October 23, 2015

James Taylor explains that he wasn't using heroin "seeking ecstasy or oblivion. I was looking to get normal."

"The way I've come to feel about it is that I was probably, you know, like, rowing of some Viking boat across the seas in a former life, and, you know, when you sit me down in a sort of suburban context, I just, you know, my nervous system and my body and my entire wiring is just not ready for it. You know, I'm ready for something else. I'm ready for crisis. I'm ready for war. I'm ready for, you know, to battle the elements, but I, or to, you know, raid villages or something or defend villages, but I'm not comfortable, you know, on the couch watching baseball, no."

James Taylor — who's been off heroin for 32 years — talking to Marc Maron, who's been off alcohol for 15+ years.

I took the time to transcribe that quote — not easy, with all the disfluencies — because I think human beings have no end of troubles because our nervous system evolved under conditions entirely different from the world where we must live. We want our conveniences and comforts — the couch and the television and the absence of marauders — but we are organisms designed for a much rougher existence.

This is the second post of the day where I wrote something that cued a John Lennon song in my head. (Here's the first.) Now, what's playing — from "Instant Karma" — is "Why in the world are we here? Surely not to live in pain and fear." That's a beautiful, important insight, but from an evolutionary standpoint we are here to live in pain and fear. James Taylor is here because his ancestors rowed the Viking boat across the seas, raided and defended villages, and battled the elements, and the nervous system he inherited makes him feel ready for tasks that are not presented in his suburban home with the couch and the television.

He used heroin to blunt that useless, out-of-context readiness for things that are never going to happen. He wasn't, he said, "seeking ecstasy or oblivion." He was "looking to get normal," to medicate his nervous system into what would belong on a couch in front of a television showing the play-battles of other men, men who are using their out-of-context readiness in a more sensible way.

When he got off heroin, he threw himself into physical exercise, working out aggressively to produce the natural endorphins — "endogenous morphine" — that made him feel normal.

(I know some of you may think I'm getting this wrong, because he said "rowing of some Viking boat across the seas in a former life," and that seems to mean he thinks he's a reincarnated Viking, not that he's thought about evolution. But elsewhere in the podcast, he talks about evolution, and that's the basis for my assumption that "a former life" is used by the poet poetically, as a metaphor indicating evolution.)

79 comments:

john mosby said...

Dude could have let himself be drafted instead of getting a bogus mental diagnosis if he was looking for action over the seas.

Good musician - crap role model.

JSM

Ann Althouse said...

James Taylor was an in-patient in a psychiatric hospital when he was a teenager. He really did have problems with his nervous system. Later, he used heroin, which seemed like the solution, and he's quite aware now that it wasn't.

Nonapod said...

Great, now I have the terrifying image of a longboat full of James Taylors cutting through the mist towards a village of unsuspecting Northumbrians. All while chanting "I've seen fire and I've seen rain"!

Steven said...

And yet somehow, the vast majority of us, who are the products of the same evolutionary process as him, have never seen any need to resort to heroin.

Amexpat said...

There's a disconnect between his mellow music and they way he feels he's wired. I doubt that Vikings would be singing "You've got a friend" while rowing in their long boats.

Maybe he should have played heavy metal instead as an outlet for his aggressive, combative side.

rehajm said...

In another life James Taylor would be there to provide food for other animals.

Ann Althouse said...

"And yet somehow, the vast majority of us, who are the products of the same evolutionary process as him, have never seen any need to resort to heroin."

But my point is that we have struggles based on the evolutionary design for the wrong setting. The question is how has this affected you. I am challenging you to think about that, and I'm disappointed if you reaction is to simply distance yourself from the heroin addicts. Your life didn't take you there, but other things have happened to you. We were not designed to live the way we do. How does that affect us?

James Taylor happened to go into a musical milieu where heroin was available and using it, he found it did the trick for the needs that he felt. Other things happen to other people. You can focus on how we are different, but I am saying look at how we are the same.

Ann Althouse said...

"There's a disconnect between his mellow music and they way he feels he's wired. I doubt that Vikings would be singing "You've got a friend" while rowing in their long boats."

They weren't living in modern America and smoothing all the edges off with heroin.

