“Sometimes a big idea fades so imperceptibly from public consciousness you don’t even notice until it has almost disappeared. Such is the fate of the belief in natural human goodness….
…Over the past 30 years or so, however, this belief in natural goodness has been discarded. It began to lose favor because of the failure of just about every social program that was inspired by it, from the communes to progressive education on up. But the big blow came at the hands of science.
From the content of our genes, the nature of our neurons and the lessons of evolutionary biology, it has become clear that nature is filled with competition and conflicts of interest. Humanity did not come before status contests. Status contests came before humanity, and are embedded deep in human relations. People in hunter-gatherer societies were deadly warriors, not sexually liberated pacifists. As Steven Pinker has put it, Hobbes was more right than Rousseau.
Moreover, human beings are not as pliable as the social engineers imagined. Human beings operate according to preset epigenetic rules, which dispose people to act in certain ways. We strive for dominance and undermine radical egalitarian dreams. We’re tribal and divide the world into in-groups and out-groups.
This darker if more realistic view of human nature has led to a rediscovery of different moral codes and different political assumptions. Most people today share what Thomas Sowell calls the Constrained Vision, what Pinker calls the Tragic Vision and what E. O. Wilson calls Existential Conservatism. This is based on the idea that there is a universal human nature; that it has nasty, competitive elements; that we don’t understand much about it; and that the conventions and institutions that have evolved to keep us from slitting each other’s throats are valuable and are altered at great peril. … “
Two implications here to feminism. The most obvious is that feminism must contend with some gender differences and sexual attitudes being innate. Women are going to continue to want attractive shoes, and men are going to continue to be turned on in all the ways we’ve always been turned on. The more interesting implication is that feminism itself has a tendency to become a tribe that divides humans into the in group and the out group.
Picking sides is inherently dangerous, even if difficult to avoid. The way to avoid the exclusions of the tribal mentality is to identify with a larger tribe – first family, then community, then nation, then globe, then non-humans, etc. I think we can understand men and women and embrace both in understanding, and think of ourselves as humans expressing one portion of our larger human condition. We can identify with both genders.
And here is Marvin Minsky quoting Richard Feinman:
“We are equally apt to deceive ourselves, not only in our personal lives but also when dealing with abstract ideas. There, too, we often close our eyes to conflicts and clashes between our beliefs. Listen to richard Feynman’s words:
“That was the beginning and the idea seemed so obvious to me that i fell deeply in love with it. And, like falling in love with a woman, it is only possible if you don’t know too much about her, so you cannot see her faults. The faults will become apparent later, but after the love is strong enough to hold you to her. So, i was held to this theory, in spite of all the difficulties, by my youthful enthusiasm.”
— 1966 Nobel Prize lecture”
Feminism is a colored lens that allows you to see the world in a new way. But as with any ideology it can be very partial. We need a humanism, a synthesis of feminism and masculism and sociology and biology and everything related: an appreciation for the gestalt of the full sweaty human condition.
note: if you don’t catch my sense of humor by now, the image for this piece is meant to heighten debate, not to polarize positions. I can see the juxtaposition and how it will inflame emotion. History is debatable, gender is controversial, and whoever can include the most facts into her theory wins. Theory that is most inclusive is most respectable.