Digging out the Rabbit People

A few people have asked me what I mean by “Rabbit People”.  It is a term that derives from an outmoded, but still relevant concept from biology, r/K selection theory, which was coined by the famous biologist E.O. Wilson and refers to evolutionary pressures causing population groups to evolve in one of two different directions.  There are a lot of problems with this, both empirically and logically, but that’s beside the point.  A useful metaphor doesn’t depend on its literal truth, much less the current scientific popularity of the theory from which it derives.

The fact that it does not actually “rain cats and dogs” in either the scientific or the colloquial sense does not render the expression either inexplicable or useless, although one does tend to wonder how it was originally coined.

Anyhow, Wikipedia explains r-selection as follows: “In unstable or unpredictable environments, r-selection predominates as the ability to reproduce quickly is crucial. There is little advantage in adaptations that permit successful competition with other organisms, because the environment is likely to change again. Traits that are thought to be characteristic of r-selection include: high fecundity, small body size, early maturity onset, short generation time, and the ability to disperse offspring widely.  Organisms whose life history is subject to r-selection are often referred to as r-strategists or r-selected. Organisms who exhibit r-selected traits can range from bacteria and diatoms, to insects and weeds, to various semelparous cephalopods and mammals, particularly small rodents.”

Rabbits are one of the more commonly cited examples of an r-selected species and a number of people have taken r/K selection theory, traced out the logical consequences of it in modern societal terms and applied it to politics.

“Obviously, from avoiding conflict and competition, to single
parenting, to low-loyalty to in-group, this r-selected Reproductive
Strategy is the psychomotive origin of the Political Left, or as it is
known in America, Political Liberalism. It produces a model of human
which is cowardly, competition averse, promiscuous, supportive of single
parenting, supportive of earlier sexualization of young, and which has
no real embrace of loyalty, honor, decency, or any other pro-social
trait designed to foster group cohesion and functionality, or success in
group competition. Females will become manly, to provision and protect
their young, which they raise alone, while men become effete castrati,
designed for fleeing and fornication, and capable of little else of
meaning.  As we see in any society which begins to produce resources freely and
copiously, it will gradually begin to trend “r” as time goes on,
further highlighting this relationship of resource availability to
political psychology, and reproductive strategy.”

It doesn’t hold up perfectly and its scope is excessively broad as one would expect from any binary heuristic, and yet it is much more strongly supported by the empirical evidence than many familiar political tropes such as the idea of a causal relationship between poverty and crime or the fear that carry laws will result in increased firearms homicides, road rage-inspired gun fights, and blood running in the streets.

Now, my minor contribution to the concept came about when I was reading Aristotle’s Rhetoric last summer.  One part in particular caught my attention, namely, this paragraph towards the beginning:  “Rhetoric is useful because things that are true and things that are just have a natural tendency to prevail over
their opposites, so that if the decisions of judges are not what they ought to be, the defeat must be due to the
speakers themselves, and they must be blamed accordingly. Moreover, before some audiences not even the possession
of the exactest knowledge will make it easy for what we say to produce conviction. For argument based on knowledge
implies instruction, and there are people whom one cannot instruct.”

I realized that there is a very strong correlation between the people identified r-selected and the individuals that Aristotle described as being incapable of dialectic.  In other words, rhetoric is the language of the Rabbit People, just as their preferred form discourse is alternatively described as postmodern and sensitivity-driven.

Now, it is important to note that theory notwithstanding, the communication-based division is observably not a direct function of politics, ideology, sex, religion, or even intelligence, although there are clear patterns and relationships that can be observed in those regards.  Most people have at least a bit of rabbit in them, and although insufficient intelligence restricts many people to the rhetorical level, there are many highly intelligent people of both sexes who are capable of the dialectic who nevertheless shun it, or worse, utilize a perverted, rhetorical form of it.

In my next post on the subject, I’ll explain how the Rabbit People communicate, how one must communicate with them, and provide some examples of rabbitry both high and low.