Michael K said...

That entire family was crazy and the question is whether their childhood was so weird that it was responsible or if it was just hereditary. I doubt he could be self supporting in any field but music. Heroin and music go back at least to Gene Krupa who my parents knew well.

Amexpat said...

"They weren't living in modern America and smoothing all the edges off with heroin."

My point was that instead of trying to smooth all the edges of, he should have found an outlet where he could express the rough edges. Lots of rock musicians made a good living doing so.

Laslo Spatula said...

'Fight or Flight' used to be the primary human condition.

Now it seems to be mostly 'Flight'.

I am Laslo.

tim in vermont said...

Althouse has always had a soft spot for ectomorphs. But I just put that jibe in because I couldn't think of any point of disagreement either with James Taylor or Althouse.

\

Laslo Spatula said...

We have traded the sword for the butter knife.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

Alcoholism is a rational response to living in a world we are not made for.

No drinks with umbrellas though: that defeats the purpose.

I am Laslo.

Scott said...

A lot of people use alcohol, weed, and other drugs to self-medicate in trying to cope with the pain of life. I can definitely relate to that. It's pretty common. I'm working on a project in my spare time that I hope will help people find alternatives.

buwaya puti said...

This is very reasonable.
There have always been people who sought out the hard and violent life. It seems to me though that there are such outlets today. It just takes some initiative and imagination to find them (does not always goes with the desire for a life on the edge).

rhhardin said...

not easy, with all the disfluencies

In fact people are explicitly wired not to hear disfluencies, which makes transcribing them all extremely difficult. There has to be much rewinding and replaying in each phrase.

That's true even with broadcasters on the air, let alone normal conversation, which is almost all dysfluency.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

James Taylor, Viking raider? I think the monks can rest easy.

Now Paul Simon--I saw a Simon & Garfunkel concert about 5 years ago and that guy had some surprisingly-large biceps.

Carter Wood said...

Video of "Toiler on the Sea" by The Stranglers, whose early roots were in Sweden,seems apropos.

BarrySanders20 said...

“Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo---which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead.”

Neil Stephenson, Cyrptonomicon

We are all stupendous badasses. Heroin addicts a bit less so as the ones who cause their own deaths remove themselves from the gene pool.

What shall I do with my stupendous badassery today?

Avoid heroin.
Express thoughts digitally.
Obtain food and drink. Consume same.
Fly to Atlanta. Drive from there.
And always be ready to confront evildoers with extreme violence if necessary, since I am wired to do it and think myself capable of it if required.

YoungHegelian said...

...but we are organisms designed for a much rougher existence.

Perfectly true, but so's my house cat, & I don't hear him complaining about it.

From the viewpoint of our ancestors, we live like gods. The other day I found 10lbs of Russett potatoes for $1.98 at the grocery store. 10 lbs all the way from Idaho! For me! For practically nothing! Clearly, the Hand of God was at work here, for there could be no other natural explanation for such a windfall.

I know that James Taylor is describing his mental state & not making learned historical commentary. But, for myself, oh, I'm am so grateful to have been born in an age where I have the leisure to develop ennui, to wrestle with Bataille's Accursed Share, instead of having to fight off marauders & having to watch my children die one by one from malnutrition when the harvest failed. Perhaps, future generations will look back on us as living in "hard times", too. Or, maybe, things will fall apart, and they will see us like Homer sees his heroes in the Iliad, products of an age that far surpassed their own (which in Homer's case, writing in Dark Ages Greece, it really was a technological & social drop from Mycenaean Greece).

In any case, thanks for the image of Vikings pillaging & raping Northtrumbia while singing "You've got a friend" & "Fire & Rain". That'll help get me through the day, for sure.

tim in vermont said...

Of course people don't evolve. Either they survive and produce children, or they don't. But I don't worry about people born for a harder life. I am pretty sure one is coming. Asteroid impact, climate change(The current interglacial is somewhat long in the tooth), nuclear war, and the simple fact that it is far easier to destroy than to build. Men built for those times will come back into evolutionary fashion soon enough, tomorrow, or in a few thousand years are both "soon enough."

