I Mimic, Therefore I Am: Democratizing Beauty and the Fallacy of Assumed Verisimilitude

I was sitting in my automobile in a major metropolitan American city experiencing another of its cyclical explosive growth spurts, ruminating on the identical swath of late twenties urban femininity jogging by me in identical Lululemon stretch pants.  As I waited for the light to turn green and lazily but predatorily watched the earnest cardioenthusiasts reduce themselves to a blurred singularity, one lycra/spandex-blended ergonomically seamed unit, I witnessed a straggler from the Pack, walking and gabbing endlessly on her social media device.   Although she wasn’t participating in the shared ritual of Health, she had likewise subsumed into the Group: Fake blonde.  Thin by today’s American standards.  One of the few minor splash-choices on an otherwise black ur-garment.  Tan high boots, makeup, sunglasses hiding the right proportion of her face.

Was she hot?  I couldn’t tell.  But she had the markers of being hot.

The markers of attractiveness are now more important than beauty itself, or at least its biological components – waist-to-hip ratio, facial structure, etc. The markers of attractiveness are socially derived from the original biological cues – a one off. Blonde hair is brighter.  Makeup hides skin flaws.  An ounce of sunglasses cover up a pound of facial structure sins.  Shaped stretchwear firms and molds curves.  Socially dictated outfits display the wearer’s ascension to a specific sexual marketplace perch.

The logic is easy.

P: I have the markers of being hot.
C: I am hot.

The assumption here, the fatal assumption, is the lack of the transitive bridge.  These mountain king snakes of women, secure in their purchasing power, are trying to trick you into assuming the missing link:

A: [marked hot –> actually hot.]

Blame Barbie.  And television.

Unattractive women tend to decry in venomous fashion the social structure behind beauty – Patriarchy!  Myth!  Irresponsible and impossible standard! – when they should be celebrating and glorifying it.  The social aspect of beauty – changing the focus from the underlying biological traits to the one-off markers – democratized beauty.  It made it accessible to otherwise ugly women. You can be hot now by acquisition.  You no longer have to be actually attractive.

Once the social aspect takes over, the standard can change. Beauty on a biological scale is what’s primally healthy and virile. Beauty as a social standard can move. We who shed tears at the parade of fatties have Barbie to blame – she showed that the trappings of attractiveness could be faked, which in turn allows us to move the goalposts.  Real women now have curves.  Your granddaughters may be prized for their hideousness.


Larry Summers and The Wrong Questions: Ad Hominem and The Perils of Searching For The Wrong Causal Conclusions

When Larry Summers was President of Fair Harvard, he dared to suggest that women just might not like math and science.
His logical process flowed something like this:

P: Women are participating in and producing scientific insights at a lower rate than men.
P: We’ve instituted programs to boost female participation that have been in place for multiple academic generations.
A: [Effects of social pressures, then, should have been largely ameliorated for girls that would have been interested in pursuing the sciences.]
C: Maybe women just hate science, or somehow aren’t biologically equipped to thrive in it.

The reaction was swift and merciless. Every response was that Larry was wrong because he was biased, and that he shouldn’t be allowed to continue spouting his hate – in essence, an ad hominem flanking maneuver designed to forestall further exploration of his conclusion.

Let’s ignore, just for a moment, whether Larry was right, and focus instead on the fallacies in the reaction. Ad hominem means “to the man,” and refers to an attack on the source of an argument rather than the merit of the argument itself.

Why, though, is ad hominem fundamentally a fallacy? Sure, it doesn’t speak to the validity of the conclusion, but why? To figure out what’s really underlying the fallacy, we need to ask a slightly reworked question:

Was Larry Summers’ conclusion correct? Notice how I didn’t ask if Larry was correct, although they admittedly coincide. We’re after the logic behind the statement, not the logic in judging the man. Ergo the reframe.

Unfortunately, the critics asked the other question: Was Larry Summers correct? And by the logic of the reaction, it doesn’t matter. Larry’s critics are following a different logical path:

P1: There are few women in science.
P2: If girls hear that they don’t like science or are innately unable to do science at the highest levels, they may not pursue science.
P3: Larry Summers told girls they might not like science or might be bad at science at the highest levels.
SC: Larry Summers’ question may have the effect of dissuading girls from science.
A: [Low female participation in math and science is BAD.]
SC: Larry Summers is causing BAD.
P4: We can stop BAD by castigating its source until it no longer has the ability to comment.
A: [Stopping BAD is GOOD.]
A: [The inverse of P2 is also true.]
C: If we silence Larry Summers, GOOD will occur, mainly because more girls may participate in science.

This reaction is problematic, in no small part because it never answers Larry’s question in the first place – which is not only the point of the academic endeavor, but also goes directly to the heart of his critics’ final assumption, and thus their ultimate conclusion. If we were to design an actual logical framework to test his conclusion, we’d do it like this:

1. Is Larry Summers’ conclusion true? In other words, are women actually less inclined towards science, or worse at it at high levels?

