Friday, May 21, 2010

Circling the Behavioral Drain

My friend Baron Bodissey has an interesting essay over at Gates of Vienna that uses research psychologist John B. Calhoun's work on the behavior of rats in urban type environments to make an interesting prediction on society:

During his animal behavior studies at the National Institute of Mental Health in the 1950s and early 1960s Calhoun observed pathological changes in social behavior among rats who were allowed to breed in an environment free of any adverse conditions except the confined dimensions of their living space.{...}

Carla Garnett describes Calhoun’s work in somewhat more detail at the NIH website:

Working at NIMH in 1954, Calhoun launched several experiments with rats and mice. In his first series of tests, he placed 32 to 56 rodents in a 10- by 14-foot case in a barn on a Montgomery County farm. Using electrified partitions, he divided the space into four rooms. Each was designed to support 12 adult brown Norway rats. Rats could move between the rooms only via the ramps he built. Because Calhoun provided unlimited water and food as well as protection from predators, disease and weather, the critters were said to be in “rat utopia” or “mouse paradise”…


He described the onset of several pathologies: violence and aggression, with rats in the crowded pen “going berserk, attacking females, juveniles and less-active males.” There was also “sexual deviance.” Rats became hypersexual, pursuing females relentlessly even when not in heat.

The mortality rate among females was extremely high. A large proportion of the population became bisexual, then increasingly homosexual, and finally asexual. There was a breakdown in maternal behavior. Mothers stopped caring for their young, stopped building a nest for them and even began to attack them, resulting in a 96 percent mortality rate in the two crowded pens. Calhoun coined a term — “behavioral sink” — to describe the decay.

The Baron continues:

As later sociological studies observed, crowding in the city centers was reduced as the affluence of Western society increased. More and more people developed the ability to migrate out of high-density areas and move to the suburbs and the edge cities where there was more living space.

During the intervening four decades, however, every single indicator of a human behavioral sink has increased.

Fertility has dropped to catastrophically low levels across the entire Western world, to the extent that some cultures are at risk of disappearing permanently.

Promiscuity is rampant, and children become sexually active at ever-earlier ages. Sexual deviance, particularly homosexuality, has not only increased, it has moved from being illegal and socially disapproved of, through tolerance, then acceptance, until finally it is celebrated and even considered normative in some places.

Gang-related behavior and violence is at epidemic levels. In parts of Europe the violent crime rate has increased to a point that would have been unimaginable just a generation ago.

What Baron Bodissey postulates is that it is not the overcrowding that is doing this, but too much social stimulation - the increase in unwanted contacts with fellow members of the group.

He's obviously correct about the overcrowding..but is the social stimulation really at fault? I would point out that an area where fertility rates are high (although a number of other pathologies exist) is the Muslim world, where there is a great deal of unwanted social stimulation because of the generally crowded conditions of life there.

Fertility rates are also up in the Hispanic societies, where a number of conditions are very similar.

It might be as simple as the fact that our liberal elites in Western society are so heavily invested in same sex marriage and abortion. In Russia, for example, there are estimates that 70% of the pregnancies in non-Muslim Russia end in abortion.

Women simply tend to have less children in times of turmoil...sort of an automatic defense when the times are not conducive to raising children. Lowered fertility rates are also a matter of decisions NOT to have children, particularly in Europe.

I see these as definitely reversible trends.

The Baron sees the following:
Calhoun’s rat populations were so damaged by their behavioral sink that the population never recovered. But the conditions he imposed upon his rats were totally artificial, and would never occur in nature. It seems likely that under natural circumstances the “sink” behaviors would induce a dieback and a population collapse, but one from which the group could recover.

If the human analogy holds, then sometime in the next twenty to sixty years we will face a catastrophic worldwide collapse of the population, coupled with a radical transformation of our social environment so that the burden of excessive unwanted social interactions will be relieved.

If I am correct, a period of unimaginable human suffering and devastation lies ahead. But beyond the horror lies the chance for a rebirth of civilization. Those who survive will be able to live in a world that is less burdened with pathological levels of stimuli and is thus more conducive to the formation of social structures that align with the instinctual needs of the human species. We will be starting over.

It brings to mind Isaiah 37:31:

And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward.

What say you?

please helps me write more gooder!

1 comment:

B.Poster said...

"What say you?" This is certainly a very interesting article. I have some thoughts on this but I'm not sure how to put thme together in a coherent way at this point. I am going to do some research on this before commenting further. For now, I would say this article explains part of the situation but not all of it.