Thinking about Incest 11: Saving the Viennese Witchdoctor

If social conservatives bridle and high school students snicker at the sound of Freud’s name, the reaction of intellectuals is hardly more sophisticated. They almost divide into two exclusive and exhaustive groups: those who read “Freud” as “fraud” and those who read it as “joy” (its meaning in German). Patricia Kitcher, Freud’s Dream: A Complete Interdisciplinary Science of Mind (MIT Press, 1992), p.4.

One of the more simultaneously entertaining, puzzling, and frustrating parts of the anthropological literature on incest and the Westermarck Effect is the back-and-forth between those defending, and those attacking, Freud’s views of incest, childhood sexuality, and spelling out their relationship to the Westermarck Effect. Freud and Westermarck themselves were clearly at odds, and we have seen much to suggest the basis for that tension.

For Freud (like Levi-Strauss), incest taboos mark a firm line between animal nature and human civilization: animals, and our own animal side (aka “the id”, amongst other things), are incestuous, a nature whose tensions for family life gives rise to the need for incest taboos. This is part of a broader view of the pervasiveness of sexuality in the human condition, Continue reading

Thinking about Incest 10: Rules, rules, rules

One way in which the Westermarck Effect might be conceptualized is in terms of E.O. Wilson and Charles Lumsden’s idea of an epigenetic rule. Such rules are, in their words, “genetically determined procedures that direct the assembly of the mind …[that] comprise the restraints that the genes place on development (hence the name ‘epigenetic’)”. I’ve never taken this idea very serious, in part because they suggest that these are the bridge between human nature and morality in general, and in part because of the “genetically determined” bit. But let’s put that aside for now, and think about the Westermarck Effect as an innate constraint not on the mind per se but on how we direct our behavior. What we have so far is something like this:

if two individuals are intimate childhood associates, having been raised together for a number of years from early in life, then those two individuals will have a psychological aversion to sexual relations to one another and/or will lack erotic feelings for one another, and will, as a result, avoid incestual behaviors with one another when they are sexually mature.

  • offspring will show the same resulting aversion to any parent by whom they were raised via the same or a similar childhood association mechanism.
  • parents will show the same resulting aversion to any offspring they have raised via an attachment mechanism.

But we want to put this more simply. Maybe: Continue reading

Thinking about Incest 9: Avoidance and Taboo

Suppose that some version of the Westermarck Effect exists, so that intimate childhood association inhibits sexual attraction later in life. What is the relationship between such an effect, and the social rules and conventions in place constituting incest taboos? One of the in-house disputes amongst those adopting a biosocial approach to inbreeding, incest, and incest avoidance focuses on just this question. Continue reading

A lot of Enhancement

Two recent issues of Journal of Evolution and Technology (JET)
link here
Becoming More Than Human: Technology and the Post-Human Condition Special Issue (Volume 19 Issue 1)

Intro: Sky Marsen “Introduction”

1-2: Cory Doctorow: “Leaving Behind More Than a Knucklebone”

3-7: Patrick D. Hopkins: “A Moral Vision for Transhumanism”

8-16: William Sims Bainbridge: “Cognitive Expansion Technologies”

17-27: Samuel H. Kenyon: “Would You Still Love Me If I Was A Robot?”

28-34: Riccardo Campa: “Pure Science and the Posthuman Future”

35-41: Gregory E. Jordan: “The Invention of Man: A Response to C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man”

42-50: Joseph Jackson: “The Amorality of Preference: A Response to the Enemies of Enhancement”

51-61: PJ Manney: “Empathy in the Time of Technology: How Storytelling is the Key to Empathy”

62-66: George Dvorsky: “Better Living through Transhumanism”

67-72: Nick Bostrom: “Letter from Utopia”
Human Enhancement Technologies and Human Rights (HETHR) Special Issue (Volume 18 Issue 1)

i-vi: James Hughes: “Introduction”

THE ETHICS OF ENHANCEMENT

1-9: Patrick Hopkins: “Is Enhancement Worthy of Being a Right?”

10-26: Fritz Allhoff: “Germ Line Genetic-Enhancement and Rawlsian Primary Goods”:

27-34: Martin Gunderson: “Enhancing Human Rights: How the Use of Human Rights Treaties to Prohibit Genetic Engineering Weakens Human Rights”

35-41: Patrick Lin and Fritz Allhoff: “Against Unrestricted Human Enhancement”

42-49: Fred Gifford: “Ethical Issues in Enhancement Research”

50-55: Aubrey de Grey: “Our Right to Life”

DEMOCRACY, DIVERSITY AND ENHANCEMENT

56-69: Gregory Fowler and Kirk Allison: “Technology and Citizenry: A Model for Public Consultation in Science Policy Formation”

70-78: Laura Colleton: “The Elusive Line Between Enhancement and Therapy and Its Effects on Health Care in the U.S.”

