[ExI] What is Rational?

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Tue Aug 10 07:55:29 UTC 2010

On 8/10/10, Keith Henson  wrote:
> On Mon, Aug 9, 2010 at 9:01 PM,  BillK  wrote:
>  > *Humans* are inherently irrational.  That's the way evolution made them.
> I don't believe that to be the case.  Genes are rational if you take
>  that to mean doing the right thing to persist generation after
>  generation.  Most of the time, human interest and genetic interest is
>  aligned.
>  But genes have the upper hand and if it is in the interest of genes,
>  the psychological mechanisms they build can result in irrational
>  humans when it meets the interest of the genes.
>  > So obviously their Gods are irrational as well.
>  >
>  > Humans normally operate as emotional, prejudiced, power-seeking beings.
>  > Rationality is not much use in the day-to-day struggle.
>  > Cunning, yes. Superstition, yes. Lying, yes. Flattery and bribery, yes.
>  > Rationality is usually a disadvantage in human interactions.
> It's rational not to walk off cliffs.  We don't do that very often.
>  > See: Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer
>  > <http://www.michaelshermer.com/weird-things/>
>  >
>  > and many other references in human psychology.
> Is it rational from the viewpoint of genes to seek power?  Status?  To
>  have a good reputation?
>  Since genes are largely "concerned" with reproductive success, you
>  need to frame the questions above in such terms.  And the answer to
>  all of these is yes.

I think you might be approaching just playing with words here.  ;)

You seem to be saying that you think that humans believe and do
strange and irrational things (on the surface), but when considered
from the viewpoint of reproductive success and genes they are really
rational after all.

So how is the First World falling birth rates and aging populations
rational from the point of view of the genes?

It seems to me that the First World falling birth rates is more
because women have been empowered and would rather have careers,
comfort and material wealth. (Even if it means that in the longer term
younger societies will grow and replace the aging societies).

But getting back to rationality-----
The usual view of extreme rationality is Spock saying 'That does not
compute' when faced with some strange 'human' behaviour.  I think we
have to deal with human behaviour as it is demonstrated when
discussing rational behaviour.

I would say that the basic human drives tend to corrupt rational
thinking. And this is often a good thing! Humans usually have to
operate in an environment where they don't have sufficient information
to make the 'best' decision. To avoid a collapse into helpless
indecision, humans have evolved emotions which force a decision to be
(That's the old business cliche - Any decision is better than no decision).

It is double-think to say that painting your face blue and working
yourself up into a religious fervour before attacking the neighbouring
tribe is perfectly rational. When the basic drives takeover, rational
thinking goes out the window.

You can't have it both ways.


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