Time, Orientation, Universalism, and Vocab: Notes from Chapter 2 of "Adapting Minds" by David J. Buller

Whether or not this blog will evolve into an accredidated academic institution of tdaxpology, the genetics reading has been interesting and informative. Because of a busy day I was only able to read one of the three books (Adapting Minds by David Buller). The notes below are from the second chapter, which focuses “soley on the fundemental theoretical thenents of the Evolutionar Psychology Paradigm” (Buller 49).

The big thing I got out of it? Everyone should comprehend this:


The above is the Orientation module of the OODA Loop. Without going into all the variations of the OODA loop, the important parts are the five sub-modules of Orientation

  • Analysis / Synthesis
  • Cultural Traditions
  • Genetic Heritage
  • New Information
  • Previous Experience

A surprising amount of ambiguity and academic infighting could be almost completely avoided if people thought for a second and realized all five help guide orientation and all five are important.

That said, the below focuses on references to Orientation (in the OODA sense) within Evolutionary Psychology, a timeline of the last two million years, the Evolutionary Psychological claim of a Universal Human Nature (without implying a Uniform Human Culture), and of course more definitions.

Topic: Orientation
“The conditions that are relevant to how an animal’s brain produces behavior are of two types. First, there are current conditions of the animal’s environment, which may change rapidly and about which its brain is constantly updating information. Second, there are the current conditions of the animal’s own brain.” (Buller 51)
“[Extreme situations throw off an organism’s genetic factors and lead to] failure of adaptiveness … the brain could continue to produce the same old behavior under the new conditions [or] the brain could produce some new behavior in response to the new informational inputs…” (Buller 57) (similar to bounds problems in programming)
“With respect to human psychology, then the selectively relevant features of the human EEA are primarily those of Pleistocene hunter-gatherer social life.
“[Mental modules] come equipped with certain “innate knowledge” about the problem domain which which it is specialized to deal and an “innate” set of produces for applying that knowledge to solve problems in its special domain… modules are comparatively fast. That is, they solve problems in their special domains in far less time than general cognitive processes take to solve e problem for which there is no dedicated module.” (Buller 65) (in other words, evolution evolved for rapidly cycling the OODA loop by specializing different genetic factors)
“According to Tooby and Cosmides, our universal psychological adaptions are designed in such a way that individual differences in “manifest psychologies or behaviors” can be produced by differences in either “situational assessments,” “environmental cues,” or “genetic switches.”” (Buller 74)

Topic: Timeline


“…it can take another several hundred [200 generations * 20 years / generation = 4 TYA) to several thousand [9000 generations * 20 years/generation = 180 TYA] generations for the population to adapt to the new environment — depending on whether a new mutation is required.” (Buller 56)
“The invention of agriculture some 10,000 years (four hundred generations) ago; the industrialization of Western societies some 200 years (eight generations) ago…” (Buller 57-58)
“…the Pleistocene, the epoch stretching from 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago… Homo sapiens evolved… in a speciation event that occured approximately 150,000 years ago. Homo sapiens continued to live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in eastern Africa until some populations began to disperse into Europe, Asia, and Australia some 50,000 years ago.”” (Buller 59)
compare with (from last time)

“The bonobos that live to the south of the Congo River may look rather like chimpanzees, but they have been evolved apart for 2 million years, ever since the river split their ancestral range in two.” (Ridley 21- 22)
“Perhaps, muses Marki, the expansion of the human brain, which accelerated about 2 million years ago, was made possible by going on further and switching off the gene altogether throughout the body.” (Ridley 29)
“At around 1.9 million years ago the teeth of human ancestors shrank at the same time as the body size of females grew. This indicates a better diet, more easily digested, which in turn sounds like cooking…. These increasingly monogamous males would then not be competing with each other so fiercely for every mating opportunity, which would result in their becoming smaller relative to females — and the sex difference in size began to shrink 1.9 million years ago.” (Ridley 21)
“Surprisingly, the fossil record suggests that there has been a rather steep decline in the size of the human brain during the past 15,000 years, partly but not wholly reflecting a shrinking body that seems to have accompanied the arrival of dense and “civilized” human settlements.” (Ridley 35)

