Essay talk:Thoughts on human evolution, sex, and the inevitability of religion

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"Nouns have gender. People have sex."

And yet you tacitly acknowledge the existence of transgender people. Prior to transition, is a male-to-female transsexual completely male, then? How would you describe how she differs from those who self-identify as male?

I'm not arguing that gender is a social construct, by the way. Just that it differs from sex. In as biologically grounded a manner as sex itself. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] 08:45, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

I do think that the preference for 'transgender' over 'transsexual' is unfortunate, but words are as much a product of their history as we are. I had ever understood it as a matter of 'the wiring not matching the plumbing', and at our current technical level one is easier to change than the other. I'm not sure I'd classify a pre-op male to female transsexual as entirely male, but I would say that the issue is physiological. I don't think it's a matter of gender roles or anything that has a strong cultural component. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 14:38, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
transgender and transexual are different, but related, things. AMassiveGay (talk) 14:45, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
I understand that. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 14:54, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

You're missing the point re: gender, by focusing on the question of people using it as a term for self-identification. Gender is a crucial concpt because virtually everything in human history (social roles, jobs, clothing, family responsibilities, politics, the arts, literature, children's toys...) takes shape along gendered lines. Toy fire trucks and being a nurse don't have sex, but they sure as hell have gender. Once you understand the foundational role that the gender binary plays in shaping human existence, it's not a big leap to understanding that individual humans, regardless of what they have in between their legs (their sex), have complex, complicated and contingent relationships to that binary; thus, they are gendered. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 16:47, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

Again, to the extent that it's meaningful to ascribe any such quality to "toy fire trucks and being a nurse", I'd still call that sex rather than gender. The reasons why males get the dangerous jobs (and therefore boys play with fire trucks), and females are drawn to caretaker roles (and so nurses), are human universals, and likely mammalian universals. They ultimately relate to the fact that male gametes are expendable while female gametes are precious vessels of life. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 17:09, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
Except we know that isn't true. Looking at "primitive" gatherer societies, gender roles are far less divergent. It is true that men hunt/hunted long distance hunting, but women hunted. women built, women dug deep pits for cooking or trapping, etc. this "men are drawn to" and 'women are drawn to" appears to be largely construct. Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 17:36, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
are you from the fifties? AMassiveGay (talk) 17:13, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
Except that biology/sex is, at least in the short run, pretty immutable. Gender changes depending on time, place, society, etc. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 17:14, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
by the way, my own pet peeve is people who do not understand that "words change meaning over time". Gender is used for "male/female" as a role. "sex" is used almost exclusively for the functioning or non functioning body parts of a human. (gender as we know it, only exists in humans). That is just the way it goes. saying "no no no" doesn't change that. Your little by line of "gays could be transformed if..." is utter nonsense. homosexuality is NOTHING to do with gender. A gay man does not want to be a woman, look like a woman, act like a woman, think like a woman, talk like a woman, dress like a woman - he wants to fuck men. I think you are in a world of confusion, and i'm not really sure why, or what your beef is. Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 17:42, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
Exactly: homosexuality has nothing to do with gender. Neither do the facts that men get the dangerous jobs while women are caretakers. All of these things relate to the way humans are made, not something that society or culture does to them. I just don't like to use "gender" for "sex" because I feel the replacement is partly driven by those who want to magnify cultural and political influence at the expense of biological influence. My "beef" is with using up the limited stock of human goodwill quarrelling over things we can't change. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 18:57, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
No, once again, you've cross teh line between what is biological, and what is CREATED. Men do not get "the dangerous jobs" because it is biological. They get the dangrous jobs because society has defined "male" to be that way. AND WE CAN AND DO CHANGE THEM, and that is the point. We change how women are "roled" constantly. We change the role of "male". constantly. because it is socially constructed, not biological. If it were biological, women would not be able to do hunting, fishing, or pick up large objects. but shock, they can. and if the idea of "dangrous" things were biological, women would not be able to hunt along side men, or try new plants to figure out of they are food or medicine or posion, nor build the homes for the family, nor do the farming for the family, nor would they be able to give birth, by the way, since that is frankly far more dangrous than anything "male". your very terms are socially constructed. "dangrous". Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 19:35, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
There is, quite simply, a lot less variation in sex roles and the sexual division of labor among human groups than the non-biological argument would appear to predict. If there are soldiers, they will be mostly male, even if women can enlist. If there is a political King of the Hill game, it will be mostly male even if women can join. Women will be found in caretaker roles, not only among children, but as nurses and the like. If polygamy is allowed, men will have multiple mates; women hardly ever; as an institution it's happened maybe twice in history. The "patriarchy" is either an inevitability or an elaborate shared fantasy, depending on what you mean. The way I see it, you can either have an elaborate sexual conspiracy that spans nations and centuries, or you can conclude that people are simply made that way. I choose the latter. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 23:14, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