79-85: Anita Silvers: “The right not to be normal as the essence of freedom”

86-93: Martin Gunderson: “Genetic Engineering and the Consent of Future Persons”

COGNITIVE ENHANCEMENT

94-107: Martine Rothblatt: “Are We Transbemans Yet?”

108-115: Mark Walker: “Cognitive Enhancement and the Identity Objection”

116-123: Eva Caldera: “Cognitive Enhancement and Theories of Justice: Contemplating the Malleability of Nature and Self”

124-128: Dawn Jakubowski: “Cognitive Enhancement and Liberatory Possibilities of Antidepressant Therapy”

129-142: George Dvorsky: “All Together Now: Considerations for biologically uplifting non-human animals”

New Rising Sun Production: The Ghost of Opposite Gulch

The good folk of Opposite Gulch, a tiny hamlet in the Badass Badlands of Southern Alberta, thought the sandstorm was bad– the worst sandstorm in 20 years, burying the crops and hayfields—but there’s worse. A ghost is haunting the town’s only remaining business, the Zappapalooza Saloon and Massage Studio, scaring staff and customers into hightailin’ it. And the worst fate of all has befallen the title character, a ghost with a curious connection to the town and great skill in optometry. Find out that fallen fate at The Ghost of Opposite Gulch!

Rising Sun Theatre is pleased to announce its world premiere production of The Ghost of Opposite Gulch on Friday May 29 @ 7 pm and Saturday May 30 @ 2 pm at SKILLS, 10408-124 St, Edmonton, SE corner entrance. Admission is pay-what-you-can.

The Ghost of Opposite Gulch is a new western spoof written by Gerry Potter and Cindy Burgess, assisted by the members of Rising Sun Theatre. Rising Sun is an Edmonton barrier-free theatre company known for its productions of The Giraffe Who Thought He Could Fly and Stories About Us, which recently garnered the group the Telus Courage to Innovate Award at The Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts. Songs for Ghost are written by Burgess, Potter and musician Craig Buchert. Sam Varteniuk directs a cast which includes Geneva Auger, Barbie Cartier, Don Downie, Ron Hansen, Daniel Hughes, Liz Racko, Cindy Rego, Katie Saric, Joan Treleaven and Wes Treleaven. Music performed live by Craig Buchert. Set and props are designed by Stewart Burdett, costumes designed by Cindy Burgess, and stage management is by Stephanie Leaf. This new play is supported by the Lee Fund of the Edmonton Arts Council and SKILLS. The play runs about 30 minutes. It has some adult jokes and may not be suitable for young children.

Rising Sun Theatre Workshop is a barrier-free theatre group committed to providing opportunities for people with developmental and other disabilities to have their voices heard and stories shared. Continue reading

Health Care Reform and the Disability Community

from Ari Ne’eman, President of the Autism Self-Advocacy Network, Health Care Reform … at the Huffington Post

As we speak, Congress is deliberating on vast and important changes to the system of health care in the United States. This issue is one of crucial importance to all Americans, but of particular interest to those Americans who interact with public health insurance more than almost any other group — people with disabilities. Ranging from veterans with disabilities who receive care through the Veteran’s Administration health care system to the many low-income disabled adults who are eligible for Medicaid, the disability community interacts with the public health care infrastructure in the United States in a wide variety of ways. As we consider how to reform, streamline and expand that infrastructure through any of a variety of means, it is incumbent upon us to remember the key issues for making sure that health care reform doesn’t leave disabled adults and youth behind. Read the rest here .

Thinking about Incest 8: Primate Evidence and Anthropology

In the last post, I introduced a “Westermarckian cluster” of views about incest and its avoidance, the first two of which were:

  1. incest avoidance is widespread in the nonhuman animal world, including amongst nonhuman primates
  2. humans and their closest primate relatives alike have a natural psychological aversion to incest that plays a causal role in both incest avoidance and, in the case of humans, incest taboos

and which I want to take up in this post. In earlier posts (like Thinking about Incest 5), I have spelled out more precisely how I think 2. should be understood, and here I want to focus on 1. I draw chiefly on three recent reviews of the relevant primate literature: the comprehensive review of Andreas Paul and Jutta Kuester, “The Impact of Kinship on Mating and Reproduction” (in Chapais and Berman, Kinship and Behavior in Primates, 2004), and the more succinct summaries of Anne Pusey “Inbreeding Avoidance in Primates” (in Wolf and Durham, Inbreeding, Incest Avoidance, and Incest Taboos, 2005) and Bernard Chapais, Primeval Kinship: How Pair-Bonding Gave Birth to Human Society (2008).

Primatology is a relatively young discipline, with study of the nature and structure of primate societies being undertaken systematically only in the past 40 years. Since then, documentation of the rarity of reproductive sex and mating between at least some close relatives has provided strong evidence for the existence of one or more mechanisms facilitating this outcome. One of those mechanisms relates intimate association during the pre-reproductive years of at least one member of a dyad to later sexual preferences and behavior during the reproductive years of an individual, i.e., it is just the sort of mechanism posited by Westermarck. Continue reading