps you do.)

    “Given that all of the other living species on this planet are generally considered nonsapient or borderline sapient, being considered not h. sapiens sapiens in our culture becomes by extension being considered nonhuman, which by extension means animal, because that is the primary template for nonhuman in our culture (which tends to disregard the rights of nonsentinent nonhumans, as you know only too well), and “Others” are constantly animalized (and thus implicitly stripped of sapience and agency) in one way or another, whether by objectification descriptors, or otherwise. Hence I can see why this might be a touchy subject. Eugencists used similiar language, and thus their shadow haunts the language of your argument.”

    Okay, I think I answered this pretty comprehensively when responding to Andrew’s comment. I recognize the factual truth of everything you say here; but I cannot bring myself to accommodate the cultural norms that perpetuate those “dehumanizing” beliefs. If enough people use the words for their meaning and not their baggage, my hope is that eventually that baggage will end up in the lost-and-found at Minsk International Airport, and stay there.

    “lack of empathy, I think you have to define what you mean by empathy more precisely. Do you mean perception, as in reading people; emotion, as in feeling emotions in sympathethic response to those of others; or understanding, as in being able to intellectually understand others’ emotions? These are three different things. And the concept is probably more complex still . . .”

    You’re right. I really hadn’t thought about the precise definitions when I made the post, since it was intended as a throwaway line and not part of my central argument. Hopefully I won’t make that mistake again…

    Thomas:

    “I, too, have wound up perusing sociopathworld.com on occasion.”

    Dude, next time you encounter something like that, pass me the link. I can’t believe it took me so long to find that place.

  16. Re: intelligence in ethnic groups

    Well, there is the interesting case of Ashkenazi Jews having higher IQ on average, possibly due to sexual selection over hundreds of years.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashkenazi_intelligence

  17. Peter Watts suggests that the next time I run across what I term “quaint little vales of total otherness”, I should send him a link.

    Well, I ran into that by googling for “sociopath” in the context of “family” — please don’t ask me to elaborate ;) — and possibly there are comparable things out there.

    For quite some time, I was into the phenomenon of the so-called “living vampires”, or as some of them call themselves, the “sanguinarians”. If you want to get an eyeful of books to read which are semi-scholarly, try googling for “ramsland” in the context of “vampires”. Her “Piercing the Darkness” was pretty good, though most of the people interviewed were pretty much poseurs and goths and the occasional blood fetishist. Yet there’s one interview in the heart of the book which brings out a fairly clear picture of someone who is very cautious, very predatory, and expresses that they have not too much concern for the fate of their occasional pychosexual conquests. Reading that section, I was thinking to myself “definitely a sociopath”.

    In the online community of “sanguinarians”, there has been this recurrent debate — trolled nine ways from Sunday so to speak, as you might expect — over what level of concern for the victim was necessary. Mostly it tends to resolve as a sort of ethical debate, which one doesn’t expect to be a primary concern of even mere sociopaths, and far from a concern of actual psychopaths. Then again, some of the trolling is seriously scary.

    Here’s an old FAQ which may have a lot of dead links in it, but from the site names and the personalities listed, the URL may have changed by the sites themselves are probably under the same name in a new location.

    First, though, quote possibly the strangest thing Evar in USian politics, and that is saying a great deal, and oddly on topic for this thread:
    http://www.citypaper.net/blogs/nakedcity/ICE-CUBE-Ron-Paul-Hires-Local-Anti-Establishment-Concert-Promoting-Vampire-Hero-As-Delegate.html

    Moving right along: from back in the days of UseNet:
    http://earthops.org/a-c-v/faq.html

    Most interesting in the context of sociopathy might be:
    http://www.necronomi.com/users/akrieytaz/index.html

    Fairly close to the “mainstream” of the vampiric, with forums FAQ “safety and privacy section” etc., would be:
    http://www.sanguinarius.org/vampire.shtml

    Sanguinarius does have their own little warning about sociopaths, though it’s pretty cut-and-paste:
    http://irc.sanguinarius.org/nav-info/sociopath.html

    More back to the “mainstream”, though. This may have been mentioned but if so, it slipped my brain:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/24854134/Psychosis-and-autism-as-diametrical-disorders-of-the-social-brain

    Cheers,

  18. @ Will – Er, did you just quote the Wikipedia for scientific info? I mean, dude.

    Fwiw, may I mention that there is no way to claim one ethnic group is genetically smarter than another without simultaneously claiming that another ethnic group is genetically dumber? It’s the unavoidable obverse.

    If we wanna claim that, upon reaching adolescence, Ashkenazi score better on IQ tests, that’s somewhat testable. Lots of factors might go into that, if the effect is real. But when you start making claims about this being possibly due to sexual selection over hundreds of years, we have drifted into a very ugly area. We are 5 seconds away from claiming with a straight face that black folks are naturally better at picking cotton and tobacco, possibly due to sexual selection over hundreds of years and …yikes. If you see what I mean? It’s kinda rude and it assumes facts not in evidence?

  19. Will Sargent wrote:
    Re: intelligence in ethnic groups

    Peter, can you jump on this RIGHT NOW?

    Not because it’s a topic that shouldn’t be discussed, but just for the thread-jacking effect.

  20. @crazy talk.
    Humans are tricky.
    What does intelligence even mean?
    How would you correlate something even as brain dead as IQ scores and control for cultural context, language, pre-test taking environment (music, relaxation, breakfast, etc) and something as mind bogglingly 18th century as “race” without opening yourself up to absolutely correct claims of bigotry, bias and bad faith?

    Would you mark genetic phenotypes, grow children in a lab, wean them on wire monkies and _then_ give them the same test, at the same time, after the same breakfast, at the same table?

    Wait. Scratch that. I call dibs.

  21. @seruko:

    Here’s a good culturally non-sensitive test!

    We take a half-dozen adults randomly selected from each ethnic/religious/cultural group, dress them warmly and tie them to a cargo load full of things like 200 pounds of cut lumber suitable for firewood, some baling wire, fish-hooks, plastic sheeting, glow-sticks, radio beacon homing tool, etc.

    Then we toss all of them out of a plane so that they’ll land at the same spot in Antarctica.

    Whatever group of individuals — whatever their backgrounds or however they group up — which combines resources to make a shelter on a sled that can reach a rescue team waiting at a suitable point, is the superior group and gets airlifted to an all-expenses paid vacation someplace that they like. Cheat terribly in setting up the expedition so that no individual can possibly make it on their own. ;)

    /me channeling my inner sociopath… or not.

  22. but then how would we control for non-genetic factors or even identify our subjects?

  23. two replies, and some additional thoughts I didn’t initially put together. Sorry this is disorganized, I am tired. Again. ( : Late at night is when I am tending to get to this. I look forward to seeing your reply and appreciate your thoughtful reply above.

    @Peter

    1 – “I cannot bring myself to accommodate the cultural norms that perpetuate those ‘dehumanizing’ beliefs. If enough people use the words for their meaning and not their baggage, my hope is that eventually that baggage will end up in the lost-and-found at Minsk International Airport, and stay there.”

    Good points about reclaiming language, but I think it is easier for “outgroups” themselves to reclaim or reframe arguments and speech used to denigrate them than for people who are not members of those groups to lead the charge to do so. I know activists on the spectrum have emphasized the difference of their experiences, but I do not know if anyone has claimed that we belong to a different species, whatever one takes species to mean in that context (which I’ll get into further later). However, I think the best way for people to hear what you say rather than the historical echoes which could drown you out is for you to explicitly acknowledge those echoes and actively reframe your discourse rather than leave it to the reader (think about an exchange we had last week vis a vis lowest common denominators and most tv nature shows, aka canned sh*t).

    2 – “Mundane”, “Neurotypical”, or “Empath”

    a) It serves a certain purpose for “outgroups” to reframe themselves as central to their own experience by developing marginalizing language for dominant oppressive groups. But in this case, vis a vis my own experience (**I cannot speak for anyone else, or any other group**) as some kind of non-neurotypical person I’ve found that mindset hasn’t done much to help me. Even as it encourages a kinship with other “others” like me, it encourages me to feel more isolated or alienated than I naturally may tend to be, and groups together as my potential enemies a diverse group of individuals, some of whom might be allies, or even invisibly to me, just as “different” as I am. Now, for use in discussion or argument or comparison, it makes sense. But I’m not sure it is useful overall. Also, I feel use of the word “Empath” in this fashion is misleading, as an empath would be someone who senses others’ emotions to an uncommon degree, when it seems intended in this context to refer to people who do not have that kind of uncommon experience.

    b) Also, would you say “cripples”? Would you say “queers”? Those words are reductionist in terms of their ability to communicate nuance, as well as in the way they reduce people to one simplfied (when they are in reality heterogenously expressed) set of characteristics. It is one thing when members of a group use a term about themselves, often in defiant anger, to claim solidarity, and not all members of that group might agree with that reclaiming or reframing of language. Again, frame matters as much as terminology here. That isn’t to say it’s bad to tear off a quick blog entry with some interesting ideas, but to be honest it feels to me like barking up the wrong tree when you make generalizations that don’t serve to reinforce your argument.

    Autism as a concept is in itself imprecise, worse than a shorthand. After all, the autism spectrum is one along which people who share some common characteristics are spread. I’m not just talking about being “pc” here — “pc” is bs made up by covert conservatives to keep folks from talking about the realities of discrimination — I’m talking about being sensitive to the diversity of experiences among people on the spectrum, not just for their sake, but for the sake of accurately describing and exploring reality like the scientist you are. I’m not talking about polluting science with politics, but on taking into account the lived experience and valid input of the people you’re describing, without which you are likely to miss important insights.

    additional comments:

    i – I find the Martin Luther King comparison troubling. I get what you’re trying to do, but conflating the experience of different kinds of oppressed groups seems counterproductive in terms of adding sense to your argument because that sort of conflation is so imprecise and not terribly illuminating, and it is that dissimilarity that makes it offensive, because of the lack of understanding which it implies (especially because I doubt you lack that understanding and likely picked it because it seemed a catchy tagline).

    ii – Your whole argument comparing sociopaths and people on the autism spectrum seems to hinge, even if you do emphasize that you honour the diversity of human neurological makeup, one putative shared lacuna in these putative and rather sketchily defined populations’ theory of mind in comparison with so-called “baseline” humans, rather than a palette of shared divergences from the “norm”. I find myself thinking about a similar logical fallacy in relation to how many people think about criminals which was mentioned in a brief talk I recently attended about Samenow’s research on the criminal mind. The talks discussed how Samenow developed a theory that fallacies in reasoning, rationalizations and such, allow people who engage in criminal acts to “normalize” their actions to themselves. If you haven’t read up on this, I recommend it, I wish I had the slides the psychologist who gave the talk was using, she did it in five minutes, utterly brilliantly, as part of a mini-TEDlike lightning talks thing at a local sf convention.

    iii – Why necessarily a different species? What are your criteria for cognitive speciation in general, as a concept per se, rather than just in this particular case?

  24. @seruko:

    You mean, if we cheated? Well, obviously that wouldn’t be good science.

    But back to channeling the inner sociopath, in the character of a Reality TV producer hoping to give a Treatment of Concept for something that could pretend to the average viewer to have at least some pseudo-science behind it, please see my initial response, below:

    Please tell me that you were being even a bit more “tongue in cheek” than I was.

    In case you were not, I suppose that I was suggesting that if people were picked pretty randomly, they might be thought to be somehow “representative”. I guess if you wanted one side of the equations for setting up controls you could also randomly pick as representatives (for a second test batch, run side-by-side in a different venue) only from the population of the “exemplars”, or the culture’s own accepted archetype. Call it a face-off (in “stovepiped” separate but parallel studies) between the purebreds and the mutts. The ordinary people set to the same task as the heroes.

    My hope would be that everyone would survive, and that the mutts wouldn’t do either much better or worse than the purebreds. Perhaps I was just hoping that in the same way we saw in the movie “War Games” that “it’s an interesting game, Global Thermonuclear War, the only way to win is to not play”, we would see results from this experiment that could even tentatively support the notion, “it doesn’t matter what you are, but how well you can work together with anyone-at-all when it’s necessary, which is most important”. One of those questions, I suppose, along the line of “to be is to do, or is it more true that, to do is to be”.

    Makes for a nice morality play, I suppose.

  25. @Val:

    It’s late and I’m finding the arguments you apologize for as being the result of someone a bit tired late at night to be both subtle and overwhelming in the precision; I believe I might easily fear what you might say after a night’s sleep and a good breakfast. Besides, it’s not addressed to me. ;) But there’s something I feel I can take a stab at, however briefly.

    You wrote:
    iii – Why necessarily a different species? What are your criteria for cognitive speciation in general, as a concept per se, rather than just in this particular case?

    This is an excellent question, in my humble opinion, especially because it seems that nobody can quite latch onto any single genetic component that produces autism. It’s not a broken “X” or a trisomy or anything of that sort; it seems rather to be a sort of “greater than the sum of the parts” sort of thing. I can’t point to any supporting research, but perhaps it’s the little traits that all add up. Why does autism seem to appear more frequently in the offspring of successful college-educated professionals than it does in “the working classes”? Could it be that the collection of traits that make someone a studious and diligent accountant combine with the traits that make someone a rigorous follower of the rules of Real Science and Fine Harpsichord Playing combine to produce a child who experiences tone as color signifying number that they can’t articulate in any existing mode of expression or transcription? A lame example, probably, and if so I apologize.

    Additionally, can there really be cognitive speciation without actual speciation? Or are like minds so drawn together that they exclude the unlike from their midst? One could say that this is the basis of our whole culture for most of its history. Beware the heretic, etc., but what of those who are excluded. I suppose I could just cite the allegories from Gene Wolfe’s “the Hero as Werewolf” (wherein the folks who don’t develop the new senses and thinking needed to meld with machines are reduced to foraging in the hinterlands around the rubbish heaps) but who is it who might be destined to fall by the wayside? Or does it even go that far?

