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Friday, November 29, 2013

Conversation with My 2-Year-Old


Last week: 
Anders and Mama eat lunch together. Anders begins banging his fork and spoon together, making a loud noise that pleases him greatly.

Mama: Anders, that's too loud for me. It's hurting my ears. Can you do that outside?
Anders: Outside!

Anders climbs down from the table and goes outside. Mama is happy. Anders is happy.

Today:
Anders eats lunch with his extended family on a patio in Palm Springs. He begins banging hands on table, making a loud noise that pleases him greatly.

Papa: Anders, that's too loud. It's hurting my ears.
Anders: Go inside.

Papa... cannot deny the logic of what his son has just said. Neither can anyone else at the table.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book Review - Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex

Read this book. And if you have the time, read it while you are reading Evolution and Human Sexual Behavior. They compliment each other very nicely.

Because this is a book I really think all parents should read, I am not going to review it too much here. This book will answer all your questions as to:
-how scared you should be of perverts
-how to deal with six-year-olds playing doctor
-what to do when you see your two-year-old masturbating
-how to talk to kids about sex, but more than that, how to talk to them about pleasure

The only downside is that the author is a socialist who does a lot of Christian bashing. (Anyone using the Christian religion to be an ass hole isn't actually practicing Christian values and I wish she would have acknowledged that just once.) So, her politics suck but otherwise this book is a MUST READ.

Book Review - The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life

This book is essentially about a fear the authors have about the future that they are terrified of expressing. They know (and rightly) that if they share their fear, most people wont be able to hear them or even consider what they are trying to say. Most people will just fly off the handle and attack.

Which is why this book in written in such a way that it is very hard to read. I felt like half the time the authors were trying very hard to not say anything. It seemed like the points they were trying to make were almost hidden and almost all were apologized for.

Because I believe above all in freedom and respect, and because I only think in terms of individuals, not groups, what the authors have to say is irrelevant to me. Interesting at times, but irrelevant.

But here it is, what Herrnstein and Murray worked so hard to not say over the course of their book:

1. IQ exists! Some people are actually smarter than other people! *The higher your IQ, the greater your capacity to handle complex mental work. [I often find that handling complex mental work depends a lot on one's interest in the work so I would be curious to know how IQ tests account for that.]

2. How smart people are affects every area of their lives!

3. Smarter people are better at everything!

Now here is something worth saying! Why I find this assertion interesting is that it is the opposite of the "10,000 hour rule" that everyone takes for granted as truth. Herrnstein and Murray claim that some people could put 10,000 hours into something and still not be a genius at it and possibly, if their IQ is low enough, would never reach the genius level. Other people, people with high IQs, could reach the genius level of a given field in far fewer than 10,000 hours. I am going to check this general idea off as "true in my own experience." This reminds me of how many people can be farmers, but how few think to farm like Joel Salatin.

4. Intelligence is not all nurture. In fact it's part nature (no less than 40% no more than 80%) yet all of our government policies are written as if intelligence were all nurture.

5. Smarter people have better lives.

It entertains me a little that H & M worked so hard to (over) prove everything they wanted to say and yet didn't really pay attention to this point, assuming that everyone would agree that more money, slightly less divorce and more degrees equals a better life. I know way more happy people who are not very bright than I know very bright people who are very happy. And, I will quote myself here: the top 1% of Americans have better college degrees and make a lot more money, but they are still overweight and unhealthy—lots of colds and even more medical problems, they are even more likely to be on prescription drugs and especially mood altering ones. They will spend just as much time watching TV and be slightly less likely to get divorced (as the bottom 99%). I don't care about money and degrees. Fat people on Prozac don't have "better lives". *I got my stats from some government website. I think the CDC.

6. The lowest of the low generally have IQs bordering on mental retardation, but there are plenty of people with just as low IQs who do fine in life. 

7. School does an excellent job of funneling the best and brightest into top colleges.

I really think H & M should read The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America or The Underground History of American Education or anything that would help them to understand the true purpose of public education so let's just be clear here: school does an excellent job of funneling the brightest "soldiers" from the rest of the pack. Bright children with high enough self-esteem to not want to teacher-please for 30 years are not funneled. 

8. High IQ folk are the best workers. [Again, I would be curious to know what roles motivation, interest and passion play in  the "best worker" contest.]

9. Our country has a high IQ elite running the place, who, because they are so comfortable with complexity, make the legal system overly complex for the rest of us.

