Monthly Archives: October 2012

More Taking the Pulse

Taking the Pulse looked at public opinion on aboriginal issues and the economy in Saskatchewan.

First, aboriginal issues (pdf):

  1. Aboriginal people make an important contribution to Saskatchewan’s economy today Agree 57% Disagree 39%
  2. Aboriginal people will make an important contribution to Saskatchewan’s future economy. Agree 74% Disagree 22%
  3. Public investments in Aboriginal education pay off in the long run. Agree 72% Disagree 24%
  4. Aboriginal self-government is important to the future of Saskatchewan. Agree 45% Disagree 49%
  5. Aboriginal people do not pay enough taxes in Saskatchewan. Agree 63% Disagree 24%
  6. Governments need to ensure that on-reserve housing is properly funded. Agree 71% Disagree 24%

Next, the economy (pdf):

  1. How optimistic are you about the possibility of young people finding goods jobs in Saskatchewan. Optimistic 87% Pessimistic 13%
  2. Home ownership is attainable for everyone in Saskatchewan as long as they work hard, save money and spend wisely. Agree 68% Disagree 30%
  3. What is the minimum level of education needed to be a productive citizen in today’s knowledge-based, globally connected world. Bachelor’s University Degree or trade diploma 37%
  4. The Saskatchewan Government should NOT reduce workers’ collective bargaining rights. Agree 68% Disagree 21%
  5. The Saskatchewan government should reduce the provincial sales tax and replace the revenue by increasing provincial income taxes. 24% Agree 69% Disagree
  6. The Saskatchewan government should raise the income tax rate on high income earners in order to fund programs to bring low income individuals above the poverty level. Agree 69% Disagree 28%

Keatings, T., Innes, R., Laliberte, R., Howe, E. Taking the Pulse of Saskatchewan 2012: Aboriginal Issues in Saskatchewan. (Saskatoon, Sask.: Social Sciences Research Laboratories, University of Saskatchewan, 2012).

Keatings, T., Jones, K., Gilchrist, D., Huq, M., Walker, R. Taking the Pulse of Saskatchewan 2012: Saskatchewan’s Economy. (Saskatoon, Sask.: Social Sciences Research Laboratories, University of Saskatchewan, 2012).


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Styles of Scientific Reasoning

Alistair Crombie distinguishes six different styles of scientific thinking:

  1. Mathematical postulation and proof
  2. Experiment
  3. Hypothetical modelling
  4. Taxonomy
  5. Statistical
  6. Historical-genetic (evolutionary)
  7. [plus one might add] Case studies

I seem to incline to the historical-genetic, with a dash of taxonomic, and a seasoning of statistical.

Crombie, Alistair C. (1988) “Designed in the Mind: Western Visions of Science, Nature and Humankind” History of Science 26, 1-12.

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Sexual Economics and Social Evolution

To get the evolution of human social cooperation going, it was crucial for there to be more male-female cooperation (pair bonding) and more nonkin male-male cooperation (large-scale social institutions).

Here’s what a “sexual economics” perspective on this matter looks like:

large institutions have almost all been created by men. The notion that women were deliberately oppressed by being excluded from these institutions requires an artful, selective, and motivated way of looking at them. Even today, the women’s movement has been a story of women demanding places and preferential treatment in the organizational and institutional structures that men create, rather than women creating organizations and institutions themselves. Almost certainly, this reflects one of the basic motivational differences between men and women, which is that female sociality is focused heavily on one-to-one relationships, whereas male sociality extends to larger groups networks of shallower relationships (e.g., Baumeister and Sommer 1997;Baumeister 2010). Crudely put, women hardly ever create large organizations or social systems. That fact can explain most of the history of gender relations, in which the gender near equality of prehistorical societies was gradually replaced by progressive inequality—not because men banded together to oppress women, but because cultural progress arose from the men’s sphere with its large networks of shallow relationships, while the women’s sphere remained stagnant because its social structure emphasized intense one-to-one relationships to the near exclusion of all else (see Baumeister 2010). All over the world and throughout history (and prehistory), the contribution of large groups of women to cultural progress has been vanishingly small.

Why did human males evolve this desire for, and ability to sustain, large-scale cooperation? Chimp and bonobo males certainly don’t do it. It is a key question of social evolution.

Roy F. Baumeister and Kathleen D. Vohs, Sexual Economics, Culture, Men, and Modern Sexual Trends Society 10.1007/s12115-012-9596-y here

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Sexual Economics

Roy Baumeister has been formulating a theory called “sexual economics.” A recent piece in the journal Society is interesting on modern sexual trends.

Until the 60s, female sexuality was culturally suppressed. Here’s how sexual economics explains it:

the evidence overwhelmingly indicated that the cultural suppression of female sexuality is propagated and sustained by women (Baumeister and Twenge 2002). Only sexual economics theory predicted that result. Similar to how OPEC seeks to maintain a high price for oil on the world market by restricting the supply, women have often sought to maintain a high price for sex by restricting each other’s willingness to supply men with what men want.

