Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Evolutionary Science of Locke's State of Nature: A Response to Seabright, Stieglitz, and Van der Straeten

 I have written a long series of posts on the evolutionary science of John Locke's state of nature (hereherehereherehere, and here).  I have argued that the idea of the state of nature in the writings of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau is an example of an empirical claim by political philosophers about human nature and human history that can be evaluated by the Darwinian science of how human beings originally evolved as hunter-gatherers, which we can identify as the evolutionary state of nature.  I have said that if we apply that evolutionary science of hunter-gatherer life to the philosophic debate over the state of nature, we can see that Hobbes was partly right, Rousseau was mostly wrong, and Locke was mostly right.

I was pleased, therefore, to see a recent article by Paul Seabright, Jonathan Stieglitz, and Karine Van der Straeten--"Evaluating Social Contract Theory in the Light of Evolutionary Social Science," Evolutionary Human Sciences 3 (2021): e20--which uses the evolutionary science of small-scale societies to evaluate what Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau say about the state of nature.  They see these philosophers as distinguishing between human beings living in a state of nature and human beings living in societies with formal institutions, and they see "formal institutions" as institutional norms (usually written) that are enforced by legal and political authorities.  They accept this distinction because they see the state of nature as the condition of human life in foraging bands before the invention of agriculture, which was followed by large-scale societies with formal legal and governmental institutions.  But they conclude that these three social contract philosophers were wrong about the state of nature as studied by evolutionary scientists, because these philosophers "overlooked the central role of informal social institutions in governing human behavior" (1).  

While this criticism is partly true for Hobbes, and mostly true for Rousseau, it is not true at all for Locke.  This should be clear to any careful reader of their article who notices that their specific criticisms are directly more at Hobbes and Rousseau than at Locke.  And any careful reader of Locke will know that he recognized the importance of "informal social institutions" in the state of nature, which has been confirmed by modern scientific studies of the human hunting-gathering way of life.

Seabright and his colleagues rightly criticize Hobbes and Rousseau for describing life in the state of nature as "solitary," because in fact hunter-gatherers always have a complex social life.  But they also note that Locke never uses the word "solitary," and "his description of the state of nature does not seem to indicate solitude at all" (17).

They explain:

"Across small-scale societies there is a modal pattern of social organization characterized by a three-generational system of resource flows (including co-resident offspring, parents and grandparents), a sexual and age-graded division of labor within long-term adult pair bonds . . . . and high levels of cooperation between kin and non-kin . . . . Human hunter-gatherers were probably highly inter-dependent long before the invention of agriculture, contrary to Rousseau's claim that agriculture and its associated divisions of labor paved the way for high inter-dependencies."

"Despite the popular idea that hunter-gatherers are organized in a system of small groups of co-residing kin, their social structure is actually quite fluid and comprises networks of interaction between spatially and genetically distant individuals that extend far beyond a local residential group" (11-12).

Seabright and his colleagues don't recognize that Locke sees all of this.  He speaks of the human family in the state of nature as the "first society" (Second Treatise, sec. 77), first the conjugal bonding of husband and wife based on a "voluntary compact," and then the parental care of their children.  He sees a division of labor based on sex and age.

Locke also sees social networks of cooperation and exchange extending beyond the family.  In Locke's state of nature, there are networks of exchange and trade based on "promises and compacts" (ST, sec. 14).  This extended order of cooperation is governed by social norms that Locke identifies as the "law of nature."

Seabright and his colleagues see that social norms are enforced among hunter-gatherers through violent punishment (including capital punishment), reputational costs for those who violate the norms, and third party mediation of disputes.  But they don't recognize that Locke also sees this in his state of nature, where everyone has the "executive power of the law of nature" to punish those who transgress the law of nature, where there is a "law of reputation" to enforce the law of nature through praise and blame, and where disputes are often settled by those known to be good mediators (ST secs. 6-14, 108; Essay Concerning Human Understanding II.28.5-14).

