Category: Writing

Plastic People: How Culture Reshapes Biology

Last September psychologist Cordelia Fine received the Royal Society Science Book Prize for her lopsided Testosterone Rex. The book employs a narrow range of scientific studies to “problematize” rigid gender categories, giving the Nature vs. Nurture debate a strong shot in its ambiguous appendage. Fine’s work was duly attacked by left-leaning evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne and right-wing genetic anthropologist Gregory Cochran for the same sound reasons. Both scientists accused the pop writer of disguising polemics as science, and Coyne shamed the Royal Society’s panel of judges for playing along.

Fine’s suspiciously personal, possibly emotional, and, ahem… scientific purposes for authoring Testosterone Rex were to show that simplistic male and female stereotypes, supported by a selective reading of evolutionary psychology, are inadequate.

In other news, cartoons aren’t real. But our obvious differences persist. People differ in their cognitive styles, physical strength, and sexual proclivities, among other traits. From what source do these variations arise?

A careful reading of the evidence reveals a yin-yang interaction. Culture activates biology. Biology constrains culture.

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Extraordinary Forms Most Beautiful: Cultural Evolution and the Protestant Revolution

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Five hundred years have passed since Martin Luther cracked the cosmic egg of Catholic orthodoxy. In honor of this anniversary, I dragged myself out of bed and slipped into the back pew of a traditional Latin Mass. It was a chilly New England morning, but the full sanctuary was as warm as a womb. The men were well-dressed. The women wore lace veils on their heads.

I found myself intoxicated by the concentration of so many religious worlds in one ritual chamber: Jewish and Christian mythos, Greco-Roman aesthetics, even traces of the Egyptian and Persian mysteries.

It was a challenge to pay attention, though, with the constant cooing and squealing of the little children all around me.

The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, or the Tridentine Mass, has survived for two millennia, although descending with significant modifications. The ritual was standardized in the 16th century, during the aftermath of the Protestant revolution, as the papacy sought to reign in the variety of Catholic rites. Then came the Age of Aquarius. When the Second Vatican Council closed in 1965, the Latin form was largely abandoned in favor of regional vernacular and a more inclusive theology. In the decades following, the Catholic Church has seen a devastating collapse in attendance and priest ordination across America and Europe.

In nature, the fittest seeds are selected. Some fall by the wayside, some are choked by thorns, and some are stranded on rocks—but a few will find good soil and grow. In the light of cultural evolution, religious practices exhibit similar patterns. Continue reading

Dispatch from the Anti-Confederate Iconoclasm

As a Southerner, I’ve never given half a damn about Confederate monuments, but these days that’s all we’re allowed to think about. So on a muggy Saturday, August 19, I followed the cultural frenzy to Hot Springs, AR where activists performed a bizarre mourning ritual to honor an archetypal Confederate soldier whose spirit resides behind a boyish face carved in white marble.

The event, organized by the Confederate Square Rally Group, had commenced without incident for the past three years. According to one gentleman interviewed by a local news channel, whose rustic outfit and accented stream of consciousness set him apart from your average college graduate, “It’s a peaceful history family-oriented soda pop and nacho cheese type of get together.” Continue reading

Tomáš Halík: Questions Without Answers

No body can be all-inclusive, and that includes the body of Christ. This was made apparent to me during a recent talk given by Czech philosopher-priest Tomáš Halík at Boston University. The Templeton Prize winner is widely admired for his tireless efforts to bring peace through interfaith dialogue, beginning with his courageous role in the Soviet-era “underground church.” In response to the resurgence of tribal values seen across the globe, his lecture was entitled Making the World Think Again: Reason, Hope, and Faith in an Age of Populism.

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The Darwinism That Fuels Atheism Actually Favors Religiosity

Science has failed to prove or disprove the existence of God, but recent studies suggest certain beliefs are better for you than others, and that includes your Darwinian fitness. These ideas aggravate moral relativists who argue that no way of life is superior to another. “You can’t judge,” they scold. “It’s all the same.” That’s exactly what someone would say before convincing you to do something stupid. Which tradition you follow matters, and its effects can be measured.

Full article at The Federalist

Dreams of a Czech Sexbot

Prague is the perfect romantic getaway. You just have to keep your paranoid imagination under control. My sweet lover and I drank wine on the river, mused in the museums, and explored the natural world on foreign beds. We led each other through the city’s streets, admiring its ancient beauty: the palace on the hill, St. Vitus Cathedral, the basilica at Vyšehrad, the green idol of St. John of Nepomuk who watches over the Charles Bridge, eavesdropping on lovers’ secrets.

Day by day, the depths of Czech history were uncovered like the nested shells of a matryoshka doll, each more enchanting than the last. Over the centuries, we see a progression from the goddess Marzanna to Mother Mary to the Plastic People of the Universe. At the end of the story, hiding within the Russian doll’s radioactive core, we find a nightmarish golem with latex genitals and an apple in its mouth.

Full article at disinformation

Nazis in the Clouds

My friends on the far right see Marxists under every bed. But that’s crazy, because everyone knows that Marxists don’t hide under beds—they bang their grad students on them. Just don’t say that aloud in polite company. If you dare mention that academia has become a decadent nest of clueless leftocrats, student activists will mob your doorstep and call you a Nazi.

Full article at Taki’s Magazine