The general concept of human nature is the most important thing to establish when trying to understand human behavior and human relations. Despite this, human nature is one of those foundational truths that most people don’t seem to think about, especially critically, and when they do, they seem to miss the mark by a mile. In this post, I intend to provide a systematic explanation of what I think the fundamental truths of human nature are, and then explain the logical implications of such a model. There are three foundational truths that my conception of human nature is founded upon. They are as follows: model contingent epistemology, philosophical determinism, and amorality. I will go through each of these premises in turn and justify them—and once that is done, I will build up a comprehensive model of human nature, all the while incorporating other models of human nature, such as the evolutionary model.
Model Contingent Epistemology
The first foundational truth is model contingent epistemology. This is the first truth because it is in line with the ultimate definition of all truth; in other words, it is not limited to my conception of human nature, it is relevant to all knowledge about our empirical reality, as it is a theory of knowledge. Truth ultimately comes down to whatever is most useful for a subjective perceiver in his attempts to understand objective reality. Models are one such useful tool. A model contingent epistemology, then, is an approach that relies on the construction of linguistic and/or visual models that represent empirical reality. All knowledge is filtered through these models. The models, as stated, are linguistic and/or visual, and they also take two forms: descriptive or explanatory. A descriptive model describes an observable phenomenon, while an explanatory model explains the phenomenon by describing the mechanisms that account for the phenomenon.
The implications of this approach are numerous. The first implication is that knowledge is not contingent on empirical reality in any direct sense. Instead, there is an epistemic barrier between the models that we construct and the observations that we make. In short, knowledge claims about our empirical reality are not certain. In the hard sciences there is a model of the hydrogen atom, which represents our empirical observations acquired through experimentation. Yet our experimental observations have not been performed on an exhaustive set of hydrogen atoms within our known universe. Despite this, the model is considered true because it is the most accurate model so far given the current set of collected data. The model is then generalized onto all hydrogen atoms, whether experimented upon or not, and we make assumptions about the nature of those atoms based on the model. The natural response to this is to point out that it’s unlikely for hydrogen atoms to suddenly start differing from the current model, but the language betrays the truth of the matter: it is “unlikely.” Likelihood does not allow for certainty [N1].
The second implication is that delineation between potential models for a particular phenomenon comes down to likelihood, since certainty cannot be achieved. In this, I am sympathetic to the epistemology of Karl Popper (1). All people have natural intuitions about the nature of our empirical reality. These intuitions are not necessarily accurate, yet they are ubiquitous and cannot be escaped. I outline the specific manner of which these intuitions, or mental abstractions, manifest in my previous post “Epistemology: The Justifiable Acquisition of Knowledge” [N2] (2). The idea behind my approach is to bring these intuitive understandings out into the forefront, represent them with a model so they can be tested in accordance with the epistemic values of predictive power, falsifiability, and parsimony. If the model can hold up to these values, then it is more likely to be an accurate representation than other proposed models; consequently, it can be considered true.
The third implication has to do with the nature of these constructed models. These models necessarily generalize. Our empirical reality provides a chaos of subtle and nuanced phenomena, and these subtleties are generalized over and simplified by these models. Depending on the phenomena being observed, these generalizations will adhere to the epistemic value of predictive power to varying degrees. Physics provides the most accurate generalizations, while the social sciences are much less precise. The most obvious examples of these kinds of generalizations would be scientific laws and theories. To be specific, I will use Newton’s first law of motion as an example. The first law states that any object in motion stays in motion, and any object at rest stays at rest. This is a generalized description of all observable motion in our frame of reference.
Newton originally conceived of this law when trying to describe the motion of the celestial bodies in the sky. As he modeled the motion of the bodies to an extraordinary degree of accuracy, he also derived that the laws applicable to the celestial bodies were also applicable to motion on earth. This is an important development to understand because before Newton’s time, people had believed that the motion of the celestial bodies was due to different natural forces than the motion of objects on earth. In the sky, the celestial bodies constantly moved in patterns; down on earth, objects fell to the ground at a relatively constant acceleration and they always came to a stop after being set into motion. By deriving that these two kinds of motion resulted from the same forces, Newton could then extrapolate his laws of the motion for the celestial bodies on to the motion of objects on earth (3).