Big sexual changes began in the 60s. This is the sexual economics explanation:

The changes in gender politics since 1960 can be seen as involving a giant trade, in which both genders yielded something of lesser importance to them in order to get something they wanted more (Baumeister and Vohs 2004).

In brief, they argue, men yielded to women access, and often preferential treatment, in higher education and careers. Women gave men more readily available sex without the need for engagement or marriage.

An interesting theory, distinct from both evolutionary-psychology and social-constructionism.

Roy F. Baumeister and Kathleen D. Vohs, Sexual Economics, Culture, Men, and Modern Sexual Trends Society 10.1007/s12115-012-9596-y here

Baumeister, R. F. 2010. Is There Anything Good About Men? New York: Oxford University Press.

Baumeister, R. F., & Twenge, J. M. 2002. Cultural Suppression of Female Sexuality. Review of General Psychology, 6, 166–203.

Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. 2004. Sexual economics: Sex As Female Resource for Social Exchange in Heterosexual Interactions. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8, 339–363

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Inequality of the Sexes

“among the ancestors of today’s population, women outnumbered men around two to one”
Humanity’s ancestors are around 67% female and 33% male
Lot’s of men never got to mate.

Roy Baumeister, Is There Anything Good About Men? (Oxford, 2010) p. 63.

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Moral Animals

YouTube: a dog is hit by a car; another dog, at much risk, drags the injured dog to the side of the road. The injured dog survives.

Is this morality? Of course so. And there are lots of other YouTube videos like it. Animals can be, and often are, moral.

Mark Rowlands in Aeon Magazine questions human moral exceptionalism: the idea that humans alone are capable of acting morally.

Here is some evidence:

rats wouldn’t push a lever that delivered food if doing so caused other rats to receive an electric shock…. hungry rhesus monkeys refused to pull a chain that delivered them food if doing so gave a painful shock to another monkey. One monkey persisted in this refusal for 12 days.

Rowlands concludes:

The crux of this issue has as much to do with humans as it does with animals. When humans act morally, what is it we are doing? Traditionally, the philosopher’s answer has been an intellectualist one: acting morally requires the ability to think about what we are doing, to evaluate our reasons in the light of moral principles. But there is another tradition, associated with the philosopher David Hume and developed later by Charles Darwin, that understands morality as a far more basic part of our nature — a part of us that is as much animal as it is intellectual. On this ‘sentimentalist’ account of morality, our natural sentiments — the empathy and sympathy we have for those around us — are basic components of our biological nature. Our morality is rooted in our biology rather than our intellect.

If this is true, then the reasons for thinking that animals cannot act morally dissolve before our eyes.

Despite Darwinism’s bad reputation in some quarters, it is very much concerned with morality. I would suspect that basic moral virtues (like care, loyalty, repect for authority*) evolved in humans and also evolved for similar reasons in other primates and social mammals.

*Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind found six basic moral values: (1) care/harm, (2) fairness/cheating, (3) loyalty/betrayal, (4) authority/subversion, (5) sanctity/degradation, and (6) liberty/oppression.

Dennis L. Krebs in The Origin of Morality found five: (1) respect for authority, (2) self-control, (3) altruism, (4) fairness, and (5) honesty.

More on evolved morality here and here.

More on moral animals: Frans de Waal, Primates and Philosophers (2006), Marc Bekoff, Wild Justice (2009), plus of course Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871). The sentimentalist idea of morality is also Adam Smiths in Theory of Moral Sentiments.

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How to Map Arguments in Political Science

Craig Parsons, How to Map Arguments in Political Science (Oxford University Press, 2007).

Parsons says there are four regions on the map of political science:

Structural explanations – what people do is a function of their position in material structures. Geography, distribution of wealth, distribution of power an so on form exogenous environment, an obstacle course of constraints and incentives which people navigate. Marxism, economic liberalism, realism, rational choice are all structural explanations.

Institutional explanations – what people do is a function of their position in man-made organizations and rules. The man-made environment is an obstacle course of constraints and incentives around people.

Ideational explanations – what people do is a function of their man-made cognition and affect, their man-made interpretation of what they can/should do.

Psychological explanations – what people do is function of physiology, hard-wired cognitive, affectual, or instinctual motives, their exogenous interpretation of what they can/should do.

A good and useful map. Adding genes to the conventional “interests, institutions, and ideas” triad is particularly helpful.

But it has a couple of flaws. First, the metaphor of “hardwired” can be misleading. Genes are not wiring. The act probabilistically, not deterministically, as wires do. Second, unfortunately Parsons only maps explanatory arguments, not moral arguments.

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