    I’m sure that at one point in time, there were lots of folks in the ancient days who said “what is up with that gal and her making marks on the walls of the cave”, but nowadays we just sort of nod and perhaps don’t even need to mutter “the Artist at her work”. We who mutter might not be Artists, and may indeed neither know nor appreciate Art, but we understand that other people do, and we understand that the general consensus seems to be that whether we understand it or not, it is a Good Thing. Are the Artists a different species? Are Musicians? Farmers, perhaps?

    We might all be revisiting the moment when some fellows were sitting around and discussing to the effect of “you know, I’ve getting a bit tired of that gal with her charcoal, always marking up the cave walls, as if we didn’t have enough smudging from the fire dontcha know, I’ve half a mind to pitch her out with the smilodons and see how well her charcoal serves her then, I tell you! -But wait! You know, that looks more than a bit like an Aurochs, and there’s a Man! With a spear! Looks like you, Barney! Really, it quite does.” And thus this cognitive speciation, so to speak, can be argued about as to whether the evolution is occurring in the art of the artists or in beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

    In the end, less of speciation, and more of including a new understanding, in my humble opinion. The species doesn’t divide; rather, it increases the range of what it comprises.

  26. RE: ‘loaded’ vocabulary, I’m with Peter on this one, with a minor caveat (see below):

    Val says: “However, I think the best way for people to hear what you say rather than the historical echoes which could drown you out is for you to explicitly acknowledge those echoes and actively reframe your discourse rather than leave it to the reader […]”

    I see no more grounds to reframe/cripple an otherwise reasonable discourse just to spare the feelings of irritable idiots in general than there is motive to shy away from Darwinism and evolution on account of their attempted hijack by ‘Social Darwinists’ — if you let them dictate your behaviour, the terrorriss’ win and all that…
    On the other hand, it’s delusional to ignore the actuality of many a verb coming loaded with idiocratic baggage indeed.
    “Explicitly acknowledg[ing] those echoes” is what footnotes are for, or, more conveniently, boilerplate disclaimers — I suspect the latter could prove much more suited to Peter in the long run, maybe in the form of a “Frequent misconceptions: read before flaming” static page that could be attached to the head of the crawl.

    RE: cognitive subspecies, I guess I get what you mean, Peter, although I fear the metaphor may be problematic, even from a neo-Lamarckian perspective.
    Subspecies implies some group effect, through population isolation or other device that forces idiosyncrasy via homogeneity, and unless I missed a memo, neither selective breeding nor purposeful grooming (acculturation) seem to play a decisive part in producing sociopaths or high-functioning autists*, compared to say otakus, goths or teabaggers.

    I think more appropriate to envision some non-neurotypicals in terms of cognitive polymorphism: much like individual insects in a single colony can display spectacular variety in pheno/morphotype, which makes them more readily able to fit some specific roles/niches among the population.
    This angle may even help take another look at the usefulness of consciousness: if sociopaths and aspies aren’t a species-to-be, but rather a feature of humanity’s superorganism, it’s easy to see how, in retrospect, consciouness-saddled neurotypicals acted as infrastructure prerequisite for sociopaths and HFA to survive and find a niche.

    There’s an obvious egg-and-chicken problem with the development of large human societies where sociopaths or autists are the norm rather than the (relative) exception of the population, thus it seems a must that neurotypicals have laid that egg.
    Natural selection doesn’t allow for leapfrogging, requiring each generation in a lineage to be at least ‘just good enough’, and the kind of sociopaths or HFA we know and love don’t seem like they would have been able to cut it on their own (without the bulk of useful neurotypical idiots).**

    While consciousness may very well have started as a mere byproduct of the evolution of other beneficial traits (as opposed to consciousness being the advantageous mutation that triggered our species’ boom), some its second-order effects such as religion, law, ethics etc, could possibly claim credit not only for the unmatched size, sophistication and resilience of our tribes (compared to other primates), but also for providing the support system that enabled a fraction of ‘deviants’ to play their critical roles in shaping the history of our cultures, techs and societies.

    [snipping here: I self-trolled myself into a tangent about gene hacking and leapfrogging post-neo-lamarckian evolution. Feel lucky to be spared.]

    I guess I need Peter to write a vampire-centric novella starting in alternative prehistory to sort out how a species of sociopaths may have fared without the interference of pesky euclidian architecture…

    =======

    [* Although there is a gnawing suspicion that some sexual selection may be at play among aspies in some parts of hackerdom, on account of the higher rate of diagnosis in the Silicon Valley, it may also be a case of ‘finding more by looking harder’, afaict.]

    [** Caveat, I’m unclear on the reproductive model for Peter’s vampires, which at a glance don’t seem much for childrearing (from a primate perspective). Do they reproduce by inseminating homo sapien females, or cuckoo style, or do they rear their own offspring, thus not depending on the H.S. chattel beyond food supply ?]

  27. Has anyone mentioned Willem H. Martens here?

    http://www.goertzel.org/dynapsyc/2003/psychopaths.htm
    http://www.sakkyndig.com/psykologi/artvit/martens2001.pdf

    His idea is that there are neurophysiological differences between psychopaths and everyone else, yet the ‘psychopathic’ traits are the result of environment, which means a non-criminal with a psychopathic-type brain would, for example, lack normal empathy but would also lack those psychopathic traits which are caused by a bad personal history. Which makes sense, for why would the lack of empathy in itself make someone hostile to those with empathy? (What was Jukka’s backstory?)

  28. Animal cognition is pretty well documented and finds just as diverse a cast of neurologically different individuals as we find in human beings. I think this is a simple argument for genetic diversity, not for speciation, since I’d assume this happens in isolation. Species are a rather vague concept to begin with, they can even reconverge after so called speciation, etc.

    I’d agree with a notion speciation if a colony of autistic people made for Mars and set up a completely seperate colony. It could be Homo Autisticus, or whatever. I don’t think that’s dehumanizing at all, which would be like saying you are de-Ronaldized when you weren’t called Ronald at birth.

    Furthermore, I’d claim we have plenty of groups filled with sociopaths or sociopath fanboys. They are called the republican and libertarian parties, or Tories in the UK,.Similarly any other extremist anti-social ideology (not Jainism for example) that finds morality to be not in service of life but concepts such as god or power. Fascism is a good term for sociopath tendencies (I use it as such anyways).

  29. Here’s a good culturally non-sensitive test!
    We take a half-dozen adults randomly selected from each ethnic/religious/cultural group, dress them warmly and tie them to a cargo load full of things like 200 pounds of cut lumber suitable for firewood, some baling wire, fish-hooks, plastic sheeting, glow-sticks, radio beacon homing tool, etc.
    Then we toss all of them out of a plane so that they’ll land at the same spot in Antarctica.

    Thus proving incontrovertibly that Inuit are by far the most intelligent group of the human species. Or possibly Lapps or Norwegians.

    “If they’re so smart, how come they haven’t all moved to live somewhere warmer?” (Not serious)

  30. Calling people “autistics” vs “people with autism” does seem to be dehumanizing language, reducing people to a single trait.

    Like calling our host an author. Dr Watts is not an “author”. He is a “person living with authorship”. Or possibly a “survivor of authorship”.

  31. Hugh said:

    Peter, can you jump on this RIGHT NOW?

    (Yeah, sorry I didn’t catch that ball; I spent all last night sitting on the toilet after chugging four litres of chemical laxatives, so wasn’t really very fast on the draw. For that matter, I’m still there now; I hope I’m done by the time I have to leave for the colonoscopy.)

    In reaction to Will saying:

    Well, there is the interesting case of Ashkenazi Jews having higher IQ on average, possibly due to sexual selection over hundreds of years.

    To which, I think, seruko‘s response was appropriate:

    What does intelligence even mean? How would you correlate something even as brain dead as IQ scores and control for cultural context, language, pre-test taking environment (music, relaxation, breakfast, etc) and something as mind bogglingly 18th century as “race” without opening yourself up to absolutely correct claims of bigotry, bias and bad faith?

    While Hljóðlegur‘s response contains elements that illustrate why I’m so averse to political sensitivity:

    Fwiw, may I mention that there is no way to claim one ethnic group is genetically smarter than another without simultaneously claiming that another ethnic group is genetically dumber? It’s the unavoidable obverse.

    Implicit here is that the idea such claims are simply unacceptable; you shouldn’t say that X is smarter, because that would be saying that Y is dumber and we can’t have that. The whole point that I thought I’d made above is (sorry Barack), Yes we can, if there’s supporting evidence for it. I don’t believe that scientific discussions should be censored just because the findings are politically unpalatable. I don’t believe certain terms or subject should be taken off the table just because others have misused those terms in the past. Hljóðlegur even seems cool with this when she says

    If we wanna claim that, upon reaching adolescence, Ashkenazi score better on IQ tests, that’s somewhat testable.

    But then she goes on to say

    …when you start making claims about this being possibly due to sexual selection over hundreds of years, we have drifted into a very ugly area. We are 5 seconds away from claiming with a straight face that black folks are naturally better at picking cotton and tobacco…

    And all of a sudden we’re lumping Will’s comments in with some southern stereotype about watermelon-eating tarbabies. I’m not ignoring the “facts not in evidence” clause — and I haven’t actually gone to that Wikipedia article (the whole toilet/colonoscopy thing has depressed my usual catlike curiosity), but if the facts don’t support that claim then seruko’s counter is the way to go. Hljóðlegur’s comments have the same logical structure as “Peter’s 5 seconds away from being Adolph Hitler because he was into controlled genetics too!” It’s the reason we can’t use the word eugenics any more, even though we do it to crops, we do it to livestock and tropical fish, we’re doing it to ourselves; the fact that a bunch of Nazis were unclear on the concept doesn’t mean we should throw out the word. In fact, I challenge all of you here today to go out and use the word eugenics in polite company, as it was originally meant to be used, in a value-neutral context. Talk about neon tetras, or the eradication of muscular dystrophy. Take back the term.

    Not political insensitivity: political defiance.

    More later, folks. My ride’s here. Wish me luck.

    Oh, and when they tell you that that stuff is “vanilla-favored”? They’re lying.

  32. An extensive discussion of cognitive subspecies and not one mention of Clans of the Alphane Moon by PK Dick?

    I’m disappointed, people.

  33. Thanks for the response to my response, Peter. And I’m actually in agreement with everything you say now, pretty much (I worry about labels like ‘cognitive subspecies’ being misappropriated, but not to the extent that I’d want to restrict your right to use them). I have a huge problem with any group of people being *mis*characterised, but none at all with correct, accurate descriptions. If Jewish people really *were* more avaricious, or black people really *did* have a better sense of rhythm (or straight white men really *were* arseholes who want to oppress The Other) then stating that should be considered a reasonable thing to do.

    And yes, I’d figured out from your various writings that you would generally see cognitive diversity as A Good Thing, which was why I was surprised to see you making what looked like pretty negative statements about autism. I’m very glad to see that you’ve actually followed those links and revised your opinions in the light of new evidence – which *is* what I’d expect from your other writings. Thanks for that.

    And while I dislike the term ‘cognitive empathy’ for the political reasons Cohen-Rottenberg has – plus thinking it simply factually a bad label, as what I have is closer to a sensory disability like blindness rather than an empathetic one – the distinction itself is a totally valid one. I can’t tell when I’m boring or upsetting someone, say, unless they give out *very* clear clues or unless I devote almost all my thoughts to consciously analysing their expression and body language, but I *care* enormously about the effect I’m having. So while I can quibble with the term, the distinction is one I think most people with autism would accept.

    (For those who are interested, the single most accurate summary of Asperger’s, what its actual effects are and how it feels on the inside, that I’ve ever seen is the one at, of all places, TVTropes – http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/AspergerSyndrome )

  34. demoscene Val said:

    Sorry this is disorganized, I am tired. Again. ( : Late at night is when I am tending to get to this.

    No sweat. I pounded out my first rejoinder to Andrew at the Queen & Beaver, after tossing back a couple of pints.

    I think the best way for people to hear what you say rather than the historical echoes which could drown you out is for you to explicitly acknowledge those echoes and actively reframe your discourse rather than leave it to the reader

    I think you may be overestimating the breadth of my readership; I’d think that most people who find their way here are sufficiently familiar with my work to know where I’m coming from sans tutorial. And when that’s not the case (like, oh for example right now) — well, much of this comment stream is an explicit acknowledgment of, and discussion of, those echoes. The thing is, while I’m happy to acknowledge them, I’m very leery of reframing my discourse on top of that. To bring of the Swiss-army-knife Eugenics example again, once the echoes have been acknowledged, one should be free to use the term free of Nazi taint; and if you’re going to “reframe the discourse” by not using the term anyway, there’s no point in acknowledging the echoes because you’re not invoking them. (Also the tewwowists win, because they have succeeded in dictating the limits of your vocabulary.)

    It serves a certain purpose for “outgroups” to reframe themselves as central to their own experience by developing marginalizing language for dominant oppressive groups.

    I am aware of this, but — at the risk of provoking a cry-me-a-river-of-tears-white-boy reaction — it pisses me off. (I gather you aren’t keen on the whole phenomenon either.) I understand the politics of power imbalance, and how traditionally disenfranchises groups get cut more slack as kind of a consolation prize for unequal pay (“You hear about the miracle birth? Born with a penis and a brain!”). But we are talking about politics, and I fucking hate politics, and it gets my back up when politics are used to twist the meanings of words or to justify double standards.

    I feel use of the word “Empath” in this fashion is misleading, as an empath would be someone who senses others’ emotions to an uncommon degree

    I think he just meant “someone capable of empathy” — which would, of course, be an uncommon degree compared to the sociopath baseline.

    Also, would you say “cripples”? Would you say “queers”?

    Sure. Why not? I have friends who self-identify as “queer” — in fact, I was under the impression that “queer” was actually a positive term, more inclusive than “gay” or “tran” or “bi” because it includes everyone who lies a few SDs away from the mean in terms of gender. And while I realize that “cripple” is considered offensive, and would therefore tend not to use it unless I was being deliberately provocative, for the life of me I can’t see why “crippled” is any less objectively offensive than “disabled”. I dunno. Maybe I have a touch of political autism myself.