Locke's understanding of the state of nature comes largely from his study of the European reports about the American Indians, because he assumed that "in the beginning all the World was America" (ST 49), and that the American Indians provide a "Pattern of the first Ages in Asia and Europe" (ST 108).  And while it is true that Locke did not have the extensive ethnographic record of hunter-gatherers that we have today, the books in his library about the American Indians did give him a good grasp of hunting-gathering societies.

So, for example, he saw in those reports that foraging bands were sometimes at war with one another, and so he did not make Rousseau's mistake of assuming that the state of nature was utterly peaceful (ST secs. 107-108; A Letter Concerning Toleration, ed. Mark Goldie, Liberty Fund, p. 76).  Hobbes was partly right about the state of nature insofar as he saw this propensity to war.  He was partly wrong, however, in that he did not see, as Locke did, that most of the time hunter-gatherers can live by social norms of peaceful cooperation.

Although Locke's state of nature is a roughly egalitarian condition, in the sense that everyone is equally free from the arbitrary absolute power of anyone else, some people have higher status or prestige than others.  Seabright and his colleagues write:

"Status hierarchies do indeed exist across diverse small-scale societies, but rather than resulting simply from variation in material wealth, they are often linked to relational wealth (i.e. social ties in marriage, food-sharing, and other cooperative networks) and embodied wealth (i.e. physical and cognitive abilities, such as strength and knowledge/skill, underlying variation in food production and reproductive success)" (13).

They do not recognize, however, that Locke sees all of these status hierarchies in his state of nature (ST secs. 54, 74, 94, 105).  While Locke saw the American Indians in the state of nature as showing relative equality compared with other societies, he also saw that all human societies will have some inequality due to individual differences in age, birth, talents, social networks, and luck, which will make some individuals more highly ranked than others.  So, for example, among hunter-gatherers, some individuals would inevitably distinguish themselves as skillful hunters or as leaders of their groups.  Borgerhoff Mulder and her colleagues (2009) confirmed this, and concluded that those Marxist anthropologists who wanted to find "primitive communism" in foraging societies were mistaken, because hunter-gatherers have a Gini coefficient of around 0.25.  I have written about this in a previous post.

Nevertheless, the reputation of hunter-gatherers for being egalitarian is warranted when they are compared with herding and farming societies that have much higher Gini numbers.  And yet, among modern nation-states, those that have Lockean liberal social orders have lower inequality.  The United States has a slightly lower Gini number than the small-scale herding and farming societies.  And the Nordic capitalist welfare states--such as Denmark, Norway, and Finland--have Gini numbers about the same as the foraging societies.  (I have written about the Nordic social democracies as liberal regimes here.)  This suggests that modern Lockean liberal social orders approximate the equal liberty of human beings in the state of nature.

In all of these ways, the evolutionary science of the hunter-gatherer way of life as the original social life for our human ancestors confirms Locke's account of the state of nature; and thus it confirms the Lockean liberalism based on this view of the state of nature.

In Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise, perhaps the first full defense of modern liberal democracy, he declared that the democratic state is "the most natural state," because it approaches most nearly the equal liberty of human beings in the state of nature.

Darwinian evolutionary psychology can confirm this by showing that the social life of our hunter-gatherer ancestors manifested the individual liberty and equality that liberal theorists have attributed to the state of nature.  And therefore the liberal conception of government as instituted among men to secure the individual rights that first arose in the state of nature might indeed be "the most natural state."

Foragers assert their individual autonomy and liberty in resisting the attempts of anyone to establish dominance over them.  So the liberal ideas of equal liberty and dignity for all individuals and resistance to the sort of dominance hierarchies established in agrarian states (with extractive or limited access institutions) can be understood as appealing to the original liberalism of the state of nature.

