[ExI] What is Rational?

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Tue Aug 10 17:38:46 UTC 2010

On Tue, Aug 10, 2010 at 5:06 PM, Keith Henson  wrote:
> On Tue, Aug 10, 2010 at 5:00 AM,  BillK  wrote:
>> 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.
> Essentially yes.  However, you must keep in mind that selection of the
> mechanisms that detect bleak futures and hop a tribe's warriors up to
> attack neighbors happened in the EEA.
>> So how is the First World falling birth rates and aging populations
>> rational from the point of view of the genes?
> It isn't.

Good!  You agree that at least one human behaviour affecting gene
reproduction is not driven by evolved gene behaviour.  Now to tackle
the rest of human behaviour.   ;)

>> 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).
> Our genes have no history of selection in the conditions the modern
> world has created.  Before birth control, women didn't have these
> options.

That's the point, isn't it? Gene selection has no experience of any
modern conditions, not just birth control.

>> 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.

> To some extent you are just paraphrasing my arguments, and you can
> have it both ways.
> One of the most important things _The Selfish Gene_ did was to
> introduce "viewpoints."
> >From an individual's viewpoint, rational is not walking off cliffs or
> into fast traffic.  It is rational to acquire food and consume it.  It
> is not rational from an individual viewpoint to take part in a war
> where half will die.  But under recurring conditions, namely a
> resource crisis, it can be more profitable *from the viewpoint of
> genes* to make the attempt to kill neighbors and take their resources
> even with the risk considered.
> As a result of strong selection, the mechanisms are nearly universal in humans.
> There are other psychological mechanisms that are rarely turned on
> fully in First world conditions.  Capture-bonding for example.  That
> mechanism is the root cause of a mess of otherwise hard to understand
> human behaviors, hazing, basic training, battered wife, and BDSM to
> name them.

OK. Prehistoric gene selection has produced a breed of crazy humans
who can't cope with modern civilization and the conflict between gene
drives and brain choices.

It seems to me that you have left yourself no circumstances which you
could say was 'irrational behaviour'.  Except perhaps the first world
dwindling birth rate. You might call that irrational because it
opposes evolved gene drives. Whereas most people would call that an
example of supremely rational behaviour.

You need to redefine your terms if you intend to claim that every
crazy behaviour is really rational deep down. People will find it very
difficult to follow your 'rational' reasoning.

PS. When I say humans are basically irrational (with occasional
moments of rational behaviour) I am not just referring to going to
war. I am talking about almost every 'normal' day-to-day behaviour).


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