The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It explores another thought experiment about technology and how it’s affecting us, as a species. I’ve covered this sort of thing before and the implications. I’m looking to see if there’s an audience for this on my channel. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: evolution
Anyone who has seen at least one movie about the mafia has a good idea for how they do business. They take the whole “might makes right” approach to its logical conclusion. Being in the right means being strong. Being strong means being able to dictate what is right. It’s circular reasoning, but that’s how the mob justifies its activities, from loan sharking to protection rackets.
The setup is simple. You find someone who is inherently weaker, tell them what will happen to them if they don’t pay them, and let fear of death or bodily harm do the rest. The weak usually pay up, whether it’s money, respect, silence, or a combination of the three. The foolish will try to resist and often face serious consequences.
Most reasonable people find this kind of morality deplorable. However, this kind of morality is often employed by another organization that is not only legal. It doesn’t even have to pay taxes in many countries. That powerful entity is organized religion it can take mafia morality to a far greater extreme.
Before I go any further, I want to make clear that I’m not claiming that religion is worse than the mafia. Most religious people are kind, decent people who would never dream of employing this kind of morality. Only a subset of exceedingly dogmatic adherents resort to such extreme and I’m not just talking about the Spanish Inquisition.
These people aren’t pages in history or fodder for a Monty Python sketch. They’re real, they run official ministries, and even manage to obtain tax incentives for major projects. Their brand of religion isn’t just conservative. It’s unapologetically strict. They don’t just garner theological insight from holy texts. They take it as literally as the evening news.
That includes stories like Genesis, despite considerable evidence that it was derived from earlier flood-based stories from ancient Mesopotamia. They read that the god of the bible created the world in six days and they interpret that as six 24-hour days. There’s no room for metaphor or translation errors. This is infallible truth and any effort to contest that is met with the fiercest resistance.
While this kind of dogmatic adherence manifests in many ways, including justifications for slavery and anti-gay discrimination, one of the most overt manifestations occurs in the form of creationists. Now, as much as I respect the faith that many place in their particular religion, I’ve always had a hard time respecting creationists.
They’ve always struck me as a form of Christianity that’s as misguided as it is absurd. It’s not just that they believe the bible literally. They go so far as to say that everything science has concluded about life, evolution, cosmology, and physics is wrong. Some go so far as to claim that it’s an anti-Christian conspiracy on the level of the Illuminati and shape-shifting lizards.
If that was the extent of their faith, then I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Plenty of non-religious people believe in absurd conspiracy theories. However, creationism is especially pernicious in that a key factor in that dogma has a basis in mafia morality. It’s rarely stated overtly, but when it does show, it brings out the worst in its adherents.
Most recently, it reared its head in a surprisingly overt way during a debate between Aron Ra, the director of the Texas state chapter of American Atheists and a popular YouTube personality, and Kent Hovind, a well-known creationist evangelical who has made a career out of debating opponents.
While I have my opinions about Mr. Hovind, who I feel has a serious credibility problem in terms of credentials, his methods for contesting evolution leave a lot to be desired. If you got more than a B-minus in a high school science class at a legitimate public school, even in America, you’re capable of seeing through his poorly-rendered ideas.
However, there are times when he, and other creationists like him, skip the part where they pretend to understand the science they deny and resort to the kind of mafia morality that they feel vindicates their beliefs. In essence, they threaten their opponent on behalf of their deity that believing in science will lead them to an afterlife full of eternal torture and suffering.
Never mind the inherent Problem of Hell that many religious and non-religious people have debated for centuries. By their logic, not believing in the holy texts of their religion is an outright affront to their deity and, for the same reason you don’t want to offend a powerful mafia boss, you don’t want to offend an all-powerful being.
Most creationists are subtle about this, but in his debate with Aron Ra, Mr. Hovind basically resorted to this tactic at the end of the nearly two-hour debate. These were his exact words:
“I would like to remind you guys, you’re gonna die one day and you’re gonna be dead for a long time. I hope you can take what you believe to the grave. You’re happy with it?”
While he doesn’t say outright that his deity is going to punish non-believers like Aron Ra for all eternity, the subtext is there. While non-believers may not be at all concerned with what happens after they die, it’s a genuine concern for someone like Mr. Hovind. He truly believes that his God is the kind of deity that would severely punish people for not believing in a specific translation of a holy text.
