Nature’s Values

PhotobucketOur revulsion at the cruelty of the Supreme Leader’s henchmen is a powerful refutation of the postmodernist credo that anything goes. After the enlightenment discredited the authority of tradition and religion, the notion that reason or civilization could provide an ersatz God has also collapsed. The efforts of analytical philosophy could neither remove the ambiguity from language nor provide mathematics with a foundation.

While most people could not care less, much less understand, analytical philosophy and its implications for everyday life, even the most casual observers realize in the wake of the World Wars, the Holocaust, and the impotence of imperial powers that claims of western superiority have become unsustainable. Rather than rectifying liberal and nationalist abuses, Marxism has turned out to become rationalism’s most murderous effort.

During the 20th century, the idols have been knocked of their pedestal. The absence of an ultimate authority, however, does not imply that there are no standards. Only the most partisan among us will support violence against women and children. That taboo is an implication of our mammal nature, perhaps the most consequential property of our species.

No matter where on the globe we reside, what our ecological and cultural situation may be, as mammals our offspring requires adult support. Libertarian myths of self-reliant individuals better apply to precocious species such as reptiles, whose offspring is self-reliant after hatching. Children are not born self-reliant. As mammals, humans are an altricious species, which means that our offspring requires parental care.

Compared to other species, the amount of care that human parents invest into their children is extraordinary. In hunter and gatherer societies, it takes at least twelve years for a boy to contribute fully to his upkeep. In developed countries, completing law or medical training may approach three decades.

As mothers have to nurse mammal offspring, women bear a substantial competitive burden. To some degree, the burden of the pregnant, nursing, and nurturing mother has to be offset by the transfer of resources and establishment of privileges. Even though societies rarely compensate mothers entirely for their essential contributions to child rearing, violence against women is more strictly regulated than violence against men, and it is universally accepted that women require wealth transfers.

The primate anthropologist Frans de Waal shows in Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes that alpha males will only be secure as long as they can protect women and children. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, another primate anthropologist, argues that the requirements of mothering are the foundation of human cooperation.

Our mammal nature has far reaching implications for ethics and political economy. Previously, social scientists and philosophers have assumed that war is the ultimate manifestation of human cooperation. Libertarians have asserted that the best state is limited government that provides only for national defense and guarantees property rights.

These claims are no longer sustainable. Human beings are neither born as individuals nor as fighters. We are born in a state of dependence, which requires substantial investments into our offspring, which would not be possible without transfers to the nurturers.

When the powerful attack women, they become a threat to the survival of the species. That’s why the and her sisters have destroyed the legitimacy of the Iranian government. While those who want to cling to power are willing to violate taboos, they reap condemnation around the globe.

Postmodernist, libertarian, and realist philosophers and social scientists ignore humanity’s mammal nature. But the fact that a baby needs to nursed and nurtured for decades shapes the human condition in clear and obvious ways. There are many different ways to support mothers and children. But rulers or cultures that abuse mothers and children are bound to fail because their behavior threatens to extinct the group under their control.

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