2a. If 1 is true, why?
2b. If 1 is true, should we attempt to raise female participation in the sciences?
2c. If 1 is true AND 2b is true, how do we best go about raising female participation in the sciences?

3a. If 1 is false, what in the data is suggesting 1 as a conclusion?
3b. If 1 is false, why else is there low female participation in the sciences?
3c. If 1 is false, how do we best go about raising female participation in the sciences?

Note that once you assume 2b, or that female participation in science is GOOD, the ultimate question converges. Aha! If the ultimate question remains the same, than Larry’s critics were right! The answer to his now-intermediate question doesn’t matter!

Wrong. Why? Because.

Because is the operative term here. Because indicates a causal conclusion. Look at 2c and 3c – our ultimate questions. Those are asking for causal conclusions: whatever factor is underlying 2a and 3b, once properly addressed, will cause a rise in female participation in the sciences. Conversely, properly dealing with the root causes can give us the necessary feedback to evaluate our conclusions, by testing our underlying assumption. Causal conclusions always have a built in assumption: this cause, and no other, is really the cause of this effect. And, to hammer a point home, we can’t properly conclude anything without showing our assumptions to be correct.
Look back once again at Larry’s critics’ reasoning above. See the real conclusion? Social messages cause girls to not participate in the sciences. Is it true? How would we ever know?
Here’s the real fallacy behind the Larry Summers ad hominem witchhunt: Larry was asking to find causal conclusions just like his critics were, but he was willing to explore all the data – questions 2a, 3a, and 3b – to find his cause. His critics, meanwhile, assumed his statements were their cause and then cut off potential inquiry into the subject, which left them no room to test the adequacy of their assumption.
Ironically, testing the robustness of a causal conclusion is, well, science. It must be excruciating to rail against a conclusion with venomous fervor, only to fail in the realization that you were strengthening it all along.[1]

[1] For those of you paying attention, which logical fallacy am I committing in this statement?


Advertising: The Logical Half-Truth

The advertiser’s mission is to blur correlation into causality. You see the image displaying and correlating to the wet dream it represents: the big house, beautiful wife, dutiful children, abundant pussy and marble countertops, electric tin openers and sexy cars, garden parties, friends, haters, trappings. The correlation is always there, just as you’ve known it. The trick is fooling you. Yes, the rich man has a Lexus and a trophy wife who poses well for snapshots in between slogging down Xanax and banging the pool boy. The correlation is there. The trick is fooling you into thinking the Lexus causes the lifestyle, the car manifests the money and the dimepiece, while the converse is just as likely. Or just as unlikely. The correlation – the image/premise you’re shown – is just the snapshot. There’s no logical validity to the resulting causal conclusion. The car doesn’t cause the snatch. The marijuana doesn’t cause the teenage rebel. No. The cool kids just happened to start smoking, like the rest of your peers. And when you’re 45 and the luster wears off both wife and car while the payments accelerate, your cool peers will be rolling joints again. But make no mistake. It’s all an illusion. A correlation. If you find yourself thinking “if only,” then you’re already lost.

So there’s the dirty secret, laid bare. Those of you smirking from atop your modern substitutes for destriers about how advertising works on the insecure are blind to the seat you’ve been sold. Insecurity is one half-truth; even the most transcendentally grounded of us enjoy luxuries. Advertising is far more insidious: it works on us because we’re logical enough to follow the hinted correlation, but too illogical to realize it has no causal validity.

Blame animal programming. Pattern recognition is so crucial to survival that we focus on the correlations, until the crocodile your hindbrain sees lurking in the primordial swamp is now indistinguishable from a Fendi handbag. Unsheath your modern survival tool and sign the oncoming merchant copy.

The sickest part is that it also works in reverse. Even when you understand the correlation doesn’t mean causality you want the underlying cause so you can show the correlation to others on the understanding that they’ll fuck it up, that they will view the snapshot and see the indicator of success as the effect. Success caused the wealth indicators, they think. No. It was want and debt finance. The more insidious link is that the wealth indicators cause them to consider you successful and so – fake it till you make it, right? – the object causes the success. And if the illusion repeats often enough, it might come real.


Cause Belli: Device and Social Media Interruptions at the Dinner Table

The problem isn’t that the devices are causing your kids to have a lower attention span.  The problem is that the devices allow your kids to be in contact with people and activities they find more interesting and more entertaining than you.  Three generations ago you were the most interesting thing to occupy their attention, so you got it.  Two generations ago it was the radio.  One generation ago it was the television, blaring out the Howdy Doody theme song you can still sing by heart as you blindly absolve your own sins.   But these kids today…

The device allows them to be physically present while still seeking an alternate form of communication – and, in fact, one that ISN’T disrupting.  The radio, television, phone line of yesteryear required auditory pollution plus physical proximity to elsewhere.  You had to go to it and listen to it.  Texting, on the other hand, is silent.  The kid sits at the dinner table.  Present, if not entirely present.