Ignoring for a moment the absurdities inherent in that attitude, take a moment to appreciate the kind of world Mr. Hovind and others like him believe. In their world, there’s an all-powerful, all-knowing being that wants human beings to think a certain way and accept certain concepts. Even if there’s evidence to the contrary, they must believe it. If they don’t, they’re punished with the full wrath of an all-powerful being.
That’s not just a scary thought, even for a devout believer. It’s the ultimate extreme of mafia morality. No matter how much evidence there is for evolution or how many errors in the bible are documented, the sheer might of an all-powerful deity trumps all of it. No matter what every tool of science or sense of the mind says, deviating in the slightest means punishment in the utmost.
While I’ve noted in the past how eternal punishment and eternal bliss tend to lose meaning in the long run, I suspect it’s a significant concern for creationists like Mr. Hovind. I even have some sympathy for them, if it is the case they genuinely fear the eternal torture referenced in their theology. It may be the case that they’re just charlatans or trolls and they wouldn’t be the first who used religion to aid their efforts.
Even if the Kent Hovinds of the world are just trying to get out of paying taxes, and failing to do so at times, the extreme mafia morality of their theology still has a major impact on adherents and religion. It’s worth noting that Mr. Hovind’s brand of creationism is on the decline among Christians. His kind is an extreme version of a faith that most people don’t accept.
It’s still a dangerous and distressing concept to espouse, that an all-powerful deity would punish reasonable people for accepting what evidence and reason tell them. That’s a tactic that ruthless mob bosses utilize, much to their detriment. Unlike the mafia, though, all-powerful deities don’t risk anything by being so ruthless and those caught in their path are bound to suffer.
What is it about the human race that makes some people amazingly generous while others become sickeningly depraved? It’s a question we’ve all contemplated in some form or another. What drives the person who helps out at a soup kitchen every week? What is it that drives the person who throws cherry bombs at mailboxes just for kicks? How can one species have this much variation in terms of evil and altruism?
As an erotica/romance writer, and a writer in general, I have to contemplate these questions more than most. In every story I write, whether it’s a sexy love story like “Holiday Heat” or an erotic thriller like “The Escort and the Gigolo,” I need to understand on some levels what makes people tick, for better and for worse.
Questions about evil aren’t new. In fact, they’re among the oldest questions that we, as a species, have asked ourselves. It’s right up there with questions about why aliens haven’t landed yet and why some insist on using anal probes. It’s an existential question as much as it is a scientific question. It’s one of the few questions that both science and religion work hard to answer, albeit with different methods.
In western religious traditions, which primarily involve the big three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there are certain assumptions about human nature that are intrinsically tied to the faith. In this tradition, human nature is believed to be inherently evil and in need of redemption. Anyone who spends more than two hours watching reality TV will probably find some merit to that argument.
Then, there are other traditions like Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism that don’t make the same assumptions. In these traditions, there are other forces that make human beings good or evil that aren’t necessarily innate. To be evil by nature is too simplistic in these traditions. There’s a whole host of factors, divine and otherwise, that contribute to someone’s capacity for either.
Neither tradition can be completely right, but that doesn’t mean both are wrong. Scientific studies on human nature are quite varied, but come to some intriguing conclusions. According to a Scientific America article from 2012, the current body of research suggests that humans are innately good and evil is more of an aberration.
That doesn’t mean that we humans should be thumbing our noses at the rest of the animal kingdom though. This research, like all scientific research, is incomplete and subject to change. New research could emerge tomorrow that concludes that every human being has a depraved, psychotic asshole lurking within and we’re doing just enough to keep it at bay.
These are very difficult questions to answer and many of those questions don’t have clear answers. I look at the concept of good and evil the same way I look at what makes something sexy. The line is not clear and constantly shifting. In the same way we find strange things sexy for stranger reasons, we see the line between good and evil as an exceedingly obscure sea of gray.
Everybody has their opinions on what makes someone good, but I’ve noticed that people have stronger opinions on what makes someone evil. It happens every time there’s a heinous crime, like a mass shooting. Everybody has their theories as to why someone does something so evil.
Some claim it’s bad parenting. Some claim it’s a product of poverty. Some claim it’s a product of abuse. Some say it’s genetic. Some say it’s a learned behavior from someone’s environment. Some just claim that some peoples’ brains are wired poorly.
