Fight Like An Animal searches for a synthesis of behavioral science and political theory that illuminates paths to survival for this planet and our species. Each episode examines political conflict through the lens of innate contributors to human behavior, offering new understandings of our myriad converging crises. Podcast is available on most major directories.
#16: The Nine Elders and the Ancient Scroll: A Constitutional Crisis Comedy Mini-Special
(10/02/2020) In these difficult times, it is important to remember that no matter what we do, it should be entirely based on what the Very Powerful Magi wrote on the Ancient Scroll that they entrusted to the Nine Elders.
#15: GHG Removal and the Worldviews That Consider It
(10/02/2020) Movements for climate and ecological survival have largely eschewed talk of taking CO2 out of the sky. For good reason. We don't know if it will work and it shifts the focus away from ceasing the damage. However, if we have already crossed climate tipping points, it's probably a good idea to begin looking at our options: the uncertain, the dubious, and the overtly evil. Here, we examine emerging GHG removal potentials, the underlying worldviews that allow and prohibit different sectors of society from discussing them, and the value systems evident in how ecological issues are framed. Bibliography
#14: A Model Political Program for Ecological Survival
(10/21/2020) Start by reading climate plans, then write your own. Get a zoning map, change it in Photoshop, and release it to the media. Blockade something. Establish parallel institutions. Make appeals for fundamental transformation based on evolved psychological need. In this episode, we will use an oil train blockade and an associated policy platform in Portland, OR to illustrate some principles of fighting for ecological survival which can be applied in diverse contexts.
#13: What Elephants Can Teach Us About Civil War
(10/05/ 2020) Elephants are changing. The various traumas of extermination—witnessing the deaths of their companions, developing in atypical social structures—are making elephants more aggressive. In this episode, we discuss the relationship between resilience and adverse experience, the developmental plasticity of thresholds for aggression, and the notion of an envelope of stress tolerance. Faced with a panoply of intensifying, existential threats, we ask where and when people will find the rage that elephants are finding. Bibliography
#12: Do Not Worship the Deities That Came Before the Fire
(09/27/2020) "Climate denial" has the specific connotation of outright denial such a thing exists, but what about all the other forms of denial? The human mind has a general tendency not to come to terms with overwhelming input. The institutional and grassroots political responses to climate change, in most cases, are also forms of climate denial. Here, we examine the psychology of confronting unbearable truths, searching for cultural systems that can allow us to face our fears and thus affect outcomes. This piece originally appeared in Dark Mountain #15.
#11: Nature-Nurture Death Spiral pt. 4: Academic Gibberish vs. Life on Earth
(09/18/2020) Academic constructs, valid or otherwise, tend to diffuse into our culture at large. How has this impacted social and political conflict? Quite a lot, and mostly badly. In this episode, we look at climate activism, movements against police violence, and the book White Fragility to illustrate the huge range of contentious issues which are still burdened by the legacy of 20th century social sciences and the opposition to human nature. We see how even though scientific debates about human nature have largely ended, the rhetorical devices used in them are very much alive, with real consequences. Bibliography
#10: Nature-Nurture Death Spiral pt. 3: Foucault Ruins Your Meeting
(08/26/2020) In this episode, we trace the journey of 20th century social sciences through innumerable versions of the nature vs. nurture debate, talk about how the denial of human nature led scientists to torture baby monkeys, and do a blow-by-blow analysis of Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault's famous 1971 dialogue on innateness, describing how the reasoning Foucault employs is the precursor to many of the frustrating and ineffective aspects of contemporary political movements. Bibliography
#9: Nature-Nurture Death Spiral pt. 2: The Universal People
(08/11/2020) Anthropology describes the observed range of human variation, as well as constants in human life. It therefore informs an understanding of what is possible for a revolution to achieve. Episode #9 examines cross-cultural universals, technological thresholds, and hierarchies. We assess the notions that small, egalitarian societies are such because they consciously subdue the impulse to domination, that there is no fundamental discontinuity between "traditional" and "modern" people, and that traditional societies, also, were shaped by social movements. Bibliography