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...But my point is that we have struggles based on the evolutionary design for the wrong setting. The question is how has this affected you. I am challenging you to think about that, and I'm disappointed if you reaction is to simply distance yourself from the heroin addicts. Your life didn't take you there, but other things have happened to you. We were not designed to live the way we do.

Well, let's think deeply about this. In evolutionary terms isn't every organism designed for the last environment its ancestors survived and not the current enviornment--in the sense that the environment is constantly changing and organisms only change by either surviving or dying out there is a constant mismatch between an organism's design and their current environment. The only exception that comes to mind are things that don't evolve much over long stretches of time (alligators, something like that I guess), but for everything else we're always using the design that happened to work in the environment of the past in the current environment. Maybe it seems more extreme to you because people's environments have changed so quickly (in evolutionary time scale) but (especially if you consider the impact man has had on the world) I'd say lots of plants and animals around today are living in a world they're not designed for.

FullMoon said...


Steven said... [hush]​[hide comment]

And yet somehow, the vast majority of us, who are the products of the same evolutionary process as him, have never seen any need to resort to heroin.


Gee whiz, Steven. Maybe if heroin were as easy to get as alcohol or marijuana
more people would resort to it. And maybe if James Taylor was as tough as you, he would not have used it. Of course, 35 years clean must deserve some credit.

Clean or dirty, his music is boring

Dr.D said...

Why does anyone care for the opinions and foolishness of drunks and druggies? It is nice if they knock their habits, but that certainly does not give them any superior insight into life. Those to be honored and respected are the ones who deal with real life as it comes, not hiding in a haze of drug induced fog.

What an educated fellow he is, with his constant repetition of "you know"!

David Begley said...

How can a guy who speaks like that be a songwriter?

My lasting impression of Taylor is of him playing "You've Got a Friend" with John Kerrey standing next to him. Some political thing. Sad and pointless.

Sebastian said...

"not easy, with all the disfluencies"

Indeed, and coping with other people's "disfluencies" is one of my own "struggles." My primitive hunting-and-gathering self is just not wired to cope with the you-knows of borderline-insane addicts.

"But my point is that we have struggles based on the evolutionary design for the wrong setting. The question is how has this affected you. I am challenging you to think about that"

OK. I thought about it. I concluded that the premise is wrong. Of course, you could interpret rejection of phony made-up "struggles" (or ideas about such "struggles") as evidence of an "evolutionary design" not fitting the "wrong setting." If so, you got me.

David Begley said...

It was in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo murders by the Islamists.

That worked.

Carol said...

that guy had some surprisingly-large biceps.

Oh, piffle. You can do that with PEDs. It's for show biz now.

Ann Althouse said...

"My point was that instead of trying to smooth all the edges of, he should have found an outlet where he could express the rough edges. Lots of rock musicians made a good living doing so."

As with sports — referenced in the post — men find ways to redirect the ill-designed nervous system. Yes, you could play rougher sounding music. Would that help with the out-of-context fear and pain or make it worse? I haven't noticed that heavy metal musicians were especially good at keeping away from drugs.

Ipso Fatso said...

If I had to listen to him regularly, James Taylor's music would drive me to shoot or snort heroin.

Ipso Fatso said...

"We have traded the sword for the butter knife."

I am Laslo.

James Taylor has traded the sword for the guitar pick.

With Apologies to Laslo

Ann Althouse said...

"'not easy, with all the disfluencies' In fact people are explicitly wired not to hear disfluencies, which makes transcribing them all extremely difficult. There has to be much rewinding and replaying in each phrase."

I've noticed that many transcripts are just wrong, because the transcribers just keep going and do their best apparently without being too fussy. I had to rewind at least 20 times to do this little passage. If I had to do the whole episode, I just couldn't. If it were my job, I'd have to do what I would know was an inadequate job. That would be so disturbing I might need to take heroin just to get to normal.

jr565 said...

Why is this a discussion of evolution? Whatever his nervous system is, that's what it is. It may be in many people's nervous sysstem to be wired for war, which may be why we have so much of it. But if you go back to the Vikings they too were primed for war. If you back back before the Vikings humans were still fighting one another. Where then was the evolutionary change? That may simply be human wiring.
Survival of the fittest would require animals to fight and kill other animals. Some are simply wired to deal with that more so than deal with peace or lack of conflict. But it suggests that all animals have some degree of wiring that allows for this. Some more than others.

