[Paleopsych] RE: Meme 047: Frank's Abandonment of Reality, One Year Later

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Sat Nov 12 15:41:38 UTC 2005

Thanks for the suggestion, which you made before, Jerry, along with 
"Oath of Fealty" and one other book. I bought the first two. A friend 
suggests that the plot of "The Mote in God's Eye" can be hard to 
follow, and this presents a severe problem, given the way I read. Is 
there a chapter-by-chapter plot summary anywhere online so I can keep 
track of it?


On 2005-10-30, Jerry Pournelle opined [message unchanged below]:

> Date: Sun, 30 Oct 2005 17:26:09 -0800
> From: Jerry Pournelle <jerryp at earthlink.net>
> To: 'Premise Checker' <checker at panix.com>,
>     'Transhuman Tech' <transhumantech at yahoogroups.com>,
>     paleopsych at paleopsych.org
> Subject: RE: [h-bd] Meme 047: Frank's Abandonment of Reality, One Year Later
> You might try The Mote In God's Eye but Niven and me, and The Prince by me.
> But what the hell]
> -----Original Message-----
> From: h-bd at yahoogroups.com [mailto:h-bd at yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of
> Premise Checker
> Sent: Friday, October 28, 2005 6:23 PM
> To: Transhuman Tech; paleopsych at paleopsych.org
> Subject: [h-bd] Meme 047: Frank's Abandonment of Reality, One Year Later
> Meme 047: Frank's Abandonment of Reality, One Year Later
> sent 2005.10.28
> My themes for the next year: "Deep Cultural Change" and "Persistence
> of Difference."
> You'll recall that a year ago, on my sixtieth birthday, I decided to 
> abandon reality for fiction, on the grounds that I think I know, at 
> least in general outline, what is really known about human nature 
> from the social and biological sciences. Novelists have a way of 
> getting at the human condition that eludes scientists, and to novels 
> I would turn.
> I decided to confine my reading of books to, alternatively, Western 
> fiction (includes Russian), non-Western fiction (includes Latin 
> America), science fiction, and religion (both sacred books and books 
> about them).
> Here's what I have read, since abandoning reality at age 60 on 
> 2004.10.28:
> 1. Kerouac, Jack, 1922-69. On the road. 1957.
> 2. Wilson, Sloan, 1920-2003. The man in the gray flannel suit. 1955.
> 3. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832), Elective affinities. 1809.
> 4. Andrews, Alice, ca. 1966- . Trine erotic. 2002.
> 1. García Márquez, Gabriel, 1928- . One hundred years of solitude. 1967.
> 2. Pamuk, Orhan, 1952- . Snow. 2002.
> 3. Truong, Monique, 1968- . The book of salt. 2003.
> 4. Mistry, Rohinton, 1952- . A fine balance. 1995.
> 1. Stephenson, Neal, 1959.10.31- . The diamond age. 1995
> 2. Herbert, Frank, 1920-86. Dune. 1965.
> 3. Laxness, Halldór, 1902-55. Under the glacier. 1968.
> 4-6. Philip Pullman, 1946- . His Dark Materials (trilogy):
>      1, The golden compass, 1995.
>      2, The subtle knife, 1997.
>      3, The amber spyglass, 2000.
> 1. Gregg, Steve, 1953- . Revelation: Four views: A parallel
> commentary. 1997.
> 2. Cleary, Thomas, translator, 1949- . The essential Koran. 1993.
> 3. MacDonald, Dennis R., 1946- . Does the New Testament imitate Homer?
> Four cases from the Acts of the Apostles. 2003.
> 4. C.S. Lewis, 1898-1963. The four loves, 1960.
> Science Fiction: I got a little ahead in science fiction, since I 
> read an entire trilogy. I found these science fiction books hard to 
> follow, except Under the Glacier, a comic Icelandic masterpiece, 
> which is much else besides science fiction. The books I read are 
> supposed classics, and I think I see why science fiction is ranked 
> low down by literary scholars. Actually, I added science fiction 
> more to catch up on my reading in this area than to gain new 
> insights into human nature.
> Religion: I'm glad to have read at least an abridged Koran, but the 
> selector chose mostly the nice verses, which talk more about 
> praising Allah for his message than lay out what a believer is 
> supposed to think and how to act. The Psalms do the same thing, but 
> in a far, far better way. The book about the Book of Revelation got 
> tedious. MacDonald's findings of parallels is not nearly as good as 
> his earlier, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark, which makes 
> the case, conclusively I think obvious, that that Gospel is a 
> literary creation, compiled of sayings of a preacher railing at 
> hypocrisy, Old Testament prophecies, and parallels with Homer. 
> Rather than reduplicate his efforts for another NT book, I wish he 
> has gone on to present a complete theory of the NT, working in esp. 