What this indicates is that we don’t understand that Newton’s laws of motion apply to motion on earth because we can construct a perfect mathematical model of the motion of any given object on earth. We constantly have to make caveats to our calculations, like ignorance of air resistance and friction, and even when we implement those into the calculations, they assume these variables were constant, which is not necessarily true [N3]. Instead, we primarily understand that the laws apply because that is entailed by the derivation that the motion of the celestial bodies are explained by the same phenomena as the motion of objects on earth. This derivation allows for the generalization that any object in motion stays in motion, and that any object at rest stays at rest.
Finally, I want to expand upon the three epistemic values that I mentioned before: predictive power, falsifiability, and parsimony.
To the critically minded audience, the construction of models seems to be fairly arbitrary. I laid out a series of implications of a model contingent epistemology and the consequences seem to be devastating. How do we know that these models are accurate in the first place? The answer comes first and foremost to the value of predictive power. Predictive power is the value of models that have the ability to accurately predict future observations. Once a model has been proposed, an experimenter can deduce a hypothesis, or a prediction, from that model and test it to see if future observations confirm it. If this model has the capability to consistently make accurate predictions, then after an arbitrarily decided point in time, they can consider that model accurate. An example of this would be Newton’s calculations of the motion of the celestial bodies. These calculations were designed to model our empirical reality, and the model was taken seriously because the calculations allowed people to predict the placement of the celestial bodies at certain points in time. The predictions were confirmed time and time again.
Falsifiability is the second epistemic value. Falsifiability is the value of models that have the potential of being wrong, and which are therefore testable. Karl Popper gives two examples to explain the difference between a falsifiable model and an unfalsifiable model. The first example is the work of Sigmund Freud, specifically regarding his ideas about psychoanalysis. One such claim Freud made was that all men had an Oedipus Complex. This complex was a subconscious desire to have sex with one’s mother. When he wanted to prove this, he would point to the numerous outcomes in behavior for men. When men married women that looked like their mothers, this was evidence for his model because these men were giving in to the complex; when men married women that looked nothing like their mothers, this was also evidence for his model because these men were trying to suppress the complex. It should be immediately obvious to any critical thinker that there is no way to conceive of a way in which Freud’s model is wrong. Even where there are two contradictory outcomes, they both somehow support his model. In other words, his model was unfalsifiable, and could not be tested for accuracy.
Popper contrasts this example with his second example. Around the same time, Albert Einstein was proposing his theory of relativity. The theory of relativity proposed that gravity was caused by a curvature in space-time. This model had explanatory power, but Einstein was going to take his model a step further and put it to a test. He predicted that during a solar eclipse, the placement of the stars would be distorted around the eclipse due to the light travelling from the stars being redirected by the curvature of space-time. If the placement of the stars were distorted, then that would support his model of relativity; if the placement of the stars were not distorted, then that would disprove his model. In other words, you could conceive of a way in which Einstein’s model was wrong and this allowed him to test it. This is why Freud’s ideas of psychoanalysis are considered to be pseudoscience and Einstein’s ideas were accepted by the scientific community, at least until quantum mechanics came around (1).
The final value is parsimony. Parsimony simply refers to a model that makes as few assumptions about an observable phenomenon as possible. If a model makes a lot of assumptions in order to justify itself, then that increases the likelihood of the model being inaccurate. Assumptions are risks and the more risks you take, the more likely you are to fail. An example of this would be the two possible explanations for rainfall. An old explanation for rainfall would be that a god exists and that he sends the rain by his will. Another explanation would be that the evaporation of water down on earth and its collectivization in the form of clouds would accumulate water vapor in the sky; if the water condenses or the temperature drops suddenly, then the water precipitates and rainfall is the result. Setting aside the other epistemic values, the first model does not hold up to parsimony, relative to the other model. There are a series of assumptions that the first model makes that the second does not. The first model assumes that a god exists, it assumes that this god can control the laws of nature, and it likely assumes that this god has an interest in human affairs. None of these assumptions are backed by empirical observation. However, if empirical backing for these assumptions does crop up in the future the model would no longer fail according to the value of parsimony.
So, a model contingent epistemology is a theory of knowledge that filters all knowledge claims about empirical reality through generalized models. The models are linguistic and/or visual representations of our observations that are verified through the adherence to the epistemic values of predictive power, falsifiability, and parsimony.