Ann Althouse said...

As I've pointed out before:

"'There is a surprising amount of work and creativity involved in finessing the stream of words into intelligible and readable sentences and paragraphs while still maintaining an accurate, near word-for-word transcription.'

"Janet Malcolm has written about this issue (in connection with getting sued for the way she, as a journalist, put quotes together). It's the afterword in this book."

Ipso Fatso said...

It's funny, James Taylor, in my opinion, has one of the wimpiest voices in all of pop music history. Yet, he views himself as this bad-ass-Viking-killer-dude trapped in a modern USA body. Interesting contradiction. On the other hand, Aaron Neville, who also has a wimpy voice, was a very bad dude back in the day from what I hear. Interesting contradiction.

Ann Althouse said...

More from the book I just linked to (by Janet Malcolm):

"When we talk with somebody, we are not aware of the strangeness of the language we are speaking. Our ear takes it in as English, and only if we see it transcribed verbatim do we realize that it is a kind of foreign tongue. What the tape recorder has revealed about human speech — that Molière’s M. Jourdain was mistaken: we do not, after all, speak in prose — is something like what the nineteenth-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s motion studies revealed about animal locomotion. Muybridge’s fast camera caught and froze positions never before seen, and demonstrated that artists throughout art history had been “wrong” in their renderings of horses (among other animals) in motion. Contemporary artists, at first upset by Muybridge’s discoveries, soon regained their equanimity, and continued to render what the eye, rather than the camera, sees. Similarly, novelists of our tape-recorder era have continued to write dialogue in English rather than in tape-recorderese, and most journalists who work with a tape recorder use the transcript of an extended interview merely as an aid to memory—as a sort of second chance at note-taking—rather than as a text for quotation. The transcript is not a finished version, but a kind of rough draft of expression. As everyone who has studied transcripts of tape-recorded speech knows, we all seem to be extremely reluctant to come right out and say what we mean—thus the bizarre syntax, the hesitations, the circumlocutions, the repetitions, the contradictions, the lacunae in almost every non-sentence we speak. The tape recorder has opened up a sort of underwater world of linguistic phenomena whose Cousteaus are as yet unknown to the general public."

Unknown said...

Vikings were rapists as were most marauders; it's part of the package. Somehow I think I would have had a greater chance of being a circumstance-based heroin addict if I had to deal w the threat of being raped by Vikings as a teen, or killed as an adult, than now. While I can get the mediocrity crazies when I see yet another strip mall the same as anyone, modern life has been nothing but positive for me and most females.

So I don't give a fuck about his nervous system.

And as a half-Irish person, ancestrally,I know what I'm talking about. Maybe he should develop his mind and look for his jollies in new discoveries. Might get rid of the "you know" stutter.

DKWalser said...

Althouse -- I find your theory interesting and worthy of discussion. Many of us are ill-suited by evolution (and/or divine creation) for modern life. Asking young boys to sit still for hours on end in a classroom is asking them to do something that is counter to their nature. Society's response is to drug a large percentage of school-age boys and young men rather than provide them with an educational environment better attuned to their needs. The result is a generation of men who have fallen behind the educational attainments of their peers from prior generations. This does not bode well for society.

Similarly, we've told young women that they can have it all. They can be promiscuous without remorse, defer marriage and children, have a great career, and be emotionally healthy. Maybe some women can, but the overwhelming majority cannot. Such a lifestyle is incompatible with how they were wired by evolution. It's no wonder surveys show that women today are less happy than were their peers in prior generations. We're asking women to be something that they are not "designed" to be.

chickelit said...

James Taylor? The diplomat sent to soothe the French?

I'm enjoying the links to Kipling!

jr565 said...

