Sex and Society: Where do they meet?

Strange as it may seem, this is something we never talk about.

Yet we are always talking about sex.

We are individuals, standing on our own, eating on our own.  We die alone.

Yet we are part of society.  Together we endure, for centuries, for millennia, for the duration of our species.

As individuals we have needs, things that we must have or we will die.

Our society also has needs.  Without children, it will die.

Thanks to several courageous young women, I’ll discuss different aspects of this tempestuous subject.  For those caught in the cross-fire it causes great pain, and potentially ruins their lives.  For those on either side of the debate, it acts as a barrier to understanding, further polarizing our society.  This polarization acts to hinder progress in general, and only serves special interests who use these conflicts as opportunities to increase their own wealth and power.

Sex.  Society.  Where do these two meet?


Posers and Complicators

Philosophers study behavior.  Philosophy is behavior.  We study behavior.  Therefore we study philosophers.  Does this also make us philosophers?

To some degree the answer is yes.  Does this hurt?

It shouldn’t, because one of the greatest assets of becoming a student of behavior is that everything we study is a kind of mirror.  What we learn about others also teaches us something about ourselves.  Usually.

For instance, the study of mathematics is behavior.  But mathematics itself is not behavior.  Math, simply, is math.  It wouldn’t exist if humans didn’t exist, but the concepts underlying mathematics would.

As students of behavior, our study of the study of mathematics can be very interesting.  One of the most intriguing things to come out of math during the last century was something revealed by Kurt Gödel, and beautifully described by Douglas Hofstadter.  Simply, Gödel proved, mathematically, that we can’t fully understand a system from within that system.  We’ll talk more about this another day.

When we study philosophy as behavior, it becomes impossibly complex.  The problem isn’t the subject itself, but those pretending to ‘practice’ philosophy.  If you have ever been lucky enough to hear a live philosophical debate between experts, you may know what I mean.  There is nothing but misunderstanding, big words, long complicated threads of thought, and meandering statements without meaning that goes on forever.  If you want to experience the same sort of thing without as much of the boredom, visit any philosophical thread on the internet and try to follow along.

More importantly, there are never any conclusions.  Philosophers can’t know when they’ve come to a conclusion because none of them are even sure where they are.

Are these fighting words?  Do you disagree?  Let’s try an easy experiment.  Find any two philosophers – expert or not, it won’t matter.  And give them a philosophical term to define, in 25 words or less.  And let them do it separately.  Then compare the answers.  Are they going to be the same definition, or different?

I’m writing down my definition now.





I love the sofa

Philo-sophy = I love the sofa

Isn’t this what philosophy really means?  After all, it seems that almost all philosophical discussions take place in nice cushy locations with glasses of sherry or wine being passed about.  Sure, if you’re in school it’s going to be beer in the bar, but the situation is basically the same.  Safe and sound and comfortable.

Why not discuss philosophy when you are digging a ditch for water runoff?  Or restringing 12,000 volt power lines after they’ve been pulled down during a storm?  Or while practicing engine-out procedures in a single engine aircraft?

The answer is that philosophy doesn’t address real-life scenarios.  Philosophy prides itself on addressing issues that don’t matter.  At least they don’t matter today.

The problem with today’s philosophy is that there are issues that matter tomorrow, big issues that can result in our having a better world, or worse world.  And today’s philosophers don’t seem to be able to connect the dots between behaviors we execute today and those long-term implications.

The problem with today’s philosophers is that they are too comfortable.  It’s time to take their drinks away.  It’s time to push them off the sofa and out of the bar.  It’s time to make them get real jobs and still try to apply philosophy to our lives.

Or is it?  I forgot myself for a moment.  I’m supposed to be studying these philosophers, understanding them in the context of human behavior.  How they fit into society, and what their impact on that society may be.  Forgive me, Gentle Reader.

In that case, we must return to their habitat and observe them as they behave, naturally, on the sofa.

Where’s my sherry?


Closet Philosopher

Philosophy is the study of behavior.  True, it is the study of very specialized behaviors.  Philosophers study the nature of the universe, the underlying and unchanging nature of great concepts such as Justice and Truth and Right and Wrong.  But underlying and unifying all these concepts are people, you and me.  These are just very specialized aspects of you and me, therefore philosophers study behavior.

Philosophy is a behavior in its own right.  In order to do philosophy, you have to think about these things.  Thinking is behavior.  True, it’s the sneakiest form of behavior because we don’t (yet) have a way to see inside someone’s head to tell what they are thinking.  So when you see a lady lounging on the beach with a daiquiri in hand and you ask her what she’s doing, she can say “I working doing philosophy” and we would have to take her word for it.  It may be that she was thinking of something else, or may have even been napping (it’s impossible to see her eyes behind those big beautiful sunglasses and floppy hat), but there’s no way for us to know.

The reason we should study philosophy as behavior is because so many of us look towards philosophy in order to understand our world.  So many young people take philosophy courses in school, and so many other adults attempt to tackle philosophy when they have time.  But, as far as I can tell as of this writing, no one is making any great strides in understanding.  Everyone is still, just talking.

That’s why there are so many closet philosophers.  We don’t like to admit it, but many of us (especially writers and other artists) are thinking about these sort of big questions.  And it’s our duty as students of behavior to put some of our tools to use in their behalf.  We certainly aren’t going to expect great philosophical insights.  But perhaps our observations can shed some light on the WAY philosophy is studied today, not upon philosophy itself.

Are you with me?  Alright then, let’s open that closet door and join the rest of society.


Buying Babies

No black market discussion about desperate couples buying Chinese or Russian babies here.  Nor about desperate mothers having their child under conditions too horrible to consider, such that their only recourse is to give up that newborn.  No, we’re going to consider a behavioral future in which our government pays us to have kids.

We know this; as women become more educated and empowered, they choose to have fewer children later in life.  This is a behavioral trend that has been repeated in every nation, every culture, and in every possible combination of factors we can measure.  In retrospect this makes sense; why would a perfectly normal person want to have a parasite growing within them, by choice?  We know this parasite will endanger the mother’s health, shorten her life, and make her life miserable in many other ways.

The good news for our species is that these parasites can also give us great joy.  They also represent the future of our species, and can support us in our old age.  And because they are closely related to us, raised by us, educated by us, we know that they will be our close ally in times of danger.

It’s for these reasons and more that governments also like to have ‘future taxpayers’ filling the pipeline.  However, governments also know that their well educated and empowered baby-makers are having fewer babies.  What to do?

As a behavioral scientist, we can make this prediction.  The government will start to pay us for babies.  As much as they can afford.  They need these babies because they will rely on them for future work, and future taxes.

“What?” you say, Gentle Reader?  “No way!” you say?  Ah ha!  I have you now!

Our government, and many others, already do this.  In the US we get a dependency credit on our taxes.  It’s not much, but it’s still a payment.  In France you get extra bonuses and vacation time if you have 3 kids or more.  And if you look closely, every Western country has some kind of ‘incentive’ program in place.  And as fecundity rates continue to drop (look at Italy!) the payments will only increase.

So, thinking of having a baby?  How much should I make the check out for?