Philosophical determinism is a position on the debate of free will. Basically, it is a model that states that all human behavior acts in accordance with determined laws of nature, instead of being free to the will of the subject. In other words, free will does not exist, and our perception that it does is merely a phenomenological illusion.
This model claims that human beings are products of the natural world that we live in and because of this immanence we are subject to the laws of nature. A prediction from this would be that the matter we are made of could be found in the natural world around us; the matter that makes us up is not unique to us. This is supported by the fact that we are made up of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, among many other elements; these are all elements found in the natural world around us. Because of this, all the laws of nature can be extrapolated onto human beings; this is a parallel to what I mentioned before: Newton’s laws of motion for the celestial bodies could be extrapolated onto the motion of the objects on earth.
Additionally, in accordance with the epistemic values of falsifiability and parsimony, the existence of a soul is rejected on the grounds that the existence of a soul is unfalsifiable and that it is an unnecessary assumption.
Once it is established that human behavior is subject to the established laws of nature, determinism naturally follows. The motion of objects act in accordance with deterministic laws and human behavior produced by our physical brain states necessarily reflects this. The one response to this would be to invoke quantum mechanics, which conflicts with much of classical physics. Some interpretations of quantum mechanics dismiss determinism as relevant to understanding nature. In response to this, I will point out that there is still disagreement about the proper interpretation of quantum mechanics even among the experts. Quantum mechanics is an unintuitive enigma that still baffles physicists to this day. Moreover, there are determinist interpretations of quantum mechanics, such as the De Broglie-Bohm theorem. At this point, we can only say that quantum mechanics is inconclusive. Additionally, the determinist assumption works on systems at our frame of reference; this combined with the fact that we need to find a model that reconciles classical physics with quantum mechanics, as opposed to supplanting the former with the latter, means that assuming determinism is not out of left field. Finally, even if the Copenhagen interpretation—or some other non-determinist interpretation—is true, this would still not be able to account for free will.
Now that philosophical determinism has been established, the next question would be to ask how human behavior is determined. What model could we construct of human beings that would accurately predict human behavior, stand up to falsification, and embrace parsimony? Human beings are biological creatures. Our biological make up, physically and behaviorally, is characterized by a collection of genes being expressed in an environment. In other words, everything that we are is a collection of phenotypic expressions. What can be taken from this is that our intuitive understanding of human behavior being a result of our nature and nurture warring with one another is false. When genes are expressed in an environment, nature and nurture are not conflicting, they are actively interacting with one another to manifest behavior (and our physical makeup). They are both necessary components to human behavior. Put simply, nature and nurture are a false dichotomy. This can be expanded to an understanding of groups of people. Cultural norms—which are shared values, beliefs, and traditions—and social structures—which are groups of people working together for mutual benefit—are the collective phenotypes of the genetic populations that perpetuate them. Similar to the expression of an individual’s behavior, the environment and our genetic make up actively interact with one another to manifest culture and society (4).
While phenotypes cannot be broken down in to their component parts, you can make comparisons between phenotypes and explain differences and similarities using two general components: a genetic component and a natural environment component. Genetics are a probabilistic framework for human behavior. The natural environment determines the rest and includes—but is not limited to—the material conditions, the climate, and geography. Individual behavior, cultural norms, and societal structures are all ultimately informed by these two foundational components. This is a general model of human nature and it provides the necessary groundwork for understanding more specific phenomena in human behavior. Before I give an explanation of a specific phenomenon in human behavior, it is important to establish the third and the final foundational truth that frames an overall model of human nature: amorality
I believe that amorality naturally follows from the understanding that human beings are biological creatures subject to the forces of natural selection. I have explained the nature of biological creatures in the last section and I will build off of that with a brief explanation of the evolutionary model. The evolutionary model rests on three principles: (a) reproduction to excess (i.e. replication of genes); (b) introduction of variant alleles into the population through random genetic mutation (and introgression); and (c) differential selection pressures on the phenotypic expressions of these variant alleles. The result is differential allele frequencies within and between populations. This model can be used to make countless predictions. To name a few, the model predicted: that all animals (and organisms) evolved from the same ancestor and are made of similar matter; that animals would all be foundationally characterized by genetic information; that these genes that, in part, determine our expressed traits, will have varying degrees of similarity between different species; that you can construct a family tree of relation between species based on the degree of genetic similarity; that you can map the genetic family tree onto the previously defined taxonomic categories, which are based on phenotype; and that you can then predict the placement of fossils in our records based on their membership to a taxonomic category. These predictions have all been confirmed.