    Gotta run— They’re holding up these little paper slippers and gowns and calling my name. More later—

    OH GOD COLONOSCOPIES SUCK OH GOD MAKE IT STOP

  35. Random (and totally unsupported by shit) thought: If asperger’s folks (and my own experience supports the Lamarckian bit, by the way) and sociopaths are actually cognitively opposite in regards to empathy, is it not possible – if not probable – that there is an inherent *opposition* between the two groups?

    Even if I’m horribly off-base, it’d be a cool story – and this post (and all the comments) have got my brain a-buzzing.

  36. Implicit here is that the idea such claims are simply unacceptable; you shouldn’t say that X is smarter, because that would be saying that Y is dumber and we can’t have that. The whole point that I thought I’d made above is …Yes we can, if there’s supporting evidence for it.

    Well, of course, if there were good evidence for it, it would be scientifically valid to say Y is dumber. Of course. But that would require agreement on what “smarter” or “dumber” meant, and that there were some non-biased way to measure it. But do not mistake my meaning here:

    Seruko is right. IQ and smarts are not the same thing. I agree it is measuring something, but I’d submit, we don’t know what exactly that is. I’m not going to say it’s acceptable scientifically to confuse IQ with braininess, because it leads to other errors in thinking.

    Furthermore, I can’t say, that “Ashkenazi are smarter” if their average IQ test is higher, not just because it implies it’s all settled that IQ measures smarts, but also because it’s rude. (I mean, could an Ashkenazi even say it without coming off like a jerk?) How about the just-so story wherein centuries of oppression made them genetically smarter; if you listen closely, you can actually hear some bigot “generally allowing as how them Jew boys is so crafty cause they hadda be.” It’s appalling. Political correctness is being afraid to speak plainly for fear of social reprisal and this is not about pc.

    “Peter’s 5 seconds away from being Adolph Hitler because he was into controlled genetics too!”

    Did you just retroactively Godwin this? :)

    Seriously, though. I didn’t say that. The comparision is this: in both cases, we claim certain traits are enhanced in two groups by a few centuries of oppression. It’s an impolite just-so story. It lets us comfortably indulge in stereotypes and then use “science” to back up the slap we unjustly took at a whole group of our fellow human beings.

    I challenge all of you here today to go out and use the word eugenics in polite company, as it was originally meant to be used, in a value-neutral context. Talk about neon tetras, or the eradication of muscular dystrophy. Take back the term.

    ahahahahahhahhahhaa…. I’d pay to watch that discussion.

  37. re me apologizing for tiredness — this was mainly because when I’m tired
    and trying to make sense I tend to sound like a pompous ass.

    re AcD

    “irritable idiots”
    I’m not an idiot, I’m particular about clarity.

    “neither selective breeding nor purposeful grooming (acculturation) seem to play a decisive part in producing sociopaths or high-functioning autist”
    yes. BINGO.

    “cognitive polymorphism . . . [etc]”
    nicely put paragraph

    Brain layout and genes don’t always result in a predictable
    result. There was a researcher whose name I cannot find
    who found out that he had brain responses or biology
    associated with psychopathy, but he wasn’t a psychopath.
    Please, someome find this before I go mad trying to.
    Heard about it on NPR, I think.

    re Peter

    “I think you may be overestimating the breadth of my readership;”

    I suppose . . . I guess I see a thing that I think could be twisted and
    get all sensitive about it.

    vis a vis loaded nouns:
    The plural has different weight than the singular (e.g. queer community)
    seems to me . . . but maybe I’m just still sensitive. It isn’t like I
    wouldn’t use the word about myself, but I feel hesitant using it about
    someone else. But mostly I can’t think of anything, calling people
    “autists” just rankles me.

    General:
    For me scientific truth, e.g. global warming, is too important to stifle for politics,
    but I also believe in responsible actions with that truth,
    because I don’t think you trust the average jerk to
    run with the concept that “X population is X value-laden
    characteristic different than than Y population” without
    ending up violating the rights of X population.
    I get angry because people are assholes, same as you.
    Life is complicated.

    Hope your recovery goes, ah, smoothly.

    (And for a totally unimportant aside, as for the Queen & Beaver,
    (what a lovely name for a pub), I have fond memories of my visit
    there with my friend Petteri back in ’10, minus the
    slightly elevated prices and noisy milieu. Hmm, that’s a destination for
    early November during WFC . . . might drag the husband along this time as well)

    Also . . . some interesting bingo cards . . .

    autism bingo
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/66800893@N03/6087211355/in/photostream

    offensive adjectival nouns bingo
    http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6171/6131761237_52599853e1_b.jpg

    and for the win, evopsych bingo
    http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d98/sabotabby/evopsychbingo.jpg

  38. “OH GOD COLONOSCOPIES SUCK OH GOD MAKE IT STOP”

    Isn’t it amazing that when the chips are down (pun intended) even the atheists resort to god. As they say, there are no atheists in a fox hole; or, apparently, in a colonoscopy exam room either.

    I only have one request. Please, no pictures.

  39. Re Val: about being an idiot (not), ‘loaded nouns’ and ‘General':

    I wasn’t suggesting you’re an idiot, obviously.
    You raise an issue that would be entirely valid in the context of an educational program, but this here is pretty much the guest table at Ye Olde Watts Tavern, and even by my own lax standards, it would warrant at least a PG-13 rating. As such, it’s just as well if the local color happens to repulse those made uncomfortable by ‘strong’ words and themes — call it advance warning if you want. ;)

    Framing such discussions so as to make them palatable and engaging to an unprepared audience is a work in its own name, and certainly a worthy endeavour, but that’s a demanding exercise in pedagogy and translation, one that more than likely would choke the free-flowing mix of solid arguments and hot air that composes this local atmosphere.

    Working under the assumption that people here generally strive for intellectual honesty also gives us license to dispense with the usual pleasantries of PCness (which I suspect have more bearing on your cautious approach than you seem to realize).

    Beyond the principled stance of reclaiming unfairly loaded forms in the name of reason/science, paying heed to the outcry of the easily offended may not be as virtuous as you might think, considering how, more often than not, their outrage is disingenuous, and simply constitutes a misdirection/evasion when faced with challenging/uneasy topics.

    When in doubt, the intellectually honest will ask for clarification (as exemplified many a time in this very thread), as opposed to readily assume the worst.
    Playing nice with the unwarranted outrage just gimps the pace of the conversation for those willing to engage in earnest debate, yet will not force the bigots or squeamish to play up to the level.

    As for those who’d rather tout their traditional family values and blush at bad words, well, no big loss… Peter’s frequent use of ‘larvae’ as a moniker for human offspring should have been enough of a hint for them to take a hike sooner.

    This [http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6171/6131761237_52599853e1_b.jpg] is precious.
    Check me in for A2, B3, E2.

    Re: Anony Mouse: “OH GOD COLONOSCOPIES SUCK OH GOD MAKE IT STOP”, atheists in fox holes, etc…

    In fairness, Peter eventually invoked science, in the shape of an IV drip, and it worked much, much better than the fairy sky man.

  40. SociopathWorld is old hat. I’ve been following the blog from time to time for years.

    My idea is, let them live but label them visibly. Facial tattoos.

    @PW
    You may find this article interesting…
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/37013390/sociobiology%C2%AD-of-sociopathy

    Linda Mealey’s probably pioneering article that came out in ’95. Suggests that speciation is taking place, and that psychopathy and related traits are adaptations for another survival strategy that works.. (the one most of us like is cooperation)


    Furthermore, I can’t say, that “Ashkenazi are smarter” if their average IQ test is higher, not just because it implies it’s all settled that IQ measures smarts, but also because it’s rude

    Who the fuck cares that it’s not PC and not palatable? Dweebs and yellowbellies who don’t like offending people.

    It’s bloody obvious kikes are smarter than us on average, look how many Nobel prizes for physics they got. Or who invented the fokking H-Bomb. Or the neutron bomb. Or the atomic bomb. Or most computer architecture. Or the theory of relativity….. Or..

  41. @Lanius:

    Linda Mealey’s probably pioneering article that came out in ’95. Suggests that speciation is taking place, and that psychopathy and related traits are adaptations for another survival strategy that works.. (the one most of us like is cooperation)

    Uh aside from this, “troll much?” But I’d tend to agree with the facial tattoos, except it’s a bit too close to the old strategy of Mayhem (in the older sense) as seen in some cultures in the past. Keep in mind that you could mark the wrong person, or it could degenerate into markings for political reasons, and then there’s that bit from The Thousand Nights where the Grand Vizier marks the door of Ali Baba so that the soldiers can find him, but Ali Baba’s faithful servant takes a piece of chalk and goes out to mark the doors of everyone who supports the Grand Vizier…

    Mealey is covering some ground that seems to have been under a lot of discussion right about that time. I know that on various BBS in previous years we had a set of discussions regarding speciation and sociopaths.

    Look: as best I can tell by running the numbers, the majority of humans ever living are alive NOW. That might suggest that we have the greatest genetic diversity ever, if only through their being more people survivably expressing minor mutations. Some might be cognitive, or not; in any case as sociopaths seem to be a standard but small percentage of the population (Ressler, “Whoever Fights Monsters”), as the population grows the percentage remains the same but you have a larger number of sociopaths. Depending on their “virulence” and the technology at hand, interesting scenarios come inevitably to mind.

    @AcD:
    I guess I need Peter to write a vampire-centric novella starting in alternative prehistory to sort out how a species of sociopaths may have fared without the interference of pesky euclidian architecture…

    If I understand Peter rightly, his vampires aren’t another species… not quite yet. Technically human, they are capable of progenating to the point of fertile grandkids, after all, in his fiction they are “revived” by activation of DNA carried in modern people.

    All of this talk of “speciation” has mostly avoided the fact that it usually occurs during periods of population crash, when suddenly some collection of minor mutations — which in the usual situation didn’t matter much either way — suddenly become the stuff of life or death. Range drift often has something to do with it as well… but we’re talking about humans here. Our range is the planet.

    Think for a moment about conditions during the apparently inevitable Zombie Apocalypse um ahem I mean Peak Oil/Peak Water/Glacial Melt/Global Warming/Confluence-of-Everything-Bad. A global system of just-in-time delivery succumbs to a cascade failure in the increasingly micromanaged systems-of-systems. There’s little to drink, not much to burn other than housing and books, less to eat that isn’t human. Mobs of millions will descend on the fortresses of the well-prepared mega-rich, enough to assure that they too wind up with nothing. In all of this harshness, who will survive? One side of this hoary argument posits that the best-equipped to survive are those who have little humanity other than being bipeds that make and use tools and language in purposeful, goal-oriented behavior. When the best chance to survive means being the best at ingratiation and betrayal combined with a deep and dispassionately endless analysis of your prey, it’s the sociopaths who have the advantage… for a while. Once most of the dying is done, if any survive who aren’t sociopaths, they’ll remember the doings of the sociopaths… and there will be a whole new Van Helsing Society endlessly searching while trying to not become what they must hunt. Some of the best writers have taken a whack at that scenario, Poul Andersen having pulled off one of the better tries. Yet the subtext remains, whoever hunts monsters must be careful to not become one… for as you study the darkness, the darkness is studying you. And frankly the sociopaths are better at that sort of thing.

    And given world enough, and time? Guess what they become.

  42. A guy who was my speech partner in Uni had Aspergers Syndrome. A lot of people found him uncomfortable or annoying. In class he would always answer the questions and there were snickers the few times he got something wrong (I think that was jealousy). We ended up as speech partners. I had a busy schedule with five subjects and the only day we were both free at the same time was one where I had three classes (plus lectures) and one where I had to travel by Bus cross-campus. I agreed to Wednesday but warned him that some days I might be a bit late if class runs over time or if there were problems with the bus. One day I got to speech practice late and he yelled at me. As I have anxiety problems and am extremely sensitive and had a lot of anxiety already from running late and here he was yelling at me I felt overwhelmed and upset and broke into tears. After I calmed down and explained to him that I felt really upset and I didn’t like it how he’d yelled at me before. He was extremely apologetic and explained that he has Aspergers and found it hard to work out if I was anxious or upset and was especially nice to me after that. I agree with the person who wrote all that stuff about Affective Autism or whatever it was called. There are probably different kinds of empathy.

  43. let me chime in and say that i find this alternative take on asperger/autism interesting:
    http://www.journeyswithautism.com/2009/06/02/intense-world-syndrome/

  44. There are pretty good witch…sorry psychopath tests.
    The skin conductivity in conjunction with nasty picture tests, the NMR that can see structural differences that supposedly exist, and perhaps another fear response test.

    In all of this harshness, who will survive?

    I will. Planning on living in Kodiak island in half a decade or so. Place with little people, lots of wildlife. Plenty of edible sea-life too.
    Mild winters. Everyone has guns. Off coast of Alaska… little risk of starving mobs.

  45. cognitive subspecies — middle children of alcoholics in WEIRD cultures?

  46. Who the fuck cares that it’s not PC and not palatable? Dweebs and yellowbellies who don’t like offending people.

    Lanier didn’t even read what I wrote.

    It’s bloody obvious kikes are smarter than us on average, look how many Nobel prizes for physics they got. Or who invented the fokking H-Bomb. Or the neutron bomb. Or the atomic bomb. Or most computer architecture. Or the theory of relativity….. Or..

    Or algebra, or the 3 laws of planetary motion, or the theory or gravity, or the establishment of heliocentrism, or the incompleteness theorem or the 4-stroke engine or ..

    Oh wait, none of those guys were Jewish, were they? Hm. Tell me: was the guy who coined the phrase “confirmation bias” of the Jewish faith? Lastly, did you just call those scientists “kikes?” Really? O.o Nice way to raise the level of discourse there, Ace.

  47. Thank you very much Hljóðlegur. You saved me bothering to comment at length again. It has been a long week, and I am very tired and have more to do.

    And I think where he went in his discourse is proof that frame and context do matter here, where the audience isn’t as homogenous as some have argued.