I was watching a documentary on you tube about the contract killer The Iceman. He was interviewed by a psychologist who asked him to interview him. So Kuklinski asked the doctor "well what do you make of me?"
And the psychologist said he had two flaws or traits that seemed to make him who he was. one was that he was a sociopath. He had no real attachment to anyone. And two, and more interestingly, he seemed to have absolutely no fear. For non sociopaths this might lead someone into driving race cars or stunt cars, but because he was also a sociopath he ended up being a killer. And his two traits ended up serving him very well as a murderer.
Taylor may also be the way he is because of the flaw in his wiring. But so what? A lot of kids get put on Ritalin, be iase they are always fidgety. That may simply be James Taylor's state. He can't sit still. He just has it worse than a lot of people.

Amexpat said...

As with sports — referenced in the post — men find ways to redirect the ill-designed nervous system. Yes, you could play rougher sounding music. Would that help with the out-of-context fear and pain or make it worse? I haven't noticed that heavy metal musicians were especially good at keeping away from drugs.

True a lot of heavy metal musicians were into hard drugs. But were they doing so for the same reasons that Taylor gave? I think for many of them, drugs were part of a wild, hedonist lifestyle and not taken as an attempt to fit into a "normal' life. The Vikings enjoyed and abused the drugs that were available to them (alcohol, mushrooms) even though they were living life in an "evolutionary correct" way.

Grackle said...

I am still living the life of a marauder. Kiev, Moscow, Tashkent, Cape Town, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Bangkok. That is just the last six weeks. I enjoy burning the occasional village, but rape just isn't necessary. Where life is close to the bone, the girls are willing.

F.G.

Freeman Hunt said...

That's why many people like horror movies and rides. They provoke a feeling that most people in modern, civilized places almost never have.

Nichevo said...



(I'm surprised you missed the reference, ann!!)

10/23/15, 10:28 AM

Not much of a reader of real literature. Too many DWEMs.

William said...

It seems a grandiose explanation for a self indulgent act. If his evolutionary well springs had caused him to gorge himself in Dunkin Donuts and to become obese, would you be as forgiving. Obesity causes far less damage to those who surround you than heroin addiction, but it is generally not viewed as a romantic aspiration to a better, more authentic life.

DKWalser said...

Why does it always seem to come down to the tired sex stereotypes here??

"Me Man, You Woman..." It's almost as though you're denying the existence of evolution to support your "pet" theories...


Huh? Evolutionary anthropologists have long speculated that the stereotypical attitudes men women have about sex and family is due to evolution. Their need for protection and support in childbearing and rearing caused women to value strong, productive, men. The desire to know that the children they were providing for were their own caused men to prize a women's fidelity. These are fairly standard explanations; the explanations are based on evolution. Whether you believe the explanations or not (I don't), the view that men and women have differing attitudes about these things is NOT a denial of evolution.

On the other hand, feminists have long argued that gender is a social construct. There is zero evidence in support of this claim. Yet, feminists and gender theorists continue to maintain that gender attitudes are imposed by society despite all the evidence to the contrary. Gender attitudes are largely stable and consistent across cultures and over time. On average, women have 50% more connective tissue between the hemispheres of their brains -- but we are to believe this has no effect on the way women act, think, and feel, when compared to men (unless, of course any differences reflect well on women). It's as if those who deny gender differences also deny evolution!

Nichevo said...

Akthouse like others views humanity as a mass of clay to be shaped in the Right Way by the Right People.

DKWalser said...

(By the way? The brainy boys who put us on the moon could sit still. Still true for the smart and self-disciplined today.)

The brainy boys who put us on the moon were grown men. With maturity comes the ability to sit still.

In the 80's the approach in most US elementary schools was changed to reflect the (legitimate) concern that the school environment was not meeting the needs of girls. Teachers were told to quit calling on the first student to raise his hand (almost always a boy, so the gender-specific pronoun is appropriate). More work was done in small groups rather than as individuals. Less emphasis was placed on test scores in favor of an increased emphasis on participation. Recess was curtailed or eliminated. Etc.

All these changes made elementary schools friendlier places for girls at the expense of boys. The result is that girls have done slightly better in school and boys have done materially worse.

Of course, if all this was nonsense because gender differences are just stereotypes having no basis in reality, why is it that such a large percentage of young boys need to be drugged to cope with elementary school and virtually no young girls need such help?

tim in vermont said...

Amazing how many people deny a simple truth. BTW, the use of "designed" for any aspect of human behavior is placing a deity at the controls of evolution.