Amorality is recognizing that our conceptions of right and wrong are merely intuitions that are part of an evolved mechanism embellished upon by cultural conditioning to conform to social processes. We evolved to be a social species; specifically, we are selfish individuals that enter into mutually beneficial relationships with others. There are certain norms that ought to be conformed to, or the society will break down due to the selfish individuals disassociating. Examples of this would be murder, stealing, and being a free rider. Since our moral sense is recognized as a mere evolved mechanism for survival in groups, it not only implies that most moral norms are restricted to an in-group—with ideas to the contrary being a recent development—but it also means that morality no longer has the transcendent qualities usually associated with it [N4]. Morality cannot be considered objective because it does not exist external to the mind, rather it is a product of our psychology and is, at best, intersubjective.
But even the claims of intersubjectivity fall short. Looking back at the evolutionary model defined above, one of the principles states that variation is introduced into a population over time through random genetic mutation. Differential selection pressures then brings about the change over time. In other words, if human beings evolved moral intuitions over time, then they would necessarily have to be characterized by variation at the genetic level. While some of the variation may be the result of environmental effects, a proportion of this variance is necessarily attributable to genetic variance. Individuals within a group will possess genes that place them at varying positions regarding their moral intuitions about a particular behavior. Some people will abhor behavior like murder; some people might be disgusted; some people may simply not prefer it; others, still, will be completely indifferent; the rest may want to kill others. All of these people have the potential to exist; evolution merely states that those that come later in the list are selected against and the alleles associated with the traits consequently have lower frequencies in the population. Moral norms, then, are generalizations enforced by consensus, rather than by metaphysical laws. That they are treated as a metaphysical normative claim is a socially enforced delusion.
In addition to moral norms being enforced by consensus, there are many less obvious moral intuitions that the majority of people do not conform to—rather, there is a divide. This often happens in both large and multicultural societies, though it is possible in any society. There are two or more sub-groups of people who hold conflicting intuitions about how society ought to be structured. Ultimately, these disagreements amount to what we know as politics. The determinant of which norms are applied to society at large comes down to power politics [N5]. The more divided the people, the less stable these enforced moral norms are.
Once the delusion of morality is acknowledged, then an important proposition is put forward, that which is important for understanding human nature. This proposition is that moral progression is an illusion. There is no moral arc to human existence as time goes by. Instead, our moral intuitions change over time due to changes in the two components that I mentioned in the last section: our genetic make up and the natural environment. As I had said then, cultural norms and social structures are informed by these two components; moral norms are embedded within culture and society. When a person claims that moral progress has occurred, they are merely looking back on a history where human beings were living under completely different material conditions through the lens of intuitions they were conditioned into in their own time.
A consequence of this temporal understanding of moral intuitions is that if the change in material conditions or natural environment that brought about the shift in morality reverts back to the original conditions, all moral “progress” would be lost quite suddenly. If you take away the abundance of resources that human beings live with in the West today, our species would form into cooperative groups and compete with one another for scarce resources. Regard for common human good would disappear.
One common objection to amorality is the claim that we evolved over time to become more cognizant of an objective morality that exists out there as a metaphysical entity. In the same way that our sensory perceptions evolved over time to become more accurate, our moral sense evolved over time to become more accurate.
This argument does not hold up for multiple reasons:
First, this is a false equivalence. Our sensory perceptions evolved over time to become more accurate because of our active interaction with objective reality. Objective reality places selection pressures on us by punishing us for not being able to perceive it properly. But this does not apply to objective morality. We don’t actively interact with this metaphysical entity in the same way that we do an objective reality. Objective morality does not place selection pressures on us and punish us for failing to understand it. If there are selection pressures, how does this work? I think the response to this would be to ask how we could evolve to understand truth. If we are only capable of understanding something by actively interacting with it, then there is no reason to believe that would even understand truth. This rebuttal fails because it presupposes that truth is a metaphysical essence existing external to the mind. There is no reason to suppose that truth is metaphysical. Truth is defined as whatever is most useful to a subjective perceiver in his attempts to understand objective reality. He is capable of accessing truth because accessing truth amounts to understanding his surroundings.
