Sunday, 3 July 2016

r/K THEORY AND BIOHISTORY: A CULTURIST REVIEW (PART TWO)

The previous article summarized biohistory and r/K theory as revealed in the books Biohistory by Dr. Jim Penman and Anonymous Conservative's The Evolutionary Psychology Behind PoliticsIf the terms and ideas herein are not clear, then please refer to that article.

A monument to r-selection.

As forms of sociobiology, both biohistory and r/K theory make scientifically falsifiable claims. Dr. Penman even has laboratories dedicated to verifying and extending his findings. But from a culturist point of view, I am more concerned with what the theories imply for guiding, protecting, and promoting western culture, than with raw facts. 


FLEXIBILITY OVER TIME 


r/K theory indicates that we can easily switch from conservative to liberal values. On the shortest time frame, The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics (EPBP) says that K folks should deride liberals to their faces as "bunnymen" when they insist on PC strictures.  This can strengthen r's amygdalas and, thus, their ability to not get ‘triggered’ by discomfort. And, providing good news for us on the political right, we learn that when folks encounter fearful stimulii they immediately shift rightward and don’t easily shift back. 

In generational terms, Anonymous Conservative shows us that r/K values shift with the "misery index." Herein we have hope for fast solutions. Ultimately, he is telling us that we don’t need to do anything, as the West’s decline will automatically shift us towards competitiveness, aggression, monogamy, family values, and traditional gender roles.

In biohistory, food deprivation, sexual abstinence, and childrearing patterns change the animal’s chemical profile within its lifetime and that of its offspring. We read that mice, once given sugar, were less adept at defending their territory! And, then there are the ‘cultural technologies’ (re: religion) that maintain a civilization’s High-C status. 

These are all potentially useful culturist tools. However, you must be in the right part of the lemming cycle for people to implement and benefit from these lifestyle profiles. Though shortening with each cycle, the cycle from V to C and back again takes a civilization around 300 years, and, like the need for sleep, they cannot be avoided. Penman tells us Nazi and Russian uses of ‘cultural technologies’ failed to stem the childbirth trough of the lemming cycle. Thus, because of the lemming cycle, we are doomed to experience an inevitable downturn.

PROBLEMS WITH SOLUTIONS


By dividing K into C and V, biohistory provides a more complex model of reality. It thereby allows a more nuanced response when asking, “What does western society need?”  Rather than just answering, “more K,” we can say, for example, “V at levels that don’t undermine C.” This is helpful.

To choose a solution, we need to first identify our problem. Whereas biohistory indicates that declining C undermining our economy is the West’s most urgent problem, to my mind, it is the Islamic invasion of Europe. How do the two theories with regard to that problem?


Self-correcting problem?
According to r/K theory, nature will take its course, and the situation will correct itself: K people have higher in-group loyalty and competitiveness and so overcome the challenge. Biohistory however disaggregates C and V, so that the choice becomes one of whether we prioritize boosting the economy with higher C or fighting Islamification with higher V.

Biohistory argues that High-Infant C leads to nationalism and an aversion to being ruled by foreigners. Therefore, we should discipline toddlers to this end. But, we must also punish adolescents to give these nerdy High-Infant C kids the V-vigor to fight. This will also increase childbirth and attach people to tradition. We may not be able to mix and match V and C characteristics so easily, but, ultimately, Penman’s work invites us to consider subtle blends of food, sex and childrearing to create the desired outcomes of temperament. To this end, funding his laboratory work is a good investment.

The much simpler, r/K theory says that once the economy collapses, scarcity and crime will quickly lead to pro-social K-type beliefs. We don’t need to do much but wait. But, being active culturists, r/K implies we should at least end welfare quickly, because rs exposed to hunger will develop delayed sexuality, competitiveness, a work ethic, and in-group loyalty (K characteristics). The resulting population would be more willing and able to fight off the invading Islamic population. More draconian yet, r/K implies that a plague may help weed out the poorly maintained r-types.

IT’S NOT PERSONAL


In interviews, Penman has denounced Donald Trump, and Jeremy Meltzer, the biohistory video series spokesman, is a male-shaming cultural-relativist. To a C-driven intellectual, (anyone who writes long erudite tomes is one by definition), denigrating Trump’s boldness and promoting male sensitivity to stop ‘rape culture’ may seem obviously virtuous. High-C people analyze situations from many angles and C civilizations have higher gender equality than high V civilizations. Penman considers Victorian England, a period when the position of women was relatively high, the peak of western civilization – a position with which I have sympathy.

But, according to biohistory, Middle Eastern folks’ are fertile, aggressive, and fervently attached to their cultures and religion because they control women’s sexuality, indulge infants, and treat their older children harshly. Furthermore, we can only reach maximum V when famine is reinforced by hierarchy. Biohistory also says that of all V-promoting customs, patriarchy is probably the most important. 


