Monkeys and their toys, and what it means (and doesn't mean) for us

Somewhat surprisingly, Francois Tremblay is surprised by the results of a new study on primates that finds male monkeys prefer some kinds of toys over others. This suggests that "gender" differences may have some basis in sex after all.

I say "surprisingly" because scientifically speaking this conclusion is not at all a surprise or even really news. The research points overwhelmingly to innate differences between males and females, and anyone who follows this topic will already be familiar with it. The bulk of the resistance to the idea that there are innate sex differences seems to me to be motivated by non-scientific factors.

He muses: "What does this means for Anarchist views on gender relations, I wonder." This doesn't seem like a huge problem for me, since it already forms a part of my understanding of the world that there are real, innate differences between men and women other than the shapes/functions of their genitals. Everyone still has the right to live freely—science doesn't (and can't) challenge the moral basis for our system.

Of course, not every difference between men and women is innate. Our body of scientific knowledge leaves room for "gender" being distinct from "sex," we just need to remember that there are some biological bases for behavior. If our systems of thought don't acknowledge these kinds of facts about the world, we're in trouble. We can still fight the systematic oppression of women when we find it, because the shape of the bell curve for female intelligence has zero bearing on their rights.

More important things to consider here.

Note: I can already see some of the objections that people will have to this, so let me have it and don't pull any punches.

Share this


No, he didn't.

In other words, "right but I want to quibble".

If the argument started out about whether gender roles are or are "socially constructed" or "natural," then the latter presumably refers to those things which aren't derived from social construction

Arthur later stated what he was referring to and it was not that distinction. I read him right without the benefit of seeing his later explanation and I am not a psychic, so his meaning was evidently not off the wall.

If his claim is the trivial claim you attribute to him (that things that emerge spontaneously in the absence of coercion will emerge spontaneously unless coercion is applied), then he's not successfully responding to Francois's expressed concern.

He is additionally making, at least by implication, a claim that certain things that Tremblay wants to suppress are that way. He mentions hierarchies. The appropriate response to such a claim is simply to challenge it - i.e., challenge him on whether anything Tremblay wants to suppress really is that way. But that is not the response he got from one of the participants. Instead, the response challenged the triviality that things that are that way, are that way, by misconstruing the triviality.

It is as if I had written, "fat men are beautiful. Beautiful things have beauty. Therefore fat men have beauty," and the person responding had objected to the claim that beautiful things have beauty.

Re: "Natural"

In other words, "right but I want to quibble".

"Right" about what? It's true that Micha was using the term "naturalistic fallacy" in a sense other than the sense in which Moore used it. (Specifically, he used it to refer to arguments that infer something about the moral status of something from its naturalness.) But I don't have any basic problem with that kind of loose usage as long as it doesn't interfere with accurately understanding what Moore meant by the term when he used it. The "quibble," such as it is, is aimed to clarify how Moore himself used the term. Which is not an issue that Micha raised, or one that's particularly important to assessing his argument; it's an issue that you raised in the course of a reply to him.

It's certainly true that the issue of what Moore coined the term "naturalistic fallacy" to mean is tangential to this conversation. But misrepresentations of his view, especially those that are very common and very misleading, are worth correcting anyway, in the interest of accuracy.

I read him right without the benefit of seeing his later explanation

Well, no; what he said is that by "natural" he means those things which arise from a "spontaneous order." But that explanation is itself ambiguous, depending on whether he means strictly a "voluntary order" (which may very well be designed), or instead an "undesigned order" (which may very well be involuntary), or both. Libertarian writers have often used the term "spontaneous order" to refer to either, or both, or have simply equivocated between the two different meanings from one use to the next.

If he means the former, you read him right; but then the claim is unresponsive to what it was supposed to respond to. And, since that interpretation is unresponsive, it made sense for Micha to suggest, out of motives of charity, a more responsive reading.

If he means the latter, you read him wrongly, and the claim is somewhat more responsive to Francois; but then it is underargued and almost surely false.

For what it's worth, I don't think that your reading of him is "off the wall;" I'm not even claiming that it's wrong. My point is that whether you read his claim rightly or read it wrongly, the claim doesn't get Arthur very far either way vis-a-vis his interlocutors.

Equivocating over spontaneous order

Thanks, this helps explain much of the disagreement here. Let's all be clear about the use of the term spontaneous order here. It seems to me that in discussions about nature vs. nurture, spontaneous order is most likely going to be used to refer to the process of evolutionary biology, and not specifically to the market process of voluntary human interactions in contrast to government planning. The issue of coercion comes in to play when we ask how easy or difficult it would be to change human behavior, behavior that may be influenced primarily by nature, nurture, or some combination of both.