> the letters of St. Paul. The C.S. Lewis book was often insightful, 
> but not the chapter about charity as a kind of love. Unlike the 
> other chapters, it dealt only with man's relation to god, as though 
> charity does not happen between people.
> Western novels: I enjoyed all four Western novels, and they were 
> generally easy to follow. On the Road paints a more devastating 
> picture of the mañana mentality of Mexican immigrants than anything 
> I have read in the anti-immigration literature. Kerouac, for all his 
> boozing and whoring, has a more distant time horizon. The Man in the 
> Gray Flannel Suit book does not turn his hero into a cartoon the way 
> his critics have. One should always read the originals. Elective 
> Affinities is a little-known novel of Goethe that portrays well-off 
> people ensnared in traps of their own making. And Trine Erotic is 
> the first novel to incorporate evolutionary psychology. It has tales 
> within tales and deals with introspection and intimate discussions 
> about sex and evolution, all within a nifty postmodern context.
> Non-Western Novels: It was reading non-Western novels that prompted 
> my abandoning reality. My overall aim was to find out how 
> non-Westerners apprehend the world differently from Westerners. I 
> must report that I failed, at least with the four novels I read. 
> Garcia Márquez knows too much Western modernist literature, though 
> the magical thinking characteristic of Latin American did come 
> through. One Hundred Years of Solitude may well be the greatest 
> novel of the last half of the last century. The plot is complicated 
> and Cliff and Monarch Notes were indispensable. Orhan Pamuk's Snow 
> is a superb novel of a Turkish exile to Germany who came home. He 
> was torn between the secularism of Germany and the increasing 
> fundamentalism of home. But, his photograph reveals him to be very 
> much a White man, so I don't think I got a non-Western viewpoint. 
> Monique Truong's The Book of Salt was the one disaster in the pile. 
> What might have been a lively fictional portrayal of literary Paris 
> in the 1920s from the standpoint of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. 
> Toklas's Vietnamese cook was only about the plight of the cook, who 
> was also a homosexual. All the fashionable leftist noises were made. 
> Though the book got excellent reviews, the high praise was forced, 
> as the author apparently has exhausted her fame. On the other hand, 
> A Fine Balance is another mixture of comedy and tragedy and covers 
> four characters caught in the midst of the Emergency declared in 
> India in 1975. The balance is between giving in to despair and 
> persevering.
> While this project of supposedly abandoning reality did not give me 
> great insights into non-Western mentalities, it certainly did save 
> me a lot of money on books! But the problem is that I'm addicted to 
> the Internet and spent way too much time finding articles and 
> sending them to my lists. Almost all of these articles don't expand 
> my thoughts.
> I must focus, a problem I've always had. So for the coming year I 
> have two themes: "deep cultural change" and "the persistence of 
> difference."
> No more wasting time over controversies. I hope it has been 
> instructive to you to have gotten coverage of many sides on various 
> issues, to get a better feel for how to distinguish good and bad 
> arguments and, just as important, to consider why certain 
> controversies never end, why there is no convergence of opinion over 
> time. As you wade into new controversies and revisit old ones over 
> the next year, look for all sides and try to discern why convergence 
> of opinion is so often slow. So, for a while, no more coverage of 
> Supreme Court fights, paleoconservatives, neoconservatives, 
> liberals, Arab vs. Jew, Intelligent Design, Lincoln, the energy 
> "crisis," even black holes. And not nearly so much coverage of 
> religious controversies, so often humorous as they are.
> And I have spent too much time tracking incremental changes. What 
> has happened during the year since I turned 60? The collapse of the 
> Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) has been the big event, though 
> it will be a while before its political repercussions are felt, for 
> political lag is the severest form of culture lag. Even so, there 
> has been a decided shift from equality vs. inequality as the 
> principal left-right political divide to pluralism vs. universalism. 
> Resistance to U.S. foreign policy has replaced race as the major 
> U.S. domestic political issue.
> Well, maybe not a complete collapse within one year, but the 
> speed-up of the shift is the biggest general trend during the last 
> year. It is hard to think of anything else that comes close. I'd 
> like to report some deep technological (transhuman) breakthroughs, 
> but they occur over five to ten years or more.
> Now to my two main themes for at least the next year:
> 1. "Deep cultural change" means the effects of the Internet, the 
> change from modernism to postmodernism, commodification, 
> globalization--in short the topics covered in The Hedgehog Review, 
> http://www.virginia.edu/iasc/hedgehog.html. Over the last year, I 
> have read all but two issues of this journal, published by the 
> Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of 
> Virginia. Transhumanistic developments fit here absolutely, though 
> they seem to be arriving more slowly than anticipated. 
> Brain-enhancing medicines and hookups strike me as the most likely 
> new development: embryo selection also, but it takes a generation to 
> raise the children.