The most frustrating part of this issue is that to some degree, every one of those theories might be right. Some people become evil due to bad parenting or a rough environment. Some become evil through severe mental illness that makes it difficult for them to make sense of right and wrong. Human beings are erratic, diverse creatures. We’re never content to just have one reason for doing something.
This becomes even more pronounced when you apply it to fiction. As an admitted comic book fan, the distinction between superheroes and supervillains is a cornerstone of the genre. Most people can pick up a comic and know who’s who. You see a comic with Superman and you know he’s the hero. You see a comic with Dr. Doom and you know he’s the asshole who will make people miserable.
However, recent years have given more emphasis to the villains, as opposed to the heroes. I like to think of it as the Walter White effect. We now expect our villains to be more complex and multi-dimensional. It has lead to developments like Dr. Doom becoming Iron Man and Lex Luthor becoming Superman. It’s as crazy a concept as it sounds, but believe it or not, it works.
It’s a strange era with respect to our understanding of evil. On one hand, our most cherished traditions say we’re intrinsically evil. On the other, science says we’re intrinsically good. What do we make of this? That’s a question nobody, especially not an aspiring erotica/romance writer, is equipped to answer in a single blog post.
It’s still a question that I find myself contemplating more as I prepare my next round of projects. In every major story, there are protagonists and antagonists. It’s not too hard to put a lot of energy into what makes a protagonist tick. They are, after all, the lens through which the story is told. The antagonists, on the other hand, present a different challenge.
For the most part, I haven’t had a chance to flesh out complex antagonists. The two most notable examples I’ve had, to date, are Warren Irvine in “Skin Deep” and Madam Felicity in “The Escort and the Gigolo.” In both cases, I made a concerted effort to give layers to these characters. I think I did the most with what I could, but I do feel there’s room for improvement.
For me, this means seeking a greater understanding of evil and what makes evil people tick. It’s a potentially scary subject, but I survived high school and puberty so I think I have the stomach for it. If it means being able to write more complex, well-rounded characters, I’ll gladly take that chance.
Human nature is a chaotic, complicated, and often frustrating phenomenon. It can be disturbing and scary, but it can also be heart-warming and downright hilarious.
Go on Youtube and watch fifteen minutes of nut shot videos. Then, watch 15 minutes of videos showing soldiers returning to their families. It’ll make you laugh, cry, and smile, not necessarily in that order. So long as you stay away from bad sitcoms and Honey Boo Boo reruns, you’ll feel some level of pride in being human.
That said, we still have room for improvement. Human nature is not a finished product. It’s more like a never-ending beta version of a high-end product where the engineers tasked with fixing it are drunk, stoned, and brain damaged. As an aspiring writer who focuses heavily on the sexier parts of human nature, this is something I need to keep up with to some degree.
This brings me to Bonobo monkeys. Confused? I promise that’s not as big a non-sequiter as it seems. Unless you’re one of those ardent religious types who has to believe that mankind was molded into being by some invisible magic man in the sky, as described in a 2,000-year-old holy book written in multiple languages that nobody even speaks anymore, monkeys offer an important insight into human nature. They’re our closest evolutionary cousin. That means we can learn from them and learn about ourselves.
So why single out Bonobo monkeys? Well, being an erotica/romance writer, a better question would be how could I not? While primate behavior is as varied as the menu on Dunkin Donuts, Bonobos set themselves apart in a big way. They really love to fuck.
When I say they love to fuck, I don’t mean that in the crude way that every porn star claims in the middle of a low-budget skin flick. I mean they love to fuck to a point where it’s a big part of their society. They don’t treat it the same way every sitcom since Leave It To Beaver treats it. They use it to create a stable, cohesive society. Excuse me. I just teared up a little.
This is very much the antithesis of how we humans approach sexuality. Whether by evolution or our own erratic proclivities, we’re downright schizophrenic when it comes to sex. Some societies treat it with open enthusiasm. Some, especially those derived from the Abrahamic traditions, treat it a stabbing pain in our nether regions that we try desperately to ignore. If Bonobos could talk, they’d probably think we’re crazy.
I’ve discussed the many ways our deranged society creates unhealthy attitudes towards sex. They drive us apart. They create conflict between genders. They turn us into hypocrites. They even make us mutilate our own genitals. I know human nature has room for improvement, but even if we grade ourselves on a curve, we have to admit we’re pretty damn inept.