Second, I reject the assumption that we necessarily evolve over time to have more accurate sensory perceptions, let alone an accurate understanding of objective morality. If you look to other animals that have evolved in the same objective reality as we have, you will find that our sensory perceptions are not all the same. Dogs have better smell than humans, hawks have better eyesight than humans, and humans have better processors for this information than any other animal. This suggests that different sensory apparatuses evolve to suit different environmental pressures, rather than evolving towards some absolute standard of quality. Human being’s eyesight is a good as it needs to be, our smell is as good as it needs to be, and our processing ability is as good as it needs to be. More importantly, the second our sensory apparatuses no longer need to be as accurate as they are, they become an unnecessary cost of energy. If a new environment makes it so our sensory apparatuses no longer have to be so accurate, there is no reason to believe they would stay that way, as they would be selected against.
Tying this to the idea of morality, there is no reason to believe that we are more in line with an objective moral standard today, than we were thousands of years ago. What if we evolved an accurate moral sense millennia ago and have since been evolving away from it? According to this possible reality, you would be locked within your evolved and conditioned moral sense that is now fundamentally low in accuracy, so how do you know this is wrong? If you merely think the best explanation is that we have become more enlightened, what makes you think we won’t evolve out of it in the future?
Third and finally, objective morality in this argument is unfalsifiable and lacking in parsimony. Indeed, to make any claim regarding metaphysics would violate these epistemic values. How do we know our moral sense is accurate at any given point in time? How do we even know this is a meaningful question to ask? And why is this even necessary? Why should I assume that an objective moral standard exists when I could just reject it entirely and make one less assumption?
Amorality is not necessarily rejecting moral intuitions, but recognizing that intuitions are merely subjective, that the intuitions evolved as a part of a larger mechanism for reproduction, that moral norms boil down to consensus and power, and that moral progress is just an illusion.
Derivations From My Model
My model of human nature is one that builds itself upon foundation of two necessary components. There is the genetic makeup of a population and there is the natural environment the population lives in. The genetic component is informed by the evolutionary model. The natural environment accounts for differences due to material conditions, climate, geography, and more. Out of these two components come culture and society, which are essentially collective phenotypes of the genetic populations that manifest them. Moral norms, too, are embedded in the culture and society that a population perpetuates. Human behavior manifests deterministically from these two foundational components, rendering any moral progress a mere illusion of changing material conditions, genetics, and/or other environmental conditions.
This general understanding of human behavior can be used to understand more specific phenomena in human behavior. The relations between the biological sexes are one such phenomenon. To start, I will establish a few predictions about male and female nature as they are suggested by the evolutionary model. The evolutionary model accounts for the existence of biological sexes, defined according to their roles in sexual reproduction. Females produce eggs; males produce the sperm that fertilizes the eggs. We are also mammals, so females gestate, in addition to producing the eggs. Given these different roles in the act of reproduction, women and men were subject to different selection pressures. Women’s role in reproduction requires much more risk. If they are going to have sex, they will often get pregnant, have to bear the child, and then care for it afterwards; it is in her best interest to be careful with her choices and to make good with those around her i.e. be agreeable. The man, however, does not have to do any of this; he merely has to impregnate a woman and only takes the expense if he stays to help raise his children. Human males do have a general desire to stand by their children, yet their obligations relative to women are much less. These truths have been with our species for millions of years, since before we even evolved to be human. The genes associated with promiscuity and general risk-taking in women are selected against, as they predispose women to poor reproductive choices; then, the genes associated with agreeableness are selected for, as they predispose women to behavior that is beneficial to their role as a mother and to her children. Evolutionary change naturally follows. Another prediction would be that women evolved to have a predisposition towards the care of children. The genes associated with the care of children are more likely to survive than the genes that make women indifferent to children.