"If hierarchical

"If hierarchical relationships are natural, then preventing them from forming will require coercion."

No, I don't think hierarchical relationships are natural, and even if they were, preventing some people from NOT entering into them, as the State does, is still coercion.

"As I said, I am aware that many so-called anarchists include the fighting of hierarchical relationship in Anarchy. I am not ignorant, they are just wrong."

That's your ignorant opinion.

"Don't you think you have a duty to compensate tort victims for example?"

No, I have no such duty. If I have committed the deed, then I am responsible for my actions, yes, but responsibility is not duty.

"Do you care to elaborate what you mean by responsibility? Am I, as a coerced tax-payer responsible for the suffering of the people being killed?"

You are responsible for financing it, and therefore helping it to come to being, yes. How can anyone deny it?

"I think I should not sacrifice my legal security and my income to diminish the genocide and suffering of strangers."

Your opinion is revolting. But since tax resistance does not involve sacrificing your legal security or your income, your opinion is also entirely moot.

You are responsible for

You are responsible for financing it, and therefore helping it to come to being, yes. How can anyone deny it?

Do you think the victims have a claim against me? Could bring me to court?

tax resistance does not involve sacrificing your legal security or your income

That's juste like... your "ignorant opinion" man.

Come again?

tax resistance does not involve sacrificing your legal security or your income

I'm with Arthur here--what?

But since tax resistance

But since tax resistance does not involve sacrificing your legal security or your income, your opinion is also entirely moot.

You mean people with guns won't come to my house and throw me in jail if I don't pay my taxes? Tell me again why I'm paying taxes when I could be using that money to buy a wife to cook for me.

Francois, your definition of

Francois, your definition of anarchism appears to be the broadest one at the dance, so could you elaborate on it?

"Do you think the victims

"Do you think the victims have a claim against me? Could bring me to court?"

No, just as someone who financed a murderer's gun is not guilty of his crimes.

"That's juste like... your "ignorant opinion" man."

No, it is factual. Do you KNOW anything about tax resistance at all?

Well, I have seen many

Well, I have seen many people get into jail for failure to pay taxes. I have even seen people's life ruined because the tax system thought they hid some money.

Back where I come from, France, it's pretty bad

- merely advocating tax-resistance will land you in jail
- tax fraud is the only crime where there is no presumption of innocence, you have to prove you are innocent
- fines and penalties are collected before the trial which can last for years

I am not as familiar with the US system and it's probably less dangerous here, but nonetheless. Brown and Snipes are two recent examples that come to mind.

Yes well, North American

Yes well, North American "countries" have nothing like that at all. And if they did, then that would be all the more reason to protest.

Of course people like you can't be expected to want to put anything on the line or take any risks... right? Because risk is not a part of life or anything, and no one should ever stand for anything.

Francois, you said that tax

Francois, you said that tax resistance risks neither legal security nor income. Now you say--if I read you correctly--that those who fail to resist taxes are cowards for not putting anything on the line and taking any risks.

So what, if not legal security or income, are tax resistors risking?

Or are you simply abandoning your prior contention that there are no risks of legal security or income involved in tax resistance? Are you being vague or contradictory?

"Francois, your definition

"Francois, your definition of anarchism appears to be the broadest one at the dance, so could you elaborate on it?"

Here are some definition of Anarchy by some of its highest luminaries, and I agree with these definitions:

It is a very easy matter to tell who is an Anarchist and who is not. One question will always readily decide it. Do you believe in any form of imposition upon the human will by force? If you do, you are not an Anarchist. If you do not, you are an Anarchist. What can any one ask more reliable, more scientific, than this?
Benjamin Tucker

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the state.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

ANARCHISM:--The philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary.
Emma Goldman

I define anarchist society as one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of any individual.
Murray Rothbard

ANARCHISM, the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government - harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being. In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions.
Peter Kropotkin

None of these definitions

None of these definitions seems to imply any facts about gender relations that are both obvious and necessary beyond the obvious prohibition of rape or other forms of sexual abuse.

But do you accept them or

But do you accept them or not?

For the purpose of

For the purpose of discussion, let's suppose I don't have any semantic quibbles with them. I still don't see where they would be threatened by the discovery/fact that there are innate differences between men and women that are not socially constructed. (I'd like to point out again that there are some socially constructed differences.)