So how do Bonobos do it better? What makes their approach to sex so much more refined? What can we learn from it? Well, Psychology Today put together a quick list of sexy lessons from our evolutionary cousins and, given our inability to make up our goddamn minds about sex, we’d be wise to listen.
Lesson One: More sex equals less conflict
This makes too much sense to ignore. We already have prime examples of how societies of sexually deprived men can cause a lot of problems. Sex, like hunger and survival, is a very basic drive. In the same way we do crazy shit when we’re hungry, we do crazy shit when we’re horny and have no outlet. We feel conflicted. We feel frustrated. We pick fights, start conflicts, and forget why the hell we’re so angry in the first place. When you’re getting laid often, you’re too content for conflict. Bonobos are proof of that.
Lesson Two: Feminism can be very sexy
I know I just pissed off the Men’s Rights activities, which isn’t hard to begin with, but bear with me here. The feminism Bonobos practice isn’t the same feminism that’s designed to bust men’s balls and create bullshit trigger warnings. In Bonobo society, females are in charge. Males aren’t their bitches, but they don’t get to run the show just because they have nuts to flex. They need to respect the other gender and in doing so, they get laid more. In other words, it’s the kind of feminism that’s a win-win for both genders. What a concept, right?
Lesson Three: Sisterhood is powerful
I don’t think this is a lesson that needs to be belabored too much. Anyone who has seen women at a bachelor party or in quality lesbian porn know that women know how to form close bonds. They’re much better at it then men, who will cut each other’s throats over arguments about which Star Wars prequel sucked most. Creating bonds is an important component for any social species and we humans love to complicate it. Bonobos go out of their way not to. We have no excuses.
Lesson Four: Jealousy ISN’T romantic
I’ve already talked about this before. Jealousy implies you actually own the love and lust of another individual. That doesn’t sit well with me and I don’t think it should sit well with anyone on some levels. Bonobos seem to be several steps ahead in that regard. They don’t seem to care about their partners humping others. This actually creates less conflict. While I’m sure their version of Jerry Springer is much more boring, they’re probably okay with that.
Lesson Five: There’s promise in promiscuity
I’ve written about this as well. Despite what the James Dobsons and Rick Santorums of the world would have you believe, there are clear benefits to sexual promiscuity. The lack of conflict, close bonds, and low stress of Bonobo life is proof that those benefits can be considerable. Granted, they don’t have to worry about revenge porn, Maury Povich, and taboos on adultery, but they make the most of what their sexuality has to offer. They enjoy its pleasures and its utility. Again, that shouldn’t be such a novel concept, but we humans just can’t resist complicating these basic things.
Lesson Six: Good sex doesn’t always include an orgasm and casual doesn’t necessarily mean empty or cheap
I’m starting to think my brain is part Bonobo because I’ve written about this too with my strong opinions on foreplay. Sex isn’t just about taking a trip to O-town or making new soldiers/farmers to keep society going. It’s an important bonding mechanism. It fosters closeness and companionship, two extremely vital things for social species like humans and Bonobos. Humans create societies where huggers like me are terrified of making intimate contact with one another. Bonobos create societies where sex is their version of a handshake. Is it any wonder why there’s so little conflict?
Lesson Seven: Sex and food go together better than love and marriage
No, this isn’t about some kinky food fetish. I’ll save that discussion for a future book. Outside certain types of specialized porn, humans treat food and sex as distinctly separate. Bonobos like to blur the lines. When they come upon a large source of food, they’ll celebrate with a quick orgy to work up an appetite. I’m not sure what the logic is behind this. I don’t know that they think, “Look at all the delicious food! Let’s celebrate by having sex!” However, it’s one of those twisted brands of logic that just makes too much sense.
Despite the many benefits of Bonobo society, humans still like to think of themselves as more advanced. In many ways, they are. We have skyscrapers, nuclear weapons, and spray cheese in a can. Bonobos have none of that and it doesn’t help that they’re an endangered species. However, the unique quirks of their society and the way they’re able to function should give us something to think about.
