the natural history and biology of man

We shouldn’t let the fascists have biology, because they’ll use it to make fascism seem like Natural Law (e.g., James Damore). This is a serious ideological point.  From Robert Jay Lifton’s The Nazi Doctors:

Ramm’s manual also specified that a doctor was to be a biological militant, “an alert biological soldier” living under “the great idea of the National Socialist biological state structure.”  For it claimed that “National Socialism, unlike any other political philosophy or Party program, is in accord with the natural history and biology of man.”

Physicians could thrill to that message.  Dr. S., for instance, described joining the Party immediately after hearing Deputy Party Leader Rudolf Hess say, at a mass meeting in 1934, “National Socialism is nothing but applied biology.”  And in his work of Nazi medical organizing, this doctor saw himself as primarily spreading a biological message: “We wanted to put into effect the laws of life, which are biological laws.”  His medical faction was disdainful of any politics that did not follow that principle: “We understood National Socialism from the biological side–we introduced biological considerations into [Party] policies.”  He stressed the conviction that physicians alone possess the necessary combination of theoretical knowledge and direct human experience to serve as the authentic biological evangelists: “Every practitioner has much more knowledge about biology than a philosopher or what have you, because he has seen it.”

They’ll point to the extent of patriarchy across time and space as evidence that it’s “the way we evolved.”  Allowing that as a conversation-ender is not scientifically justified.  Fine, Dupre, and Joel just published an excellent point.

Recent advances in evolutionary theory point to the environment as a source of trans-generational stability for adaptive behavioral traits. Stability of environmental factors over generations can guarantee the reliable reproduction of a trait across generations, and also can remove any selective pressure for the development of parallel stabilizing genetic factors.

Recent models of sexual differentiation of the brain posit genetic and hormonal sex as a source of variability between individuals.

Together, these advances point to the possibility that sex-linked patterns of behavior are sometimes best explained in terms of inherited socioenvironmental conditions that provide cross-generation stability, while biological sex as well as other socioenvironmental factors foster intrageneration and interindividual variability.

In other words, all it proves that the patriarchy has been around for a long time is that it’s been around for a long time.  It could just as well imply stable environmental conditions (grain-based agriculture).  James Scott’s Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States makes a key point:

The key to the nexus between grains and the state lies, I believe, in the fact that only the cereal grains can serve as a basis for taxation: visible, divisible, assessable, storable, transportable, and “rationable.”

We domesticated ourselves, and the longer-term trend is in the opposite direction of alpha maleness.  Evolution isn’t teological, but if we grant the fascists that it is, they’re an evolutionary step backwards.

No wonder then that the archaeological signs for a life lived largely in the domus are strikingly similar for man and beast…The bones of “domiciled” Homo sapiens compared with those of hunter-gatherers are also distinctive: they are smaller; the bones and teeth often bear the signature of nutritional distress, in particular, an iron-deficiency anemia marked above all in women of reproductive age whose diets consisted increasingly of grains.

The parallel, of course, arises from a common environment of more restricted mobility, crowding, and the cross-infection opportunities it presents, a narrower diet (less variety for herbivores, less variety and less protein for omnivores like Homo sapiens), and relaxation of some of the selection pressures from predators lurking outside the domus.  In the case of Homo sapiens, however, the process of self-domestication had begun long before (some of it even before “sapiens”) with the use of fire, cooking, and the domestication of grain.  Thus declining tooth size, facial shortening, a reduction in stature and skeletal robustness and less sexual dimorphism were evolutionary effects that had a far longer history than the Neolithic alone.  Nevertheless, sedentism, crowding, and a diet increasingly dominated by cereals were revolutionary changes that left an immediate and legible mark on the archaeological record.

The thesis of the book is that the state basically sucks, but it outbreeds how much more it sucks.

