Emotions set goals, rationality devises paths to achieve them. But emotions are not identical and uniform across species. The most noticable difference is between the sexes. Even a cursory aquaintence with adult males and females reveals that though they may be politically equal, they are certainly not alike. Most females are inherently drawn to infants and males turn all their activities into compititions -- who caught the biggest fish, bowled the highest score, etc. The young females obsession with looks and health compliments the young males obsession with risk as they prepare for the future they evolved to suceed in. In times of struggle, women will take their children and survive while the male will stand and fight and maybe die. He is the disposable half of the species.

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I'm sorry but as a woman who likes men I find this just wrong, apart from your 1st 2 sentences!

The sexes are absolutely not politically equal, even in the US.

And you are making wild generalisations about female/male differences.

Plenty of men aren't aggressive or competitive, and not all young women are obsessed with 'looks and health'.

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Well of course we are talking generalizations here. And I don't know what you mean by "wild."

War is the ultimate compititon sport. And its primarily a male pasttime. Do you think if the world were made up of all women, they'd build factories to create bombs to drop on women they never met on the other side of the world? Look at the never ending battle film footage shown nightly on television ... my guess is that ten times as many men view this network as women ... Do you spend all evening watching WWII documentaries?

And as far as women and looks are concerned, I think TV and the free market can also be our guide. How many commericals do you see for women's beauty products vs. men's?

And, as far as political equality is concerned, I'd like to know how your would judge when male/female political equality had been achieved. What would have to happen for you to beleive the sexes were politically equal? Thanks.

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Great points!

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You are right, but I think that's the exception but not the rule.

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You might like the sci-fi short story Arena on which the episode was based. No Gorn though.

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Apr 1·edited Apr 1

Shermer, have you seen this UFO video?

Two UFOs. One UFO/USO and one USO.


UFO/USO video footage:

Gulf of Mexico — Early May (probably) 2010

(UFO/USO at 13:03).


My comment:

The UFO flies through the Corexit spray before going under the sea.

Quote from the Wikipedia article, “Corexit”:

“A U.S. Air Force Reserve plane sprays Corexit over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on 20 April 2010.

Source: "Profit Pollution and Deception BP and the Oil Spill BBC Documentary"

Official title: "Profit, Pollution and Deception: USA's Largest Oil Spill | Deepwater Horizon."

Courtesy: Best Documentaries (YouTube channel).

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Chris Meyer

Another perspective on aggressive behavior

A non-relevant side note to the subject:

In the ever-present discussion on the existence/non-existence of an intelligent, omniscient deity that some call God, many of those who do not believe in the existence of such an entity seem to create their own intelligent deity and simply give it another name. For instance in your work on aggressive behavior you make these statements:

“Natural selection has done the calculating for organisms, who evolved emotions as proxies for those calculations.” And

“Of course society’s laws and customs can turn the moral dials up or down, but nature endowed us with the dials in the first place.”

The implication here is that natural selection and nature are intelligent entities capable of somehow knowing what is or will be needed in life, and endowed humans with these abilities. “Natural selection has done the calculating”, “nature endowed us”. Natural selection is a process, not a decision-capable entity; an effect as a result of a cause. It is not the cause since the cause would have to have had the intelligence to plan these things and the ability to creatively execute the plan. Likewise, nature is not an intelligent object. It is the phenomena of the physical world collectively...an effect, not the cause. If we assert that these things are intelligent enough to make decisions, we are, in effect, calling these things, gods. Aren’t we?

To the subject at hand.

The ideology upon which we base our lives and our decisions, of course, greatly influence our perspective on issues that impact our world. I am a reincarnationist. Our contemporary ideology teaches that an individual’s physical and metaphysical life evolves in tandem. All life evolves as it has done from the beginning, from the most basic and primitive forms to the most advanced; advanced in intelligence and consciousness (awareness). As the life form advances physiologically, it also advances in consciousness. This progression continues through each earthly existence until it reaches the stage of advanced consciousness or human existence. However, even in this stage, its intelligence and awareness remains in a primitive state, as it was in the lower animal from which it evolved. Mental growth (metaphysical development) comes slowly as it travels from one life to another, experiencing and learning and gaining knowledge and understanding. Aggressive behavior is a manifestation of this primitive state. Like the survival instinct that remains with us in our subconscious, this primal urge can emerge even in those of slightly higher levels of consciousness when certain events trigger this barbaric instinct. It is only when a person has reached the higher levels of consciousness and intelligence, driven by knowledge, that reason takes precedence over primal instincts, and aggression is no longer a consideration.