  48. My pleasure.

    I think where he went in his discourse is proof that frame and context do matter here, where the audience isn’t as homogenous as some have argued.

    Yep, so much for people here generally strive for intellectual honesty also giv[ing] us license to dispense with the usual pleasantries of PCness. We went from “The Ashkenazi as a group have higher IQ scores” to “Evahbody KNOWS them Jewboys sure is smart” in like three steps. I’m agog.

  49. @Thomas:
    My question was more about the prehistoric vampires, which I understand to be reproductively compatible mutants, or at least close cousins of homo sapiens (a la Neanderthal), and whether there could have been a turning point where a vampire explosion could have taken place (if not for the architecture-induced population crash).
    Considering the long gestation and slow development of young hominids in general and cortex-heavy ones in particular, it’s hard to imagine how a systematic brood-parasitic strategy would play out in the long run, factoring in the inevitable nature/nurture influences.

    I can’t put my finger on the exact quote from Peter, but I seem to remember prehistoric vampires being described as loners, not living in herds/tribes, nor even couples and nuclear families. That would seem to rule out the establishment of anything like a ‘vampire socitey’, which was my initial question/thought experiment: how would a vampire society come about, using humans as chattel, without first either depleting the food supply, or diluting the vampire population so much in the H.S population that individual vampire offspring would presumably fail to self-identify as belonging to the vampire nation ?

    @Lanius: Thanks for pointing the bloody obvious… now who is this us that makes your average ?

    @Val:
    I’m sure you will entertain the possibility that there is some range between the tiptoeing around ‘loaded nouns’ (which you seem to advocate), and being trollishly potty-mouthed (Lanius’ thing, clearly).

    With that said, I’m in full agreement with you that frame and context matter: we mainly seem to disagree about whether we ought to self-censor as a default stance in order to accommodate the lowest common denominator of politically acceptable discourse (possibly unnecessarily stifling the free flow of conversation), or adapt our discourse frame to our present company (which carries the risk of being overly optimistic about the quality thereof).

    Cuss words efficiently scare away the soccer-mom hordes (which I see as a GoodThing™), but they’re indeed no deterrent against some strains of wingnut trollery — short of entirely sterilizing the field, I know of no perfect prophylactics for the latter, alas.

  50. First off, thanks to everyone who provided links; I will get around to following them all, I promise. Eventually.

    Now. As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted…

    Val, still.

    …to be honest it feels to me like barking up the wrong tree when you make generalizations that don’t serve to reinforce your argument. Autism as a concept is in itself imprecise, worse than a shorthand. After all, the autism spectrum is one along which people who share some common characteristics are spread.

    Yes, but my point is that in this context, even that broad generalization is too narrow; we are, after all, talking about including sociopaths in the same tent. Basically, I’m saying that anyone who isn’t “neurotypical” should qualify, so long as the nontypicality is adaptive and heritable in some way (either genetically or culturally).

    “pc” is bs made up by covert conservatives to keep folks from talking about the realities of discrimination

    Actually, I’ve been told that “politically correct” was a term invented by self-aware communists back in the early twentieth-century, as an ironic nod to things they knew weren’t exactly true but which were justified in serving the greater political agenda of the movement. It was only co-opted by the social conservatives after the fact. Although I don’t know if that’s true, because I never tracked the claim to source.

    I’m not talking about polluting science with politics, but on taking into account the lived experience and valid input of the people you’re describing, without which you are likely to miss important insights.

    Yeah. Fair enough. I’m not really sure how to do that, though, because “lived experience” tends to be so squicky and nonquantitative. Plus I was raised by someone who shaped behavior through emotional manipulation, so I tend to get my back up any time someone plays the “wounded feelings” card (as evidenced by the fact that I just now described wounded feelings as a card to be played).

    I find the Martin Luther King comparison troubling. … I doubt you lack that understanding and likely picked it because it seemed a catchy tagline).

    I did, and that I make no apologies for. Stephen Colbert routinely makes far more extreme and inappropriate comparisons on his show (far funnier ones, too, because Stephen Colbert is a fucking genius). I like over-the-top, sometimes: hell, I even liked “Uncle Fucker” from the South Park movie, and that was about Canadians.

    Your whole argument comparing sociopaths and people on the autism spectrum seems to hinge, even if you do emphasize that you honour the diversity of human neurological makeup, one putative shared lacuna in these putative and rather sketchily defined populations’ theory of mind in comparison with so-called “baseline” humans…

    First off, thanks a lot for forcing me to look up “lacuna”, which I’d gotten along just fine not knowing until now. Secondly, this post was not primarily about autism at all — it was about Sociopath World, which struck me as the rudiments of a pro-sociopath movement similar to King’s civil-rights thing and True Blood‘s Vampire rights league. I invoked previous posts about neurodiversity and cognitive subspecies to set the stage, not to plot the climax; and in fact, all this autism-related commentary hails from a single sentence in which I made an all-too common misstatement about autism and empathy deficits. I’ve let the thread get jacked because it’s teaching me things I didn’t know and because I like being challenged (at least, I like being challenged by people who are smart and articulate; there’ve been other folks drop by time-to-time whom I’ve killfiled). But I think it’s mistaken to describe that prolog as a “whole argument”. I’m not defending a thesis; I’m not wedded to the ideas. I’m just throwing them around.

    Why necessarily a different species? What are your criteria for cognitive speciation in general, as a concept per se, rather than just in this particular case?

    Yeah, a few other people have remarked on this, so listen up AcD and Thomas and Mirik: The biological definition I use for “species” is one I was taught back in grad school, which is basically “any clade that’s on a distinct evolutionary trajectory”. Concepts like reproductive isolation are outmoded (lions and tigers produce fertile offspring; so do pilot whales and killer whales; maybe even those Pizzly Bears we’re starting to hear about, although I’m not sure). If you throw up a barrier between two halves of a population, they don’t become different species at that point; but if selective pressures differ on either side of that barrier, you’ll start seeing population differences after a number of generations, and at that point — when you see evidence of distinct evolutionary trajectories — you’re justified in calling something a “species” even if it can still interbreed with other populations.

    I don’t know how widespread this definition is; I learned it from cladists back before cladistics got respectable, and it’s certainly not what your average guy on the street would regard as a species. But then again, your average guy on the street doesn’t know jack shit about evolution either, so I’m not especially concerned by the fact that my definition isn’t in wide use among the laity. Maybe someone who’s still current in the field could tell me if the language has changed over the past decade or so.

    Anyway, that’s my definition: based at least as much on niche as on genetics. When I use the phrase “cognitive subspecies”, I’m explicitly culling the genetic component; so a cognitive subspecies are merely groups which occupy different cognitive niches.

    AcD:


    [** Caveat, I’m unclear on the reproductive model for Peter’s vampires, which at a glance don’t seem much for childrearing (from a primate perspective). Do they reproduce by inseminating homo sapien females, or cuckoo style, or do they rear their own offspring, thus not depending on the H.S. chattel beyond food supply ?]

    Let’s just say that Echopraxia addresses this, and gives us reason to believe that vampire’s much-touted intraspecies hostility may have been acquired somewhat more recently than is commonly let on…

    ajay:

    Like calling our host an author. Dr Watts is not an “author”. He is a “person living with authorship”. Or possibly a “survivor of authorship”.

    Oooh, good one. I’m gonna use that.

    Steven Saus said:

    Random (and totally unsupported by shit) thought: If asperger’s folks (and my own experience supports the Lamarckian bit, by the way) and sociopaths are actually cognitively opposite in regards to empathy, is it not possible — if not probable — that there is an inherent *opposition* between the two groups?

    I get the sense that the AS community has no great love for the Sociopaths, but I got that sense from Sociopath World, so take it for what it’s worth.

    Hljóðlegur said:

    Did you just retroactively Godwin this?

    Actually my point was that you had kinda done that. Except by invoking a southern-racist comparison instead of a Nazi-fascist one.

    Seriously, though. I didn’t say that. The comparision is this: in both cases, we claim certain traits are enhanced in two groups by a few centuries of oppression. It’s an impolite just-so story. It lets us comfortably indulge in stereotypes and then use “science” to back up the slap we unjustly took at a whole group of our fellow human beings.

    It’s a just-so story if it’s plausible but unsupported empirically. It’s not a just-so story if there is empirical support, and putting the word “science” in quotes doesn’t change that. (Once again, though; I haven’t read the Wikipedia article that set off this particular thread, so I’m making no specific claims. I’m just saying, in principle, that it’s entirely conceivable that now and again legitimate science will uncover an ugly, unpalatable truth; and I believe that such findings should be evaluated on the strength of the evidence, not on the basis of potential social repercussions. That’s all I’m saying. Really.)

    demoval again:

    It isn’t like I wouldn’t use the word about myself, but I feel hesitant using it about
    someone else. But mostly I can’t think of anything, calling people “autists” just rankles me.

    I thought ajay made a good point, though. Calling me an “author” also reduces my personhood to a single point, and nobody (least of all me) considers that a problem. And in this context — i.e., adaptation-not-pathology — you can’t even claim that the word “autistic” even nails someone to a negative characteristic.

    (And for a totally unimportant aside, as for the Queen & Beaver, (what a lovely name for a pub), I have fond memories of my visit there with my friend Petteri back in ’10, minus the slightly elevated prices and noisy milieu. Hmm, that’s a destination for early November during WFC . . . might drag the husband along this time as well)

    It’s definitely pricier than you average pub; but man, that is far from average pub food you’re getting. Stilton/cherry ice cream? Pheasant and white sausage? Sometimes the menu items sound really unappetising (toast and lard? really?) but I’ve never been disappointed by the food they put in front of me. One of our favorite spots.

    If you and the Hub do decide to go, ask the BUG and I along. I’ll pay for the wine.

    Also . . . some interesting bingo cards . . .

    !!! (I mean, I bristle at some of them because I’ say them myself, but still. !!!)

    Anony Mouse said:


    I only have one request. Please, no pictures.

    Request granted. I asked for screen grabs, but they claimed to lack the technology.

    Lanius, said:

    Who the fuck cares that it’s not PC and not palatable? Dweebs and yellowbellies who don’t like offending people. It’s bloody obvious kikes are smarter than us on average, look how many Nobel prizes for physics they got. Or who invented the fokking H-Bomb. Or the neutron bomb. Or the atomic bomb. Or most computer architecture. Or the theory of relativity….. Or..

    Uh, yeah. I think I’m gonna reserve comment on this until after the folks below have weighed in. In fact, I think this warrants its own comment.

    Stand by.

  51. Hljóðlegur said:

    Tell me: was the guy who coined the phrase “confirmation bias” of the Jewish faith? Lastly, did you just call those scientists “kikes?” Really? O.o Nice way to raise the level of discourse there, Ace.

    Yep, so much for people here generally strive for intellectual honesty also giv[ing] us license to dispense with the usual pleasantries of PCness. We went from “The Ashkenazi as a group have higher IQ scores” to “Evahbody KNOWS them Jewboys sure is smart” in like three steps. I’m agog.

    demoval, said:

    And I think where he went in his discourse is proof that frame and context do matter here, where the audience isn’t as homogenous as some have argued.

    Dear Lanius:

    Dude, you put me in an awkward situation. Not least because I’m starting to agree with Hljóðlegur.

    Here’s the thing. Sometimes you make good points (albeit generally more abrasively than necessary). You provide interesting links. Other times it seems as if you’re going out of your way to be an asshole; what they call a troll hereabouts.

    Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to guess that your use of the word “kike” was a conscious exercise in putting some of my own sentiments into practice. I’ve just said I can’t see what’s wrong with using “cripple”, for example. And hey, even the word “nigger” is descended from “Niger” — it’s not an inherently offensive term, it doesn’t mean “subhuman” or “smells bad”, it’s just a reference to a river basin from which a lot of people were abducted and enslaved. Surely it’s the enslavement that’s offensive, not the word, right? So the word must be okay. Nigger nigger nigger. How’s that different from “crippled”? How is that different from “kike”?

    I’m going to assume that’s your reasoning. I suppose another, somewhat more ironic explanation might be that you have some kind of keyboard Tourette’s, or that maybe you have a touch of autism that keeps you from realizing the impact of your words — but you use them with such obvious deliberation, such emphatic glee, that I don’t believe that to be the case. And that’s the problem: the sense that you’re doing it primarily to piss people off.

    This is my home. I’d like you to stop doing that here.

    I’m not saying we don’t get to piss people off around here. I do it all the time, evidently. Here’s the difference: sometimes I will say something knowing that I’m going to piss someone off, and I say it anyway— but not because I’m trying to piss them off. I’m doing it because making the point is paramount, even if it carries collateral cost. In contrast, I think sometimes the point you make is merely a delivery platform; causing offense seems to be your primary goal.

    Yes, I say lots of overtly insulting things about certain types of people. Don’t have much patience for the ass-hamster brigade, for one thing; I wish someone would drop Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity into a vat of acid and be done with it. But. If any of those people showed up on this blog and joined in a reasonable conversation, I would treat them with a modicum of respect. I would tell them that their beliefs were batshit crazy, and I would tell them why; but I would consider any reasoned rebuttals they might make. I would engage. Who knows, I might even change my mind (unlikely, but it’s happened before).

    One of the reasons I have such profound and visceral antagonism to the Hannitys and the Palins of the world is that they are largely incapable of (or at least, uninterested in) that kind of exchange. They do not argue: they gibber, and they hurl invective, and they proudly shit upon the very idea of reason. No quarter to such idiots; but if they want to talk and listen, if they want to exchange views, I will do that. The point is, offense has to be collateral; it cannot be the point of the exercise.

    I think I slip up sometimes, let my brain stem get in the way. I’m not above taking cheap shots; but I try to be above that. I would ask you to do the same. Talk about the etymology of “kike” all you want; but if you’re going to call people kikes, Val’s right and I may have been wrong: set it in fucking context. At the very least.