Topic: Universal Human Nature
“… most (but not all) cognitive psychologists — and Evolutionary Psychologists along with them — now reject [the view of a domain general mind] in favor of a view of the mind as constituting a number of psychological modules [for all people everywhere].” (Buller 64)
“[Evolutionary psychologists argue that] since the Pleistocene was a vast stretch of evolutionary time, there was ample opportunity for selection to drive each beneficial module to fixation in early human populations.” (Buller 70)
“Second, Evolutionary Psychologists argue, cultural diversity has been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, they claim, many of the landmark studies in cultural anthropology that were responsible for the idea of radical cultural diversity have recently been shown to suffer from methodological defects.” (Buller 71) (a claim my adolescent psychology instructor denied)
“Since sexual reproduction is a process in which random halves of each parent’s genes are “recombined” to form the genome of a zygote, if parents differed in any of their complex adaptions, the random sexual recombination of the genes for those adaptions would make it highly improbably that their offspring would receive all the genes necessary for developing any of the parental adaptions.” (Buller 73)
“[Evolutionary psychologists claim] most effects of genetic differences will be confined to quantitative variation within each qualitatively distinct universal adaption.” (Buller 74)
“Evolutionary Psychologists do, however, grand two major exceptions to the claim that human psychological adaptations exhibit a “species-typical” design. First, the count male and female morphologies as alternative adaptive forms of our species and sex determination is under the control of a genetic switch… the adaptive differences between males and females are not confined to morphology… the selection pressures on individuals within a sex also change across the course of the life cycle…. Consequently, the second major exception to a “species-typical design” … is adaptive “coordinated design differences” at various stages of life.” (Buller 79-80)

Topic: Definitions
“In short, an animals’ behavioral response to current conditions depends on the nature of the cognitive and motivational mechanisms in its brain — it depends, that is, on the nature of what Evolutionary Psychologists call the proximate mechanisms that regulate and control the animal’s environment.” (Buller 51)
“[Behavior is phenotypic, and speaking] of natural selection as selection for ‘behaviors’ is a convenient shorthand… natural selection… can only select for mechanisms that produce behavior.” (Buller 53)
“[Evolution Psychology is anti-Rational Choice because] from the standpoint of reproductive success, contemporary human behavior is frequently maladaptive.” (Buller 55)
“Thus, the central premise of Evolutionary Psychology is the idea that the brain’s design was produced by a history of reproductive success, rather than the idea that the brain is designed to produce reproductive success.” (Buller 58)
“The environment of evolutionary adaptedness (or EEA), according to Evolutionary Psychologists, is not a specific space… or habitat [but] a “composite of the adaption-relevant properties of the ancestral environments encountered by members of ancestral populations.” … With respect to human psychology, then the selectively relevant features of the human EEA are primarily those of Pleistocene hunter-gatherer social life.” (Buller 59-60)
Evolutionary functional analysis, then, is a method of inferring the proximate causes of behavior … begins with speculation about the nature of the EEA … a task analysis is performed to break down the adaptive problem into a number of subproblems … identity the forms of behavior that would have solved each of the subproblems…. a module is then postdated which is assumed to respond to environment input about the subproblems… determine the information-processes procedures, or decision rules.” (Buller 69-70) (interesting references to rulesets and iterative OODA loops there…)
“The operational adaption consists of the anatomical structures, physiological processes, and psychologicla processes that develop because of interactions with the environment… the innate adaptions is the information encoded int he genes that mediates the development of the operational adaption.” (Buller 78)

First Things on Evolutionary Psychology

I was happy that Mark of ZenPundit linked to the first section of this series of notes. The material is fascinating, though each author has his own temperament

  • Matt Ridley – enthralled
  • Steven Pinker – philippic
  • David Buller – “scholarly

Still, the multiple perspectives of the different authors is valuable, and I think the professor for this reading list.