This is all well and good, but it's not what I was originally saying. Putting aside what degree of gender roles is constructed or whatever, the fact is that gender and sex are two different things. Someone who has XX chromosomes and self-identifies as "male" has the gender "male" and the sex "female." If you're still using the old-fashioned definition of "gender" you cannot account for this discrepancy. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] 09:29, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

The word's still going to make me wince. Just let's please not use "engender" as a pun. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 16:43, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Just because you don't like it doesn't make it any less right. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 16:49, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Yes, but what's even less right than that is the persistent attempt to dismiss the innate, evolved, and differing behavioral strategies of the two sexes, or credit all of their effects to acculturation. The basic problem is human exceptionalism: some people have no problem with accepting evolutionary explanations of animal behavior, but they reject them for human behavior. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 20:05, 27 July 2013 (UTC)


Your atheism screed is also amusing. Like most people talking about Others (see DeBeauvoir, if you don't understand othering) you've defined atheists as you see fit, rather than "as they are". I do not speak for atheists, i speak for me. I have no need for "god", to give my life some kind of meaning. I do not identify my "religion" in contrast to the State's Primary Religion. I do not need to find other atheists to pat me on the back and say "way to go, atheist, you!", nor is my view of atheism at all informed by other atheists. I do not believe in a god. I read texts about god, or hear about god, and say "what a load of bunk". the same way i watch superman on tv and say 'cute 52 minutes of my time, but it's a load of bunk". Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 17:47, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

I suppose my believer's "privilege" (lol) may prevent me from grasping atheists "as they are"; but that really isn't the point. If you accept the argument of Dennett's Breaking the Spell (and I find it convincing in parts), human minds are built to make religions the same way they're built to make languages. The point is that getting rid of God won't do anything. It won't make people or societies any more rational; it won't get rid of shrines, totems, rituals, or aggressive orthodoxies. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 19:04, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
I think you misunderstand dennet's point. He's not saying that we will build great shrines to rationality, or Dawkins. he's saying that at the core of our brain (and this appears to be proven) human children are predisposed to make all things miraculous, and given them intent and desire. "the rock tried to hit me". "the rock has to power TO not only want to hit me, but hit me". He will also accept, as will I, that people like to be part of something. a group. "we went to the superbowl!" (well, the Broncos did, you really didn't), and we will in fact *act* like worshiping things, including TV heros, sports heros (oddly, almost never science heros). but making a hero is *not* making a religion. And more importantly, it's not putting a supernatural diety in as an actor upon the earth. "John Elway is GOD!" , but i don't actually think that praying to him will help cure me. Those are fundimentally different. By and large, religious belief requires a diety that interacts with/upon the world. As a scholar of religions, i have a hard time accepting that "diesm" and "pantheism" are really the same at the theistic religions. I also have a hard time accepting that true non-existance Buddhism is the same as a typical religion. I'll call it a "religion" for a sake, but it has a fundimental differnt view of how humans relate to teh world. In Deism, pantheism, and therevadic buddhism, there is no god that can be called upon to *do* things. that THAT is the critical difference between saying "sports is basically a religion" or "humans will make shrines to *something* just cause they are human" and saying "I pray to a god" "I think there is a diety in the world that has a direct, supernatural effect upon this world".Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 19:30, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
At some point, the distinction becomes mere formality. Speaking of "shrines to rationality," for instance... But while the thrust of the argument is probably true, you still have to admit that religion does a great job of magnifying human foibles. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 19:51, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
So most politicians, religious leaders and cultural figures are male because of biology? These jobs have nothing to do with physique, but they do have a long history of deliberately excluding women. SophieWilderModerator 10:12, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Maleness affects brains as well as bodies. Political and religious leaders typically achieved their positions by climbing to the top of hierarchical organizations. Men are programmed to make those kinds of organizations and find their ranks in them. Women approach this game at a disadvantage even if the contests for rank don't involve upper body strength. This creates problems, of course, and while it creates ranked organizations that will favor men as a result, this is but one problem of many. The more competitive "meritocracy" your institution contains, the stronger it will favor men in practice even if not in principle, and worse, it favors ambitious and motivated people, who likelier than not will be men as well. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 16:16, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