The relevant predictions that I will take here will be the predictions that women evolved over time to be risk-averse, to be agreeable, and to value the care of children, all relative to men. Also note that these are average differences. Remember three things: models of empirical reality generalize, variation is actually a principle of the evolutionary model, and differential allele frequencies are how differences manifest according to the evolutionary model. Categorical distinctions do not come in to this. These two predictions have wider implications for the roles that men and women have in cultural and social structures. If women are more risk-averse than men, they will be less likely to represent themselves in positions of high threat to their safety and to their children. One such position would be positions of power, such as those in politics or those at the head of various social institutions. In addition, if women are more agreeable, then they won’t be as interested or successful when it comes to dominating power structures. And if women value the care of children more than men, then they will be more likely to represent themselves in positions centered on the care of children. These are two specific predictions made by my model that can be tested.
One way these predictions could be tested would be to look at human behavior across cultures and societies. If these predictions were correct, then it would predict that the majority of the cultures and societies would be structured in such a way that men would disproportionately represent positions of power, and women would disproportionately represent positions related to childcare. The occasional exception to this rule can be accepted, as genetic effects on human behavior are probabilistic, rather than deterministic. Genetics are still the best explanation for such phenomena, as they can account for the overall rule while also allowing for exceptions. As it happens, the anthropologist Donald Brown compiled data from anthropologists from around the world and from that data he extracted what he called human universals. Human universals are basically aspects of human behavior, culture, and society that are consistent across all human groups; this is taken with the caveat that some of these universals may be near universals, meaning there may be rare exceptions, due to methodological limitations; either way, these universals provide an useful wealth of data that we can use to confirm or reject my two predictions with. Two relevant universals would be disproportionate male representation in politics and in the public realm and women being the primary caregivers of children (5).
There is another way that my two predictions can be tested. Focusing in on the West, you can look at how the relations between the sexes have changed over time in that general culture. Before the industrial revolution, civilization in the West was largely agricultural. The division of labor was incredibly low, as most people were simply farmers, and our culture and social structures reflected this (6). Men were the farmers and women were the caregivers of children, falling in line with what they were generally suited for in that simple social structure. Once the industrial revolution came around, this brought about a tremendous shift in the way society functioned. This was a shift in the material conditions. As a result, the structure of social systems and culture slowly changed to match the new conditions. The division of labor rapidly rose, introducing new jobs and subsequently creating new markets (7). This built rapidly over time, becoming more advanced and complex, leading up to the current day. Now there are a plethora of occupations for women to choose from beyond the hard physical labor of a pre-industrial society.
It is no mistake that the feminist movements demanding women’s acceptance in the public sphere happened in the wake of these developments. The correlation between these two revolutionary changes is something my model would predict, since the supposed moral progress of women in the West is just an illusion. The feminist movements were not movements of liberation for women, but natural biological responses to changing material conditions.
Additionally, my model would predict that even today, men would disproportionately represent positions of power in politics and in the public sphere, while women would both disproportionately represent stay at home parents and jobs related to the care of children. Women make up 19.1 percent of the United States congress (8); there has never been a female president in the United States; women make up 4.2 percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (9). Woman who mother children while working do so at a rate of 69.9 percent, as opposed to men, who fathered children while working at a rate of 92.7 percent (10); women make up 85 percent of degrees for health professions, such as nursing; they make up 82 percent of degrees for public administration work, such as social work; they make up 79 percent of degrees for educational work, also being disproportionately represented in the K-12 education (11). So even after all of the change, there are still hints of the original sex differences in behavior from pre-industrial societies [N6].
Note that so far I have fallen in line with my three epistemic values that I enumerated in the first section. My model is capable of making predictions about how human beings will behave around the world and how they behave over time. My model’s predictions are falsifiable, because if the likelihoods of these behaviors were flipped, or if the sexes were equally likely to behave in these ways, then my predictions would be wrong.
My model is also parsimonious relative to the opposing model: The most common model about sex differences today is that there are no, or at least a limited amount of, natural psychological sex differences [N7]. Strong social constructivists believe that gender, and perhaps biological sex itself, is constructed discursively through a self-perpetuating socialization process. We behave as if we are a defined entity, but our idea driven behavior itself is what actually defines us. As a result, any observed differences are due to manipulations by socialization. The assumptions of this model are as follows: (a) the model assumes that the sexes are equal underneath all of our socialization; (b) the model assumes that socialization primarily acts as a perversion, or a distortion, of our true nature; (c) the model primarily assumes that socialization as an explanation is mutually exclusive with a biological explanation; (d) the model assumes that society, and socialization, is divorced from genetics; and (e) the model assumes that ideas are the primary motivators of human behavior.