This kind of Darwinian liberal thinking is suggested in the writings of people like Alexandra Maryanski, Jonathan Turner, Paul Rubin, Christopher Boehm, and Christian Welzel.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Donald Trump Was Too Weak to Become a Military Dictator

In some previous posts (herehere, and here), I have wondered why Donald Trump failed to declare martial law so that he could rule as a military dictator.  Why didn't Trump do something like what General Min Aung Hiaing, the commander in chief of the Burmese military, did on February 1, when he declared that since the parliamentary elections in November had been fraudulent, the new Parliament would be disbanded, and the military would rule over Burma through martial law?  Why didn't Trump say that since the Democrats had stolen the presidential election through a fraudulent vote count, he was justified in declaring himself the true president for a second term and ordering the military to support this?  Or, alternatively, why didn't he declare martial law in response to the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, so that he could have established his rule over the country as Commander in Chief?

In reading the new book by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker--I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year--I hoped to find the answers to these questions.  Although Leonnig and Rucker do not say this explicitly themselves, my conclusion from their history of Trump's last year is that he did not have the guns or the guts for becoming a military dictator.  He did not have the guns because military leaders such as General Mark Milley (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) made it clear that they would not allow the military to support a presidential dictatorship.  And he did not have the guts because he lacked the courage to assert his dictatorial will in violation of the Constitution.  

He displayed his unmanly weakness on January 6 when he failed to lead the march on the Capitol as he had promised earlier in the day, and instead he watched the attack on TV at the White House, as if it were an entertaining TV drama.  Later, he meekly condemned the insurrectionary violence that he had inspired, and he told the insurrectionists to "go home with love and in peace." As Nicholas Fuentes of the white nationalist "America First" internet broadcasts has said, Trump on that day proved to be "very weak and flacid."

The most revealing part of this book is its account of General Milley's central role in upholding the constitutional limits on presidential power by asserting that the military take an oath to support the Constitution, which means that they would have to disobey any presidential order that violates the Constitution.  In recent days, Milley has been asked to say whether this book's stories about him are accurate.  He has answered by saying that he will not comment on the book.  But he did say: "The U.S. military is an apolitical institution.  We were then, we are now.  The military did not and will not and should not, ever, get involved in domestic politics.  We do not arbitrate elections.  That's the job of the judiciary, the legislature, and the American people."  This actually confirms what Leonnig and Rucker say about Milley's insisting that the military must not serve the political interests of the President or any other politician, and that once an election has been decided, the military cannot overturn the outcome.

Milley told his staff that he feared that Trump was looking for an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act, so that he could call out the regular military to fight against his political opponents and to support him as a military dictator.  "This is a Reichstag moment," he explained.  "The gospel of the Fuhrer" (437).

The Insurrection Act of 1807, as amended a few times over the past 200 years, is a federal law authorizing the President to deploy National Guard troops and regular military troops within the United States to suppress civil disorder or insurrection.  This establishes a statutory exception to the general principle that the federal military must not be used for law enforcement purposes within the United States.  This creates a contradiction between the protecting the rights of citizens under civil law and the apparent need during some times of emergency to subject citizens to martial law.  There is also a contradiction between requiring that the President's proclamation of martial law in a State be requested by the State authorities and the need of the President to act whenever the State authorities are "unable, fail, or refuse" to execute the laws protecting their citizens from violence.

A "Reichstag moment" refers to the Reichstag fire, an arson attack in 1933 against the German parliament building in Berlin.  Adolf Hitler had recently become the Chancellor of Germany.  He led the Nazis in charging that the fire was part of a communist conspiracy against Germany.  He used this as an excuse to have President Paul von Hindenburg declare a state of emergency suspending civil liberties and then to have Parliament pass the Enabling Act that allowed Hitler to rule by decree, which made him dictator of Germany.

There were two Reichstag moments during Trump's last year in office when he threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act, but then failed to do so.  The first was in June of 2020 in response to the Black Lives Matter protests.  The second was in the two and a half months after the presidential election when he considered declaring martial law so that he could overturn Biden's election.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a forty-six-year-old Black man, was killed by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, in Minneapolis, when he knelt on Floyd's neck for nine minutes, with Floyd repeatedly saying "I can't breathe."  When a video of this circulated online the next day, people across America reacted with disgust.  Protests spread all across the country in almost every city.  Most of them were peaceful.  But some turned violent.

