Sexbots, Bach, and Darwin
In the sci-fi cartoon Futurama, there’s an episode where the protagonist “Fry” becomes addicted to a sexbot—his friends have to rescue him from the robot’s seductive charms, and so show him an informational film, modelled on those “Things you should know about radiation” educational films from the 1950s, about the dangers of sexbots.
The film explains, in tones both stentorian and minatory, that when sexbots were first invented people became so enamoured with them that they retreated to their rooms and refused to leave…ending up as drooling sex maniacs (can relate).
Meanwhile, civilisation crumbled around them, fires and riots broke out—aliens invaded. The final cautionary intonement, as I remember it, goes, “It turned out that the only reason people maintained civilisation was to impress the opposite sex.” We are then told to “avoid the sexbot menace” (Fry ignores the warning—high-jinks ensue, interlarded with japes).
This prevalent view, funny as it is, has a pernicious element—it appears as very wise and as a disillusionment (based on Darwinian science, “we only do advanced technical projects to impress the other sex—to reproduce the species”). However, it is in actuality a downward trend—a cynical trend, in the modern sense of the word. A sneer.
Take Bach. Why did Bach compose his music? “To increase his reproductive potential with a certain type of female, perhaps a more intelligent female with high self-control; a pious woman.” Yes, but, from Bach’s perspective, from his psyche’s perspective, that was not the reason at all.
I don’t know much about Bach, but I suspect his motivation to write music could come from two places at least (not in priority order): 1. to create music his patrons would pay for so he could earn a living; 2. to create works that pleased him in the aesthetic sense and conformed with the standards that went along with his talent and chosen profession. I don’t think he thought, “A-ha, this organ music will be just the thing to increase my reproductive potential with a certain type of mate.”
Darwinians will jump up (particularly Richard Dawkins, if he can manage it at his age) and say, “Yes, but that’s science—it doesn’t matter what Bach thinks about what he’s doing this is what he’s actually doing; and that’s the beauty of science—we’ve demystified the process.” However, that’s not quite true.
What you’ve said when you’ve said “Bach produced his music to attract a mate” or “civilisation is all just an attempt to attract the opposite sex” is just a bland truism disguised as a novel insight. All you’ve said is “men work to support their wives and children”. This statement was true in 1958, it was true in 1788, and it was true in 1345 BC.
Indeed, you can imagine an ancient “Futurama” watcher who said, “Anaxagoras only practises philosophy to continue his family name, to have the wherewithal to do it—and he only started to do it to get a wife, to be a notable man.” It’s the same statement, except in modernity we dress it up with Darwinism and suddenly it becomes an “insight” or a “disillusionment”. “Of course there’s nothing higher…it’s all just a biological process to attract a certain mate type.”
It compels because Darwinism is synonymous with the vast technical power of applied science—whereas the historical person who said “he does it to continue his family name” just had an opinion, one that could be easily dismissed.
Religious people, mainly Christians, don’t help in this regard, because they move to a position where they flat-out deny the Darwinian insight. “It can’t account for the beauty…”, “It can’t account for the experience…”, “Only God could motivate…”. That is all so, but it doesn’t answer the point—the point being that beautiful music is a by-product of mate selection.
Indeed, I don’t deny that Darwinian insight—I just say it is a truism, it is an observation that men have made for centuries in different forms. However, what has changed in modernity is that this banal observation has been elevated into an insight that is meant to drag everything downwards—“Bach just composed his symphonies to get a mate, men only maintain bridges and railways to get a mate…and so on.”
What it doesn’t account for is that there are many ways a man could get a mate (or support one). Bach was a very gifted man—there were potentially many careers open to him. To say “he did it to get a mate” cannot account for why he chose that particular discipline—nor, as religious people say, does it account for the work itself taken as itself.
What really lies behind the “Futurama sexbot gambit” is the idea “we’re all just atoms, we’re all just chemicals, we’re all just following our programming—all a bit pointless in the end, isn’t it?”. In other words, it’s nihilism.
And we should expect that from a program created by the people who created The Simpsons because…I hate to say it…but George H. W. Bush (and even my mother, who wouldn’t let me watch it) was right to say that The Simpsons is not a wholesome influence.
Indeed, a bit like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, shows like Futurama trade in “cosy nihilism”—Douglas Adams, for example, was a profoundly depressive man (and an enthusiastic Darwinian on the Stephen Fry-Richard Dawkins axis).
Sure, the Darwinians are correct—any activity man undertakes has some relation to mate selection, to the genes that will be passed on. However, it is a logical fallacy to say “mate selection is a constant factor in life, therefore everything can only be related to mate selection”. You might as well say “blood circulation is a constant factor in life, therefore everything can only be related to the activities of the heart.”
It’s reductionism, in other words—just because there’s one constant factor in an activity doesn’t mean that the activity can be reduced to that one factor. The reason the “Futurama gambit” is so prevalent is that we live in a nihilistic materialistic culture, a scientistic culture, where everything must be reduced to the lowest common denominator.
And in this case the LCD seems particularly clever because it mentions sex (which is taboo and of interest, unlike blood circulation) and then “counterintuitively” (scientific hallmark) shows how it is responsible for even the most elevated aesthetic productions previously thought to have no connection to sexual reproduction (dragged through the mud, in effect).
Religious people, particularly Christians, often get reaction formation in response to this gambit and flat-out deny Darwinian insights (which are true, at their own level). Instead we get sentimental, Hallmark-like statements about “only his love of God could inspire Bach…”—it makes me a bit sick, because it’s sentimental and, therefore, unreal.
But the people who put forward the Futurama gambit are as narrow-minded in their own way, being Gradgrinds who want it to be “all chemicals, all DNA”. As for me, I’m not a big fan of Bach—I prefer Katy Perry (perhaps it’s to do with mate selection—or perhaps it’s her big tits, or maybe it’s just she has black hair like my mother…mmm…black hair I used to curl round my fingers as child; well, like, idk…).