We humans love to complicate sexuality, creating all of these bizarre and irrational taboos that we refuse to give up, even when they become outdated. We can advance so much as a civilization, but as a species, we’re still painfully slow learners. So why not take a few notes from our evolutionary ancestors? It might help us enjoy our success a little more. If nothing else, it’ll give erotica/romance writers like me plenty of kinky ideas to work with. For that, I thank you, Bonobos.
Last week, one particular story flew under the radar. I suspect a lot of stories will do that in the midst of a Presidential Election/Political Sideshow. However, being an aspiring writer who focuses on erotica, sex, and intimate romance, these sorts of stories do catch my attention. They also give me something new to think about as I’m developing my stories.
Believe it or not, there’s an ongoing struggle in the scientific world and it has to do with the female orgasm. Yes, the same science that gives is iPhones, rockets, and crazy glue still can’t decipher the female orgasm. Why is it a mystery? Well, evolutionary speaking, we don’t know why the hell it’s there.
Granted, we’re grateful for the joys of orgasms, male and female alike. I’ve already written about the numerous health benefits that come with orgasms so it’s not like nature isn’t aware of them to some degree. Nature tends to make use of something, regardless of how it came to be. That’s the thing though. From an evolutionary standpoint, we really don’t know how the female orgasm came to be or what purpose it serves.
Human physiology is pretty damn remarkable compared to other primates. In most primates, what science defines as an orgasm plays a part in reproductive success. A male’s orgasm is accompanied by the release of sperm. A female orgasm is accompanied by ovulation. It makes perfect evolutionary sense. A species that experiences orgasm in accord with reproductive behaviors is definitely going to have the right incentive to propagate.
Humans are different though. While the male orgasm is still associated with the release of sexual fluids vital for reproduction, the female orgasm offers no such benefit. A woman need not have an orgasm in order to reproduce. Ideally, it’s just a happy byproduct. Since nature favors survival over meaningless fun though, it still doesn’t explain why the female orgasm is still there. Now, a study published in July 2016 in the Journal of Experimental Zoology offers a potential explanation. Here’s the abstract:
The evolutionary explanation of female orgasm has been difficult to come by. The orgasm in women does not obviously contribute to the reproductive success, and surprisingly unreliably accompanies heterosexual intercourse. Two types of explanations have been proposed: one insisting on extant adaptive roles in reproduction, another explaining female orgasm as a byproduct of selection on male orgasm, which is crucial for sperm transfer. We emphasize that these explanations tend to focus on evidence from human biology and thus address the modification of a trait rather than its evolutionary origin. To trace the trait through evolution requires identifying its homologue in other species, which may have limited similarity with the human trait. Human female orgasm is associated with an endocrine surge similar to the copulatory surges in species with induced ovulation. We suggest that the homolog of human orgasm is the reflex that, ancestrally, induced ovulation. This reflex became superfluous with the evolution of spontaneous ovulation, potentially freeing female orgasm for other roles. This is supported by phylogenetic evidence showing that induced ovulation is ancestral, while spontaneous ovulation is derived within eutherians. In addition, the comparative anatomy of female reproductive tract shows that evolution of spontaneous ovulation is correlated with increasing distance of clitoris from the copulatory canal. In summary, we suggest that the female orgasm-like trait may have been adaptive, however for a different role, namely for inducing ovulation. With the evolution of spontaneous ovulation, orgasm was freed to gain secondary roles, which may explain its maintenance, but not its origin.
There are some telling words within the science jargon, namely the concept of the female orgasm being unreliable during sexual intercourse. I doubt women need science to prove this to them. However, that unreliability may be a big reason why orgasms developed into other uses. The study calls it “adaptive,” something that tends to happen a lot in evolution. If a trait ceases to have one use, it can develop another. That’s how land mammals develop into whales. This kind of adaptation, however, is much sexier.
It’s that adaptation part that helped make human beings the extremely social, uniquely passionate creatures that they are. If orgasms no longer have solely reproductive roles, then it can develop other roles within our species. Those roles include romantic roles. An orgasm doesn’t have to involve reproduction. It can involve love, the bonding of two individuals to create a more cohesive society. It’s that cohesion that helps make humans the dominant species of the planet. A bear may be physically stronger than any human, but humans can coordinate better to take them down. Orgasms are just part of that process.
Now it’s not like we need more reasons to celebrate orgasms, male and female alike, but it is nice to know that they did play a role in the success of our species. Success, on any level, is worth celebrating and orgasms give us plenty of ways to celebrate.