On the evening of Friday, May 29, the demonstrations reached the White House.  Some of the protestors jumped over the fences around the White House complex.  Fearing that the President was in danger, the Secret Service rushed up to Trump's private quarters and guided him, along with Melania and Barron, down to the emergency bunker under the East Wing.  Two days later, when The New York Times reported this, Trump became enraged that someone had leaked this story, because it made him look scared and weak.  A few days later, he said it was a "false report," although everyone knew he was lying.

Over the weekend, Trump called his military leaders and other top advisors into the Oval Office to plan a way to end the protests.  He proposed deploying the military in Washington and around the country.  Milley and Mark Esper (Secretary of Defense) objected that employing active-duty troops to suppress civil unrest was almost always a bad idea, because it violated the principle that military force should not be employed for domestic political ends.  Moreover, they argued that the protests were mostly peaceful exercises of the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and public assemblies to petition the government.

In the back of the room, Stephen Miller yelled out: "Mr. President, you have to show strength.  They're burning the country down."  Milley pointed a finger towards Miller and shouted: "Stephen, shut the fuck up.  They're not burning the fucking country down" (156).  But Miller continued: "It's an insurrection," and so the President should invoke the Insurrection Act.  Milley insisted that law enforcement could handle the situation.

On Monday, June 1, Trump had a plan for a staged production to show that he and the military were in control of the situation.  He called Milley, Esper, and others to follow him as he walked out of the White House and across Lafayette Square, which had been cleared of protestors.  Trump then stopped in front of St. John's Episcopal Church and held a Bible in the air, the perfect photo op.  Esper and Milley had not known that Trump was going to do this, and they were shocked that they had been photographed marching with him to his public display.

Two days later, Esper told reporters at the Pentagon that the military should not interfere with the Constitutional right of the BLM supporters to protest, and that he did not believe that the Insurrection Act should be invoked.

Trump was angry, and he called Esper to the White House.

"'You betrayed me!' Trump screamed at Esper.  'You're fucking weak!  What is this shit? I make the decisions on the Insurrection Act.  I'm the president, not you.  You're taking options away from the president.  This is about presidential authority.  This is about presidential prerogative.  And you're not the fucking president!'" (175)

On June 10, Milley spoke to the graduating class of the National Defense University, and he took the occasion to apologize for his appearance with Trump in Lafayette Square: "I should not have been there.  My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created the perception of the military involved in domestic politics" (187).

Trump was furious.  Meeting Milley in the Oval Office, Trump complained: "Why did you apologize? Apologies are a sign of weakness."

"This had to do with me and the uniform and not politicizing the uniform," Milley answered.  "I'm not apologizing for you.  I was apologizing for me."

What stands out, however, in this debate in the White House is that with all of Trump's insistence that "I make the decisions on the Insurrection Act," he never did decide to invoke the Act.  He was too weak to exploit the opportunity of the first Reichstag moment by declaring martial law.

The second Reichstag moment began on November 4, the day after the election.  Joe Biden was in the lead; but Trump had declared "we already have won it." And as he had suggested during the campaign, he said that Biden could not have won the election without fraudulent voting, and therefore Trump could refuse to step down.

Beginning in June, Milley had told his aides that his mission was to "ensure the United States of America has a free and fair election with no U.S. military involvement whatsoever" (189).  That meant that if Biden won, the military must not be used by Trump to stop Biden's inauguration on January 20, 2020.

On November 9, Trump fired Esper and replaced him with Chris Miller--a Trump loyalist--as Defense Secretary.  On November 10, Trump began filling other top Defense Department positions with his loyalists.  

General Milley began receiving phone calls from friends fearful that this was preparation for Trump's military coup to overturn the government by declaring martial law under the Insurrection Act with Trump as military dictator.