I had intended a number of charts, but time pressure gets to me. Buller especially is slow going (he is an author that can definitely use visual aids, or just better writing ability), and I meant to have this page up yesterday. As it is, only one good one:

human evolution timeline_md


Topic: Timeline
“Genealogically, we all descent from a very recent common ancestor who lived just 150,000 years ago, whereas our last common ancestor with a chimpanzee lived at least 5 million years ago.” (Ridley 10)
“At around 1.9 million years ago the teeth of human ancestors shrank at the same time as the body size of females grew. This indicates a better diet, more easily digested, which in turn sounds like cooking…. These increasingly monogamous males would then not be competing with each other so fiercely for every mating opportunity, which would result in their becoming smaller relative to females — and the sex difference in size began to shrink 1.9 million years ago.” (Ridley 21)
“The bonobos that live to the south of the Congo River may look rather like chimpanzees, but they have been evolved apart for 2 million years, ever since the river split their ancestral range in two.” (Ridley 21- 22)
“Yuki Takahata has been able to estimate that the change [in sugar allergy] happened about 2.5 or 3 million years ago…” (Ridley 28)
“Perhaps, muses Marki, the expansion of the human brain, which accelerated about 2 million years ago, was made possible by going on further and switching off the gene altogether throughout the body.” (Ridley 29)
“…the basic body plan of all animals had been worked out in the genome of a long-extinct ancestor that lived more than 600 million years ago…” (Ridley 31)
“Surprisingly, the fossil record suggests that there has been a rather steep decline in the size of the human brain during the past 15,000 years, partly but not wholly reflecting a shrinking body that seems to have accompanied the arrival of dense and “civilized” human settlements.” (Ridley 35)

Topic: Nature and Nurture
“… the development of an organism is not simply a matter of gene action, but a matter of causal interaction between genes and their environment.” (Buller 24).
(compare to previous)

Topic: Politics
(compare to last post)
“If the metaphors in everyday speech are a clue, then all of us, like Rousseau, associate blankness with virtue rather than with nothingness. Think of the moral connotations of the adjectives clean, fair, immaculate, lily-white, pure, spotless, unmarred, and unsullied, and of the nouns blemish, blot, mark, stain, and taint.” (Pinker 11) (associate with speech in CS Lewis “That Hideous Strength,” the moon as hygienic, etc.)
“Though psychology is not as politicized as some of the other social sciences, it too is sometimes driven by a utopian vision in which changes in child rearing and education will ameliorate social pathologies and improve human welfare.” (Pinker 27)

Topic: A Human-Animal Continuum.
“Jean-Jacques Roussea was only one of several Enlightenment philosophers who wondered if apes were not continuous with “savages.”” (Ridley 9)
“[Jane] Goodall’s anthropomorphism had driven a stake through the heart of human exceptionalism.” (Ridley 13)
“Aristotle said man was a political animal… Saint Augustine said we were the only creature to have sex for pleasure… the only species to make and use tools… we alone had culture [see memetics below]… the only animal to wage war and will our fellows… [perhaps we are only unique in that we have] a “theory of mind”” (Ridley 14-15).
“Darwin drew up a list of human peculiarities that had been claimed to form an impassable barrier between man and animal. He then demolished each particularity one by one.” (Ridley 16)
“In the mid-1990s, however, the first genetically unique feature universal to all people an d absent from all apes was discovered… a unique form of human allergy: an allergy to a kind of sugar (a certain “sialic acid”) found attached to proteins in animal serum.” (Ridley 27)
“Darwin’s theory of evolution was commonly misinterpreted as an explanation of intellectual and moral progress rather than an explanation of how living things adapt to an ecological niche. The nonwhite races, it was easy to think, were rungs on an evolutionary ladder between the apes and the Europeans.” (Pinker 15).

