Your Morning Cup of Hot, Steaming Stupid

March 11, 2008

Let Kieran Healy introduce you to Satoshi Kanazawa, an “evolutionary psychologist” now blogging at Psychology Today. Here’s Dr. Kanazawa’s take on why we haven’t scored a knockout in Da War On Terra:

Both World War I and World War II lasted for four years. We fought vast empires with organized armies and navies with tanks, airplanes, and submarines, yet it took us only four years to defeat them. … World War III, which began on September 11, 2001, has been going on for nearly seven years now, but there is no end in sight. There are no clear signs that we are winning the war, or even leading in the game. … Why isn’t this a slam dunk? It seems to me that there is one resource that our enemies have in abundance but we don’t: hate. We don’t hate our enemies nearly as much as they hate us. They are consumed in pure and intense hatred of us, while we appear to have PC’ed hatred out of our lexicon and emotional repertoire. We are not even allowed to call our enemies for who they are, and must instead use euphemisms like “terrorists.” … Hatred of enemies has always been a proximate emotional motive for war throughout human evolutionary history. Until now.

Here’s a little thought experiment. Imagine that, on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down, the President of the United States was not George W. Bush, but Ann Coulter. What would have happened then? On September 12, President Coulter would have ordered the US military forces to drop 35 nuclear bombs throughout the Middle East, killing all of our actual and potential enemy combatants, and their wives and children. On September 13, the war would have been over and won, without a single American life lost.

I see that Dr. Kanazawa’s homepage notes that “A common theme in his otherwise varied work is the nature and limitations of the human brain.” Heh, indeedy.

On a note of personal regret, let me add that I’m old enough to remember when Psychology Today was actually a serious-minded magazine that tried to explain psychological concepts to a mass audience. This would be the late 1960s and early 1970s — the tail end, we now know, of the golden era of mass market magazines. A lot of what Psychology Today covered back then would probably seem quaint now — debates with B.F. Skinner, Sam Keen, R.D. Laing, primal therapy, Carlos Castenada — but its ambitions placed it a couple of stratospheres above the current incarnation, which at times looks like Cosmopolitan for people who think they’re too brainy to be caught reading Cosmopolitan.

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One Response to “Your Morning Cup of Hot, Steaming Stupid”

  1. Caveat Says:

    WWII was four years long? Then what were we doing for the other two years? (Canuck here)

    I remember when Psychology Today was worth reading as well. Along with Time, Newsweek, Esquire and a few others. They even used adverbs back then.


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