    Dear everyone else:

    I am in an awkward situation. I really, really value free speech. I do not want to play the censor. Those of you who were around back during Squidgate may remember (and the rest of you can check the archives): people came to this ‘crawl and cackled about the inevitable ass-raping I was going to get in jail, and I didn’t even censor them — fuck, how I wanted to — because a principle isn’t a principle if you abandon it the moment it becomes inconvenient. (I did killfile a few people, but only after they’d proven repeatedly that they weren’t interested in doing anything but strafing bile across the internet— hell, they’d already been banned everywhere else. This was the last place that was giving them a voice.)

    I want this place to be challenging; I don’t mind it being bare-knuckle on occasion, and you enter at your own risk. But I like it when you enter, and I have no desire to see this place grow so toxic that you start leaving in droves to get away from the trolls. So far that hasn’t been too much of an issue; hopefully things can stay that way. Please understand that this is a balancing act, and that I want to err heavily on the side of free expression— but if things do get too toxic, I may have to reconsider that policy. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

    Thank you for your attention.

  52. @PW

    Message recieved. Yeah, I’m positively gleeful when I have the chance to stick it to PC people like Hjoole.. then, I don’t eat cat stew* all that often so I guess it evens out. (the general nastiness level)

    In contrast, I think sometimes the point you make is merely a delivery platform; causing offense seems to be your primary goal.

    Yes, sometimes. I’ll refrain from doing so in a crude manner from now one. Sarcasm is okay, I hope.

    @H..

    Furthermore, I can’t say, that “Ashkenazi are smarter” if their average IQ test is higher, not just because it implies it’s all settled that IQ measures smarts, but also because it’s rude.

    Rude? So is calling a fat person fat, even if they are objectively positively obese? It’s rude but accurate. They are smarter on average.

    And I’d say it’s obvious that Jews, considering their numbers (.5%) of world population have contributed to technology, science and humanities completely out of proportion.

    You want to run the numbers? Don’t need to just google that.

    Furthermore, I did read your comment.
    By every possible metric, be it average income, education level, achievement in science, IQ test, Ashkenazis, and especially those who live in the US are smarter. Why? I believe it’s genetic(the theory goes that either Ashkenazis come from a small, smart group, or antisemitic laws caused rapid selection in middle ages), and then selection.. the smartest ones bugged out of Europe and went to the US, the not so smart ones stayed and thought they could ride it out like all the pogroms in the past..


    @Lanius: Thanks for pointing the bloody obvious… now who is this us that makes your average ?

    Average of civilized nations. In most of them, extensive tests have been performed, and in places like Japan, US, China, EU, the average IQ is in the 98-105 range. I shouldn’t mention that supposedly average IQ is lower in certain places and among certain groups, such as US blacks.
    I’d love to think it’s just bad enviroment, but why then US transracial adoption studies haven’t confirmed that?

    US Ashkenazi population is supposedly 115, and anecdotally, this seems to fit. They’re grossly overrepresented in science, mathematics and other areas where, that probably means their average is further to the right of ours.

    *feral cats are more populous than rabbits in cities, and taste pretty good, if left to marinate in chilli & soy sauce long enough. Hey, don’t look at me like that, I’m an omnivore by nature & it’s entirely rational on my part to expend 10 cents to shoot a cat and eat it instead of buying meat from stores, considering I’m underemployed and have lots of free time. Wish there were raccoons here, cats are almost too cute to eat. (just kidding here, nothing is too cute to eat if you’re animal protein starved enough)

  53. AcD wrote:

    I can’t put my finger on the exact quote from Peter, but I seem to remember prehistoric vampires being described as loners, not living in herds/tribes, nor even couples and nuclear families. That would seem to rule out the establishment of anything like a ‘vampire socitey’, which was my initial question/thought experiment: how would a vampire society come about, using humans as chattel, without first either depleting the food supply, or diluting the vampire population so much in the H.S population that individual vampire offspring would presumably fail to self-identify as belonging to the vampire nation ?

    Using the new definition of species provided by Peter (which I should read up on before making use of, but what the heck…) we have groups in the human population which are on a distinct cultural trajectory. There are and have been monasteries for a very long time in European and Islamic societies and Japan. (Don’t know if there are equivalents in Africa or the Americas – would not surprise me.) Modern Europe and North America are almost certainly rich enough (resources, technology, chattels) to support some decent sized vampire communities.

    Christian-style monks don’t reproduce, but there are other groups that do maintain a different lifestyle and reproduce, such as the Amish. And modern reproductive technology would let them reproduce without losing essential genes.

  54. @Peter: on species and sub-species.
    Thanks for the clarification about your favored use for species.
    I must be old hat indeed, as I was going by the Mayr canon, where reproductive isolation is a condition of speciation, and also was unaware hybrid speciation in the wild even is an option for mammals.
    There are enough edge cases to blur that comfy line in the sand, as you point (I was unable to find literature on fertile offspring for some of the hybridizations you mention above, though: any pointers would be much welcome).

    All of which is almost moot (my personal edification aside) since your initial proposition was about subspecies of the cognitive, not the genetic, kind, enabling HFA or sociopaths to rise and thrive as subspecies by acculturation and kin-recognition (thanks to the intarwebs and self-selecting groups such as investment bankers and hollywood hackers) …modulo genetic restrictions.

    Anyway, that’s my definition: based at least as much on niche as on genetics. When I use the phrase “cognitive subspecies”, I’m explicitly culling the genetic component; so a cognitive subspecies are merely groups which occupy different cognitive niches.

    The group part is what I have a hard time wrapping my head around, even though I dig the Vampire League angle.
    [I leave aside the HFA for now and focus on our proto-vampires, lest I churn a Ying Zheng-sized wall of text.]

    Except maybe for team-dependent corporate types, sociopaths have little to gain in seeking out each other, and even less in going public about it. Be it for breeding or general exploitation, other sociopaths are sooner competitors than partners, and make for terribad prey (not to mention concentration may scare the chattel away).

    As for the ‘civil rights’ idea, it’s vewy vewy sexy, but also kind of a risky group selection move (breaking cover may prove costly), which is seriously counterintuitive (if fun).
    I’m no True Blood specialist, but I’d wage there wouldn’t be a American Vampire League or Vampire Rights Amendment if vampires weren’t both so conspicuous and vulnerable in the True Blood universe — sociopaths are neither, in ours.

    The sole benefit I can see for sociopaths to come out as a group would be to make a distraction of the more gullible among them, thus culling their kin from the weakest individuals (who’d wear the “I’m a sociopath, stay away” tee shirt) and luring the neurotypicals in a false sense of safety.
    I know sociobiology is supposed to be Evolution 2.0, now with Foresight™, but this one pushes into mustache-twirling villain territory. ;)

    Let’s just say that Echopraxia addresses this, and gives us reason to believe that vampire’s much-touted intraspecies hostility may have been acquired somewhat more recently than is commonly let on…

    Can’t wait to have my mind blown again.

  55. Christian-style monks don’t reproduce, […]

    Not biologically, but cognitively.

  56. A cure for sociopathy might not mean wiping out of a cognitive subspecies. It could instead mean that we have a cold war. They don’t kill us, we don’t kill them. They can exist with their traits except for the acting out where they do harm.

    Maybe later we can have a state of technology where they get to play immersive games to satisfy aggressive appetites. It is something I thought about with respect to capital punishment. Instead of killing people who cannot control murdering others, let them live in an imaginary world where they can murder imaginary things.

    This is all a very creepy line of thought. and replace sociopath with some other out-group. “sure you can be gay as long as you are celibate.” “okay, now we have advanced enough technology where you can be gay as long as you are emotionally celibate.” etc. creepy creepy

  57. I’m positively gleeful when I have the chance to stick it to PC people

    Ah. I suspected it was really about that. Hey, whatever? Knock yourself out, Cleatus.

  58. @ Peter Watts
    Let’s just say that Echopraxia addresses this, and gives us reason to believe that vampire’s much-touted intraspecies hostility may have been acquired somewhat more recently than is commonly let on…

    Awwwwwwww(wwww*100) :(
    Oh come on Peter, “rapist cuckoo” strategies and hostile mating behavior in regards to “subspecies peers” would have been so much cooler (and would also nicely explain why the critters never succeeded at properly speciating)

    P.S.:
    I forgot to send you a really cool article about odd mating patterns in “subway mosquito” populations (basically, the subway-subspecies mates both with normal and subway mosquitoes, and produces fertile hybrids with the latter, said hybrids exhibiting behavior more in line with “evil” subway mosquito) which seems kind of nice as source of “creative inspiration” for possible vampire mating behavior.

    Too bad I can’t find it now.

    Ah well, gotta email a friend who sent me the article in the first place…

  59. P.P.S.:
    How is the whitelist thingie doing ? ~__^

  60. Shiela saidChristian-style monks don’t reproduce, […]
    Not biologically, but cognitively.

    HAHAHAahahaha!

    Yes, the great parallel streams of information propagation. We are all slaves to them in the end.

  61. you know, a funny something just crossed my mind that I considered (perhaps wrongly ;-) ) worth sharing…

    By the time we have the tools to actually rewire some of the people on autistic spectrum and some sociopaths into approximation of XXI century baseline (which may be very much an imaginary construct since we hardly have any idea how many weird modes of thought remain uninvestigated by science due to not being associated with any form of socially unusual behavior), the baseline itself would have likely already dissolved into an alien world of people who traded their ability to dress themselves without assistance for a really cool feat ;-)

    Or dialed down their “affective empathy” to a mere whisper because damn thing gets in the way every now and then. Or any number of weirder things, things for which no words exist yet.

    To me, it seems likely that by the time we might seriously need a neurodiversity rights movement, “XXI baseline” is the group that would be a vulnerable “neurominority”

  62. @crazy talk

    I get that you gut bacteria may tell you that certain racial sub-groups are smarted than other racial sub-groups, as defined by the infallible iq test.

    Sad thing is the only thing those bacteria are good for is generating shit.

    to turn that awful 18th century hypothesis into a falsifiable thesis you’d have to control for other factors, like pre and neo natal environment, cultural emphasis on learning, cultural emphasis on being multi-lingual, cultural emphasis on music study, cultural emphasis on nutrition, to name only a few factors. I wasn’t joking about identifying genetic markers and growing those babies in a laboratory.

    Guess what? People who study music, people who learn multiple languages, and people who have a relaxed attitude about taking tests do much better than other groups on IQ tests. FFS people who listen to classical music, eat reasonable breakfasts and get enough sleep at night score much better than other who do not.

    Think maybe that tells you something about the test and the logic of the test?

    Another shocking fact about the iq test, minority groups which have a high cultural emphasis on music, language, math and nutrition score really well on the iq test in the US. Just as good as their counterpart Christian Caucasian brethren who come from families which place a strong emphasis on similar factors.

    It’s almost as if the test isn’t a test of some completely ineffable attribute called intelligence, but might instead be a test of language comprehension, musical and mathematical prior learning.

    Or maybe you could google “jstor cultural factors iq test” and read 60 years or so of analysis.

  63. Well, I don’t fit the cookie cutter stereotype thing at all. I read my first book at fourteen months old, in Indonesian. It was a very easy picture book and I reckon most kids could learn to read very early in the right environment. I didn’t grow up Autistic or Psychopathic and I’m not Jewish.

    As a kid I was extremely sensitive. I would burst into tears quite quickly, when the mother Panda died in the endangered species documentary, when people got hurt on the news ect ect. So, over things that other people would consider quite minor. After my Grandpa died I cried myself to sleep for five years straight. In grade 3 I got a high score on an IQ test and was put into a Gifted and Talented Class. The person assessing me didn’t find I had a problem with word meanings but I had a problem expressing myself verbally to other kids because I used really strange words I’d learnt out of books and it was basically like any person trying to understand Shakespeare. I was put into Acting Classes as recommended by the Psychologist and that problem went away. My parents weren’t interested in me growing up to be someone smart – their passion was creativity and I was very enthusiastic about creative writing, art, theatre and I didn’t really like maths.

    I got bullied a lot as a kid but there was never a point where I didn’t have friends and I still know some of them now, decades later. Generally, I was a pretty happy kid. I was abused from an early age and molested before six years old and it affected me and it hurt a lot and I repressed a lot of those memories but I had friends and family and love and I didn’t experience disassosiation until 21 years old with Major Depression. Even though I didn’t talk about what happened when I was little I did have a lot of love and support, particularly from my Grandpa. I was very lucky.

    I have been sitting between introvert and extrovert on a personality test for three years now. Since developing PTSD from trauma and no social support in my late teens I have experienced memory and spelling problems and my IQ seems to be average atm. I am convinced that PTSD is caused by a lack of social support. I think that Psychopathy is often more of an environmental thing than a Biological thing. Kids who grew up badly abused or with little stimulation and without social support. There was a little adopted girl who was displaying signs of ASPD after being badly abused by her Dad. Years later, after living with a loving family, she grew up quite normal. The documentary is on YouTube. Then, there’s the ‘Feral Children’ who were badly abused and neglected from an early age and in some cases the brain wasn’t able to develop properly.

  64. Also, as far as empathy goes- by picture test I’m not very good at recognising when someone is lying but I score exceptionally well at recognising emotions. The one I couldn’t recognise was compassion- which is ironic because according to my Psychologist I am very compassionate. This would’ve probably been different if taken when I was disassosiating, though. When disassosiating my emotions were very blunt and it was awful!!!

  65. Would you mind posting my 2nd post?
    Without it my 3rd post is taken out of context…

  66. @ Magenta

    It’s spam filter, just wait

    P.S.:
    The link I couldn’t here due to being on phone and copypasting links from email to OperaMini being too hard a chore on older mobiles, especially since OM was being kinda mean to this blog and/or vice versa

    http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/262

    Pretty nifty mosquito subspecies having a breeding pattern that involves mating with both “peers” and “normal” mosquitoes, with interesting behavioral results. Quite… inspiring ;)

  67. Hello Peter.

    I’ve been watching your blog for, oh, close to a year and a half I suppose. It’s been an entertaining read, I came in (I think) right when you damn near died, so it certainly caught my attention. I’m glad you made it through that incident, and hope you live for a long, long time yet. Immortality is just around the corner anyways, it would be a shame for you to kick the bucket before seeing the religious types rant and rave about how biological immortality “goes against God’s design”.