These assumptions are either lacking in evidence, or they are outright contradicted by the evidence. There is no reason to assume that the sexes are completely psychologically equal; the evolutionary model does not predict it and the empirical evidence does not support it. As far as I am concerned, the only reason this position is even considered legitimate is for ideological reasons.
The next two assumptions, in addition to not being supported empirically, are contradicted by the following example: there are sex differences in strength; I think this is both due to genetic differences between the sexes and due to socialization; male and female performance in the Olympics shows us that men have a much higher threshold for strength capacity; we also know that men are more likely to be encouraged to lift, while women are generally discouraged from lifting, both in accordance with beauty standards. So, for this specific example, not only is the socialization not a perversion of our natural state—rather, it is a reflection of it—but the socialization is working in conjunction with genetics to produce the disparity in strength between the sexes.
The fourth assumption fails because society is the collective phenotype of the genetic population that produces it. Society can’t exist independent of genes, so assuming that there is no connection between the two is fundamentally wrong. Additionally, in much the same way that nature and nurture are false dichotomy when discussing the behavior of an individual or the general behavior of a group, the idea that certain norms are either socially constructed or genetic is a false dichotomy. It is invariably both. The best example of this would be language. The fine details of language are obvious socially constructed, but linguists like Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker argue that humans also have an innate faculty that augments our language constructing abilities. In the words of Chomsky, “We grow language,” rather than learn it. This is suggested by the fact that there are consistencies between all of the different languages around the world. This is referred to as a universal grammar: a general structure to all language. So even language is not purely socially constructed. Genetics play a part (12).
Finally, the fifth assumption is self-evidently nonsense. If ideas are the primary motivator for human behavior, then there would be no way to account for why certain ideas are selected, as opposed to others. What makes idea A more appealing than idea B? Is it other ideas? Then why were those ideas chosen; more ideas? In order to avoid a regress of ideas, then you need to ground behavior in something else. Since human beings are biological creatures that evolved into who we are over millions of years, we evolved the capacity to produce and disseminate ideas some time along that evolutionary history. This suggests that ideas exist as a supplement to our biological nature. Ideas are a way in which we are so complex. This is more directly understood in this way: ideas are selected based on their ability to plug into our existing psychology. Our psychology, in turn, is a phenotypic expression, produced by our genetics actively interacting with the environment that they are found. This is supported by the fact that the ideological persuasions that regularly ensnare people have many things in common. One such commonality would be the simplified dichotomous characterization of human relation: the oppressor/oppressed dichotomy. Marxism has the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, feminism has men and women, the alt-right has whites and non-whites, race theory has the same two but in reverse, and so on. These ideologies are plugging into our tribal intuitions and this accounts for why they are selected for, as opposed to ideas of perfect tolerance and unity.
I think it also bears noting that the alternative model is on the cusp of being unfalsifiable; is it possible to conceive of a way that this model is wrong? Ask any promoter of this model what would convince them that the model is wrong. Chances are, they won’t be able to answer. Not only this, but it has absolutely no predictive power beyond merely saying, “human malleability is infinite!” The model is garbage in every respect.
The construction of gender, as an expression of biological sex, is best understood as compared to the construction of language. There is a general framework to all languages that is rooted in our genetics in some way; this is suggested by the consistencies across cultures. Environmental forces then determine the fine details of each language. Gender follows this same pattern. There is a general framework for gender that is rooted in our genetics; this is suggested by the consistencies across cultures. Environmental forces then determine the fine details of gender in each culture.
My model of human nature is predicated on three foundational truths, those being a model contingent epistemology, a philosophical determinist conception of human behavior, and amorality. A model contingent epistemology filters all knowledge claims about our empirical reality through generalized models that are confirmed according to the epistemic values of predictive power, falsifiability, and parsimony. This foundation of knowledge leads to the establishment of philosophical determinism, which states that all human behavior is subject to the laws of nature; human behavior is a phenotype, determined by the genetics and the environment. This leads to amorality, which states that moral intuitions are merely evolved mechanisms for functioning within groups. Moral progression is an illusion and is better explained by changing material conditions for a genetic population. Once the three truths have been established, then a model can be established to explain human behavior in more specific contexts. Generally, there are two foundational components to human behavior: the genetic make up of the population and the natural environment. Culture and society are the collective phenotypic expressions that result from these components. Moral norms are embedded in culture and society. The relation between the sexes is one specific context that can be explained using this model. The biological sexes behave in generally consistent ways across cultures and societies and temporally, demonstrating that there is an underlying biological nature to sex, even in spite of the variations.