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Just a few observations if you will allow. First, I’m not sure of how logic is applied to aggression and violence. We are each equipped with genes, all of which are geared to our need to survive. That is to say, we are a product of nature, which is, in turn, the result of evolution. Our genes are not logical. They work irrespective of reason. And, they drive our behavior in the same way as they drive the behavior of our close cousins like Chimpanzees, who are more aggressive, and Bonobos, who are more altruistic.

Then there is brain. Among the primary parts of the brain is the amygdala, which controls our emotions. With respect to aggression and violence, the amygdala is also where empathy and compassion reside. People like serial killers and despots like Hitler and Stalin and Putin and Donald Trump have low levels of empathy. Acute narcissism plays a role, as does mental illness like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Some of these “disorders” are treatable, some are not. Remember how the movie “A Clockwork Orange” ends?

Back in the paleolithic era, the efforts to survive took all day every day. Anthropologists tell us that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were dependent on cooperation and coordination; everybody in the group depended in on everybody else, and those who were unable to contribute were not tolerated. Because their culture has been unchanging for millennia, Indigenous peoples around the world have pretty much maintained that ethic even today.

Then came agriculture. I know you’ve read Jarred Diamond’s “Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race,” (and his “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.”) Diamond makes the point that the excess of food supply, which gave rise to civilization, also contributed to the ills we have experienced over time – social and cultural conflicts. As resources become scarce and more remote, and as ideologies became conflicted, aggression expanded, survival became imperative and morality suffered.

For what they are worth, here are a couple of other thoughts. The first was the idea the aggression and violence in their worst form are actually acts of evil. Then I recalled what Hannah Arendt called “The Banality of Evil.” She came up with this now famous phrase when covering the trail of Adolf Eichmann in 1961. Here was an ordinary guy committing evil on a daily basis. He packed a lunch and whistled a non-tune as he went to work murdering millions of Jews. No guilt. No moral responsibility. Arndt thus poses the quandary “can someone do evil without being evil?” Here are your Hitlers and Stalins and Pol Pots. And here too are your Jeffrey Dahmers and John Wayne Gacys and Ted Bundys. All were empathy-challenged.

Then there is the Stanford Prison Experiment. Conducted in August 1971, the experiment was designed to study the psychological impact of becoming a prison guard or prisoner. College students became prisoners or guards in a simulated prison environment. The “guards” were not to use physical force. Instead they humiliated the “prisoners.” yelled threats at them, made them do excessive exercises, and even put some in solitary confinement. The experiment was to last 14 days. But after a riot and the mental breakdown of one prisoner, it lasted only 6. Here, the guards, regular college students, became evil even without the need for survival and probably had normal amygdalas. The prisoners did have their survival threatened and they responded as expected -- first submission, then rebellion.

So, it seems to me that aggression and violence are highly variable due both to mental and environmental influences. And, where those variables are known, those behaviors will follow their natural course.

Maybe Voltaire said it best, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

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In order to build spaceships and travel through space, people MUST be insane. A little

thought reveals why this must be so. Spaceships are huge, complex devices. They imply a massive industrial base, with mining industries to provide metals, energy production facilities to provide energy to work it, transportation networks to transport materials to the place of assembly, large work forces at several locations, which must all be co-ordinated by some centralized authority, large-scale food production and distribution systems to feed all those workers who cannot be employed in providing their own food, a housing industry to keep them in shelter, other industries to supply the materials to build the houses, in short, a total industrial society. Sane people would never create such a society.

Sane people would not spend their lives in coal mines, for example, working to provide coal to produce electricity to smelt iron ore to build spaceships. Sane people would not build nuclear reactors to generate electricity because they would recoil in instictive horror from the environmental consequences of nuclear power. Sane people would not dam rivers to

generate electricity because they would value far too highly the free-flowing river and the multitude of life-forms it provided for. Sane people, in short, would never build an industrialized

civilization capable of space travel. So we won't run into any helpfull role-models in space. We might run into Vulcans out in space. A cold, controlled people, severly disciplined and with all emotions

repressed. We probably won't run into any Klingons, though. In the close confines

of a spaceship they would kill each other off long before they got this far.

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