Topic: Creationism
“Alfred Russel Wallace, for example, the co-discoverer of the principle of natural selection, argued that the human mind was too complex to be the product of natural selection.” (Ridley 10)
“Just as religions contain a theory of human nature, so theories of human nature take on some of the functions of religion, and the Blank Slate has become the secular religion of modern intellectual life.” (Pinker 2-3).
“…Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), the co-discoverer with Darwin of natural selection … parted company from Darwin by claiming that the human mind could not be explained by evolution and must have been designed by a superior intelligence.” (Pinker 28)

Topic: Memetics
“When apes were first brought to zoos… their keepers seemed to evince more interest in their ability to “ape” human customs…” (Ridley 11)
“There is one way in which behavior seems to evolve differently form anatomy. In the case of anatomy, most similarities are the result of common descent, or what evolutionists call phylogenetic inertia.” (Ridley 17)

Topic: Recentness and Limitations of Knowledge
“By 1960, human beings still knew more about chimps’ ability to learn tea-table manners than about how the animals behaved in the wild.” (Ridley 12)
“The difference in social behavior [between chimpanzees and gorillas], stemming from a difference in diet, was wholly unsuspected until the 1960s. And it was only in the 1980s that a remarkable consequence became clear. The difference has left its mark on the anatomy of the two ape species.” (Ridley 19)
“… until scientists know how to find gene promoters in the vast text of the genome, they will not learn how the recipe of a chimpanzee differs from that of a person.” (Ridley 33)

Topic: Behaviorism
“The radical behaviorists who brushed aside the mentalists… asserted brusquely that animals did not think reflect, or reason… under Burrhus Skinner, the behaviorists would apply the same logic to human beings.” (Ridley 12)
“The associationism of Locke and Mill has become recognizable in psychology ever since. It became the core of most models of learning, especially in the approach called behaviorism, which dominated psychology from the 1920s to the 1960s… Locke’ s”ideas” had been replaced by “stimuli” and “responses,” but his laws of association survived as laws of conditionism” (Pinker 18-19).
“Among the casualties of behaviorist minimalism was the rich psychology of William James (1842-1910). James had been inspired by Darwin’s argument that perception, cognition, and emotion, like physical organs, had evolved as biological adaptions.” (compare to yesterday) (Pinker 19)
“B.F. Skinner (1904-1990), the most famous psychologist in the middle decades of the twentieth century, wrote a book called The Behavior of Organisms in which the only organisms were rats and pigeons and the only behavior was level pressing and key pecking… In an article called “The Misbehavior of Organisms,” Skinner’s students Keller and Marian Breland reported that when they tried to use his techniques to train animals to insert poker chips into vending machines, the chickens pecked the chips, the raccoons washed them, and the pigs tried to root them with their snouts.” (Pinker 20)

Topic: Alternatives to Genetics or Behaviorism
(mention Piaget?)
“The doctrine of the Blank Slate became entrenched in intellectual life in a form that has been called the Standard Social Science Model or social constructivism.” (Pinker 17) (relate to HCI)
“On of the major documents of late twentieth-century psychology was the two-volume Parrellel Distributed Processing by David Rumelhart, James McCellland, and their collaborators, which presentd a style of neural network modeling called connectionism. Rumelhart and McClelland argued that generic associationist networks, subjected to massive amounts of training, could explain all of cognition.” (Pinker 21) (mention thesis)
“Idealism allowed [Franz] Boas to lay a new intellectual foundation for egalitarianism. The differences among human races and ethnic groups, he proposed, come not from their physical constitution but from their culture, a system of ideas and values spread by language and other forms of social behavior.” (Pinker 22) (compare with last time?)
“… the denial of human nature, and the autonomy of culture from individual names [was] articulated by the founder of sociology, Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), who had foreshadowed Kroever’s doctrine of the superorganic mind.” (Pinker 23 (compare to last time and also NICE)

