Monday, April 16, 2007

Sex Differences and the Massacre at Virginia Tech

When I first heard about the shootings at Virginia Tech this morning, I could easily predict the identity of the shooter--an unmarried man between the ages of 18 and 25. When I heard a FBI psychological profiler interviewed by a reporter speak about what "he or she" might have done, I laughed at the strained PC language of gender-neutrality. We all know that young unmarried men are far more likely to be cold-blooded murderers. We haven't yet heard whether the young man who did this is unmarried, but it is easy to predict that.

Darwinian biology confirms our common-sense perception that young men are more inclined to lethal violence than are young women. And young men who have not been domesticated by marriage are even more likely to such violence. Of course, this doesn't mean that all young men are potential murderers. But it does mean that most murders are committed by young men. There are natural differences between men and women that incline men--and particularly young men--to violent aggression.

That's why every society must devote great resources to the taming of young male propensities to violence and socially disruptive behavior. Here is a pattern in human nature that has been shaped by human evolutionary history. Of course, culture can either exacerbate or mitigate this inclination. So, for instance, Canada is generally more peaceful than the United States. But, still, most of the perpetrators of violence in Canada are young men. The pattern of sex differences is universal, even though culture can influence the absolute level of violence.

To assume that all sex differences in behavior are culturally constructed, and therefore that we could eliminate such differences through gender-neutral social conditioning, is a utopian conception contrary to the realistic view of human nature supported by Darwinian science.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would add another thing: mass shooters of innocents are not only invariably young men, but almost always white. There are exceptions of course, such as the Beltway snipers, but it's painfully obvious. But our reigning orthodoxy states that we must ignore race when discussing trends in criminal violence. During the Duke lacrosse imbroglio, it was verboten to point out the striking fact that white-on-black rape is exceedingly rare, whereas black-on-white rape is fairly common. So I am not terribly surprised that discussions of these incidents ignore both sex AND race, even when the problem group is not an official victim class.

Anonymous said...

"To assume that all sex differences in behavior are culturally constructed, and therefore that we could eliminate such differences through gender-neutral social conditioning, is a utopian conception contrary to the realistic view of human nature supported by Darwinian science."

I wasn't sure how you arrived at this conclusion. The fact that statistically white young unmarried males are more likely to commit such crimes doesn't mean that social means can't be used to counteract that, no? If anything, you suggest that they can, via marriage.

-- garth

SFG said...

No, he's arguing that gender differences can't be eliminated through social conditioning. On the other hand, as he points out, marriage decreases a man's propensity to go Columbine. So clearly social conditioning can do some things but not others. (Which is true of most interventions if you think about it.) Human nature is plastic but not infinitely so.