Archive for March, 2011

Parsimony

Posted in Politics and Society, Science! with tags , , , , , on March, 2011 by melendwyr

TGGP‘s recent post regarding Will Wilkinson’s opinions of some of Gordon Gallup’s hypotheses regarding homosexuality and its stigmas – particularly, why being gay is so commonly viewed as bad across cultures, or why ‘homophobia’ exists – attracted my notice, and inspired some ire.

I posted a snarky remark about how awful some of the evolutionary psychological ‘explanations’ are. But it did make me think a little about what worthwhile explanations might exist.

Simple explanations – which require that we make fewer leaps beyond what we know and into what we might be mistaken about – are better, all else being equal. Are there any explanations for why people could be made uncomfortable by gays?

One aspect of human cognition which seems to be universal is that children go through a phase, soon after they recognize that there are two human genders, in which they are very concerned that they act ‘appropriately’. Whatever ‘appropriately’ is in their culture. But little boys obsessively ensure that they dress, play, and eat the way little boys are supposed to, and likewise with little girls. Being told that they behave like a member of the other group is an insult. Until after puberty, in fact, most children not only have little interest in doing things like or with the other gender, they actively desire not to do so. Girls/boys have ‘cooties’, and so forth. This facilitates learning more about the roles, in sort of the same way that young children want to imitate their parents’ actions. There’s a natural tendency to acquire adaptive knowledge, and in the ancestral environment kids who wanted to learn the things that they’d eventually end up doing to live would have obvious benefits over those who didn’t. (Evolution didn’t anticipate schooling, much less attending school well into adulthood.)

Although sexual orientation isn’t necessarily associated with the personality traits caught up in gender roles, it may be statistically linked with them, and people certainly believe they’re linked.

So: if we learn that a given person is of non-standard sexuality, isn’t it possible that we expect them to cross over the attitudinal and behavioral standards for their gender roles as well, and this violation of expectation makes us uncomfortable? I’ve noticed that people resent those who break a rule if they are themselves expending resources to ensure that they keep it – and the harder the rule is to keep, the more we are angered/annoyed/frightened by those who don’t keep it.

Why can’t homophobia simply be attributed to discomfort at violations of expectations to which most people force themselves to conform?

Advertisements

All Quiet on the – wait, how many fronts are there, again?

Posted in Politics and Society with tags , , on March, 2011 by melendwyr

Well, we seem to be involved in a third military action now. First Afganistan, then Iraq – oh, I beg your pardon, I am informed by the government that the war in Iraq is over, I had quite forgotten because of the sheer number of U.S. troops walking around getting shot at – and now we’re in a multinational coalition whose purpose is to protect the oil supplies of Lib- I beg your pardon again, whose purpose is to protect the citizens of Libya. The citizens.

(cough)

Remind me again why Obama is supposed to be the bees’ knees? Remarkably, he’s turning out to be nearly as bad – or even worse, which I hadn’t thought was really possible – than Dubya. In a sort of quasi-leftwingish way, rather than a quasi-rightwingish way, certainly, which is at least a refreshing change. I do hate to be bombarded by the same nonsensical propaganda day in, day out, so a shift on the political spectrum at least adds interest to the absurdity.

I also wish to express some glee over the potential for NPR to lose its federal funding. I keep coming across their appeals to their audience to ensure that (paraphrased) “what’s listened to by the community stays in the community”. Strange. They don’t seem very interested in having “the community” pay for their services. Not on a city or even a state level. And “the community”, as represented by the donations they receive, is no more interested in paying for public radio than public radio is interested in true community support.

Then why have them in the first place?

Posted in Politics and Society with tags , , , , on March, 2011 by melendwyr

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Italian schools may display crucifixes, despite the objections of non-Catholic students and their families, because there is no evidence that such a display affects students.

Tell me something: if they don’t believe that putting up a symbol of a particular faith has any effect on students, why are they bothering to put the symbol up in the first place? Surely the school isn’t in such dire need of interior decoration that they will desperately grab any random object and affix it to their walls. The crucifixes are there for the express purpose of influencing the students. Obviously.

The Vatican has approved the ruling. No surprises there.

Honeybees!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on March, 2011 by melendwyr

Spring is finally here! I don’t care what astronomers or the calendar says – it’s only Spring once the bees come out. And they have! Bees on crocuses!

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/bienenwabe/4462058508/in/set-72157600187746468/

The above image is from this person, whose images of bees are lovely and season-appropriate.