(About a 7 minute read)
Back when I was in high school, I read B.F. Skinner’s Behaviorism, and was quickly converted to philosophical behaviorism — the deterministic notion that our behavior is solely decided by all that we learn from the moment of our birth onward.
There is no room in behaviorism for the notion of free will, but neither is there room for the notion that we might have an universal human nature rooted in our genes — or even a genetically based individual nature also rooted in our genes.
So by the time I got to university I was ripe to discover that all ideas were inventions. That each idea had a history, and that there was a time before it had been cooked up by someone, and then spread to other people.
Which, of course, plummeted me like a swooping duck who is trying to be an eagle by stooping from 500 feet onto some aquatic plant — plummeted me into the exciting embrace of the slut-goddess of the social sciences, anthropology, and the concept of “culture”.
Culture is the powerful notion that our behavior can be largely determined by the things we learn that are passed down to us by the generations before us. So, for instance, the insightful notion expressed in the latest pop music video of the day that “my love for you will change less often than I change my knickers” is — despite its sweet charm — not culture in the anthropological sense.
No, the notion isn’t culture because it’s not passed down like an STD from a former generation to us.
But culture is nevertheless a powerful concept. By “powerful” I mean it explains a lot — a whole lot — in much the same sense that Theresums’ presence in Sydney harbor on any given day goes far to explain why all the ships are suddenly rushing to sea, as if pursued by a wailing banshee, for the sailors understandably fear being waylaid and forced into abject sexual slavery by an insatiable hurricane of feral feminine sexuality and depraved lusts.
Once understood, culture explains everything from the peculiar contour plowing of American farmers to the enduring sari dress of India — a perfectly beautiful dress that is nevertheless widely said these days to make younger women sorry they sometimes have to wear it when they’d rather be wearing jeans.
HAH! I slay myself!
So had you asked me around age 30, or even sooner than that, why I thought people behaved as they did, I would not have offered you moral reasons such as “Because they are industrious (or lazy)” or “Because they are violent (or peaceful)”, but I would have rather said, “Nine times in ten it’s because of their culture, and the remaining time they are most often fleeing a harbor slut.”
But I would have been wrong about culture. Quite wrong.
Yes, culture accounts for a whole lot of loving, and even a whole lot of other behaviors, but it is only part of the story. The other part is human and individual nature. The part that is just as deeply rooted in our DNA as an adorable child’s finger is firmly rooted in his nose all during his memorable performance as Rudolf in his school’s Christmas play.
Now the notion that DNA — “Gene”, to its friends — can at least in part determine such specific, complex behaviors as tool use is a relatively new one. Newer than behaviorism.
But when you think about it, it makes sense that nature would not leave some key behaviors up to the mere chance that people would continue from generation to generation to learn them wholly from scratch. Crucial behaviors like sex, or like nose-picking, seem instead to be partly instinctual, partly cultural, and even partly individual.
Again, take as an example tool use. It seems clear to me that humans have a powerful instinct to play around with things until they have figured out clever uses for them — such as playing around with their own poo until it dawns on them that flinging it at Og might be both fun and an important means of contemporary artistic self-expression.
Our raw talent for turning things into tools is refined by our culture — by what our parents and grandparents teach us about using them. Then it is further refined by our own creativity in using one or another specific tool in some unique and useful way — such as by brilliantly and admirably using a chainsaw to murder whole fraternities and sororities of otherwise rutting college students.
But forget tools for now. Think of our personalities. Think of our characteristic attitudes and behaviors in life. How much of our personalities are instinctual to us, how much are the product of our culture and how much did we cook up on our own?
A few decades ago, I would have said “mostly culture” — said it with a dangerous look in my eyes, and a hefty chainsaw in my hands, least you be such a fool as to argue with me about it. But I’ve both changed my views now, and I’m far more relaxed and tolerant these days. I no longer immaturely threaten folks with chainsaws. I immaturely threaten them with death by weed wacker now.
Weed wackers are both lighter and just as lethal as chainsaws. I have actually had one custom-designed for my needs, and manufactured in China. I call it, “The Persuader”, and I offer it to you as a useful debate tool suitable for both formal panel debates, and for those irksome uncles of yours that you see only at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Simply email me your shipping information, along with a credit card number, and a payment of $198.99, and I’ll rush your very own Persuader to you in time for Labor Day.
Yes, you too can at last feel the excitement and pride of becoming a powerful, respected intellectual and a crucial influence on other people’s thinking about matters great and small! Submit your order by midnight, and I’ll throw in for free an attachment that turns your Persuader into a sophisticated poo-flinger.
Back to work. The fact is, the internet has changed my view of human nature. Since first logging on over a decade ago, I have met dozens of people who were obviously all too like me personality-wise for me to any longer believe that either culture or individual creativity account for almost everything.
I now think that overall it’s best to think of us as a pretty even mix of instinct and culture, with a bit of individuality thrown in.
Of course, some folks have never adjusted their thinking much since the days of behaviorism. An example are some fringe feminists who fear that accepting a genetic basis for human behavior would undermine their belief that all relationships between men and women are perfectly malleable and can be changed at will.
But I myself have never in my whole life fallen prey to ideologically driven pleas to believe something merely because it’s the proper or pure thing to do. I’ve rejected every attempt to dupe me like that. And I reject the fringe feminist argument too.
No, I’ve just met too many people on the internet who are strikingly like me to any longer believe almost everything is culture. But if it’s any consolation to the feminists — some of those people are women.
It’s just a modest fact that most of the world’s attractive women are quite like me in fully appreciating my handsome visage and the pics of my imposing three-inch long, bliss-inducing mechanized love-rocket. Or so that’s what the women say once the weed wacker comes out.
And beyond that, there are even some who are like me in personality too.
Questions? Comments? Professions of shocked disbelief that any rod of lust could possibly be as long as mine is? Requests for a private session in order to verify for yourself the pleasuring power of its massive scale and amazing ability to self-rotate?