Topic: Sex Differences
“Among all hunter-gatherers, men are usually more interested in and better at hunting; women are more interested in and better at gathering. The result is an ecological niche that combines the best of both worlds — the protein of meat and the reliability of plant food.” (Ridley 21)
(See also Panzer und Soldat)

Topic: Philosophies
“The Blank Slate is often accompanies by two other doctrines, which have also attained a sacred status in modern intellectual life… The Ghost in the Machine [mind-body dualism], like the Noble Savage, arose in part as a reaction to Hobbes.” (Pinker 6-9).

Topic: Definitions
Modification refers to a change across generations in the distribution of characteristics, or traits, in a lineage.” (Buller 18)
phenotypes – the anatomical structures, physiological states, or behavioral forms – that organisms exhibit.” (Buller 19)
evolution is change in gene or genotype frequencies (at a particular locus) across generations in a lineage.” (Buller 20)
“.. even if two individuals possess the same genotype, they can differ in phenotype…” (Buller 24)
microevolution, evolution change within species. Macroevolution concerns the birth and extinction of species…” (Buller 20)
“[alleles] are alternative sequences of A,G,C, or T at a particular locus [or] the different forms of a gene that can occupy a locus” (Buller 20)
“the pair of alleles an organism has at a locus is called its genotype” (Buller 20)
“If an organism has the same allele in each opposing slot, if it has the AA or aa genotype, it is homozygote; and if it has different alleles in the opposing slots, if it has the Aa genotype, it is a heterozygote.” (Buller 21)
Reproduction is thus a process whereby each of two parents contributes a gamete [a haploid, “half a diploid,” 23 single, unpaired chromosomes; a gamete is formed in meisos], which contain half of the parent’s genes, to the formation of a diploid cell that will develop into an organism of the next generation.” (Buller 21)
“… it is possible for there to be a change in genotype frequencies across generations without a corresponding change in gene frequencies [as genotypes are combinations of genes — see previous].” (Buller 23)
“When a gene influences a particular phenotype… it is a gene for that phenotype.” (Buller 24)
“Thus, in order for patterns of phenotypic change across generations to parallel patterns of evolution at the genetic level, the developmentally relevant properties of the environment must remain relatively stable across those generations.” (Buller 25)
“There are two main processes that cause evolution by introducing new variants into a population, one of which is mutation [and the other is] recombination… The difference … is that mutation introduces new variants by creating new genes, while recombination does so by creating new combinations of genes on a chromosome.” (Buller 26-27)
“… natural selection, which is a process that occurs when three conditions obtain in a population. First, there must be preexisting phenotypic variation in the population. Second, the variant phenotypes must be hereditary — that is, there must be genes for each of the variant phenotypes, which parents transmit to their offspring. Third, these hereditary phenotypic differences must be responsible for differences in fitness.” (Buller 28)
“… “fitness” as a measure of an organism’s expected genetic contribution to future generations…. organisms with a fitness-enhancing trait will, on average, out reproduce the other organisms.” (Buller 29)
“… some biologists apply the term natural selection only to selection for traits that affect survival, while applying the term sexual selection to selection for traits that affect the ability to attract and mate with members of the opposite sex.” (Buller 30)
[Genetic] Drift is a causal force in evolution in every generation, since random survival and random sampling of gametes occurs in every generation. But frequently the effects of drift are offset by selection. In order for drift to be the cause of a long-term evolutionary trend, the rival alleles at a locus must be selectively neutral (that is, no one of the alleles can confer a selective advantage to its bearers).” (Buller 31)
“A trait is adaptive, then, if it has current utility; it is an adaption if it had past utility…” (Buller 35-36)
“[A] trait will [sometimes] go ti fixation (become possessed by every organism) in a population, thereby wiping out all rival traits.” (Buller 37)
“Indeed, there are several reasons why selection doesn’t always eliminate phenotypic variation. First, mutation and recombination introduce new variation into a population in every generation… Second, some phenotypic variation is selectively neutral…. Third… the fact that the same genotype can produce different phenotypes under different development conditions means that the phenotype it’s for won’t necessarily go to fixation also.” (Buller 37-38) (chart)
“[Frequency-Independent fitness is an] activity with fitness costs and benefits that are independent of how other population members behave [but] in general the fitness costs and benefits associated with any activity that involve competition with some other population members will be a function of how one’s competitors behave. Such an activity has frequency-dependent fitness…” (Buller 39-40)
“[Stable polymorphism is when] a mixed population is evolutionary stable… genetic polymorphism — a locus at which different genotypes occur — is essentially to each stable polymorphism. When a population consists of individuals playing a mixed strategy, on the other hand, the individuals in the population are genetically monomorphic — share the same genome — for that strategy.” (Buller 42)
“A second way in which selection can maintan phenotypic variation is through adaptive plasticity (sometimes called a conditional strategy). Adaptive plasticity is the capacity of a single genotype to produce more than one phenotype — more than one anatomical form, physiological state, or behavior — in response to environmental conditions… there are two distinct forms of adaptive plasticity, developmental plasticity and phenotypic plasticity.” (Buller 43-44).
“For developmental plasticity to eolve by selection, several conditions must be met. First, there must be variation in a population’s environment… Second, this enviromental variation must be predicable… Third, a mix of alternative phenotypes, each occuring in its own environmental conditions, has to have a figher average fitness than any single phenotype… Finally, there must be “cues” in each of the different development conditions that are reliable predictors of the selection pressure to be encountered.” (Buller 45-46)
“In order for [phenotypic plasticity] to evolve by selection, there must be variation in some aspect of a population’s environment that is relevent to fitness.. the environmental variations must occur relatively rapidly and unpredictably… In short, there must be fluctuation in some aspect of a populations that is relevent to fitness.” (Buller 47) (see also CGW on flux)