Woo hoo! Let's simplify! Does anyone else think these guys would have gotten more supporters for their argument if they had said our legal system was one big ball of bad feng shui instead of that the average American is just too dumb to function within it?

AND NOW, THEIR SCANDALOUS POINTS

10. Low IQ people have more children than high IQ people. H & M think we need to figure out a way to get smart women to have more babies.

11. But more importantly, they want us to stop messing with evolution. Because right now, we subsidize the babies of the low IQ folk, causing them to have more babies, and causing the survival of those who are not actually fit for survival.

For 100 years, we as a culture have been at war with death. Death is not a part of life. It's not okay. It's bad. It's failure and we can't accept it. We can't allow people to die. Even if they want to die. Even if they have serious health problems. Even if our best and brightest have to devote their entire lives to the cause--no one can be allowed to die!

12. Black people have a lower IQ average than white people but there are plenty of black people with very high IQs and plenty of white people with very low ones. 

If you believe in freedom and respect like I do, you judge individuals not groups and an individual's intelligence is irrelevant to the fact that everyone gets equal opportunity to pursue happiness to the best of his or her ability.

MY TAKE

First, this book is tragic. Great atrocities in history have been committed by people just trying to force other people to do what they believe is right. And, at its core, this book is no different: how can we make them nasty poor folk be more like those lovely middle class folk?

Herrnstein and Murray say it well at the beginning--they can't tell you anything about John Doe by knowing his IQ. There is too much variation and nurture is too important. All they can tell you about is groups. And the only reason anyone wants to know about groups is to control them. This book is only useful information to those "in power" who wish to force those not in power to be something other than what they are.

Second, I have empathy for H & M and all those who think they have to "save" the world. It must be so scary to think that our nation's average IQ is declining and that we have to get dumb people to behave differently. What a daunting task. I imagine they are quite angry at American policies that enable dumb people to have more children than smart people. And I imagine they are even angrier that they are forced to spend their money on things they consider to be morally wrong.

Third, this book reminds me of what I have read about Hunter-Gatherer--that they have very low IQs. This fascinates me. We all know that average American probably couldn't last a day in their shoes and also that researchers continually assert that Hunter-Gatherers are very happy so.... who is better of? I value genetic diversity and cultural diversity; I am so glad there are people who can survive in the wild in addition to people who can study philosophy. 

World governments are always claiming that Hunter-Gathers need to be saved from being themselves. We see this on television constantly--pleas for donations because the "rural poor" of some place needs schools. Hunter-Gathers just need education and then they would have "better" lives! Most people don't know this is all cover-up for the real agenda of every government in the world that can't stop terrorizing its native inhabitants (and if you think the US has stopped terrorizing our natives, think again. Canada is even worse.)

Hunter-Gathers and the rural poor are not banging down the doors of government buildings and wealthy people's houses asking how they can be more like them. Hunter-Gatheres and the rural poor usually *but not always* exhibit a level of physical health not known to Westerners. Imagine 500 people all with perfectly straight, white teeth, never having had braces and never having had cavities despite their failure to even own a toothbrush. Not to mention all the other Western health problems they don't suffer from. These people DO NOT need to be more like us. In fact, we have a few things to learn from them. We may have lower infant mortality, but they don't have homelessness or heart disease!

The reason our governments are always trying to "educate" these people is that Hunter-Gatherers and the rural poor don't need us. They are not part of the system. And our governments want them to be part of the system. What governments really want is for these people to not exist. Our governments are the Borg, seeking to assimilate everyone. They sell it as education, but our type of education destroys more lives of Hunter-Gatherers than it ever helps. Why do we think we have the right to force people to do what we think is best for them? Until people are ASKING for help, no one should be "helping" them. 


Thursday, November 21, 2013

How Does Halloween Work with Children Being Raised in Reality?


I don't personally care about Halloween. I researched the history of it on the internet and read a book called Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night and I concluded that Halloween is, above all, a holiday about revenge. Keeping in mind that the history of Halloween is actually far more complicated, here is a summary:

From the middle ages through the 1920's, Halloween was the night the dead got to come back to the realm of the living and take revenge upon those who wronged them. What this meant, in reality was that Halloween was the night when people could dress up as ghosts or witches and go kick down the fences and trample the flowers of people who they believed wronged their dead friends and relatives. Ghosts took the blame for a long time but in the end it became apparent that it was actually teenaged boys who were doing the damage. In the early 1920's the angry young men began giving people the option to not have their windows broken: they would knock on the doors of wealthy people's homes and say, "Trick or treat?" They meant: give us a treat (money) or we will do a trick on you (break something). Pretty soon younger and younger boys joined in (and some girls, of course). It was through community efforts that Halloween was changed into the more "wholesome" holiday it is now.