"Social engineering"[edit]

Hard to know where to start with this one, but... One thing that always amuses me is how many who rail against "social engineering" totally ignore the massive amounts of social engineering that went into creating the modern world in the first place. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 19:46, 26 July 2013 (UTC)


Lest I come off as overly critical, I thought your critique of Dawkins was spot on. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] 09:30, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

Nah, the same old mistake of interpreting what Dawkins says. His point is that there are good and bad people of all beliefs or disbelief, but religion can be the difference in what makes a good person do bad things. Some historical leaders have committed atrocities and used the name of religion or atheism in their furtherance of power; they would have probably not have behaved any differently even if their faiths had been reversed, but otherwise good people do despicable things specifically because they are guided by religion and regard different views as heretical. Both blasphemy and apostasy are specifically "religious crimes" which can have severe consequences many countries. Redchuck.gif ГенгисunbelievingModerator 11:06, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

False consciousness, etc.[edit]

Herbert Marcuse did not come up with false consciousness; the old moron himself did. It was later elaborated upon by Antonio Gramsci under the name of "cultural hegemony." Marcuse's chief contribution was a particularly tricky piece of work: arguing that "tolerance," a doctrine by which the Reds had justified themselves in the face of a hostile population during the Second Red Scare, should not be applied to their own enemies now that they were on slightly safer ground.

On the question of peasants in politics, we had a party of them come to power in Minnesota during the Great Depression, and the sun did not go out.

On the question of the sacred totems of atheism, such things might exist because, as the neo-Druid Isaac Bonewits said, the most common form of atheism is simply an heretical variant of Christianity that honors key elements of that religion in the breach. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 16:39, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

I think you're right, and Gramsci should have been mentioned in any case. It's been a long time since I've read any of that stuff. Found my Eros and Civilization the other day and took it to the small reading room; the first thing I noticed is how lucid Marcuse seems compared to his more contemporary followers.
Fortunately, in Minnesota, you have enough Vikings to keep the peasants in line. I wanted to be a Wiccan when I was younger. Gave up on it when it stopped being witchy and turned into the state religion of environmental and feminist correctness. Mary Daly was f'n scary. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 04:15, 9 August 2013 (UTC)

Latest addition[edit]

"Everybody gets to play a Get Out of Jail Free card at least once." I think I'll take mine for a spot of rape, or perhaps murder; can't quite decide at the moment, but it's nice to know that it's there in case of emergency. Redchuck.gif ГенгисRationalWiki GOLD memberModerator 19:32, 12 September 2013 (UTC)

It's a question of whether you want to live in a world where grace and mercy exist, or one where they do not. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 00:09, 13 September 2013 (UTC)

Natural law[edit]

"If there is natural selection, then there is a natural selector." Creationist reasoning, no? I understand that as a Christian you do believe in God, but as an intelligent person you should see that that's a bad argument for theists to use. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] 03:03, 27 September 2013 (UTC)

There is, in fact, a natural selector: it's called "reproductive success." Natural law is not like natural selection; only one of these requires a mind. Law implies a lawgiver, which is a government. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 03:36, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
I would argue that social success creates natural law. Wehpudicabok [話] [変] 03:37, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
That may well be: and in that case, human minds make it so: and there still is a natural lawmaker and therefore a natural government. How do we measure social success? Genghis Khan may have been the most prolific man in history. I'd say he did well for himself. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 03:55, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
I must admit I'm having trouble following this conversation. Are you challenging the idea of natural law by reductio ad absurdum or advocating for the concept of natural government? Wehpudicabok [話] [変] 05:32, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
Challenging the idea of natural law by reductio ad absurdum, yes. We're talking about the kind of laws that human governments enforce, of course, not "natural law" in the sense of "natural philosophy". The existence of "natural law" in the legal sense necessarily includes the idea of a "natural government"; where else is it going to come from? And, well.... I didn't vote for it. Myself, I'm just a natural bill hoping some day to become a natural law. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk)

@Smerdis of Tlön: What's your opinions on this essay on religiosity and intelligence (

Are there any parts of this that aren't variations on the naturalistic fallacy?[edit]

It just seems to be this same point beat over and over, in different aspects of life.

