Podcast round-up

The G-spot Episode 19, Wes Unruh discusses DIY Gaming with Casey O’Donnell, a PhD candidate in the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. And more.

Alterati: Adam Gorightly part 2.

Occult of Personality: Lupa on Therioshamanism.

Phase II: Paul Laffoley part 2.

Point of Inquiry: Keith Stanovich – Robot’s Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin. New one this week. See also PI’s interview with Church of Satan high priest Peter Gilmore on science and Satanism.

Plus Ultra: Sue Shifrin-Cassidy, author of The World’s Greatest Email.

On evolutionary psychology

This interview with Satoshi Kanazawa, co-author of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters (with Alan S. Miller) reminded me of this critique of Kanazawa and Miller’s Psychology Today article by the Thistle. I meant to reply when he first wrote it, but got too caught up with Esozone stuff and forgot.

First of all I have to say that I’m skeptical of all popular science books, especially popular psychology books. I must also say that I am not a scientist, and don’t have a lot of knowledge of evolutionary psychology. Also, I’ve only read the article and interview, not the book. So Kanazawa and Miller’s work could be total bunk for all I know. That said, lets take a look a look at what the Thistle has to say.

Many of the speculations in this article are without clear source.

True. Hypothetically, more detail about how they reached these conclusions can be found in the book.

Evolutionary psychology is emphatically not science. It is a genre of speculation based on a mix of other peoples’ science and observation of cultural trends. EPs, like the sociobiologists before them, are notorious for rationalizing status quo culture as being rooted in biology. They are not researchers but armchair theorists (just like me). Thus when Frank Marlowe contends something, he is not dispelling a “mystery,” just giving his opinion.

Scientists haven’t even decided if social science really is science, nor am I sure I accept social science as science. Evolutionary psychology (or any other branch of psychology) may not live up to the strictest of definitions of science. But to call evolutionary psychology arm chair speculation is unfair. Again, Kanazawa and Miller’s research could turn out to be nothing but arm chair theory. I haven’t evaluated the research. But extensive research, rigid application of the scientific method, and peer review separate professional psychology from home speculation. A professional evolutionary psychologist must examine statistical research, make falsifiable predictions, and subject their work to review of fellow scientists. The process of evolutionary psychology is not a mere practice of saying “oh, maybe that stems from this” but a tedious process of making predictions and testing them.

But “Men also have a universal preference for women with a low waist-to-hip ratio”? [Emphasis mine.] I’ll open this up to the readers: Should I even bother to provide evidence that this isn’t the case?

I was a little surprised at how much of a response this particular bit got (see comment here). I’m also surprised no one pointed out the most obvious deviation from this “rule”: gay men. Gay men are not even attracted to women, much less blond ones. So some men are less attracting to large breasts than other men. Some men prefer chubby women. So what? The use of the word “universal” is probably the hang-up for people here. No, people don’t conform 100% to these rules. Does that make the conclusions drawn any less valid? No. Much less the entire field of evolutionary psychology.

But there is an important lesson to be learned here: we can predict the behavior of individuals based on the past behavior of individual with perhaps enough certainty to do well at gambling. But probably not well to do well at life. We may be able to accurately say “most women prefer cooking shows to sports” or “most men would rather spend money on power tools than handbags” but there will always be exceptions.

To go off on some armchair theorizing of my own: there seems to be a rise in pornography based around non-blond women with many different body types. Some of this might be due to the Internet making it possible to produce and distribute porn profitably without marketing to the lowest common denominator. But perhaps men are adapting as we become aware of the fact that just because a woman is blond and has perky tits doesn’t mean she’s actually young. Or not. I have no idea.

We are currently living through the largest wealth disparity in the history of mankind.

It’s my understanding that the middle class developed along with globalization and industrialization. It might be true that there’s a larger gap between the top 2% and the bottom 2% (or whatever) than ever before (this seems probable as there is more for the top 2% to have than ever before). But are the middle classes of “industrialized” nations not much, much closer matched? And do they not take up the majority of the population?

I can never tell if the largely male population of Evolutionary Psychologists are trying to invent and rationalize some class-based stratification of sexuality because they have a little extra money and need come up with an excuse to get with multiple partners or because they are trying to come up with an excuse for why they can’t get a date at all.

I suspect it’s the latter.

Oooooo burn!

So here’s my advice, you armchair theorists of the world. Lighten up with all the “women act this way, men act that way” talk and get out there and talk to people you actually want to have sex with as though they were people and not aggregate collections of statistically observable behaviors interpreted through the lens of your personal bias. It’s not sexy.

See above for why statistical predictions don’t make good practice in day to day life.