"'They may try, but they're not going to fucking succeed,' Milley told them.  'You can't do this without the military.  You can't do this without the CIA and the FBI.  We're the guys with the guns'" (366).

On November 14, the Proud Boys and other extremist Trump supporters came to Washington for the "Million MAGA March" to "Stop the Steal" of the election by Biden and the Democrats.  In the evening, violence broke out.  Milley told his aides that this looked like the American version of "brownshirts in the streets"--the paramilitary forces that protected the Nazi Party rallies.

Trump's lawyers filed over three-dozen lawsuits to overturn the elections.  But they all failed--even when the judges were Trump appointees.  (I have written about Trump's bizarre court cases here and here.)

On December 14, the Electoral College met in every state.  Biden received 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232.  On December 15, Mitch McConnell spoke: "The electoral college has spoken.  So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden."  Trump called McConnell to curse him for his disloyalty.  This would be the last time the two men spoke for the rest of Trump's presidency.

On December 18, Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell were in the White House laying out a plan for Trump to cancel Biden's election.  Flynn proposed that Trump invoke the Insurrection Act to declare martial law, so that the military could rerun the election and show that Trump was re-elected.  Powell proposed that Trump should issue an executive order naming her a special counsel to seize voting machines in key states so that she could expose the fraudulent voting.  Trump never carried out their proposals.

Now, there remained one last chance for Trump to keep himself in power--the joint session of Congress on January 6 when Vice President Pence, as President of the Senate, would preside over the counting of electoral votes as certified by the States.  Trump had been told by John Eastman (a law professor at Chapman University) that Pence had the authority to refuse to accept the certified electoral votes from some states where Biden won, and then the Republican-controlled legislatures in those States could declare Trump the winner of their electoral votes.  Pence, however, believed that he did not have the constitutional power to do this, and that to do so would be an unconstitutional usurpation of power that would destroy the American system of constitutional democracy.

To put pressure on Pence and the Congress to overturn the election results, Trump organized the "Save America" rally at the Ellipse on January 6.  He invited all of his supporters to come, saying "Be there, will be wild."  Milley told his staff this would be Trump's attempt to provoke unrest as an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and call out the military.  On January 3, the Washington Post published an article signed by all ten living former secretaries of defense warning that Pentagon leaders should never allow the military to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power after an election.

Trump concluded his speech on January 6 by saying that "Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us."  "We're going to walk down to the Capitol and we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. . . . We're going to try and give our Republicans--the weak ones, because the strong ones don't need any of our help--we're going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country."

But when the crowd started walking toward the Capitol, Trump did not go with them.  Instead, he went back to the White House to watch TV the rest of the day.  

By 1:00 pm, the Capitol police were being overwhelmed by the mob of Trump supporters surging towards the Capitol building.  By 2:10 pm, the first rioter had broken into the building, and a wild stream of rioters rushed into the building.  Some of them shouted "Hang Mike Pence!."  At 2:24 pm, Trump tweeted his support for this: "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution."

The Congressmen and Senators were forced to flee their chambers and to hide in secure areas, while the angry mob roamed the building looking for them.  Pence took command of the military, ordering them to clear the building so that the work of the Congress in certifying the election could resume.  He refused to leave the building because he insisted that the Congress should finish its work in the evening, and thus show to the world that the insurrectionists had failed: "We need to get back tonight," he said.  "We can't let the world see that our process of confirming the next president can be delayed."  As Pence gave his orders to the military, the commander in chief had no contact at all with any of the military leaders.  He was too busy watching TV.

By 8:00 pm, Pence called the Senate back into session.  At 3:24 am, the Congress voted to confirm Biden's 306 to 232 electoral vote win; and Pence formally declared Biden the next president of the United States.

Leonnig and Rucker write: "At no time that Wednesday since the Capitol siege began did these government and military leaders hear from the president.  Not even the vice president heard from Trump" (481).