If you have a belief that humans are designed a certain way, but we are just "fallen," for instance you think that men and women are the same, but somehow we got screwed up over time, you implicitly believe in God.

Being an atheist is really hard, and many self proclaimed atheists are anything but.

Anonymous said...

IIRC, John Lennon also was subject to Viking fantasies of raping and pillaging.

Led Zeppelin must have driven them both crazy.

Anonymous said...

LZ: not to mention being evidence that a Viking lifestyle and heroin use are not mutually exclusive.

mtrobertslaw said...

He cold have joined the Navy Seals and removed the conflict with his nervous system.

walter said...

"James Taylor, in my opinion, has one of the wimpiest voices in all of pop music history. Yet, he views himself as this bad-ass-Viking-killer-dude trapped in a modern USA body. Interesting contradiction."

Once an escape artist, always an escape artist...now troubadour/diplomat/tool of state here

I just love how he tries to immediately escape the stage.

Ann Althouse said...

"Well, let's think deeply about this. In evolutionary terms isn't every organism designed for the last environment its ancestors survived and not the current enviornment--in the sense that the environment is constantly changing and organisms only change by either surviving or dying out there is a constant mismatch between an organism's design and their current environment. The only exception that comes to mind are things that don't evolve much over long stretches of time (alligators, something like that I guess), but for everything else we're always using the design that happened to work in the environment of the past in the current environment. Maybe it seems more extreme to you because people's environments have changed so quickly (in evolutionary time scale) but (especially if you consider the impact man has had on the world) I'd say lots of plants and animals around today are living in a world they're not designed for."

Yes, that's the point. Once we arrived at our big brains, we changed things so much with our big brains that our brains suffered. Being big, these brains suffered on a grand scale. Even as the environment was changed grandly, in ways no other animal could begin to approach, we suffered grandly, because these big brains had elaborate ways to suffer — such as through sad music and abstractions about lost love and the passage of time — that have always been utterly unknown to the other animals.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse -- I find your theory interesting and worthy of discussion."

Thank you!

"Many of us are ill-suited by evolution (and/or divine creation) for modern life. Asking young boys to sit still for hours on end in a classroom is asking them to do something that is counter to their nature. Society's response is to drug a large percentage of school-age boys and young men rather than provide them with an educational environment better attuned to their needs. The result is a generation of men who have fallen behind the educational attainments of their peers from prior generations. This does not bode well for society."

I absolutely agree with this, it's something I've tried to say on this blog many times, and it's something I care about very deeply. The presence of drugs in that story as in Taylor's story is extremely important.

"Similarly, we've told young women that they can have it all. They can be promiscuous without remorse, defer marriage and children, have a great career, and be emotionally healthy. Maybe some women can, but the overwhelming majority cannot. Such a lifestyle is incompatible with how they were wired by evolution. It's no wonder surveys show that women today are less happy than were their peers in prior generations. We're asking women to be something that they are not "designed" to be."

People don't want to hear that they are designed for a function that is only what other animals are for. Being human is important. It means something. We are individuals. We don't want to go back on that. We have choice and responsibility and the capacity to get somewhere morally. But what is the point of engaging in sex if you are NOT in touch with the truth about your body, your nervous system, and your brain?

We don't need to bind women to these functions anymore than we need to let boys fight each other for territory and control of the women.

We should think clearly about this!

Fernandinande said...

Results
"Compared to never smokers, current cigarette smokers score lower on Conscientiousness and higher on Neuroticism. Similar, but more extreme, is the profile of cocaine/heroin users, which score very high on Neuroticism, especially Vulnerability, and very low on Conscientiousness, particularly Competence, Achievement-Striving, and Deliberation. By contrast, marijuana users score high on Openness to Experience, average on Neuroticism, but low on Agreeableness and Conscientiousness."

Steven said...

"But my point is that we have struggles based on the evolutionary design for the wrong setting. The question is how has this affected you. I am challenging you to think about that, and I'm disappointed if you reaction is to simply distance yourself from the heroin addicts."