BTW, 100 years ago, similar genetic behavior theorists were trying to convince the populace at large that polygamy was a sign of the inferiority of the poor (they’re having all the sex, which we know because they make so many babies) and trying to get them sterilized because of it.

Scientists were saying lots of incorrect things 100 years ago. Should we discount discount science altogether because of it?

Also: Kanazawa and Miller haven’t made, at least in the articles in question, any value judgements or policy recommendations.

I’m not sure what this point has to do with “human nature.” Period. Is religious affiliation genetically coded? No.

Did you even read the article? Kanazawa and Miller say the Muslim tendency towards suicide bombing isn’t caused directly by religion, but by the absence of sex. Is that correct? I don’t know, but it does answer your question.

Ditto. Actually, I slept through the rest of these until…

What, you didn’t have a problem with the notion, expressed in point 9, that all men care about is sex? That all of our accomplishments, dreams, and ambitions are nothing more than cheap ploys to get laid?

Look, if ever there was a phrase that was designed to bait the political opposition, it is “political incorrectness.” It serves as a umbrella term meant to signal that the author is setting out to offend people, then act as though he is surprised when people get offended. Then he points the finger at them, saying, “You’re too easily offended.” Some people are too easily offended; that doesn’t make these guys any less asinine. It is always an indication that the author is trying to start some very public drama.

I basically agree. The framing of these theories as “politically incorrect” is a marketing ploy. And it seems to have worked.

To address the whole of your objection to the section on sexual harassment: I think you’re way off the mark in your interpretation of what was being said in that section. They say that women “legitimately complain” about harassment. I don’t believe they were trying to *excuse* sexual harassment (any more than they were trying to excuse suicide bombing), but try to get to the bottom of why it happens.

And that is the goal of evolutionary psychology: not to justify bad behavior, but to explain it. One can only hope that with a better rational understanding of our problems, we can find new solutions. From the interview with Kanazawa:

As a scientist, I am not interested in Utopian visions (or any other visions for society). But it seems to me that, if you want to change the world successfully, you cannot start from false premises. Any such attempt is bound to fail.

Occult of Personality

Occult of Personality is podcast about, well, occult personalities and their work and research. The current episode features George T. Mortimer, webmaster of Media Underground and author of The Probationers Handbook – A Manual of Instruction for the Student of the A.’.A.’. and The Key Of It All.

Occult of Personality.

What happened to the science-fiction future?

If this is the future, someone forgot to stock it properly. Where are the personal service robots, the moon vacations, the self-contained cities rising out of the smog? What happened to all those sci-fi prophecies? In Where’s My Jetpack? (Bloomsbury), Popular Mechanics columnist Daniel Wilson moans that ‘it’s the twenty-first century, and things are a little disappointing.’ Wilson, the author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising, begs ‘all the scientists, inventors, and tinkerers out there’ to ‘please hurry up’ (emphasis in original).

Wilson shouldn’t be so moony. Fanciful futurist visions can obscure all the neat stuff we’ve accumulated, once-wild innovations that are far cooler and more functional than jetpacks. (Microwave ovens, anyone?) They also make it easy to forget that the ultimate responsibility for choosing which technologies fill our lives lies with us, the ordinary consumers, more than any rocket scientists. Take the titular jetpack. It exists-but no one really wants it. It’s a 125-pound monster with a flight time of 30 seconds, powered by expensive fuel. The dream of individual human flight was realized in 1961, and we haven’t been able to find any use for it outside of Bond movies, the first Super Bowl halftime show, and Ovaltine commercials.

Full Story: Reason.

See also: The prescience of Max Headroom.

Poe Gravesite “Mystery Man” Revealed

For years, a mysterious man in black visited the gravesite of legendary author and poet Edgar Allan Poe, leaving three roses and a bottle of cognac at the headstone. The regular visitor became a local phenomenon, and Life Magazine even published a picture of the mystery mourner in a 1990 issue. Now, a 92-year-old man who spent years fighting to preserve the historic site of the author’s final resting place has come forward with an answer.

From FOXNews.com.

The Esoteric Hip Hop Knowledge of The Black Dot

More on the Matrix of Hip Hop:

Alterati editor-in-chief James tipped me off to a book he saw in a crazy book store tucked away in an obscure corner of Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. Beside the Aleister Crowley and Eliphas Levi tomes and David Icke DVDs was a book about a magickal approach to hip hop. After some digging The Matrix of Hip Hop website and the Hip Hop Decoded: From its Ancient Origin to its Modern Day Matrix book was unearthed.

