Getting from here to there isn’t necessarily linear

You may recall that sad comment by Scott Aaronson on his blog, Shtetl-Optimized, in which he deplored the way no respect is given to men’s biological imperative to have sex with all the women. Or more recently, Paul Elam’s bizarre appeal to badly interpreted biology and duck rape to justify MRA entitlement. It’s all of a piece, and it’s annoying: it’s reductive nonsense, in which people see a well-established set of scientific principles, and see their own complex situation, and imagine out of whole cloth a clear, simple path from one to the other. And suddenly, they’ve portrayed their messy life as the outcome of a purely determined, clockwork series of inevitable interactions, and they find refuge in the lowest common denominator of possible explanations. “It’s not my fault,” they can say, because of the way electrons interact, because biochemistry and thermodynamics, because genes, because everything follows from astronomical impacts and geology and Chicxlub at the end of the Cretaceous.

As it turns out, that’s what Scott Aaronson (with seemingly little comprehension on his part) was discussing in that notoroious comment section, in part, with someone named Amy. What started as a discussion about a grab-ass professor losing his job evolved into a lot of denial and defensiveness, and of course whenever a lot of nerds try to defend the status quo, they ultimately try to bring up Human Nature and Behavioral Science and This Is How We Evolved. I struggle myself to avoid falling into that trap, and sometimes I do anyway, but a whole gang of male nerds tends to inevitably drift into gross reductionism. Because of thermodynamics, I think, or maybe van der Waals forces.

Anyway, the provocateur behind all that argument, Amy, has now beautiful essay on all the phenomena in the middle that get ignored.

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Mary’s Monday Metazoan: UNCLEAN

After learning that some media are practicing “cultural sensitivity” and being delicate about portrayals of animals that certain religious groups found offensive, Mary suggested that today’s metazoan should be a pretty pink pig. A good idea, I thought, but you know me — I can’t just stop there. So I read Leviticus.

Boy, Leviticus doesn’t just despise pigs…it detests just about everything. All these dirty, filthy animals (except the ones their tribe happens to raise for food and milk and fur, of course) that are disgusting and unclean. They are not only unfit to be sacrificed to the Lord, and not to ever, under any circumstances, be eaten, but if you touch them, alive or dead, you are befouled; if they touch any object it is unclean and must be destroyed. This is like the anti-biology chapter of the Bible.

So, for your edification, I’ve put the complete text of Leviticus 11 below the fold, along with a sampling of examples of the animals the Bible frowns upon. You know, it’s not just pigs — the Bible really loathes birds, and all invertebrates except 4 species.

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