Thursday, August 11, 2011

Can Men Be Trained?

Well, civilization depends on it so it better be possible or we are all doomed. Ed West, in his blog post today at the Daily Telegraph entitled "The riots remind us that polygamous societies are naturally violent," reflects on the meaning of the urban lawlessness in Britain the past few days and says:
When we discuss “fatherlessness” in urban areas what we are talking about, effectively, is polygamy. And countless studies have shown that, the more polygamous a society, the more aggressive its males. Polygamous hunter-gather societies are absurdly violent.

Why? Because where male parental investment is low, the qualities that define a good male mate are strength, aggression and status. Where male parental investment is high, the most important quality becomes monogamy – because without it a woman’s children will starve. These qualities are partly hereditary, and on the male side this tendency for deadbeat lotharios to produce unfaithful sons was noted long before science dared to tread its feet into the field of evolutionary psychology. Science still cannot tell us to what degree male monogamy is influenced by nature; “allele 34” may influence vasopressin, the hormone associated with monogamy in male mammals, but then it may not (and even if it influences behaviour, men can still be “trained”).

It is interesting that West uses the word "polygamy" to describe the modern welfare state underclass. I would have said "promiscuity" but it comes to basically the same thing. Men want to have multiple partners and not stay with the the mother of their children and be good providers. Whether this is done through serial divorce, polygamy or unrestrained promiscuity with no marriage in the picture at all is only a matter of degree.

I find it interesting that he uses the theoretical framework of evolutionary biology to smuggle teleology back into the discussion after it was supposedly banned by modern science. But let's lay aside the pop psychology and pop biology and translate this discussion into the language of traditional Aristotelian and Biblical morality.

In our fallen world, men have a disordered sex drive. Strictly speaking, we are perverted. Our sexual desire is indiscriminate; the mere sight of a half-dressed, half-way attractive female stranger walking down the street is enough to arouse our desire. This is not normal; this is the result of the Fall into sin because lust is a perversion of natural sexual desire. Monogamy is natural; men should find their wives attractive and other women should not provoke lustful desires at all. But alas, we are sinners not only insofar as we make evil choices but because our sinful, fallen natures make us susceptible to making such choices even when we know better.

So, when West says that maybe a certain hormone makes us lustful he is simply talking about the efficient cause. The fact that our biology makes us promiscuous in our desires does not determine by itself the true purpose of our sexual desire. The fact that male sexual desire is strong is meant by nature to ensure the propagation of the race - to ensure that we get around to reproducing. But it is meant to operate monogamously -which is clear from the fact that mothers and children need fathers to help provide for the family - and not promiscuously. The indiscriminateness of male sexual desire is the problem, not the strength of the desire.

This is the germ of truth in the argument that sex is good and the Church therefore should not be against it. Of course the Church should not be against the goodness of strong sexual desire, but like any other great good, sex can be perverted and become destructive. So the Church rightly stands against the misdirection of strong male sexual desire outside the family.

This is why one of the Ten Commandments is "Thou shalt not commit adultery" and when Jesus deepens this commandment in Matthew 5 by saying that even looking lustfully on another woman is to commit adultery in the heart he is zeroing in on the real heart of what is wrong with adultery: the direction of the sexual desire away from one's wife to other women indiscriminately - promiscuity.

Civilization depends on marriage. Civilization involves training men to overcome the weakness they inherit from Adam: the fallenness of their sexual desires. Civilization depends on the family because it depends on channeling male energies constructively in support of women and children, rather than allowing they to wander all over the place indiscriminately and gradually peter out into destructive and meaningless behaviour. A society in which marriage is destroyed inevitably descends into barbarism and poverty. Does anything in today's headlines support such a thesis?

This is not some sort of novel social scientific theory. It is what your grandmother leaned from her grandmother. It is the hard won wisdom of several thousand years of civilizations rising, leveling off, declining and dying. The reason civilizations keep failing is original sin. History looks like we should expect it to look if the Bible is true. Brief periods of success punctuate longer periods of darkness and regression. There simply is no evidence for the truth of the false doctrine of Progress. You have to be an unscientific fanatic to believe in either unicorns or Progress.

If men can be trained to contain and control their promiscuous impulses through marriage, then there is hope. But if not, our civilization is destined to join the other twenty or so civilizations that once flourished but now are matters for investigation by archeologists.

The question of homosexuality is relevant here because we often hear that we must accept all sexual orientations as fixed, unchangeable and morally neutral. Does that include the orientation to promiscuity? The problem is that if we take whatever our fallen, sinful natures incline us to do as morally neutral, then we have no reason to fight for marriage as an institution that civilizes, directs and makes constructive male sexual desire. If the homosexual should just do what feels natural at the time, so should the married man whose secretary half his age seems to understand him better than the mother of his three children. Both have equally "natural" feelings. The problem with the modern sexual revolution is that it has no moral language to talk about the need to discipline and direct male sexual desire.

West's article is part of the problem because using the language of evolutionary biology is dangerous. Darwinism rejects teleology but then smuggles a different, more destructive, even demonic teleology in the back door. It is called social Darwinism and the Nazis used it logically. Once you elide the distinction between final cause and efficient cause by naively thinking the former is unnecessary, you open the door to people concluding that efficient cause (raging hormones) should be understood as final cause. Hence, promiscuity is seen as good. The will to power is natural and therefore justifiable.

The smart people who drove God out of the public schools and who rigorously exclude the traditional shame and blame morality from the curriculum didn't foresee the possibility that those taught evolutionary biology in an amoral fashion with final cause eliminated from the equation might just draw some logical conclusions from such teaching and use what they were taught to justify a descent in barbarism.

Or maybe they did foresee it and rejoiced ahead of time at what they were accomplishing. In that case, they must think the riots in Britain are just wonderful and noble.

1 comment:

Marc said...

Thanks for the great posts recently. It's good to find some commentary on current events that gets to the roots of the issue and is not bogged down in mere policy debates.