Trump did not march with his supporters to the Capitol.  He did not command the military.  He did not take control.  He did not invoke the Insurrection Act.  He did not declare martial law.  He did nothing to overturn the election and establish his military dictatorship.  He became a passive observer.

On January 20, Biden was inaugurated President; and Trump left the White House to fly to his new home in Mar-a-Lago.

Since then, hundreds of his supporters have been arrested for their participation in the Capitol insurrection.  Trump did not pardon them.

I have written about the chimpanzee politics of Trump's attempts to become the alpha male.  Now we see that he has never had the will to power to become America's alpha male.

Contrary to what many of his critics have claimed, Trump is not a populist strongman.  Those who identify Trump as a strongman fail to see the discrepancy between his words and his deeds.  He talks like a strongman, but he does not act like one.  He's all bluster.  That's what the Proud Boys and the other Trump extremists discovered on January 6.  They took seriously his words about marching to the Capitol to "fight" for him.  And then he abandoned them. 

Hitler was a strongman.  Stalin was a strongman.  General Min Aung Hiaing of Burma is a strongman today.  Trump is a weakman.

And that's good.  Because his weakness of character--his lack of manly spiritedness--so enfeebled him that he could not impose a military dictatorship on the United States.

But should we worry that his experience has taught him that he needs to change his character--to become a true strongman so that he can successfully become a military dictator, perhaps when he's elected president again in 2024?  

There is some hint of that in the interview that Trump gave to Leonnig and Rucker on March 31, seventy days after leaving the White House.  Trump almost never expresses regret about anything he has said or done, presumably because that would be a sign of weakness.  But in his interview, in response to questions about his response to the BLM protests, he said: "I think if I had it to do again, I would have brought in the military immediately" (516).  Does this mean that if he is given another chance, he will immediately declare himself America's military dictator?

Recently, in a Claremont Institute podcast ("The Stakes"), Michael Anton interviewed an alt-right monarchist Curtis Levin; and they talked about why the United States needs an "American Caesar," who could rule as a military dictator.  They suggested ways that Trump could do this after being elected in 2024.  Does this suggest that some American conservatives--particularly those connected to the Claremont Institute--are now prepared to set aside the Constitution so that Trump can rule as a dictator?  Let's hope not.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Oxytocin in the Self-Domestication of Dogs and Humans and the Evolution of Lockean Liberalism


These are skeletons of a human and a dog (upper left) that were found buried underneath a 12,000-year-old home in Israel.

There are many graves like this, with prehistoric dogs buried alongside their ancient hunter-gatherer owners.  Often the dog is under a person's arm.  This shows the deep evolutionary history of the friendship between humans and dogs.  

Humans domesticated dogs long before they domesticated plants or other animals.  Or should we say that originally dogs domesticated themselves when some wolves evolved by natural selection to live in a friendly relationship with humans?  If we could explain the evolution by domestication of this interspecies friendship, would that help us explain human evolution by self-domestication for friendliness?  Could the human self-domestication hypothesis explain the evolution of Lockean liberalism as "survival of the friendliest"?  Some evidence suggests that a big part of answering these questions will depend on understanding the evolution of oxytocin.

A Watercolor Tracing by Henri Breuil from a Cave Painting of a Wolf-Like Canid, in France, Dated 19,000 Years Ago

Oxytocin (OT) is a nine-amino acid neuropeptide and peptide hormone that evolved among mammals to support the birth of offspring, maternal bonding and care of offspring, and sometimes monogamous mating of parents who jointly care for their offspring.  In humans and some other animals, OT seems to be associated generally with emotional bonding, empathy, and trust.  But the interaction of the OT system with other neurophysiological systems and with environmental circumstances is so complicated that it is hard to study, and there is no agreement among scientists as to exactly how and where it works in the brain.

In Darwinian Natural Right, I identified OT as one of the evolved proximate causes of the natural desire for parental care.  I have also written a series of posts (hereherehere, and here) suggesting that OT might support the morals and markets of Lockean and Smithian liberalism.  Now I am beginning to think that this could be explained as part of a process of convergent evolution through human self-domestication.  One piece of evidence for this is how oxytocin promotes the bonding of humans and dogs, arising as a by-product of the domestication of wolves into dogs.