    In honesty though, I have been falling behind in keeping up with your latest posts. I was actually brought here from Sociopathworld when ME made a post about you.

    Honestly though, I am somewhat surprised that you did not read his blog before writing Blindsight. You seemed, in that book, to have an insight into us that many people can’t grasp. Your outlook on us is also refreshing. In a world where people want to force us to wear some kind of symbol denoting our “disorder” like we are some kind of Jew during 1940s Germany, it’s good to see people with your kind of stance on the issue.

    Amusing how I suggest Blindsight to ME, he finally decides to read it, and then you find his website and both of you talk about eachother. Ironic still how besides Eeben Barlow, yours’ and ME’s blogs are the only ones I read with any consistency. Now all I’ve got to do is get one of you to go on about something like “evolution of sociopathic tendencies in wartime Africa” to get the ball rolling between you three. That would be something to see.

    Anyways, I’m rambling at this point and seemed to have lost any cohesion I had in mind when I started writing this post. Seems like it’s a good time to end before I make a bigger fool of myself.

    Guten Nacht.

  68. @Seruko

    “There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically.

    What’s your beef with the concept of race? While it may not be as clear-cut as the racist of yore believed, people from different regions are indeed
    adapted to different environments. White skin is an adaptation for sun-less locales, or malformed blood cells are an adaptation against malaria…
    After all, if you were given a choice of roughing it with a few tools for a couple of years, which environment would you prefer: equatorial highlands, asian steppes, or temperate forests?

    I’ll quote the American psychological association’s report on Race & Intelligence

    “The cause of that differential is not known; it is apparently not due to any simple form of bias in the content or administration of the tests themselves. The Flynn effect shows that environmental factors can produce differences of at least this magnitude, but that effect is mysterious in its own right. Several culturally based explanations of the Black/ White IQ differential have been proposed; some are plausible, but so far none has been conclusively supported. There is even less empirical support for a genetic interpretation. In short, no adequate explanation of the differential between the IQ means of Blacks and Whites is presently available.”

    Which is nice, but the conclusion is BS.
    There is no reason why there should not be a genetical difference in intelligence. Saying that all human subgroups by region should be on average equally intelligent is like saying the same should be true for say, dog breeds. or various natural subspecies of Canis lupus.

  69. Seruko said, Or maybe you could google “jstor cultural factors iq test” and read 60 years or so of analysis.

    Hahah. All of what Seruko said in that comment! Plus this:

    Cleatus already copped to being a TROLL. He’s not here to debate the merits of any scientific anything, he’s here because “I’m positively gleeful when I have the chance to stick it to PC people.”

    Remind me again why we’re feeding the troll?

  70. Guten Nacht.

    Thought “night” was a feminine noun?

  71. @L

    I see what’s going on here.
    Let me be more plain.
    Race is a word that means nothing testable. Especially when you start drilling down to sub categories like: ashkenazi jew or african jew. It’s just noise.

    Different Organisms are different.

    I do have a beef with IQ and enormous side of beef, perhaps a herd of prime grade A steer. IQ does not equal intelligence. IQ is a number based on a test. Intelligence is an enormous multifaceted subject best defined as a nebulous ability to adapt to changing specific environments. It’s not one magical tool. The whole notion that it is a itself a racist crazy conceit held over from the 18th century.

    Additionally not once have you addressed how you would account for cultural factors. Factors themselves which in every study, in every case, are shown to have a stronger effect on learning outcomes (and that’s what the IQ test really is, a metric of how well you’re education has prepared you for the test).

    To wit: To defend the claim “ashkenazi jews have a genetically hire intelligence the others” you need some falsifiable evidence. You don’t appear to have any that goes beyond your gut bacteria and some correlation analysis that would shame your average social scientist.

    If you don’t have those things, you’ve only got the contents of your gut to go for your argument.

  72. There may be some cross-talk going on here.

    Conventional IQ as an index of “intelligence”? Retarded, for sure: like trying to cram a useful definition of an entire ecosystem into a single number. It may have some limited utility along a single axis (you can compare average rainfall or primary production between systems, for example), but woe to anyone who tries to claim that a desert biome can be summed up with a rain gauge.

    On the other hand, the claim that certain populations contribute disproportionately to various human pursuits (art, science, what have you) is testable, and not (as far as I can see) any kind of “-ist”. If we leave aside archaic indices of “intelligence”, I would like to think we could say (for example) “Here is a group whose members win Nobels at four times the rate you’d expect from random chance”, without giving offense; further, that it would even be permissible to try and explore why that pattern existed. The problem is not that populations differ along various axes. The problem is that too many people still use those differences to justify simplistic stereotypes — and as a result, other people develop a hair-trigger aversion to the mere mention of possible differences between groups.

  73. The problem is not that populations differ along various axes. The problem is that too many people still use those differences to justify simplistic stereotypes — and as a result, other people develop a hair-trigger aversion to the mere mention of possible differences between groups.

    Not only an aversion the mention of it, a gag-reflex at simplistic stereotypes, even complimentary stereotypes. It’s nearly classical conditioning – you experience enough iterations of violently nauseous stuff in tight chronological proximity to other events, and eventually any component of the cascade causes you to wanna vomit.

    The creepy part here is how quickly the cascade proceeded to ethnic epithets. Amazing.

  74. @ Peter
    Conventional IQ as an index of “intelligence”? Retarded, for sure: like trying to cram a useful definition of an entire ecosystem into a single number. It may have some limited utility along a single axis (you can compare average rainfall or primary production between systems, for example), but woe to anyone who tries to claim that a desert biome can be summed up with a rain gauge.

    Well, it would work if it is one characteristic, or a set of very very closely correlating characteristics, you want from an ecosystem.

    To draw a fictional example, consider the somewhat goofy Strogg of “Quake” franchise (which totally deserve your unique touch in terms of novelization BTW). Those fun guys would probably be quite okay with assessing an ecosystem across one axis (oky, maybe two, but that’s at most), given that they would only be concerned with utility of constituents they could subsume into their society.
    Now, to get back to things more real, consider human societies and organizations (not just a particular corporation or government, but also pretty much every organization or state to ever exist in recorded history to this day). What is it that they want of humans ? What are all organizations after, in their members ? High quality components. The complexity of human condition doesn’t really bother states, societies, organizations, and never did. What bothers those things is utility of constituents they happen to receive. And so far, IQ has been a fairly good metric for our good Stroggish neighbors to evaluate the quality of material to work with, and bargain for. Hence, no drive to invent a better metric.

  75. OMG Peter, you have managed to tame your spam filter ?

    Everyone, rejoice !


  76. Especially when you start drilling down to sub categories like: ashkenazi jew or african jew.

    You sure about this pardner?
    European Jews are pretty fokking distinct. It’s the noses, the smarts and the tendency towards exotic, congenital neurological diseases like Tay Sachs.

    Compare the rate in Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews and tell me they’re the same thing. They are according to other studies close, genetically, and very close to Palestinians too (no surprise there), but something has clearly happened to Ashkenazis in the two or so millenia since the groups effectively split in the diaspora..

    And no, it’s not noise.


    It may have some limited utility along a single axis (you can compare average rainfall or primary production between systems, for example), but woe to anyone who tries to claim that a desert biome can be summed up with a rain gauge.

    Of course it’s not perfect, and it doesn’t hold for people in Mensa, but you know, if it correlates so well with statistics like incarceration rate, employment success, expected income and so on.. it is not worthless at all.

    Coincidentally, societies where it is low on average for some reason are quite shitty too.

    But yeah, it’s just a pile of crap with no predictive value.

    you experience enough iterations of violently nauseous stuff in tight chronological proximity to other events, and eventually any component of the cascade causes you to wanna vomit.

    Oh yeah. And I’m a troll. Ad hominem, and complete bloody lack of logic.

    If I admit to
    a) liking to screw with PC cowards
    does that mean I’m either incapable or not interested in discussion.
    If you’re a humanities type who never heard of logic, probably yes.. but I’d say the propensity for being offensive isn’t connected to anything else, just maybe frequency of getting banned on various online forums..


    To wit: To defend the claim “ashkenazi jews have a genetically hire intelligence the others” you need some falsifiable evidence.

    I assume you meant to wrote ‘higher’.
    As to falsifiable evidence, it is you who is ignorant here.
    A bloody huge pile of evidence has been presented, and fucktons of controversy aroused when an article on Ashkenazi intelligence was published in.. Nature?
    Just use google.

    Here’s the original paper:
    http://harpending.humanevo.utah.edu/Documents/ashkiq.webpub.pdf

    Here is one of study authors commenting on how no one wanted to touch it anyway:
    http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showpost.php?p=13724510&postcount=133

    And I guess someone like you would like reading the wiki page, where everyone can claim it’s completely invalid ;-)

  77. To make falsifiable claims about genetics, you need to get down to the genes (and the claims will be like “carriers of genes ALPHABETSOUP and NUMBERSALAD have significantly better test performance, not “teh joos are teh smarter” :) )

    So far, evopsych folks have been very successful at avoiding getting down to genes :D

  78. the italics! they burn!

  79. Sorry guys.. forgot a hanging italic tag in my post..

    @01
    Cochran et all propose that the high incidence of neurological congenital defects is because of high selective pressure on ashkenazi smarts during the middle ages..

    Also, Cochran is not evopsych, he’s a physicist and an antropologist..

    Anyway, no one is willing to fund such a project. Even Israelis balked, on account of half of Jews in Jewland [editorial insert: seriously, Lanius? “Jewland”? That’s almost too over the top to even be insulting. You make interesting points on occasion, and you offer up cool links, but this kind of terminology serves absolutely no function *except* to give insult. We talked about this. You said you’d cut it out. Strike two.] being Sephardic.. and there already being a bit of strain in relations …

  80. Will this fix it..

    Fixed?

  81. Looks like I broke Peter’s blog :(

  82. 01 says everything I try to say, but in one sentence.

  83. @ Seruko

    Well, I can boil down the entire scripture to one word :)

  84. 01: your broken italics. I fix them.

  85. @ Peter

    Thanks man.

    I am remarkably untidy, in my posts and in my code. Can’t help it.

  86. @Lanius

    The kind folks doing the research should just dump the rationalization stack altogether and dig deeper into the molecular-biological nitty gritty details. It will also help to lose the social and ethnic context, which is, quite frankly, irrelevant.

    P.S.:
    The evopsych line was not referring to Cohran, just a throwaway stab at the field that squanders its promise on anything but useful science, despite having every single tool needed to actually, you know, discover stuff instead of pushing scifi into peer-reviewed and “popsci” press.

    Evopsych people are, with very few exclusions, such a massive disappointing bag of fail

  87. if one is going to make claims about genes and then not examine genes one fails at understanding the scientific method.

    This may work for the underpants gnomes
    1. sociological claim
    2. genes!
    3. ????
    4. profit

    but it fails for science. :(

    Science isn’t about why, it’s about why not. You ask: why is so much of our science dangerous? I say: why not marry safe science if you love it so much. In fact, why not invent a special safety door that won’t hit you in the butt on the way out, because you are fired.

  88. Ah.. unlike the previous K.-word that wasn’t meant to be offensive, just .. funny? You know.. Jews ~ Israelites.. Israel ~ J-L .. as if I called Canada Canuck-land or something..

    Should’ve googled it, people’ve been banned for that in some places… :-(

    I guess I’ll stick to standard vocabulary and nothing jokey at all in order to avoid the third strike…


    The kind folks doing the research should just dump the rationalization stack altogether and dig deeper into the molecular-biological nitty gritty details.

    Avoid sticking to researching on Ashkenazis , even though they are a genetically distinct lineage with some curious traits? Just do a genetic analysis of say, PhD equipped non-humanities scientists or accomplished technologists compared to a sample of grunts? (that’s a pretty good standard sample, healthy individuals of slightly above average smarts)

    I’d be all for someone finding out what genes affect natural intelligence and then creating a retrovirus that’d spread like wildfire and mitigate the stupid.. but I’m afraid it’s not that simple, and I suspect many stupid people would view it as offensive, being recommended gene therapy..

    Not me, I’m pretty stupid and I’d take any advantage on offer..

    Maybe that foundation Bill Gates started could fund it… after all, increased average intelligence would greatly benefit everyone.. probably. Also, if it were possible to flatten the distribution somewhat.. read it somewhere, that today’s western societies, the upper 20% consistently like giving the rest the shaft.. because they can. (jerks are as common among smart people as anywhere else). Or is morality not evenly distributed ?

  89. @01:

    Evopsych people are, with very few exclusions, such a massive disappointing bag of fail

    I don’t know which specific “people” you’re referring to, but if you’re claiming that the field of sociobiology (I refuse to call it evopsych) is a bag of fail, I disagree profoundly.

    In fact, I’d go so far as to deny that sociobiology even exists as a distinct field. Its fundamental premise is that everything has a legacy; that every clade is the product of evolutionary processes; that those processes can’t help but inform current behavior. That’s just basic biology, uncontroversial, inevitable. People only get upset when you start applying it to humans — as if somehow we are above biology, the rules don’t apply to us, that out of all the millions of species on the planet, ours is somehow “special”. It shouldn’t be a distinct field, but given the vast numbers of people who believe in human exceptionalism, I’m willing to give it a pass; it pays its way simply by reminding us that we came from somewhere, and those origins are still inside us.

    I realize that there’s a lot of handwaving, and just-so stories; to some extent it’s the state of the art, to some extent it’s Sturgeon’s Law, to some extent it’s old boys using biology to justify the status quo. But you find that everywhere; and I have much more respect for those who actually try to improve the state of the art than I have for those who think they’ve leveled a legitimate criticism by putting caricatures onto fake bingo cards that joke about evo-psych nerds who can’t get laid or keep using evolutionary handwaving to justify the patriarchy. I see a lot of people pretending to attack evolutionary biology on scientific grounds when in fact their objections seem to be political; and I suspect even a lot of those political objections would vanish if the critics actually knew what the evo types are up to. I know some of these folks personally. I’ve seen as many women as men among their numbers; and there’s way too much female mate choice and K-selector slutting around in their models to justify any straw-man caricature of a movement dedicated to justifying Father Knows Best.