Today, Halloween is no longer about revenge but I can't say that I am very into anything that it is about. It's a superficial celebration of scary things--horror movies, spiderwebs, decrepit old houses, grave yards, evil creatures that don't exist. Below the surface is a celebration of fear and ugliness. These are things that don't really do anything for me. And of course the candy turns me off as well.

If Halloween were more a celebration of death and less a celebration of horror, I would be more into it. Americans, with their terror of death, with death seen as "losing" rather than part of life, And of course I would also prefer if it were a holiday everyone could enjoy together, rather than the separation we have now with people of various ages doing their own "age appropriate" thing.

Here is what I would like to do for Halloween: the party takes place in a forest where leaves are falling from the trees or perhaps a campground or a cabin in Yosemite. There is a half-hour lantern walk through the forest. The path is walkable by moonlight but it is quite dark. Each person goes alone (except small children go with parents). Every 5 minutes or so the "walker" arrives at a person in a dramatic looking cloak holding a lantern. The cloaked person poses a question for the walker to ponder during the next stretch of his journey. At the end of the walk, there is a bonfire where people are celebrating letting go (along the style of burning man, perhaps?) There is dancing, pumpkin carving and food like hot apple cider and lacto-fermented small beers.

For me, the above sounds spiritual, dramatic and really fun!

But what about those people who love Halloween as it is? My question for them is: what is it that you love? Could you still love it if you had children? Could you still love it if you thought about what you were doing?

If you love the idea of taking your kid trick-or-treating... would you still enjoy it knowing that your child will likely see a costume that frightens him or her and could give him or her nightmares for months?


If you love your yearly sugar binge... do you really want to do that with your child? Experiment with it at home and notice if you and your child end up fighting or not getting along after a sugar binge as that is very likely.


If you love candy... how much do you know about sugar? If you knew that sugar was a drug, would you still enjoy candy so much? How would it make you feel to give your child the very same drug that you yourself are addicted to?

If you love dressing up... could you dress up in reality-oriented costumes? Nurses, cowboys, bikers, cats, bats, bunnies--all of these are costumes based on reality. Or could you feel comfortable not giving your child a straight answer when he asks what you are? For example, if you are dressed as a vampire you could say, "I am dressed as a vampire. Which means I represent my own fear of death."

If you love your friend's party... could you take your five-year-old knowing someone else's fictionalized six-year-old might tell him something that really confuses him like that there are little fairies hiding in all the trees? Would you be okay with your child hunting in every tree for fairies, wondering why the other child sees them but he does not, and not understanding what you mean when you say that fairies are not "real" because he has no concept of that idea?

If you love your friend's party.... could you take your five-year-old knowing that someone else's fictionalized child may say something that traumatizes him like, "I'm an angel from Heaven. If you aren't a good boy you are going to Hell." There is a great book on how that simple statement traumatized a women for her entire childhood called Dying To Be Me.

If you love your sister... could you take your child to her house knowing that her fictionalized children will teach your child violent super-hero behaviors and disrespectful Disney Channel behaviors?

These are the questions I pondered this year before deciding to not go to my friend's Halloween party. I am sure I will ponder these questions again next year and the year after and the year after....

I also want to mention that any of the above scenarios could also turn out fine. Maybe your child won't even ask people what they are dressed as and it will be a non-issue. Maybe your child will notice that other children behave in strange ways, hitting each other and pretending to hit each other but your child wont understand and wont try it out at home. Maybe your child will enjoy a yearly sugar binge but wont have a sugar addiction!


I am a big fan of enjoying life! And bringing your children to life with you, and especially to those parts of life that sparkle for you! I imagine that those people who love Halloween as it is could examine in depth what need of theirs is being met by their current celebration and then find a way to get that need met in a way that also meets their children's needs.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book Review - Evolution and Human Sexual Behavior

This book was awesome. Answered some questions that I have been wondering for a long, long time. Also easy to read and easy to understand. Quick--doesn't suffer from the "too much info" problem so many books do. There was a ton of stuff that was same-old info I have heard before. But there was also a ton of fabulous new things I didn't know--here are my favorites:

-If you give a female lemur hormonal contraception she will no longer be attractive to lemur males.