Those of us who are dog owners know that looking into our dog's eyes is one of the simple joys of life that creates a feeling of bonding similar to what happens when parents look into the eyes of their infant.  We know that this is a product of domestication, because staring into the eyes of a wolf will provoke the wolf into a snarling reaction to your threatening gaze.

Some experiments have shown that this human-dog bonding through mutual gaze depends on oxytocin.  Gazing behavior from dogs, but not wolves, increases oxytocin in their owners, which increases the owner's feeling of affiliation and increases oxytocin in the dogs, in a reinforcing feedback loop.  In this way, dogs have hijacked the human bonding pathway (MacLean and Hare 2015; Nagasawa et al. 2015).

Another experiment looked at fMRI brain activation patterns as mothers looked at images of their children and their dogs and at images of unfamiliar children and dogs.  When mothers viewed images of their children and dogs, there was increased activity in a common network of brain regions involved in emotion, reward, affiliation, and social cognition.  So there are some remarkable similarities in the brain's emotional arousal associated with mother-child and mother-dog bonds (Stoeckel et al. 2014).

This indicates how the domestication of dogs selected for friendliness and against aggression, which created neurophysiological changes that make the social bonding of dogs and humans pleasurable.  I am wondering whether something similar could have happened in the self-domestication of humans to support an expanding circle of human social cooperation.  

Even if this is so, however, I also wonder whether there must be a limit to this expanding circle, so that one's intense attachment to those within one's social group is often combined with intense animosity to those outside one's group.

I will be looking deeper into this human self-domestication hypothesis and its implications for the evolution of the liberal social order.


MacLean, Evan L., and Brian Hare. 2015. "Dogs Hijack the Human Bonding Pathway." Science 348: 280-281.

Nagasawa, Miho, et al. 2015. "Oxytocin-Gaze Positive Loop and the Coevolution of Human-Dog Bonds." Science 348: 333-336.

Stoeckel, Luke E., et al. 2014. "Patterns of Brain Activation When Mothers View Their Own Child and Dog: An fMRI Study." PLoS ONE 9 (10): e107205.

Friday, July 02, 2021

Caster Semenya--a Chromosomal Male--Will Not Run as a Woman in the Tokyo Olympics

I have written about the debate over Caster Semenya, the chromosomal male who claims that she has a right to run in the Olympics as a female, because that is her gender identity.  She has shown that she can run 800 meters faster than any woman in the world.  But the question is whether this is a fair competition, given that she is a 46-chromosome male (XY), which gives her the advantage that comes from the typically high male testosterone.

I have argued that Semenya is probably an XY male born with 5-alpha reductase deficiency, so that she is a chromosomal male who was born with sexually ambiguous sex organs who was raised as a girl.  She identifies her gender identity as female, but she is biologically male, with testes producing testosterone, which gives her an unfair athletic advantage in the 800-meter women's race.

In response to complaints from female athletes who said that she should not be permitted to compete as a woman, the International Association of Athletic Federations in 2018 issued new regulations saying that genetic males with some disorder of sex development would be permitted to compete as women in middle-distance races (400 meters to one mile) only if they lower the level of testosterone in their blood down to the highest possible level for a healthy woman with ovaries.  Otherwise, they can run in the men's events.

Semenya refused to do this.  She has attempted to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics by competing in the 5,000 meters race for women, which favors female stamina rather than male strength.  As indicated in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Semenya has failed to qualify for this event, and so she will not be in the Tokyo Olympics.

What is most interesting here is that Semenya has said in court documents that she is a 46 XY male with female features, probably indicating 5-alpha reductase deficiency at birth, which confirms my suspicions.

Semenya believes it is unfair to force her to compete with men in Olympic running events.  Why isn't it unfair for her as a chromosomal male to compete with chromosomal females?