Yes, well, my point was that perhaps if there is a certain behavior that only a very small percentage of the population exhibits, we shouldn't necessarily attribute that behavior to a phenomenon that is equally true for the entire population. If someone said "I took heroin because I was living in the tropics and it was just so hot. Humans weren't designed to live where it is hot," how seriously would you take that explanation? I have no idea why he (or anyone else) ends up taking heroin; I'm just wary of an explanation that doesn't really explain anything. The "evolutionary mis-match" theory could explain 1% of people taking heroin or 99%, in which case it doesn't really explain anything.

Ann Althouse said...

It's always going to be a problem discussing evolution that we don't know what part of what we are is attributable to the survival-favoring traits of our ancestors. It's hard enough even to see what part of our parents' qualities we've inherited (and what part of that is genetic rather than learned). But it's a good subject for speculation anyway. It's at least as good as wondering what God wants from us. You'll cut off all the best conversation subjects if you put the demand for proof too high. The question is whether there's some use to thinking in these terms.

Fernandinande said...

AA: Once we arrived at our big brains, we changed things so much with our big brains that our brains suffered. Being big, these brains suffered on a grand scale.

Yet almost nobody reverts back to hunter-gatherer mode.

Probably because regularly being cold, hungry, having most of your children die, hunted by your neighbors, and, if you're very lucky, living to be 30 years old is a lot more painful than a life of ease.

walter said...

1st world "problems".
JT does seem to have a large head...not as large as the insufferable Kerry's.

Laslo Spatula said...

"But what is the point of engaging in sex if you are NOT in touch with the truth about your body, your nervous system, and your brain? "

To paraphrase Woody Allen:

The genitals want what they want.


I am Laslo.

tim in vermont said...

James Taylor, in my opinion, has one of the wimpiest voices in all of pop music history.

You may not like him or his music, but he has a fine voice. Like most musicians, his earliest stuff is his best.

JSD said...

We already are living in a dystopian future. America has a vast population of unemployable people unprepared for modern society. Watch “Dawg Fight”. It show a side of Miami Florida that’s worse than Hunger Games. Daily life used to consist of physical labor and human interaction. Life is now a TV/video/computer experience. A lot of people are not suited for this existence. Video, booze & weed can fill some of the time, but it doesn’t meet all the needs.

Fernandinande said...

Yet almost nobody reverts back to hunter-gatherer mode.

Here are two exceptions, although the mom, and less so the son, aren't the result of the recent human evolution which created most of the rest of the world:
"Her age is unknown, because the Yanomami count only up to 2; anything more than that is called “many.” They have no electricity, no plumbing, no paved roads, no written language, no markets or currency, no medicine.
...
'But I was gone for four months,' he says, and ­Yarima, her protector gone, was gang-raped by 20 to 30 men over a period of weeks. Her earlobe was nearly shorn off."

Amexpat said...

In any case, thanks for the image of Vikings pillaging & raping Northtrumbia while singing "You've got a friend" & "Fire & Rain". That'll help get me through the day, for sure.

The image of that has given me a few good belly laughs. I visualize it being in a Monty Python film, a la "The Meaning of Life" and hear:

If the sky above you should turn dark and full of clouds
and that old north wind should begin to blow,
keep your head together and call my name out loud.
Soon I will be knocking upon your door.
You just call out my name, and you know whereever I am
I'll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I'll be there.

Scott said...

"You may not like him or his music, but he has a fine voice."

I agree with TiV. James Taylor, Kenny Rankin, Mel Torme all have done wonderful music with their God-given voices of mellow timbre. I could listen to them all day.

Michael McDonald is a singer I like too, but I can only listen to him for a half hour.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said... Once we arrived at our big brains, we changed things so much with our big brains that our brains suffered. Being big, these brains suffered on a grand scale. Even as the environment was changed grandly, in ways no other animal could begin to approach, we suffered grandly, because these big brains had elaborate ways to suffer — such as through sad music and abstractions about lost love and the passage of time — that have always been utterly unknown to the other animals.