Societies in which men dominate women are more aggressive. Additionally, to reach high-V we need a double-standard, wherein chaste, stressed women coddle their children and men gain testosterone via extramarital affairs. This should be backed by orthodox religion that includes fasting rituals.  These are the keys to inculcating V temperaments

As the book is written with a dispassionate, scientific sensibility, biohistory does not make the preceding suggestions – it states them as the factual conditions that create V; but culturists must convert these findings into policy. And, if we take biohistory’s message seriously, we have to see our own individual preferences as epiphenomenal. We must depersonalize our solutions. 

The Victorian era was a peak in impartial ethical codes. It was also the time when, biohistory reports, the poorhouses jailed entire families. And we may need jingoism more than impartial ethical codes now.  We should try not to violate basic western tenets, but I believe we must increase V more than C. And, if we take that position, biohistory’s findings imply we should abandon progressive ideals.


The future according to biohistory.


SCIENTIFIC DIRECTIONS


Overall, r/K’s physiological explanations are more parsimonious. For example, in EPBP liberals’ shrunken amygdala directly leads to their inability to perceive threats. Biohistory ties food and sexual behavior to childrearing, lemming cycles, the types of governments people adopt, and ultimately the rise and fall of civilizations. Biohistory is much more ambitious as a method of analysis, so its science seems more tenuously connected to its outcomes.

r/K theory supports biohistory’s idea that temperament is influenced by calorie intake and sexual restriction. But, biohistory needs more evidence of childcare methods impacting physiology in adults. This would strengthen the link between childrearing techniques and the rise and fall of civilizations. Given the limitations of human testing regarding ethics, such connections may always be correlational, but they can be strengthened.

Were I on biohistory’s staff, I would suggest they measure the impact of childrearing on the biological mechanisms on which r/K theory focuses: the amygdala, ACC and the DRD4-7r dopamine receptor. This would bring consilience to the two theories. The books each explain 1960s radicalism via different mechanisms (albeit both stemming from WW II). It is important to clear up such discrepancies so as to not give fuel to critics who deride biohistory and r/K theory as ‘just so’ stories that use history willy-nilly to bolster after-the-fact guesses.

From a culturist perspective scientific evidence’s impact is twofold: First, it makes us more likely to get the right prescription for the problem (if abstinence actually increased testosterone, our prescriptions would be off). Secondly, having evidence helps us sell the prescription. Nations will not change their behaviors until they believe childrearing behavior, caloric intake, or what have you actually impacts national outcomes. 

HUMAN BIODIVERSITY


Eventually, I believe biohistory's S-theory will give way to human biodiversity theories. The S-theory (wherein repeated foreign invasions make nations more stable, but less likely to innovate) does not account for the relentless revolutions of Latin America. Furthermore, I am not convinced ‘Low-S’ China cannot achieve high levels of innovation. Ample evidence supports biohistory’s lemming cycles. But, rather than universal modulations of otherwise purely blank slates, it seems the lemming cycles (and perhaps S) modulate temperamentally diverse populations. We should study how human biodiversity nuances the expression of lemming cycles in different populations.

CULTURIST ADDENDUM


The strength of r/K and biohistory is that they teach culturists to look beyond rational surface mechanisms when guiding their civilization. Telling people why they should have more children will likely not be as effective as creating high levels of stress and patriarchy. A generation of hunger, a la r/K theory, would likely do more to shift the culture rightward than reading George Washington’s farewell address on his birthday. But, this does not make his address moot.

We are biological creatures who run on temperament. That said, perhaps stubbornly, I see the total failure to note narrative as a weakness of both books. Literary Darwinism explains how cultures are organized by stories and heroes, and explains said stories’ importance to group survival. I would argue the value of replacing the multicultural narrative in education and public policy with a culturist one is an important tool both theories overlook. More generally, while these theories serve as a necessary corrective, the informational content of culture is too completely overlooked by both.

CONCLUSION


From cultural neuroscience to literary Darwinism, sociobiology is booming. Both biohistory and r/K theory encapsulate the various finding into overarching theories. Without understanding how biology applies to humans, we cannot be effective culturists, that is we can have no idea what kind of forces we are up against; we live in a world of shallow rationality. Thus, with their shortcomings noted, culturists must master both of these seminal works.

Biohistory nonchalantly announces that Islam will overrun Europe and “a stable and conservative Muslim peasant culture” will replace Christianity. EPBP has a messianic ending wherein K is proclaimed our destiny!  As a culturist, I can neither accept biohistory’s placid gloom nor yet celebrate K’s inevitable victory. Though we may be doomed, we must attempt to implement the implied culturist policy suggestions of biohistory and r/K theory.  


John K. Press, Ph.D., teaches culturism at a university in South Korea.  He is the author of the book, Culturism: A Word, A Value, Our Future.  More information can be found at www.culturism.us

 

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