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Against the Grain with Sasha Lilley - November 19, 2012 at 12:00pm

Against the Grain, for November 19, 2012 - 12:00pm

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Against the Grain with Sasha Lilley

Anthropologist Agustin Fuentes separates myths from facts about aggression, cooperation, human nature, men and women.

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Thank you for this

Thank you for this interesting program. I appreciate the emphasis on the similarities in male and female aggression. As a psychotherapist who specializes in family violence, I am dismayed by out current "zero tolerance for domestic violence" laws. These laws and how they are implemented are gross violations of our civil liberties. They have come to be due the the false belief that men are automatically controlling and violent and that we females are loving, nurturing, docile and easily victimized.

Research in family violence supports his contention that women are as aggressive in pair bond relationships and, slightly more than 50% of the time, strike the first blow. As he said, due to the males greater muscle mass, more serious injuries are sustained by women. Family violence is a complex phenomenon, it is not primarily due to males "innate need to be aggressive and controlling of women."

If you want a history of

If you want a history of violence and evolution that actually accords with reality, read Steven Pinker's "The Better Angels of Our Nature." Having him on the show to talk about the book would be the next step. As for some specific points, there is not a single reputable evolutionary biologist of evolutionary psychologist that thinks the "humans evolved to be aggressive" and to suggest as much is just to erect a straw man. Further, no reputable evolutionary scientist ever says that men (or women) spend a lot of time being aggressive, rendering meaningless Fuentes’ comment (issued with an air of great profundity) that humans (and their primate ancestors) spend VERY LITTLE of their time being aggressive because no reputable scientists ever claim that they do. What reputable researchers like Pinker have found is that there are indeed heritable tendencies toward aggression (in both males and females), but that the human brain also comes equipped with countervailing equipment that favors cooperation, kindness, and myriad other traits and tendencies--and that they all work together in complex concert with stimuli from the environment to produce human behavior. In response to Pinker's 2009 New York Times piece, "My Genome, My Self," Fuentes' penned a cringeworthy response (with the creative title, "My Genome is not Myself”) that begins right of the bat by completely misunderstanding Pinker in stating that Pinker "is overshooting the mark" by stating that genes play a significant role in the formation of personality. Instead, states Fuentes, "Human behavior is simultaneously biology, culture, experience and more." Well, that's exactly what Pinker says, too, that human behavior is a product of a complex combination of biology, culture, and more. Where Pinker (and other reputable scientists like David Buss, Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, etc.) get it right and Fuentes and company get it wrong is that Pinker and others correctly look at the research and see that it shows incontrovertibly that genes play a major—though not dominant, as they are often accused of claiming—role in personality. There are much better sources than Fuentes for those who want insight into human nature.

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