The author – Harlem based The Black Dot – outlays a trippy occult Hip Hop cosmology, probably best expressed in the video The Five Bloodlines of Hip Hop, where we learn how our ancestors (well, maybe not mine …) came to earth through five elemental gateways, how the Golden Age was destroyed by parasitic mutants, the transformation of the elemental archetypes of communication (Hieroglyphics, Drummer, Oracle, and Dancer into Graffiti, DJ, Emcee, and B-Boy), the unifying power of the etheric pineal gland, how the ancestral bloodlines were reactivated by hip hop in 1973, how the mutants tried to use gangster rap to thwart the reactivation and the hip hop zero point singularity of 2012 where the planet will vibrate to throbbing higher dimensional beats and rhymes.

Full Story: Alterati.

See also: Hip hop as a source of esoteric reference.

Magickal Hip Hop.

Popstrology: which pop star were you born under?

Silly but sort of fun. I was born in the year of Diana Ross and Lionel Richie and my birthsong is Diana Ross and Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love.”

Few of us would deny that the pop songs of our childhood played a profound role in shaping our views on life and love, but many fail to realize that this process was already at work when they first entered a world that was fairly humming with radio waves and other, deeper vibrations in the pop universe. Who was the dominant pop star in the year that you were born? Which star and which song ruled the charts at the very moment of your birth? The science of popstrology reveals how the answers to these questions are far from mere trivia, teaching us to read the pop stars carefully for critical insights into our personalities, our career potential, and our personal relationships.


NPR interview with the author.

R.U. Sirius and Tom Frank in conversation

Online conversation between R.U. Sirius and What’s the Matter with Kansas author Tom Frank.


Philip K. Dick hits Time Magazine

Philip K. Dick is finally being recognized as a “serious” author by Time Magazine as part of a cover story on Minority Report.

Time: Philip K. Dick: His Dark Vision of the Future Is Now

Alan Moore: Comic Book Genius Turned Magician

Alan Moore is the author of such acclaimed works as The Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and is a magician to boot.

Initially Moore worked as both a writer and an artist on a detective strip called “Roscoe Moscow,” but he decided he was a poor artist and decided to focus on writing. From there he went on to work for 2000 AD and Dr. Who Weekly (as many British comic authors did…) and eventually began working on the anthology Warrior.

It was here that Moore created two of his most seminal works: Marvelman (later called Mircleman) and V for Vendetta. The former would be reprinted and continued by Eclipse, the latter would be reprinted by DC (it is now part of the Vertigo imprint).

Moore was then hired by DC to write Saga of Swamp Thing beginning with issue 20. Moore continued working for DC and produced Batman: Killing Joke and most notably, The Watchmen.

The Watchmen was a politically savvy and realistic portrayal of a super hero universe. Along with Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Moore and artist Dave Gibbons revolutionized comicsand paved the way for future mature readers series (such as The Sandman, The Crow, Preacher and many more).

However, disputes over the royalties of the Watchmen caused Moore to leave DC and vow never to work for them again. He then began his own company, Mad Love Publishing. Under this imprint he published two issues of Big Numbers. Around this time he also began two series for Tundra’s anthology Taboo: “From Hell” and “Lost Girls.” From Hell continued as a graphic novel series published by Eddie Cambell Comics.

Moore began working with rogue publishers Image Comics in 1993 and where he created 1963 which was cancelled due to low sales. Moore also wrote Wild CATs and a large amount of Spawn related material, including WildCATs/Spawn

Moore then began his relationship with Rob Liefeld and his Image off-shoot company Maximum Press (later Awesome Comics) where he worked on Supreme, Warchild, Judgement Day and other titles before Awesome comics went bankrupt.

After Awesome went under, Jim Lee’s Image off-shoot company, Wildstorm Productions (now an imprint of, ironiccally, DC Comics) offered Moore his own imprint. Moore accepted and America’s Best Comics was born. Moore has continued to write a number of books under his own imprint as well as other titles under the Wildstorm banner.

Alan Moore Fan site good starting point.

Twilight of the Super Heroes a rejected series proposal to DC by Moore

D.R. and Quinch scan page tribute to Moore and Alan Davis’ 2000 AD stories. Includes scans of an entire segment.

Alan Moore @ comicon.com lots of info and a small collection of works. Includes some performance art stuff.

Italian page a page dedicated to Alan Moore’s music, in Italian

Salon Books: From Hell an excellent article on Moore’s From Hell

V for Vendetta Shrine V for Vendetta fan site

Alan Moore interview an interview from Another Universe

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen review

Watching the Detectives illustrated annotations.

1963 annotations

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen annotations

Ralf Hildebrandt home page Watchmen annotations

The Annotated Watchmen more Watchmen annotations.

V for Vendetta annotations

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