    Sure, there’s still some vestigial remnant of the old white boys brigade. But I’ve seen a whole generation of female grad students come up through the ranks, take their places, and kick their asses. Back in grad school I knew a female student who kept wondering why all her stickleback seines turned up males, no females. She knew they were all males because only the males flashed mating colors, and she knew that because her old white guy supervisor had told her as much. Turns out female sticklebacks change color too. You’d think someone would have figured that out before 1986. But she did, and now she’s a prof at U of T with a shitload of awards and pubs under her belt, and I am still proud to call her a friend. She did not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    I wish more people would follow her example.

  90. @ Lanius

    Avoid sticking to researching on Ashkenazis , even though they are a genetically distinct lineage with some curious traits?

    Not so much “avoid” as stop focusing so profusely on the ethnic baggage. You’re studying “family groups with a confirmed history of high standard test performance and associated behavioral correlates, controlled for confounding variables such as social status”. They happen to be predominantly jews ? Who cares, we’re after pinning down a gene complex that predicts standard test performance, not after proving/disproving some ethnic claim to glory!
    If anything, that should allow to increase sample size. Big sample size be good for ye science, my mateys tell me!

    @ Peter

    I don’t know which specific “people” you’re referring to, but if you’re claiming that the field of sociobiology (I refuse to call it evopsych) is a bag of fail, I disagree profoundly.

    Well, for starters, it seems to me that if a field chooses to call itself evolutionary psychology, I am bound to honor that decision though I do agree that distinction between evopsych and socbio might be pedantic/historical (at least as far as SEP seems to imply)

    In fact, I’d go so far as to deny that sociobiology even exists as a distinct field. Its fundamental premise is that everything has a legacy; that every clade is the product of evolutionary processes; that those processes can’t help but inform current behavior. That’s just basic biology, uncontroversial, inevitable.

    I’d even go as far as claiming that even if we postulate that some facets of human behavior have very little heritable influence (not implausible, given how fucked-up the so-called “mowgley” kids end up), those facets would still be based upon evolved biological structures, since they would still be implemented through an evolved organism and not through some extra-dimensional hamsterspace :D

    I realize that there’s a lot of handwaving, and just-so stories; to some extent it’s the state of the art, to some extent it’s Sturgeon’s Law, to some extent it’s old boys using biology to justify the status quo. But you find that everywhere; and I have much more respect for those who actually try to improve the state of the art than I have for those who think they’ve leveled a legitimate criticism by putting caricatures onto fake bingo cards that joke about evo-psych nerds who can’t get laid or keep using evolutionary handwaving to justify the patriarchy.

    The problem, to me, is not that someone uses the basic premises of evopsych/socbio to justify this and that social quirk (that’s just boring, boorish naturalistic fallacy irrespective of whether the claim that a given behavior is an evolved, inherited adaptation is true or not)

    The problem is, to me, is the focus on “plausible evolutionary histories” of the species that seem to be unusually popular. As far as I can tell, “evolutionary histories” of adaptations as often presented in literature pertaining to humans are neither falsifiable, nor particularly verifiable (you, of all people, know that it is quite possible to postulate an entire new variable in an evolutionary history of a species, than plausibly explain known facts within light of that variable ;) ) which doesn’t bode well for their scientific validity.

    Given that we have tools to investigate individual genes and study the dynamics of their distribution throughout history, it seems to me that focus should be on proving genetic influence (which AFAIK is not same as heritability in humans), then demonstrating the specific genetic predictors of traits and perhaps historical distribution of said genetic predictors (to the extent afforded by population genetics) instead of coming up with plausible “adaptation fiction”.

    The people I am referring to, Peter, are people responsible for “just so stories”, “handwaving”, and the “plausible adaptation history genre” that seems to be disproportionately represented in literature (at least as far as my exposure goes).
    Those people, or rather, the fact that they don’t get laughed off the stage, are especially appalling given that the tools that would allow to actually study the genetic predictors of behavior (as opposed to writing “adaptation fiction”) are, to the best of my knowledge, already available. That’s why the bag of fail is so disappointing – because there is no problem with the basic premises, because things definitely could be so much better already.

    P.S.:
    Now that I’ve mentioned mowgley thing, I wonder what would a child raised by a blindsight vampire (as a contrived scientific experiment on part of the vampire) end up like :D Would you perhaps kindly take a stab at this in some future work ? ;)

    P.P.S.:
    Hope I didn’t break any tags this time

  91. re Seruko and Hljóðlegur su trolltaming
    You are both incredibly awesome. If I meet you someday, I hope I know it’s you.

    re Peter su evopsych
    I think the mechanism at work re responses to evopsych is something like almost classical conditioning Hljóðlegur described — one gets used to dismissing it because “the gag-reflex kicks in”, so I appreciate actually useful examples like the one you gave above. It strikes me that misuse of science does it as much damage to public non-specialist scientific discourse as distrust of science. Going out on a limb, that may be why the people who went on an anti-vaccine field day were able to do so, which is a rather terrifying example of why science needs to be rehabilitated as what it is, a tool of insight, not a crop for the overlords to use to smack the vassals and tell them they belong in the mud.
    Also, I’m totally stealing the term “just-so stories”, because using words like etiological tends to scare people.

    Magenta
    re “I think that Psychopathy is often more of an environmental thing than a Biological thing.”
    Anybody who argues that something behavioral is all nature and no nurture will have to argue very well for me to buy what they’re saying.

  92. woah debate. actually read through all of it. good stuff.

    two things come to mind. One – my colleague once contemplating how curious it would be to state that a new police measure ‘struck fear in the heart of the psychokiller community’. Would be intriguing if they actually had one. Community, I mean.

    second – possibly towards the concept that sociopath is the original and empath is the derivative/ later variant – staring at my two month old baby it strikes me how babies could possibly be defined as sociopathic in that their understanding of their own feelings and needs develops far before any concept of other people’s feelings, or any sense of empathy. So one could say that sociopath is a more basic form.

    possibly too much information, but this occurred to me as he was nursing while I was reading this article and occasionally tugging on my nipple (which hurts like a bitch when he does that) in order to speed up the milk flow. What the hell does he need the faster milk flow for, not like he’s going anywhere. Owie.

  93. I think that it is perhaps worth clarifying that by evopsych, I mean specifically evolutionary psychology pertaining to human research, so research dealing with animals and not attempting to draw an explicit line to humans was not intended to be covered by my claim (though I suspect that field has a fair share of crap, too)

    shouldaf made that more clear when sticklebacks came up.

  94. I’ll try to be true to form here and come sort of out-of-the-blue and do a little thread-breaking by backtracking a bit:

    @Peter Watts, who wrote: [t]he biological definition I use for “species” is one I was taught back in grad school, which is basically “any clade that’s on a distinct evolutionary trajectory”.

    Sorry, Peter, perhaps I’m just a bit too undergrad in this field, but what of Musicians? For example, to be a decent Musician, let’s say for now that this is anyone along the Lutist traditions (guitar, violin, string base, banjo, sitar, etc etc) must have a certain collection of talents which probably have major genetic components. Of course, they also need some or a lot of training. Yet without the talents, the training might avail them naught.

    One might have fast supple fingers which can be got to the right place in the right position in the right timing, but no sense at all of tone. Or, one might have exquisite sense of tone, and have the coordination and fingering skills of the average ungulate, you know, might as well not be trying to play a five finger chord when the equipment “at hand” amounts to “divideth the hoof”. So, let’s say for now that a Musician probably come from — or is highly related to — a family of Musicians.

    If our Musicians are on that “distinct evolutionary trajectory” of growing up in music, learning music, performing music, and passing on musicianship to the offspring and future generations, are Musicians a different species? Or becoming one? And if Musicians are a different species, why do so many non-Musicians seem to want to sleep with them? ;)

    It should be noted that someone could be born with everything that makes a person a Musician, and even have all or most of the relevant training, and decide to go work in the stock markets, or science-fiction writing for that matter. Would they be any less of an inherent Musician? And I suppose Peter Watts has to some degree shown us that Jukka Sarasti can get a job as a Spacer with special qualifications, even if he is (mostly) not using those special qualifications in the mode that selected for those qualifications. Even leaving out his dependence on the anti-Euclidean drugs, isn’t it possible that he chose his career path from a list generated from occupational affinity tests? Just because he has those “talents”, does he have to follow “the family tradition”? Not being a leopard, so to speak, perhaps he can choose to change his spots. Looking forward to Echopraxia, of course.

    @Sheila, who wrote: Maybe later we can have a state of technology where they get to play immersive games to satisfy aggressive appetites. It is something I thought about with respect to capital punishment. Instead of killing people who cannot control murdering others, let them live in an imaginary world where they can murder imaginary things.

    Having gone through a period when my Aspergerish Fascination was on the subject of Serial Killers and everything remotely related to them, let me recall for you that there’s a worrisome tendency apparently common to the Organized Type of SKs. See http://www.macalester.edu/academics/psychology/whathap/ubnrp/serialkillers/fantasies.html for a lot of detail, and google widely and you may see what I mean. The point here is that the last thing one would want would be serial killers (or potential serial killers, or sociopaths or psychopaths or Wattsian Vampires) spending a lot of time in an imaginary world where they can murder imaginary things to their wicked little hearts’ content.

    Actually, there’s probably a whole story there and probably a very scary one… after maybe half of an adulthood spent submerged in a sensory-deprivation tank being fed, and interacting wit, a virtual-reality rife with both opportunities for and commission of increasingly horrendous acts, our story’s subject wakes into the real world due to a system crash. (If nobody has done this yet, I really cannot imagine why not.)

    As in real life case histories of serial killers, the fantasy existence would have been detailed, elaborate, highly repeated gaming and scenario building, in the end leaving little to chance and having incorporated all reasonably predicted possible interruptions or setbacks and including “error recovery” and fallback scenarios. This could result in an individual that you wouldn’t want let loose in any society, unless perhaps as some sort of bioweapon of social terrorism used against enemy nations. I can almost imagine a collaboration between Stephen King and Michael Crichton to write that one. ;)

    Such a person would deal a serious setback to the public-relations efforts of the International Union of Intentionally Well-Behaved Sociopaths, of course.

  95. @Demo

    Environment is extremely important. The “Feral Children” were exposed to abuse and neglect so severe that they had a loss to their language abilities. Sensitivity to hot and cold and pain was also affected. Fortunately, they were all able to improve and either regain lost language or learn a lot of words with plenty of long term support.

    I wonder if an adult who has lost the ability to empathise and experience remorse from childhood could possibly relearn these abilities like with language?!?
    It used to be believed that bpd was incurable. Studies have since proven otherwise :)

  96. @Thomas – Everyone has anti-social impulses and suppresses them because that’s what you have to do to live in civilization. As with pedophiles, if sociopaths behave in a way that does not allow them to be identified as sociopaths, there is no basis for tattooing them or anything else. What is in your head is yours; your behavior is everyone else’s, because they can see it, be harmed by it, and society can veto it.

    Completely agree that a virtual world, like Achilles from Starfish had, where you practice your desire to murder or rape in a virtual space, is a practice session for murder or rape. Especially because sexuality has a learned component, and one can desensitize to violence through repeated exposure. If we are going to train, a Clockwork Orange plan would be more effective. (Not advocating that.)

    @ 01 and Seruko - *tips hat* I was gonna post some big teal deer reply to all this, but y’all covered it, so thank you kindly.

    One additional point: what L actually thinks in his head in re Jews is his own business, but if one talks like an anti-semite, or a sexist, or whatever disgusting ism one favors, then there is little difference between that and being one. No functional difference, anyway, because speech is a behavior, and thus, on the spectrum of possible harm.


  97. Completely agree that a virtual world, like Achilles from Starfish had, where you practice your desire to murder or rape in a virtual space, is a practice session for murder or rape. Especially because sexuality has a learned component, and one can desensitize to violence through repeated exposure

    1)You’re saying that guys who spend their free time, instead of watching boob tube or wanking to porn playing Red Orchestra 2 where you kill either Nazis or Bolsheviks in what amounts to a decently realistic first person shooter are going to eventually crack, take their bolt-action rifle or their vintage submachinegun and go shoot/bayonet Nazis or commies?

    2) Or that pedophiles who control themselves, never even touch kids and wank to pedophile stories or drawn porn obtained from the internet are more likely to offend and actually molest kids?

    If you argue 2), be aware that Japan, the country with the worst and most atrocious porn imaginable (I urge you not to see it, once you’ve seen a dick-nipple, you cannot unsee it) has very low rates of actual sexual assault.. and sexual violence..

  98. As with pedophiles, if sociopaths behave in a way that does not allow them to be identified as sociopaths, there is no basis for tattooing them or anything else.

    Bullshit!

    Any honest psychopath would tell you, that of course they’d have a far easier time doing antisocial behavior if they were not readily identifiable..

    And I believe any psychopath who is on times tempted to do something evil or nasty, but knows it won’t pay off wouldn’t mind having a tattoo.. if having such tattoo would help him control himself..

  99. You guys are gonna like this:

    http://sociodomain.blogspot.com/

    Very erudite sadistic psychopath, or perhaps a psychologist with a wicked sense of humor..


    ‘Life is what you make of it’. A true statement in more ways than one. Some circumstances or events may be inevitable, but they are not the driving force of your fate–you are. At least, that is what I’ve come to know.

    Your life is like a ship and it’s up to you to take the helm. People waste so much time either letting the winds of chance guide them where it will, or battling it completely. The world is neither an overpowering force to succumb to nor an obstacle to overcome; it is a resource to be exploited. A tool to your advantage– an oyster, if you will– but only if you make it so.