This model can be used for more than sex differences. The idea is to provide a general model that can then be used as a tool for understanding all collective human behavior.
[N1] Indeed, it is only in the hard sciences that we can almost assuredly expect there to be no exceptions to the model. The same is not true for the softer sciences: In biology, there are hardly any universals. Try naming a single trait for human beings that has no exceptions.
[N2] This recommendation should be taken with the caveat that my views have since changed slightly. Look to the comments section of the suggested video to get the general idea. The refined version is what I elucidate here: that we have innate intuitions about the nature of our empirical reality and that these are ubiquitous and inescapable.
[N3] This is not to say that our mathematical models are useless. They have predictive power and they can be used to great effect. They do not have to be perfect for them to have utility. Also, Newton’s model for the celestial bodies is not perfect, either.
[N4] I think the reason the in-group our moral intuitions apply to is expanding is due to multiple inter-related factors. First, we are living in large complex societies. We rely on many others for their goods, and it is in our best interest to work alongside them. This fact is bolstered by the second factor, which is government. Having a centralized monopoly of power helps regulate human behavior when we are in large groups. Finally, we are living in a time of resource abundance, at least in the West. Without resources to compete for, there is less reason to compete violently with an out-group.
[N5] I characterize (political) power, the ability to control people, as having two independently sufficient components. There is the violence component. This is straightforward: people who threaten violence have the capacity to control people. Then there is the illusory component. In large part, power is an illusion. Basically, “power resides where men believe it resides.” These components alone are sufficient for power, but they can also work together.
[N6] In accordance with what I mentioned in the section on amorality, if society were to collapse, we would relapse back into a more patriarchal structure.
[N7] Be on the lookout for people who use the motte and bailey bait and switch tactic on this point. For those who aren’t familiar, the motte and bailey tactic is where someone hops between two different beliefs. One belief is very radical and hard to defend; this one corresponds with the bailey. The other belief is much more moderate and easier to defend; this one corresponds with the motte. The bait and switch is when they start out with the bailey, and once you pick that apart, they immediately retreat back into the bailey. “The sexes are psychologically equal!” “How do you explain X?” “Oh! I’m not saying that they are completely equal!” The point is that they are starting from the assumption that we are equal and are only conceding ground where they have to. Pin them on this assumption.
(1) The Logic of Scientific Discovery: https://www.amazon.com/Logic-Scientific-Discovery-Routledge-Classics/dp/0415278449
(2) Epistemology: The Acquisition of Justifiable Knowledge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZbtaFKVMSk
(3) Hidden Unity in Nature’s Laws: https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Unity-Natures-Laws-Taylor/dp/0521659388
(4) Evolutionary Psychology: A Beginner’s Guide: https://www.amazon.com/Evolutionary-Psychology-Beginners-Guide-Guides/dp/1851683569
(5) Brown’s list of human universals: http://joelvelasco.net/teaching/2890/brownlisthumanuniversals.pdf
(6) Pre-industrial societies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-industrial_society
(7) Industrial societies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution
(8) Women’s representation in congress: http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/women-us-house-representatives-2018
(9) Women’s representation as CEO of fortune 500 countries: https://qz.com/925821/how-rare-are-female-ceos-only-4-2-of-fortune-500-companies-are-run-by-women/
(10) Women’s representation in the home: http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/statistical-overview-women-workforce
(11) Women’s representation in degrees: http://www.randalolson.com/2014/06/14/percentage-of-bachelors-degrees-conferred-to-women-by-major-1970-2012/
(12) The Blank Slate: https://www.amazon.com/Blank-Slate-Modern-Denial-Nature/dp/0142003344
Evolutionary Psychology: An Introduction: https://www.amazon.com/Evolutionary-Psychology-Introduction-Lance-Workman/dp/1107622735