your fucking attention span

“Ce qu’il y a d’ennuyeux dans l’amour, c’est que c’est un crime où l’on ne peut pas se passer d’un complice.”
“The tiresome thing about love is that it is a crime that one cannot commit without an accomplice.”

— Charles Baudelaire, Mon cœur mis à nu

Men have lower attention spans than women… except where they count:

20. Diversion during coitus. We have already pointed out (p. 384) that effective female responses during coitus may depend, in many cases, upon the continuity of physical stimulation. If that stimulation is interrupted, orgasm is delayed, primarily because the female may return to normal physiologic levels in such periods of inactivity. This appears to be due to the fact that she is not sufficiently aroused by the psychologic stimuli to maintain her arousal when there is no physical stimulation. We have pointed out that the male, on the contrary, may go through a period in which physical activity is interrupted without losing erection or the other evidences of his erotic arousal, primarily because he continues to be stimulated psychologically during those periods.

    Similarly, because the male is more strongly stimulated by psychologic factors during sexual activities, he cannot be distracted from his performance as easily as the female. Many females are easily diverted, and may turn from coitus when a baby cries, when children enter the house, when the doorbell rings, when they recall household duties which they intended to take care of before they retired for the night, and when music, conversation, food, a desire to smoke, or other non-sexual activities present themselves. The male himself is sometimes responsible for the introduction of the conversation, cigarettes, music, and other diversions, and he, unwittingly, may be responsible for the female’s distraction because he does not understand that the sources of her responses may be different from his.
    It is a standard complaint of males that their female partners in coitus “do not put their minds to it.” This is an incorrect appraisal of the situation, for what is involved is the female’s lack of stimulation by the sorts of psychologic stimuli which are of importance to the male. Such differences between females and males have been known for centuries, and are pointed out in the classic and Oriental literature. From the most ancient to the most modern erotic art, the female has been portrayed on occasion as reading a book, eating, or engaging in other activities while she is in coitus; but no artist seems to have portrayed males engaged in such extraneous activities while in coitus.
    Various interpretations may be offered of these differences between females and males. Many persons would, again, be inclined to look for cultural influences which might be responsible. But some sort of basic biologic factor must be involved, for at least some of the infra-human species of mammals show these same differences. Cheese crumbs spread in front of a copulating pair of rats may distract the female but not the male. A mouse running in front of a copulating pair of cats may distract the female but not the male. When cattle are interrupted during coitus, it is the cow that is more likely to be disturbed while the bull may try to continue with coitus. It explains nothing to suggest that this is due to differences in levels of “sex drive” in the two sexes.23 [23 As examples of the fact that the female is more easily distracted, see: [Frank A.] Beach 1947b[“A Review of Physiological and Psychological Studies of Sexual Behavior in Mammals”, Physiological Review, 27, 1947, pp. 240-307]:264 (bitches will eat during coitus, most male dogs refuse food in this situation; female cats may investigate mouse holes during coitus). Robert Bean, director of Brookfield Zoo, reports (verbal communic.) females of various species eating during coitus.] There are probably more basic neurologic explanations of these differences between females and males (p. 712).

— Alfred Charles Kinsey and the staff of the Institute for Sex Research,
Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Indiana University Press, 1953, pp. 668-669

we know what we are

Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini propound the following analogy in their letter to the TLS Editor:

Our difficulty with Darwin is very like our difficulty with our stockbroker. He says the way to succeed on the market is to buy low and sell high, and we believe him. But since he won’t tell us how to buy low and sell high, his advice does us no good. Likewise, Darwin thinks that the traits that are selected-for are the ones that cause fitness; but he doesn’t say how the kinds of variables that his theory envisages as selectors could interact with phenotypes in ways that distinguish causes of fitness from their confounds. This problem can’t be solved by just stipulating that the traits that are selected for are the fitness-enhancing traits; that, as one said in the 1960s, isn’t the solution; it’s the problem.

Matthew Cobb, a contributor to the evolutionist advocacy blog owned and operated by Jerry A. Coyne, Ph.D and a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, fancies himself to have made short work of this argument. But misunderstanding the analogy between evolving through natural selection and succeeding on the market by buying low and selling high is a clear symptom of being out of one’s mind in the following, precisely defined sense:

  1. Natural selection is said to be responsible for evolving all functions of living organisms.
  2. The mind counts among the functions of some living organisms.
  3. The mind of some living organisms is capable of making intensional distinctions such as the one between being renate and being cordate, or the one between being an even prime number and being equal to the positive square root of four.
  4. Natural selection is incapable of making intensional distinctions.
  5. Natural selection cannot evolve the capacity to make intensional distinctions.
  6. Some minds have functions that cannot have evolved through natural selection.
  7. Some functions of living organisms cannot have evolved through natural selection.

At this point, to echo Sir Winston Churchill, we know exactly what you are as a living organism; we are just haggling about something that determines your price.

Crossposted to [info]larvatus, [info]philosophy, and [info]real_philosophy.

evolution without adaptation

The high tide of adaptationism floated a motley navy, but it may now be on the ebb. If it does turn out that natural selection isn’t what drives evolution, a lot of loose speculations will be stranded high, dry and looking a little foolish. Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon. In science, as elsewhere, ‘hedge your bets’ is generally good advice.
Jerry Fodor, Why Pigs Don’t Have Wings, LRB, Vol. 29 No. 20 dated 18 October 2007