[ExI] Meta question

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Thu Aug 18 16:30:43 UTC 2016

Bill, the "better" problem stems from there being two viewpoints, the
individual humans and human genes.

Humans frequently take actions that, if viewed only from their
personal viewpoint are not rational.  But from the viewpoint of genes,
the actions make sense.  See Hamilton and Haldane, "two brothers or
eight cousins."

So to restate your closing line, "it is sometimes rational from the
genes viewpoint for genes to build brain mechanisms that induce humans
to act irrationally from their individual viewpoints."

Millions of years of genetic selection have left humans with
behavioral mechanisms that lie behind such things as suicide bombers.

Least you deplore this too much, it is worth remembering Thermopylae
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Thermopylae.  The
accomplishments of the Greeks lie at the root of Western culture.  Our
history would have been very different without the suicidal self
sacrifice of King Leonidas of Sparta and his men.

Best wishes,


On Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 7:01 AM, William Flynn Wallace
<foozler83 at gmail.com> wrote:
> I still have problems with word definitions:  if 'irrational' behavior works
> better than 'rational' behavior, then it is rational.  Perhaps we need to
> define rational as well as irrational.
> It simply makes no sense to me to say'it is rational to act irrationally'.
> This is oxymoronic.
> bill w
> On Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 8:57 PM, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> On Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 5:59 PM, John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com> wrote:
>> > On Wed, Aug 17, 2016 , Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com> wrote:
>> >
>> >> The point, perhaps inadequately stated, is that evolution has wired up
>> >> humans to behave irrationally in circumstances where acting
>> >> irrationally has benefited the genes over a long time.
>> >
>> > The only reason I like science and rationality in general is that it
>> > works,
>> > but if irrational behavior works better than rational behavior then why
>> > be
>> > rational?
>> In the past, at times where humans had run into the ecological limit,
>> it was rational from _the viewpoint of human genes_ for humans to act
>> irrationally and from the evidence of history, stupidly.  Even from
>> the gene's viewpoint, getting humans to act irrationally is not a good
>> strategy most of the time.  Acting irrationally or stupidly and
>> following irrational leaders is a *conditional* behavior, turned on by
>> anticipation of a bleak future.
>> Unfortunately, a substantial fraction of the people in the word
>> anticipate a bleak future.
>> Sadly, irrational, even stupid behavior, is what we can expect.
>> Is it possible to break out of this mode?  I don't know, but it seems
>> unlikely if we don't understand how humans came to be wired up this
>> way.
>> Keith
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