We evolved to have religion->religion is good People are born with a sex->people should be that gender People are born poor->don't educate anyone

It's all very very 18th century. Ikanreed (talk) 16:28, 8 August 2014 (UTC)

This is what I don't get. I think instead that the whole thing is in fact an elaborate argument against the naturalistic fallacy. It probably is unfair that people are brought into the world with a 'gender' that usually corresponds to their apparent sex. OK, so... now what? I cheerfully acknowledge that for some people this is more complicated; and these people also tend to tell me that they knew their whole lives, and I know not otherwise. It doesn't matter how gay or straight you are, how cis or trans you are, you just knew. Sex is an ewer of sorrow that will pour us a cup from which we all must drink, and some cups are larger than others. And, frankly, I always thought of myself as more 17th century. - Smerdis of Tlön, for the defense. 05:51, 9 August 2014 (UTC)

On the author's pessimism[edit]

The author of this collection, Smerdis of Tlön, seems very pessimistic and nihilistic, but in a way that reminds me of social conservatives and even reactionaries that reject societal change. Why do I say that? The author spends quite some time lamenting socialism and feminism, saying that they are causes not worth pursuing either because they are impossible to achieve or undesirable. I would argue for a socialist system where wealth is evenly spread and a 'feminist' system where men, women, and others are treated equally. I disagree with the author's naysaying, and I think that general elimination of wealth and sex inequality are both achievable and desirable goals that humanity should actively work towards.

My second point is that the author seems to think that change is impossible or hard, and therefore should not be pursued in many cases. The author says "It's absolutely vital to accept this, because if this is not the case, you might change; you might choose to change, and you could be made to change. Whatever your sexual identity or orientation, fortunately it's wholly unlearned. No one taught or suggested it to you." Obviously genitalia are not taught or suggested, as they exist in the uterus before birth. However, the author goes a step further by saying that sexual identity and orientation is "wholly unlearned". I myself am not sure of the exact reality of sexual orientation and gender, and believe the subjects deserve more scientific study. As such, I would strongly caution against anyone saying "human characteristics x and y (no pun intended) have nothing to do with societal factors, they are changeable, but should not be changed". The author seems to think that a person changing is bad, indicated by the words "fortunately it's wholly unlearned". I ask the author: why do you think the ability to choose one's sex is a bad thing?

Finally, I would like to close with a less formal rambling. The larger point here is that Smerdis is saying that people shouldn't change, we are who we are, and that's that. I don't think that's a good message to send to people. Indeed, I think it's very dangerous, because it causes people to lose hope for a better world, and it causes society to stagnate in a sea of "well, that's the way it is and you can't change it". My counterargument is to look at all of human societal history, and you do see a very obvious progression, not only technologically and scientifically, but also politically and socially. If the author's idea of society were implemented a few hundred years ago, we would still be catching the bubonic plague, punishing women for behaving incorrectly towards a man, and starting entire wars each other over pointless, petty things such as property rights and language. My ultimate point is that change is desirable, if not necessary for a more stable and equitable human society, because the current balance of power is not conducive to long-term survival. Pbfreespace3 (talk) 02:24, 7 July 2015 (UTC)

Change may or may not be impossible or hard. But the problem with believing in change isn't that you think you can change yourself. The problem comes when people start believing that they can change their neighbors. That almost always does more harm than good.
While I'm not, I understand that we have a number of gay, transgendered, and other genderqueer editors here; you can ask them. My understanding is that they universally report that they always knew and were born that way. The belief that these aspects of your neighbors can be changed goes absolutely nowhere I want to go.
What I'm saying is that human beings have an evolved human nature that is in broad outline fixed and knowable. It does not argue against all change, but it does put certain utopias - in particular, the egalitarian and unisex kinds - out of reach. Attempting to achieve them will require a great deal of violence, and will still fail. A politics that ignores the science of human ethology is ignoring important facts. - Smerdis of Tlön, LOAD "*", 8, 1. 03:56, 7 July 2015 (UTC)
For what it's worth I've noticed that in 1979 one of Rush's biggest hits was Freewill, and that in 2007 they put out an excellent song The Way the Wind Blows; the latter is very reminiscent of this essay. Neil Peart is as much a philosopher on these sorts of things as anyone, and it seems they came to largely the same conclusions and simultaneously managed to put it into really awesome music. So it's not just you. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 14:35, 27 September 2015 (UTC)

rabbits don't eat cats[edit]

File:Eat or be eaten.jpg
Civic CatTalk to Civic Cat 20:35, 16 December 2015 (UTC)