Nonsedentary populations typically limit their reproduction deliberately.  The logistics of moving camp regularly make it burdensome, if not impossible, to have two infants who must be carried at the same time.  As a result, the spacing of children of hunter-gatherers is on the order of four years, a spacing that is achieved by delayed weaning, abortifacients, and neglect or infanticide.  Furthermore, some combination of strenuous exercise with a lean and protein-rich diet means that puberty arrived later, ovulation was less regular, and menopause arrived earlier.  Among sedentary agriculturalists, by contrast, the burden of a much shorter spacing of children as experienced by mobile foragers is much reduced and, as we shall see, the greater value of the children as a labor force in agriculture is enhanced.  By virtue of sedentism, menarche is earlier; with a grain diet, infants can be weaned earlier on soft foods; and by virtue of a high-carbohydrate diet, ovulation is encouraged and a woman’s reproductive life is extended.

The early state was heavily dependent on slaves, and people were always trying to flee.

One ideogram for “slave” in third-millennium Mesopotamia was the combination of the sign for “mountain” with the sign for “woman,” signifying women taken in the course of military forays into the hills or perhaps bartered by slave takers in exchange for trade goods.  The related ideogram “man” or “woman” joined to “foreign land” is also thought to refer to slaves.  If the purpose of war was largely the acquisition of slaves, then it makes more sense to see such military expeditions more in the light of slave raids than as conventional warfare.

The only substantial, documented slave institution in Uruk appears to have been the state-supervised workshops producing textiles that engaged as many as nine thousand women.  They are described as slaves in most sources but also may have included debtors, the indigent, foundlings, and widows–perhaps like the workhouses of Victorian England…Analysts of this large textile “industry” stress how critical it was to the position of elites, who were dependent for their power on a steady flow of metals (copper in particular) and other raw materials from outside the resource-poor alluvium.  This state enterprise provided the key trade good that could be exchanged for these necessities.  The workshops represented a sequestered “gulag” of captive labor that supported a new strata of religious, civil, and military elites.  Nor was it insignificant demographically.  Various estimates put the Uruk population at around forty thousand to forty-five thousand in the year 3000 BCE.  Nine thousand textile workers alone would represent at least 20 percent of Uruk’s inhabitants, not counting the other prisoners of war and slaves in other sectors of the economy.  Providing grain rations for these workers and other state-dependent laborers required a formidable apparatus of assessment, collection, and storage.

Other Uruk documents refer frequently to unfree workers and particularly to female slaves of foreign origin.  They were, according to Guillermo Algaze, a primary source of workers at the disposal of the Uruk state administration.  The scribal  summaries of laboring groups (both foreign and native) employ the identical age and sex categories as those used to describe “state-controlled herds of domestic animals.”  “It would appear, therefore, that in the minds of the Uruk scribes and in the eyes of the institutions that employed them, such laborers were conceptualized as ‘domesticated’ humans, wholly equivalent to domestic animals in status.

Note the running theme of the subjugation of women?  It goes all the way back to the formation of the first states, and we still organize ourselves into states.  The book notes that agriculture is about 240 generations old, and it became widespread about 160 generations ago.  So while these bros are talking about their alpha male need to reproduce at all costs and blah blah blah, they’re not accurately describing the history of human beings.  They’re describing a mythology.

Kin groups and villages might have pastoralist, hunting, and cereal-growing segments as part of a unified economy…To treat those engaged in these different activities as essentially different peoples inhabiting different life worlds is again to read back the much later stigmatization of pastoralists by agrarian states to an era where it makes no sense.  A striking illustration of the shift may be found in Anne Porter’s perceptive  reading of the many variants of the Epic of Gilgamesh.  In the earliest versions, Gilgamesh’s soul companion Enkidu is merely a pastoralist, emblematic of a fused society of planters and herders.  In versions a millennium later, he is depicted as subhuman, raised among beasts, and requiring sex with a woman to humanize him.  Enkidu becomes, in other words, a dangerous barbarian who knows not grain, houses, or cities, or how to “bend the knee.”  The “late” Enkidu is, as we shall see, the product of the ideology of a mature agrarian state.

Is opposition to the state really that ridiculous?  We need a social revolution at least as big as the one that got us here.

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