So nothing that is the product of evolution "fits" with it's current environment (it'll always be "ill-designed" since the design was formed by the pressures of prior environments), humans are products of evolution, humans greatly influence their own environment, and therefore humans are extremely ill-designed for their current environment. Ok.
The subjective experience of that fact is really just a definition or restatement of sapience and sentience, and an assertion that humans have both, which I don't think will get much disagreement.
I'm not sure what other points are being made, really. Humans are ill-designed for their environment but that's been true since before, you know, civilization. Humans use drugs/intoxicating/mind-altering substances and part of the reason why might be due to the fact that they're ill-designed (in that sense)...but again that's probably been true for as long as there have been humans. It's good to keep all of this in mind? Probably, but it's good to keep in mind that the earth moves around the sun at about 67k mph, too.
I'm not disagreeing with the assertion, I'm just not sure what it's supposed to mean, and I worry that using it as justification for some larger conclusion would butt up against either the naturalistic or moralistic fallacy pretty quickly.

walter said...

"Michael McDonald is a singer I like too, but I can only listen to him for a half hour"

Me too...at best. After that he sounds like he has a sock in his throat.

Robert Cook said...

"And yet somehow, the vast majority of us, who are the products of the same evolutionary process as him, have never seen any need to resort to heroin."

Most people find their own drugs. It need not be anything as extreme as heroin. It stands to reason that "most of us" won't have the same nervous systems as those at the extremes.

Joe Veenstra said...

It is not unusual for former addicts to become physical fitness junkies. The latter is almost always preferable.

http://m.mic.com/articles/123326/beast-body-workout-inside-eminem-s-newest-fitness-addiction

http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/music-legend-don-henley-new-6542072

I don't even like these musicians much but it does seem to happen even with "normal" people.

Coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Cook said...

"Amazing how many people deny a simple truth. BTW, the use of 'designed' for any aspect of human behavior is placing a deity at the controls of evolution.

"If you have a belief that humans are designed a certain way, but we are just 'fallen,' for instance you think that men and women are the same, but somehow we got screwed up over time, you implicitly believe in God.

"Being an atheist is really hard, and many self proclaimed atheists are anything but"


Oh, for pete's sake! It's not hard being an atheist, any more than it's hard to not believe elves horde pots of gold at rainbows' ends. In speaking of "design" or being "designed," one is merely using vernacular. It's short-hand for the long process of incremental random changes that occur over incredibly long periods of time (relative to our lifespans), of which some random changes are beneficial and lend to us (and other organisms) advantages in the struggle to survive, while others mitigate or hinder a given category of organisms' chances for survival.

No one who is not admittedly religious thinks of humankind as "fallen"--or uses the term--except as a useful metaphor.

BN said...

I agree with this post. It's at least in part why we like things like roller coasters, sports (participating and watching), action movies, music (probably art of all types), romance, etc., etc., on and on. Probably even fighting, arguing, snarking, and conflict in general.

We miss the chase. We are savages at heart.

On the other hand, fucked up people make excuses. So I could be wrong.

BN said...

I said we miss the chase, but what we miss is feeling.

John Vaci said...

Is reality what it seems to be? Are we in control of our instincts? We are discussing an insane person babbling about evolving from an 11th century Viking misfit whilst on drugs. I think maybe he is just another jackass trying to justify how he fucked up and trying to explain away all the selfish destruction he wreaked. Paul explained it as being "dead in trespass." I wish someone would explain how our consciences evolved or show me a linear progression from Vikings to where our consciences are today in a way that shows we are better than those brutes. We all know we have consciences, well, except for Ted Bundy. Perhaps the earth is 6,500 years old and we are fallen creatures created in God's image but instead possessed with the idea that we are like God. Always remember the very first lie; "You shall not surely die." Are we just trying to find our way back to our Father?

Fritz said...

A heroin addict can always find an excuse.

Anonymous said...

I just assumed using drugs showed he was a selfish sinner, not a Viking misplaced on the couch.

When I hear his voice from now on my mind will add the helmet with horns and the shield. I will probably giggle.

Nate Whilk said...

This reminds me of what Freud wrote about cocaine: it produces "exhilaration. and lasting euphoria, which in no way differs from the normal euphoria of the healthy person. . . . You perceive an increase of self-control and possess more vitality and capacity for work. . . . In other words, you are simply normal, and it is soon hard to believe that you are under the influence of any drug"