Insulting Utes on Twitter

October 9, 2017    By: Geoff J @ 5:07 pm   Category: Evolutionary psychology,Life

Hey look! I just noticed I still own this blog… nice.

Ok, I knew I still owned NCT. I just haven’t posted here in more than three years. These days I mostly get my online fix by talking BYU sports on Twitter. (See @GeoffJbyu) The thing about rooting for BYU on Twitter is it means I get to argue with Utah Utes fans a lot. Of course arguments in the 140 character format of Twitter mostly consists of taunting and insulting. I get a lot of Ute challengers appearing in my Twitter mentions these days because I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for being highly optimistic about BYU (which infuriates and frustrate many of them to no end) and for being somewhat pugilistic in my responses to Ute antagonists who come after me. My go-to insult with most Ute fans is to call them imbeciles in one form or another. Some variations on that theme have included: moron, dimwit, stupid, dumber than a box of rocks, illiterate, fool, dullard, ignoramus, simpleton, pea brain, numbskull, and knucklehead. Such insults tend to get under their skins, which of course is my goal.

Not sure if I should feel bad about all the online arguing and insulting or not. I normally don’t. Although sometimes I get the feeling the rough-housing has gotten too heated and sort of feel bad when that happens.

Anyhow, in some ways the whole Twitter fighting process is kind of cathartic. I have long been a bit of a fan of evolutionary psychology theories that posit that we have all sorts of instincts that we’re born with as a result of the evolutionary history of humans. (And yes, I do think human evolution can square with a Mormon cosmology just fine with the right assumptions). So I kind of suspect this sort of raw tribal fighting is coded into all of our DNA. It sure seems to come naturally to us all.

If that’s the case, seems to me that the low stakes, almost ritualized sparring associated with this literal Team Blue vs Team Red serves as a useful and largely harmless outlet. It is undoubtedly a lower stakes fight than the ugly political fighting we see between Team Red (conservatives) and Team Blue (liberals) so many other places these days. Likewise, the religious fighting I used to do with anti-Mormons here and elsewhere online seemed to have higher stakes (even if that was just my impression).

I recently saw someone make a prediction for the future of humanity that went something like this: “Unrelenting Tribalism”. I tend to agree. I think tribalism is probably in our DNA. So I’m hoping that getting my tribal warfare fix via low stakes sports team rivalries is actually a useful pressure release valve rather than just an excuse for me to be rude to a bunch of anonymous Ute fans online.

If unrelenting tribalism is in our blood and inevitable, maybe finding a low stakes outlet like a sports team rivalry for it would be good for all of us. Especially if we could then let cooler heads prevail when it comes to higher stakes issues in society.

A Genealogy of Self-Interest: Machiavelli and Hobbes

This is the third post in my series where I appropriate Jerry Muller’s lecture series “Thinking About Capitalism” to bring socioeconomics and intellectual history to Jonathan Haidt’s social-psychological account of political differences. Briefly, on the right is a very rough, graphical depiction of Haidt’s tripartite political taxonomy. On the left is my taxonomy which is (with huge caveats that I won’t elaborate upon here) the vertical mirror image of Haidt’s:


Paternalism = Theocratic Chiefdom (Traditional Segmentation)
Abs. = Absolute Monarchy
Const. = Constitutional Monarchy
Individualism = Libertarianism (Classical Liberalism)
Welf. = Welfare State Liberalism
Soc. = Socialism
Fraternalism = Anarchism (“Utopian” Communism)
Mult. = Multi-Cultural Humanism
Civ. = Civic Republicanism (Aristocratic Humanism)
Nat. = Nationalism

To be sure, no 2-dimensional political spectrum could ever include every nuance or exception to every rule.  As such, these circles and boundaries are suggestive, high-level generalizations intended to function as entry points and primers rather than the definitive, last word on any such position. (more…)

The Meaning and Morals of Marriage

August 29, 2016    By: Jeff G @ 12:48 pm   Category: Ethics,Evolutionary psychology,Life,Money and getting gain,Mormon Culture/Practices,Politics

Terrence Deacon’s classic work, The Symbolic Species, is a very interesting synthesis of 1) Peircean semiotics, 2) a socio-anthropological account of morals and 3) a very traditional understanding of marriage.  It is thus quite surprising to me that this confluence of symbols, morals and marriage within a text as widely cited as Deacon’s has gone almost entirely unnoticed within the LDS community.  Starkly put, if ever there was a naturalistic and historical argument to be made for the sanctity of marriage, this is it.