None of that, however, speaks to the underlying problem: you are not the shiniest object in their field of vision.  Their friends are, which has always been the case; it’s just that now they can interact with them at minuscule transaction costs.  The device was invented to monetize the greater relative interest in communication with the outside world.  Read that again: their lower attention span FOR YOU causes the device.  Not the other way around.  To pretend otherwise is not only logically flawed, but narcissistically so:

P: my kids used to talk to me
P: I bought them iPhones
P: now they’re sullen assholes who ignore me to text their little sullen asshole friends
A: [I can’t be any less interesting!  It’s not me!]
C: It must be the device!

This isn’t to say that removing the device can’t be a solution to the problem; as long as you’re still more entertaining than staring blankly at the wall, you’ll get their attention.

 

At least until dinner’s over, and they can run up to their rooms to get back to whatever attention whoring kids do these days on Facebook.

Wait!  I give them attention!
Not from the source they want.  Never from the source they want.


Sexual Marketplace Fallacies: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Comments Section

In a fit of poor judgment and time-management skills, I was once again reading an Internet comment feud between the evolutionary psych Keyboard Alpha Crew and their feminist rivals in demanding equal access to bleat egotistically for anonymous attention. [1] 

The debate centered on a repackaged regurgitation of the brutally obvious animal kingdom concept that men seek women with high reproductive value for mating purposes.  Both sides reacted predictably.  The Chateau-goers lozzolllolled and butthexed a-plenty, while the Jezzies set their snark levels to unbearable and in the process repeated a tired meme:

“Oh well since WOMEN ARE CLEARLY ALL JUST PROSTITUTES WHO ONLY EXIST FOR SEX, why not get a hooker and leave the nice girls alone?”

Ignoring that snark is an immature and functionally retarded method of argumentation – in essence, a constant reductio ad absurdum – let’s cut through the attitude and break down the underlying fallacy in what that statement was supposed to convey: if men want women for their reproductive value, that means solely for sex. 

P: men want women with high reproductive value
A: [reproductive value is exclusively equivalent to sex] 
C: OMG they just want sex! 

So why not just get a hooker and leave the nice girls alone?  Well, for one, hookers unearth the fallacies of the above argument. 

Hookers don’t actually have any reproductive value to the average man, since they show no commitment, zero fidelity, a high probability of paternity fraud, and, most importantly, zero homebuilding ability. Hookers exist to provide men sex without reproductive benefits, and yet the greatest tell than men want more than sex is the rise of GFE prostitution: the fantasy that a girl is actively willing to engage in homebuilding and consensus. That’s reproductive value to men, and it only partially includes sex.  Oh, are you surprised that those screaming an argument steeped in equivocal nonsense are mouth-shitting out an exclusivity fallacy as well?  Let’s continue. 

Reproductive value includes a shitload of other factors, mostly related to actually raising and caring for the children – communicating, building a household, nesting, consensus, nurturing, all that other shit women love to bleat on about women being better at.  The next time you can tell a woman is engaged in some A-1 doublethink is when she’ll tell you in one breath about how the modern workplace is now the arena of women, who TeamworkTM better and Solve Problems TogetherTM better regardless of the evidence right in front of your face that anything that remotely involves producing or manufacturing an actual product or innovation came from an industry which is still 95% male despite hunting salaciously for any females with a modicum of talent, and then turn around and tell you that men still only value women for their vaginas, which American women have colluded to market-dump anyway.  They’re missing the contradiction and missing the point.  One involves crowing and beatifying the traits that make up women’s reproductive value as not only innate but obvious to the entire business world, while the other involves denying, dismissing, and conveniently forgetting those same traits, or, at the very least, claiming that half the population is mistaken as to their existence.  Which is ironic, considering women continue to demand affirmative action to break into the business world on the grounds that it’s still run by men.  The logically bereft conclusions that data suggests are that (a) men can only appreciate a woman’s collaborative traits in the office, and not the home, which makes you wonder how men can see reproductive value in the office long enough to adequately support a sexual harassment claim; and (b) only powerful men can see those traits in the first place.

Except that I’m ignoring the real point, which is that now men are not only barred from making negative comments about women, but positive comments as well.  In other words, only women are allowed to voice opinions on women.  And women, of course, can voice opinions on men, too, since women are somehow simultaneously kept down by men and surpassing men, and thus either allowed to vent against their oppressors as an aggrieved class or allowed to drop pearls of noblesse oblige on the poor males to encourage their growth.

Girl power!

[1] Just like that handsome asshole who lives in my mirror.