    Sociopaths are purported to have a grandiose sense of self; an innate belief in their superiority and capability to achieve success. This is seen as a ‘delusional’ symptom of a disorder, but close your textbook and look at the facts. It won’t take more than a glance at the obviously high-functioning Sociopaths running amuck in your backyard to see, our little ‘delusions’ are often more than justified.

    What you call delusions of grandeur, I call an innate understanding of the world. Superiority is not a stroke of luck, a silly nametag that falls into your lap– it is a mindset. An implacable and justified confidence in your own abilities. In your own power to control your reality.

  100. 1. No

    2. More likely than pedophiles to stop themselves from fantasizing about children. Masturbation to a stimulus strengthens the connection between the arousal and the stimulus. People don’t get to opt out of classical or operant conditioning because their frontal lobes are bigger.

    3. Anyone who wants to tattoo the word “Sociopath” on her forehead is welcome to do so. Society deciding who is sociopathic and doing the tattooing is a waste.

  101. …than pedophiles WHO stop themselves …

    (typo)

  102. Btw, based on reading about the effects of violent games or porn, etc; I would say the verdict is still out as to whether they improve or degrade behavior. but my google finger is too lazy to do anything about this today, sorry.

    I was expecting someone to have replied to this thread of the conversation with citations etc. and I’m surprised not to see any. Wtf people does some shlub like me have to step in? you should be ashamed.

  103. @Sheila says:

    Btw, based on reading about the effects of violent games or porn, etc; I would say the verdict is still out as to whether they improve or degrade behavior.

    I don’t know about pr0n, but as far as video games are concerned, I have yet to see a half-decent study on that topic, and not for lack of looking.

    Everything released to date (to the best of my knowledge) has been flawed in methodology and/or contextual analysis.
    The most typical error being to fail to earnestly look into videogaming patterns of use relative to other activities, and on the relative time/attention invested in various game genres/playstyles by study subjects,.
    …all of which seems critical, as from empirical and anecdotal experience, individual context and disposition play major parts in informing one’s experience of violent videogames.

    Does a stilted social life (meatspace or online) and little other interests besides, when combined with compulsive gaming, all increase the odds of antisocial behavior, and possibly psychotic excursions ? Yes, sensory and affective deprivation works wonders in boosting operant conditioning, indeed.

    On the other hand, I know of many people for which intense gaming has been a haven and a place of experimentation, both in solo (or non-socially binding) play and in team/multiplayer settings.

    What matters most is how gaming blends or contrasts with one’s non-gamey experience and practice, and understanding such complex dynamics can’t happen by focusing exclusively on the count of hours logged in “SadistophanMegaMayhem IX”.

    A game should not be excused from accountability for the messages it conveys, and neither should players be imagined as passive subjects gorging indiscriminately on virally-loaded thought pellets.
    Gaming surely can strongly affect one’s imagination, thought process, and possibly ‘deeper wiring’, yet what’s played, why, when, how and with whom makes all the difference between cathartic/innocent good fun and desensitizing mass-murder rehearsal.

  104. @ Sheila


    Btw, based on reading about the effects of violent games or porn, etc; I would say the verdict is still out as to whether they improve or degrade behavior. but my google finger is too lazy to do anything about this today, sorry.

    I think I will eventually find a nice “porn citation cheat-sheet” a friend cooked up long ago (long story short – no convincing reproducible “lab” evidence porn affects likelihood of sexual violence, no epidemiological connection observed “in the wild” at all.

    @Thomas Hardman


    Having gone through a period when my Aspergerish Fascination was on the subject of Serial Killers and everything remotely related to them, let me recall for you that there’s a worrisome tendency apparently common to the Organized Type of SKs. See http://www.macalester.edu/academics/psychology/whathap/ubnrp/serialkillers/fantasies.html for a lot of detail, and google widely and you may see what I mean.

    I am still in the process of reading up on stuff, but it seems to me that there’s some kind of rather weird thingus going on here.
    For one, I don’t see how tendency of SK types to fantasize about violence, especially before carrying out relevant acts is somehow different from normal human tendency to model and plan behaviors before actually carrying them out. The matter seems to be a truism along the lines of “french cuisine chefs often imagine cooking” and “coders often imagine writing code” (FFS, I often dream it…)

    As to whether that means they would be more likely or less likely to offend after “practicing” in VR, that might be complicated, however, if we assume that computer games are somewhat close to “VR kill-sims” (imperfect as they are), then notable absence of in-the-field connection between crime rates and availability of violent media puts a serious stake through the heart of your hypothesis.

    @ Lanius
    @ Hljóðlegur

    Re: the whole “labeling sociopaths” thing

    http://www.joshuahallsimmons.com/batman.html

  105. @01
    It has Batman in it. I am allergic to Batman(and all superheroes), I cannot bring myself to read the thing.


  106. As to whether that means they would be more likely or less likely to offend after “practicing” in VR, that might be complicated, however, if we assume that computer games are somewhat close to “VR kill-sims” (imperfect as they are), then notable absence of in-the-field connection between crime rates and availability of violent media puts a serious stake through the heart of your hypothesis.

    Supposedly, there is a good statistical connection between widespread adoption of the Idiot Box and murder rate..

  107. @01

    I think I will eventually find a nice “porn citation cheat-sheet” a friend cooked up long ago (long story short – no convincing reproducible “lab” evidence porn affects likelihood of sexual violence, no epidemiological connection observed “in the wild” at all.

    I think the same could probably said about video game violence.


  108. I think the same could probably said about video game violence.

    Anecdotally, I used to be an avid Unreal Tournament player, and also used to think it’d be really neat to get a semi-automatic 12 gauge shotgun with three 24-round drum magazines and then shoot-up a neo-nazi concert.
    May be connected to my high aggressivity, I was told I’m somewhere above 90th percentile. But the examining psychologist concluded my aggression is well socialized(you know, trolling conservative writers blogs & fora, long-distance running and other sports), that I’m a reasonably well-adjusted and level-headed person and that there’s no need to deny me my firearm permit. That’s why I recognized the futility of such random and pointless act of violence.. I guess.

  109. @ Lanius

    Supposedly, there is a good statistical connection between widespread adoption of the Idiot Box and murder rate.

    Debunk’d due to not controlling for confounding variables

    http://reason.com/archives/2001/03/01/missing-link

  110. In my opinion the majority, or at least a huge fraction of the ‘norm’ are best described as psychopaths with heuristic tweaks that put brakes on the ruthless psychopath behaviour when it is perhaps not likely to be effective. That’s the only way I can interpret the events such as Holocaust, as well as Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment, et cetera. As well as the personal interactions with people who are given a little bit of power (government workers, especially migration related). At same time, the norm has IQ of 100 and given such intelligence the norm can not get more effective at anything by cutting the brakes.

  111. Ohh, even better way to see it: Norms are a pack-predator version of psychos. The ‘empathy’ tweak is reliably switched off for suffering of the out-group. Commands by the upper one in the hierarchy, regardless of the upper one’s actual power, have higher weight than empathy in majority of normals, which puts the empathy at a very low weight, a mere default behaviour that is effective for a pack.

  112. Dmytry said:

    Ohh, even better way to see it: […]

    Try this for size. ;)


  113. Ohh, even better way to see it: Norms are a pack-predator version of psychos. The ‘empathy’ tweak is reliably switched off for suffering of the out-group. Commands by the upper one in the hierarchy, regardless of the upper one’s actual power, have higher weight than empathy in majority of normals, which puts the empathy at a very low weight, a mere default behaviour that is effective for a pack.

    Your ideas are intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter…

  114. Most vertebrates are like sociopaths because the social brain has evolved late and in several lineages. Certain breeds of dogs lack wolf/dog behaviour and function ‘like cats’.

  115. Ummm…if a dog does something, that behaviour is, by definition, dog-like. There is a big range in socialibility, for sure, but all dogs are

  116. And..there goes my message!

    All dogs have been seriously modified to allow them to a) socialize with/take orders from a completely different species b) limit dominance behaviour.

    Wolves don’t care what stupid monkeys say/think/do. Dogs crave human affirmation/reassurance because we systematically killed the ones that failed to pay attention to us/do what we wanted.

    The aloof breeds have either had their pack/hunting behaviour re-directed to allow them to work alone (border collies, Great Pyrenees and all the other livestock guarding/herding breeds), or they have been allowed to retain more independence/limited bonding/general agression to promote guarding behaviour and to allow them to hunt/forage so that they needed less direct feeding (akitas, malamutes, siberian huskies). That last group are actually the closest to wolves and are far less “doggy” in terms of cuddleness.

    Since all dogs were bred from wolves, their behaviours are not separate from that ancestory. They are either behaviour extremes being expressed through breeding or they represent (relatively) recent mutations coming out of the same lineage that created (highly social) wolves.

  117. Dmytry makes a fine point there. Empathy seems to be an individualistic trait, in the sense that it will show (if it exists – not like every human individual is overflowing with it) when the person is acting individually. It is also often an impulse reaction. On the other hand, following group hierarchy – at the cost of showing increasing cruelty to that which is outside the group – is our oxytocin making sure we belong. But I’d sure love to measure this guy’s oxytocin levels.

    WWII is certainly a powerful thought-experiment, it being the collective emotional burden of the whole western civilization, in a way.

  118. But I’d sure love to measure this guy’s oxytocin levels.

    Har har har! You can hear the faint echo of this long-dead man’s thoughts – Gott im Himmel – ich bin von Idioten umgeben…

  119. Yukon Val, I’m aware that most dogs are wolf-like but certain dog populations lack certain of the wolf behaviours of their ancestors that make wolves easily domesticated.

    I’m sure the basenji is an example of this, because this African landrace is notoriously independent, with ‘cat-like’ interactions with humans and other dogs, and famously reluctant to obey commands, and remember that the reason dogs obey commands is because of the evolved ‘social brain’ they inherited from their own wolf ancestors.

    As such the explanation given by basenji admirers that their dogs are primitive in their behaviours because they’re an ancient wolf-like breed cannot be true, Their behavioural traits must result from social brain impairments becoming typical for their landrace.

    If i’m right that these breeds lost their evolved sociability, then they’re a canine paralel to autism and sociopathy in humans.

  120. Dunno.. but Wolves are still possible to train like dogs. I know a guy who had an almost-she wolf ..she was an excellent tracker and bear-sensor.

    Guy lives on Kodiak island. He is a coast-guard veteran and a hunter, lives from security contract work for the Guard I believe.

    He survived mauling by an ill-tempered 1,200 lb she-bear in good health.. all fingers etc…

    Wrote a very good book about it. Or at least I think it is good.
    Does anyone know of a biologist who could review it’s scientific aspects?
    It’s not very long, like 200 pages, and has some great if mildly sadistic humor. (he made one guy believe for an hour they were being stalked by a giant, pissed off kodiak bear. Or maybe they were.. the sounds were ominous, it was fish season, bears were out in force and it was nightfall.

    The scent-marking on a tree the wolf-dog pissed had been eradicated with extreme prejudice by what looked like a small bulldozer.. but was more likely just a territorial kodiak bear.

    I’m surprised the doctor hasn’t shit his pants then. They didn’t have a gun, or bear spray.. and they were holding an icebox with 40 lbs of salmon. And it was getting dark.

    To my lay eye, they were very good… but I’m not a biologist.

  121. @Ondurdis…basenji admirers are exactly right. There was a dog breed DNA study a while back in Science?…can’t find the original article on-line quickly, but link to the run-down is here http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/05/0520_040520_dogbreeds.html . All tested breeds descended from wolves and some breeds showed a much closer genetic relationship with them: Siberian huskies, akitas, malamutes and basenjis included. So, several breeds known to be independent, aloof with strangers and stubborn about obeying specific commands.

    Those traits are actually wolfish, though. Wolf packs consist of a dominant pair, several year’s worth of offspring and (maybe) one or two less or unrelated wolves if they manage not to piss off the dominant pair and there is enough food to go around. Dominant wolves don’t ask pack-mates to perform specific tasks, sit/stay/whatever. They initiate activities, get first dibs on food and get to breed. Packs hunt communally, defend the pups, den and territory against other predators…and other wolves. Wolf sociability does not extend to other animals and tolerance of wolves is not universal. Packs members are mostly related/grow up together. Strange wolves will be driven away, attacked/killed under most circumstances.

    To me, basic dog domestication is re-direction of pair and pack-bonding to include (favour) humans…which is a huge thing all by itself… and a general quashing of true dominance. Humans may tolerate or even want some level of self-reliance in a dog and pack leaders make great second-in-commands for some kinds of multi-dog chores. Dogs that discipline human children or threaten humans over household food aren’t likely to survive/breed. So, they have been selected for more or less permanent adolescence. Dogs were likely domesticated first as protective companions, to help track/hunt animals and to give warning around settlements. Those skills are all closely related to wolf behaviour and wolfish dogs will do those things well.

    Dogs that wiggle with submissive joy on meeting strange children, can focus on the hunt in the presence of dozens of strange dogs/people, watch humans for dozens of subtle command gestures or be trusted to guard herds of tasty prey animals without supervision have had big chunks of their original wolf behaviour seriously overwritten selected against or cherry-picked and bred to extremes. Wolves are very unlikely to do any of those things.

    And I would say that some of those extreme breeds show social problems arising from having had their bonding behaviour selected against in favour other qualities. it goes way beyond general aloofness/unwillingness to follow orders. Border collies were bred to organize and move large groups of sheep, sometimes without human help/direction. The breed is characterized by an obsessive drive to work, and little interest in social interaction with other dogs or humans. They use stalking behaviour and hard stares to control sheep. If not carefully socialized, they can provoke terrible fights when they try to stare down other dogs regardless of status.

  122. @ Lanius

    Is that book published ? Because a man who survived an altercation with a bear with limbs and fingers intact seems like someone worth learning more about :)

  123. Seek out “A Kodiak Bear Mauling” by R.Keith Rogan.

    I really like the guy, and sometimes chat with him. Wish I had a father like him.. mine is a passive-aggressive electronics geek. Not that I have anything against electronics, just the passive-aggressive bit.