Since my goal is primarily to explicate rather than appropriate Deacon’s ideas, the quote-to-exposition ratio in this post will be quite high. Before getting to those quotes, however, let me first summarize Deacon’s account, if only to provide a roadmap for what is to come:

All and only humans have been able to combine 1) cooperative hunting, 2) male provision of offspring and 3) sexual exclusivity.  The means by which this unstable combination is maintained is marriage.  Marriage is a uniquely human practice that is totally different in kind from the pair-bonding found in other species.  By way of analogy, pair-bonding is to associative thought as marriage is to symbolic thought: While the former are concerned with the regularities that an individual can predict to hold between two objects (smoke and fire), the latter involve a collective assignment of meaning or prescription of status upon both A) an object with respect to many other objects and B) those many objects with respect to it.

Thus, while pair-bonding can be understood as a negotiation of child-rearing responsibilities between the male and female (and them alone), marriage involves the collective ascription by an entire community of not only these roles and responsibilities but also those toward an entire social network that crosses kinship lines.  Stated differently, in the same way that a change in the symbolic meaning of one sign also changes the symbolic meaning of and between 20 other signs, so too a change in the moral/marriage status of one person also changes the moral status of and relations between 20 other people. Deacon’s theory, to summarize, is not merely that symbolic thought closely parallels marriage relations; rather, it is the much stronger claim that the latter was the evolutionary origin and cause of the former. (more…)

Honor, Dignity and Victimhood

January 20, 2016    By: Jeff G @ 5:19 pm   Category: Ethics,Evolutionary psychology,Mormon Culture/Practices,orthodox,Truth,Universalism

This post that consists of three parts:  First, I will give a brief review of Jonathan Haidt and his publications – this section is optional and can be skipped if you like.  Second, I will summarize “Microaggression and Moral Cultures,” an article by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning concerning the nature of microaggressions and the emergence of “victimhood” culture – this is the main meat of the post.  Finally, I will use Nietzsche’s master/slave moralities to apply Campbell and Manning’s paper to the differences between victimhood culture and the gospel.


Punishing Those without Choice

July 8, 2015    By: Jeff G @ 6:57 pm   Category: Apologetics,Bloggernacle,Ethics,Evolutionary psychology,Mormon Culture/Practices

Posts at both BBC and W&T, have recently claimed that God would never – or perhaps ought not – punish somebody for something they did not choose to do.

While this claim does make perfect sense to our modern ears, the scriptures tell a very different story.  In the Bible, for example, God promises to visit with vengeance various people and the generations that come after them when the latter clearly did not have any choice in the matter.  (Adam and Eve are the most obvious, although not the only example.)  We also read of Jesus cursing a tree for not giving fruit when it was not in season. (It was Voltaire, I believe that thought this proved Christianity was absurd.)  Indeed, we might say that the whole problem of theodicy is that we cannot understand why some people are allowed to suffer when they have seemingly done nothing wrong. (Both Job and Joseph Smith were great examples.)  The fact of the matter is that even if something is not anybody’s choice, this does not mean that God is pleased with it or that we should be perfectly accepting of it.  Claims to the contrary are of modern and quite secular origin.

This is not, however, a straight forward argument for or against the acceptance of SSM within the church.  If anything, mine is an argument that arguments should play no role in deciding the issue, and if the church fully accepted SSM tomorrow my point would still remain the same.  My fear is not SSM but that arguments like those at BBC and W&T are attempts to domesticate and constrain the church through science (showing SSA to be innate or not) and human reason (people should or should not be punished for what is innate).  No matter what science says, or what makes sense to our modern sense of morality, we should follow the Lord’s righteous prophets in whatever it is that they say the church should or should not do.