#8: Nature-Nurture Death Spiral pt. 1: Margaret Mead Goes to Samoa
(07/28/2020) What kind of societies are ultimately possible (i.e. within the range of variation our biology allows)? Why are social movements so prone to division and self-annihilation? These questions may seem unrelated, but both imply a journey into the social sciences of the last century and the ideological conflicts that defined them. This series will examine how different political outlooks are the result of different assessments of human nature, and that far from being academic, an explicit description of human nature is an essential foundation for a political movement. Bibliography
#7: The Wilderness of Mirrors
(07/15/2020) A CIA counterintelligence chief once described his world as a wilderness of mirrors. In this episode, we ask how ecological and egalitarian movements can navigate this wilderness. The internet is opening information warfare possibilities to non-state actors, Cambridge Analytica is influencing elections, and Western media is striving for ever-greater hyperbole about the influence of Russia. Is it time for movements to use the same tactics against the powerful that the powerful have long used against movements? We examine the time-honored strategy of divide and conquer, FBI campaigns of disinformation, the psychology of subterfuge, and more. Bibliography
#6: Genocidal Mystics
(07/01/2020) We've looked at some of the psychological traits that correlate with ideology, but what about those that don't? Considering the tendency for systems of power to behave the same regardless of their overt ideology, what should we know about the psychology of power? We look at scales of empathy (or lack thereof), manipulativeness, and sense of connection to the world; talk about some brain imaging studies; discuss left-right conflicts in the early church, and more. Bibliography
#5: Psychology and Politics of Collapse: Interview with Ken Ward
(06/21/2020) Having described innate psychological tendencies associated with other political perspectives, in this interview we examine what makes an environmentalist. Ken Ward describes his path through professional environmentalism and direct action, the values he encountered among liberals and leftists, and how they are in conflict with ecological survival. We discuss the different forms of intelligence found in the human species; their evolutionary value; and the prospects for a legitimately pluralistic society, in which radically different perspectives can coexist.
#4: It Isn't Nonviolent To Let People Hurt You
(06/13/2020) Having described the right-left spectrum in psychological terms, we will now examine the psychology of the liberal, an entity sometimes described as moderately left who has no real counterpart on the right. We will ask why the violence-nonviolence binary has proven so consistently psychologically seductive but also so destructive to social movements. We will talk about the book Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolence, the bizarre elaborations on the 'outside agitator' trope currently emerging in American culture, and more.
#3: The Biology of the Right-Left Divide pt. 3: Creepy, Hyper-Sentient Children
(05/27/2020) Having described the biology of aggression, we discuss the hypothesis that right-left political difference reflects variation in aggression and its correlated traits. We talk about prolonged development as a mechanism for human evolution and why this means we should expect innate variation in human aggression. We also discuss the problem of self-referentiality, the need for a map of humanity's cognitive tribes, and the relationship of ecological politics to left-right politics. Bibliography
#2: The Biology of the Right-Left Divide pt. 2: Raven Politics
(05/12/2020) Having described the idiosyncratic constellation of traits that correlate with political outlook in the last episode, this time we'll examine the biology of aggression in other species, and how it is correlated with a very similar set of traits. We'll talk about a utopian experiment undertaken among baboons, a revolt against male aggression by female bonobos, foxes that act like dogs, the sex lives of domestic animals, and how young ravens are leftists and old ravens are rightists. Bibliography
#1: The Biology of the Right-Left Divide pt. 1: Why Political Arguments Don't Change People's Minds
(04/30/2020) Does it ever seem like when people are arguing about politics, they are actually arguing about much more fundamental perceptual differences? In this episode, we'll explore the strange, unpredictable landscape of differences between people that correlate with political difference, from genetics to physiology to fear of death to brain structure. Bibliography