Coming Anarchy 9, Recognition

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06







“[In order to be recognized as creative or an expert in your field, you must express your idea] in terms that are understandable to others, it must pass muster with the experts in the field, and finally it must be included in the cultural domain to which it belongs (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”
We feel that the factors of recognition in the domain and of finding a gap in the domain (which we will discuss in the next section), seem to be at opposite extremes on the continuum of judging in a domain. For example, to be recognized as an expert or creative person in your field, you first must impress the current group of experts in the field (the “judges”), who will then reward you with proper recognition if your contribution is seen as valuable. However, to continue to contribute to your chosen domain, eventually you must be able to critically evaluate the work of what other experts in the field have done and find a gap in the domain that can be filled by your contributions (i.e. you are now “judging” the contributions of others). It is quite amazing how similar these two factors are, and yet different at the same time.

Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):

When asked the question, “Have you ever been recognized for any your work on the blog?” the following answers were elicited:
Chirol: “Not personally no. However, awards are mostly just a popularity contest and don’t reflect the quality of what you do… A few years ago, I could have never imagined that I’d be able to share my ideas with some of the brightest minds of today. For example, I’ve written a number of posts dealing with PNM Theory and the author of the two books on it, Thomas Barnett, has linked to my posts a number of times also adding information.”
Curzon: “2-4,000 readers a day… We’ve shown up on MSNBC and C-SPAN once each. Slate.com linked to us twice, Instapundit once…”
When asked the question, “Has it [the graphic design] ever been recognized by peers or other media?” the following answer was elicited:
Younghusband: “It [the graphic design] has been nominated for a few things [awards]. We haven’t won, but the competition was pretty stiff. I was really happy with that, plus we get all kinds of positive comments.”

Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):

Similar to identity and failure, each subject noted different parts of recognition. Recognitions range from entirely expert-based (Chirol), to expert and audience based (Curzon), to mostly audience based (Younghusband). It is interesting that none of them volunteered each other as a source of recognition, as one would think that the opinions of other experts in your field would be highly valued to an individual trying to make their contribution to that domain.

Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):

“When demand rose for abstract expressionist paintings of a certain vintage, Sharpinsky’s work suddenly became valued; it was not the works that had changed, but rather the requirements of the broader society (Gardner, 1997).”
“The greatness of a work is not intrinsic to it, and is independent of the creator, except in a case where an individual tailors a work to satisfy some audience. To become great, a work must be judged positively by those within the field (Weisberg, 1993).”

Nagging Questions (Regulate):

Does the source of recognition change as one becomes more creative, expert, and talented? Does judgment become exclusively internal, or more tuned to either experts or the audience? How does this relate to implicit and explicit theories of self? Perhaps creative people develop an explicit theory of themselves later on in life, so our sample pool’s youth may be throwing off our results?

Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion

C.2.1 Simulation Reporting Document Tutorial

Note: This is an excerpt from a draft of my thesis, A Computer Model of National Behavior. The introduction and table of contents are also available

C.2.1 Simulation Reporting Document Tutorial

This is a short introduction for the simulation reports. It also explains the concepts behind the simulation. The information is organized the same way in both formats. The model runs from 1959 to 1970. The 1959 data is historical data while every year after that is calculated by the simulation according to certain rules and assumptions.

There is a data reporting page for every year. It will look something like this:


There is a lot of data on this screen, but it is organized logically. The following pages explain the details.

Computer Science Thesis Index

A Pro-Life State

Republicans opposed to abortion ban lose in S.D.,” by Judy Keen, USA Today, 8 June 2006, http://news.yahoo.com/s/usatoday/20060608/pl_usatoday/republicansopposedtoabortionbanloseinsd (from Mainstream Coalition’s leader: Vote proves need,” by David Kranz, Argus Leader, 13 June 2006, http://argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060613/COLUMNISTS0102/606130320/1131.

Imagine a legislative caucus whose ever member up for reelection lost. That’s the South Dakota Mainstream Coalition, a bi-partisan group of legislatures whose main issue in the last legislative session was a defense of abortion. Their spin, as reported by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader political correspond (and close friend of Tom Daschle) David Kranz:

Frequent discussion since four Republican state Senators lost bids for re-election last week centers around its impact on the Mainstream Coalition.

The defeats opened the door for ridicule from anti-abortion critics saying the organization got its just dessert.

This isn’t the setback that some gloaters think, says state Sen. Ed Olson, a Mitchell Republican and executive director of the Mainstream Coalition.

Senator Ed Olson (R-Mitchell)

“What does it say about the future? It points to why we needed to start Mainstream,” Olson said. “Look at the turnout. You had some districts with 11 and 12 percent. I think it is unbelievable, the voter apathy.”

The poorly attended primary was not an indicator of strength or weakness of the group, he said.

It’s onward and upward,” Olson said. “I know there was a tremendous amount of work done by those who staunchly oppose us, but the premise was we wanted to be a group people were comfortable with, Republican, Democrats, pro or anti-abortion, whatever. I look at that turnout and say now more than ever, something has to change.”

While Senator Olson characterizes the SDMC’s cataclysmic defeat as “onward and upward,” the national Gannet news organization has a different perspective:

There’s certainly no good news in the outcome for pro-choice advocates,” Bob Burns, a political science professor at South Dakota State University, said Wednesday.

The defeat Tuesday of half of the eight Senate Republicans who opposed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law might mean trouble for a planned referendum in November to rescind the ban, Burns says. The other four had no primary challengers.

The results “mean that the state of South Dakota is very pro-life,” says state Sen. Bill Napoli, who voted for the ban and won his primary.

I previously reported on the Pro-Life Sweep in South Dakota’s primary election. I did my part, and voted for the successful reelection effort of Senator Gene Abdallah (R-Sioux Falls).