-There is substantial evidence that humans, by nature, are monogamous with some polygamy. There are many factors that lead the authors to this conclusion, one is the size difference between men and women: the more polygamous a species, the greater the size difference between the male and female. The more monogamous, the closer in size the male and female are. Another factor is sperm count. Humans have relatively low sperm count which means a guys sperm probably wont have to be competing with another guys sperm to fertilize the egg.

-Many mammals commit infanticide if they don't think it is a good time to raise a child, humans included. The main reason human women commit infanticide is uncertain paternal investment i.e. they know they can't raise the baby alone. Other big reasons are low infant quality (birth defects) and twins (where a female cannot afford to care for both).

-Almost all humans will engage in same-sex sexual activity if that is the only sex that is available to them. Heterosexual guys in prison will have sex with men. Heterosexual concubines living in a large harem will have sex with women. There were many other examples but I can't remember them off the top of my head.

-Female hunter-gatherers are ready to be married when they are around 18. They are proficient enough at gathering and are capable of raising offspring. Male hunter-gatherers are ready to be marred around 25 to 30. Building strength and learning to hunt so you can provide for a family takes a longer. What ends up happening is that young female hunter-gatherers get their sexual needs met in marriage. The male hunter-gatherers have sexual needs but no one to have sex with since the girls their age have married older guys who can provide them with meat. Different societies had different solutions to this problem that, over the years, became culturally ingrained. In quite a few societies older men (possibly because their wives were breast feeding and uninterested in sex) would have sex with the younger men. In other societies post-menopausal women would have sex with the younger men. Over time these practices become highly ritualized with lots of rules and customs to follow. I FINALLY UNDERSTAND ANCIENT GREECE!!!!!! Another way the older males of a society dealt with the 15-25 year olds who kept trying to seduce their wives was to ship them off to war.

-Ancient pottery shows pictures of women holding babies while having sex

-In hunter-gatherer societies, children practice having sex with one another, so do young (infertile) teenagers. This is an expected part of development and preparation for adult life. All monkeys do this as well. Chimpanzees require sexual learning as part of childhood or they wont be able to mate properly when they are grown.

-In almost all societies the sexual practices of children mimic those of the adults--our society is quite strange that we expect our children not to have any sexuality whatsoever.

-Orangutans are known to grab at and and attempt to sexually molest human researchers.

-Nursing offspring (humans and monkeys) will try to prevent their mom from mating--it is crucial for their survival. Since humans used to nurse for 4+ years it makes sense for human children to protest when they see their mother engaging in mating activity (like kissing their dad). Makes so much more sense than Freud's theory.

-Incest taboos began so that societies had access to the resources of others. These taboos exist in most societies. But science shows that incest among first cousins will only increase mortality of offspring by 4%.

-The youth culture we see now would not exist if women still got married and had families soon after they got their periods.

-The Lepcha of India expect girls to have sex by the time they are 11 or 12. It is thought that this is what makes puberty start.

-Human males have small sperm reservoirs, suggesting that human males were designed to ejaculate a couple times a week rather than daily.

-When Asians first saw Europeans kissing they thought it was disgusting.

-There is a notable lack of loud coital vocalizations in the cross-cultural record. It is a fact though that female vocalizations of pleasure will make a male come faster.

-Women's vaginas will "lube up" for sex whether the woman is into it or not. The vagina must do this to protect itself from tearing and other damage.

-Evolutionarily the authors disagree with the idea of sexual dysfunction. They "disagree with the very notion of classifying variation as dysfunction." The average postpartum women will be severely "sexually dysfunctional" by the current definition. The authors disagree with defining what is normal as dysfunctional.

-Hunter-gatherer women will not get their periods for almost 2 years after the birth of a baby. (Depends on how many calories are available to them though)

-The only reason human live past 50 (past making sure their offspring survive) is to help care for their grandchildren. Diminished interest and ability to have sex is adaptive. Older folks are supposed to use their energy to care for their grandkids, not mating. The presence of a grandparent helping to care for the kids is positively associated with survival of children. *Hunter-Gatherer Childhoods addresses this much better than this book (in more depth and this book claims it is only grandmothers while HG Childhoods shows that is not the whole story).

-In some societies it is even taboo for a married couple to continue having sex after all their children are married. Their priorities should be elsewhere.

-The word testimony refers to the practice of holding a man's testicle in your hand while making an oath.

-Today about 1/3 of Americans are single. Just 100 years ago it was aberrant to be single and single people were treated as inferiors.