Pitching Modesty

June 18, 2013    By: Geoff J @ 3:37 pm   Category: Evolutionary psychology,Modesty,Mormon Culture/Practices

Has anyone seen this video before? It is a young entrepreneur pitching her line of modest women’s swimwear. She obviously has a financial incentive here but her arguments are provocative and sound pretty compelling to me. She cites studies that claim that the more skin women show the less the male brain tends to see them as people. Some sort on evolutionary instinct thing I would guess. Check it out:

So what do you think? Do you find her arguments persuasive? (See her business site here:

Godel, Universality and Darwin

July 2, 2012    By: Jeff G @ 10:58 am   Category: Evolutionary psychology,Truth

If I were to be stranded on an island with nothing but three books to keep me company there is no doubt that two of them would be Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and Godel, Escher, Bach.  When taken together, these two books provide almost the entire thrust behind this post-scientistic, neo-pragmatic mind-set in which I currently find myself. (more…)

The Problem of Evil and Evolutionary Biology

November 30, 2011    By: Matt W. @ 10:30 pm   Category: Evolutionary psychology

I have discussed the problem of evil in the past[1], and what I feel is the Church’s unique position on how the atonement itself acts as a theodicy, God responding with everything he can to our suffering. I still stand by the general premise of that post, that the universe is governed by eternal laws independent of God [2] and that man has free agency and thus God is not accountable for him. [3] I also still hold that through the Atonement of Christ, God is doing all he can to alleviate our suffering.

I’d like to speculate a little bit more about why God isn’t doing more to alleviate suffering. Here is where some theories associated with evolution come in. [4] (more…)

Please Keep Telling the YW to Be Modest for the YM

June 16, 2011    By: Geoff J @ 8:04 pm   Category: Evolutionary psychology,Modesty,Mormon Culture/Practices

The title of this post is a play on Julie’s recent post over at T&S. I have been stirring up trouble over there so I figured I’d use this unusual lapse in my blogging apathy to continue over here. [Update: Because I was mirroring the title of Julie’s post in my title people seem to be jumping to wild conclusions about what this post must mean. Please read the actual post and at least my comment #2 before concluding you know what position I am taking here. The title probably would more accurately read “Tell the YW to Be Modest because of the nature of men”. But that would not have been as fun so I didn’t use it.]

I actually don’t disagree with everything Julie says there. But I think the headline and much of the premise is misguided.

Here is the fundamental question: If there were no sex in the world would there be any reason for modesty? (more…)

“Men do everything they do in order to get…” (Or, they did it for the nookie)

February 23, 2010    By: Geoff J @ 5:35 pm   Category: Evolutionary psychology

The claim by evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa is that “men do everything they do in order to get laid”. Although Kanazawa is clearly going for some shock value with his claim, I must admit that I find his arguments compelling.

Kanazawa’s most recent in the series of blog posts supporting his claim is this post discussing the Tiger Woods sex scandal. Here are a few quotes that summarize the theory:

In the very short time since I have been a “blogger” at Psychology Today, since February 2008, there have been numerous sex scandals of politicians, athletes, and other celebrities: Eliot Spitzer; Silvio Berlusconi; David Paterson; John Edwards; Mark Sanford; David Letterman, and now Tiger Woods. This is nothing new. The only puzzle is that some of them had to pay for the sex. … (more…)

On Eternal Minds, Evolution, and Avatars

January 10, 2010    By: Geoff J @ 1:45 pm   Category: Evolutionary psychology

No doubt many of you have seen the movie Avatar which is breaking all kinds of box office records this winter. For the three of you who don’t know, in the film humans in the future are mentally connected to test-tube-grown alien bodies and essentially act as pilots to those bodies in the story. This idea of minds powering bodies is pretty common in religions around the world where the assumption is that each of us is a spirit piloting a mortal human body and as soon as our body dies our spirits essentially hit the eject button and move on. This concept is certainly at home in Mormonism where it is not uncommon to hear analogies about hands and gloves to describe the relationship between spirits and mortal bodies.

So with that as a backdrop, it is not entirely clear to me what the theoretical objection to the idea of human evolution among Judeo/Christian religionists would be. The stereotypical objection is that evolution means human bodies “evolved from monkeys”. As far as I can tell the awfulness of this prospect is supposed to be self evident. But of course the awfulness of the idea that our ancient biological ancestors were “monkeys” isn’t self evident. If we are just pilots of these present bodies then why should we care at all how these bodies came into existence in the universe? Now I can understand that Biblical literalists would be concerned about having to give up some hyper-literalism in their interpretations of the Bible to accept human evolution and they might not like that. But beyond that it seems to me humans shouldn’t really care much how our species came to be on this planet.


February 25, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 9:54 pm   Category: Ethics,Evolutionary psychology

Guest post by Kent White

Mormonism offers a worldview which gives meaning and purpose to my life. I love the gospel I find in the Mormon scriptures and I believe that the way I understand that good news has led me to choose two basic axioms which filter my interpretations of my experiences and desires in this life:

  1. I am here to be of service, not to seek to be served.
  2. All these things shall give me experience and shall (eventually) be for my good as a result of:
    1. Christ’s power to heal all the pain I feel
    2. Christ’s power to heal all the pain I’ve caused others but can’t fix myself


“Can’t find a better man” — An EP take on polygamy

December 16, 2008    By: Geoff J @ 7:41 pm   Category: Evolutionary psychology

As the next in my series on evolutionary psychology I wanted to highlight the unusual take that Satoshi Kanazawa gave on the subject of polygamy over at his blog. Here are some excerpts:

Contrary to popular belief, most women benefit from polygynous society, and most men benefit from monogamous society. This is because polygynous society allows some women to share a resourceful man of high status. George Bernard Shaw (who was one of the founders of the London School of Economics and Political Science where I teach) put it best, when he observed, “The maternal instinct leads a woman to prefer a tenth share in a first rate man to the exclusive possession of a third rate one.”

In contrast, most men benefit from monogamous society. Given a 50-50 sex ratio, monogamous society virtually guarantees a wife for every man, even a third-rate one. Under polygyny, some third-rate men may not find a wife at all, or, even if they are lucky enough to find one, their wife will not be as desirable as the one they can secure for themselves under monogamy, because under polygyny more desirable women would have become the second, third, or tenth wife of more desirable men.

The exceptions to this rule are highly desirable women, who benefit from monogamous society, and highly desirable men, who benefit from polygynous society. A highly desirable woman can marry a highly desirable man under any circumstances, but under polygyny she’d have to share her desirable husband with other women, whereas under monogamy she can monopolize him. A highly desirable man can acquire multiple wives under polygyny, but must confine himself to only one wife (albeit a highly desirable one) under monogamy.


Evolutionary Psychology (EP) Overview — A universal human culture?

December 15, 2008    By: Geoff J @ 11:06 pm   Category: Evolutionary psychology,Mormon Culture/Practices

I have been fascinated by the theories and posts at this guy’s blog. I didn’t know much at all about evolutionary psychology before this week, though I was not surprised that such a field existed. Here is the definition of evolutionary psychology we get from the wiki:

Evolutionary psychology (EP) is a pseudoscience that attempts to explain mental and psychological traits—such as memory, perception, or language—as adaptations, that is, as the functional products of natural selection or sexual selection. Adaptationist thinking about physiological mechanisms, such as the heart, lungs, and immune system, is common in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology applies the same thinking to psychology.

Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior is generated by psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments. They hypothesize, for example, that humans have inherited special mental capacities for acquiring language, making it nearly automatic, while inheriting no capacity specifically for reading and writing. Other adaptations, according to EP, might include the abilities to infer others’ emotions, to discern kin from non-kin, to identify and prefer healthier mates, to cooperate with others, and so on. Consistent with the theory of natural selection, evolutionary psychology sees organisms as often in conflict with others of their species, including mates and relatives. For example, mother mammals and their young offspring sometimes struggle over weaning, which benefits the mother more than the child. Humans, however, have a marked capacity for cooperation as well. (more…)

Strange Bedfellows: The Family Proclamation and Evolutionary Psychology

December 13, 2008    By: Geoff J @ 10:24 am   Category: Evolutionary psychology,Mormon Culture/Practices

Satoshi Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist and he blogs over at Psychology Today. Earlier this week he published a post called “How to be happy” (Hat tip to the BCC sideblog). Here are some relevant excerpts:

What can evolutionary psychology say about how to be happy? …

I would say that the best thing for people to do to become happier is to get in touch with their animal nature … Recognize and accept that we are animals. We are all designed by evolution to be certain way, and no amount of denial or fighting will change our evolutionary legacy and its implications.

One of the things that evolution has done is to make men and women very different. … One of the ways that men and women are different is in what makes them happy.

Forget what feminists, hippies, and liberals have told you in the last half century. They are all lies based on political ideology and conviction, not on science. Contrary to what they may have told you, it is very unlikely that money, promotions, the corner office, social status, and political power will make women happy. Similarly, it is very unlikely that quitting their jobs, dropping out of the rat race, and becoming stay-at-home dads to spend all their times with their children will make men happy.