> 2. "Persistence of difference" is the obverse of deep cultural 
> change. In spite of globalization, Americanization, the use of the 
> military to spread "democratic capitalism," McDonaldization, many 
> cross-cultural differences remain the same. There is much 
> resistence, too. As a 21st century leftist (pluralist), I hope that 
> different ways of processing the world persist, so that different 
> approaches to problems will continue and thrive. The difference that 
> intrigues me most now is that Westerners think more in analytic 
> (bottom-up) terms, while Easterners (North-East Asians, in 
> particular) think in synthetic (top-down) and holistic terms. 
> Psychologically, Westerners are more individualistic, Easterners 
> more collectivist. Richard Nisbet has been prodigiously active in 
> exploring these differences, differences that go down to perception 
> and "folk" physics, most notably in The Geography of Thought. A more 
> comprehensive book is Edward C. Stewart and Milton J. Bennett, 
> American Cultural Patterns: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (revised 
> edition. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 1991, 192 pp.), which I 
> intend to read for the third time.
> Nisbet remarks that it took analytic thinking to get science off the 
> ground. But scientific investigation has been finding ever since 
> Darwin and the earlier rise of sociology that the whole affects the 
> parts: the environment selects which organisms survive; society 
> shapes the self. And so the Eastern mentality may have a jump on 
> forging a more comprehensive view of the world than an overly 
> Western mentality.
> This remains to be seen, though it is striking that my 
> exhaustive--well at least exhausting!--surfing of the Web has not 
> turned up any Eastern sociology. Books on how the Chinese view the 
> West are all written by Westerners! I hope I'm wrong. Furnish me Web 
> pages! Or I'll just have to wait.
> Now Nisbet is a leading antiracist and repeatedly asserts that 
> geographic differences in thought are wholly cultural, but without 
> marshaling evidence for his whole-hog cultural view. Yet this would 
> imply that geographic variations, from the Arctic to the steppes to 
> the Fertile Crescent to darkest Africa, have had no selective effect 
> for the last 10,000 or 100,000 years on the distribution of 
> psychological traits, even as they has manifestly have had for 
> everything from the neck down. Nisbet does indeed invoke the evolved 
> Pleistocene character of our minds. He is not upholding the SSSM in 
> its full glory, but effectively he's an evolutionist up to the Stone 
> Age, a creationist afterwards. It will be up to others to boldly 
> conjecture gene-culture co-evolutionary explanations for the 
> geographical variation in thought.
> As I said, I am a particularist and hope that the Americanization 
> steamroller won't make everyone think like Americans. I certainly 
> favor the pragmatic mind set of my culture, but not for every 
> culture. But I also realize that American culture has changed deeply 
> over the course of its history (whence my first theme, "deep 
> cultural change"), and I'm certainly no conservative who thinks the 
> final method for discovering the world and operating within it has 
> already been found, much less that we need to go back to previous 
> models.
> My hope is that there will be genetic as well as cultural resistance 
> to making the world uniform. Perhaps I should write an essay, "Why I 
> Want to Become a Racist"! To date the best documented, and saddest, 
> difference is human populations is in general cognitive abilities, 
> but it is also the least interesting. I will leave this problem to 
> future generations of scholars, to quote Thomas Sowell,^ while I 
> will seek to learn more about other geographical and cultural 
> differences in thought. I can't become a racist in any comprehensive 
> sense until others make conjectures about gene-culture co-evolution 
> since the Stone Age, conduct experiments, and interpret the results.
> ^[On April 25, the entire issue of Psychology, Public Policy, and 
> Law, 2005 June, Vol. 11(2), a publication of the American 
> Psychological Association, went online. It featured J. Philippe 
> Rushton and Arthur R. Jensen, "Thirty Years of Research on Race 
> Differences in Cognitive Ability," four responses, the best of which 
> was by Richard Nisbet, and a reply by Rushton and Jensen. I have yet 
> to read it, as it covers territory utterly familiar to me.]
> Will a consensus emerge? No more than in social science without 
> gene-culture co-evolution. You see, we all routinely accept social 
> science explanations, invoking concepts like peer pressure, the 
> routinization of charisma, die Entzauberung der Welt, without 
> realizing that these all rest upon very vague and general concepts. 
> It's like explaining a child's behavior as conforming to his parents 
> and, a moment later, another child's behavior as rebelling against 
> his parents! To the trees, then, many social scientistz repair, to 
> all those Big Mac articles in social science journals and away from 
> grand theory. The forest, the big concepts in the social science, is 
> abandoned, even though the routinization of charisma, and so on, are 
> quite real, even if immune to quantification.
> If not quantified, then the historian can only give his opinion 
> about the causes of an historical event. Was the American Civil War 
> caused by disagreements over slavery, by the desire of the South to 
> remain true to the American Revolution's principle of 
> non-interference from a centralized power, to the different 
> economies based on agriculture and manufacturing? How much of each? 
> Each champion for one factor piles up his evidence. So do his 
> rivals. No emerging consensus, since none can quantify the 
> importance of the factors.
> And so it will be when historians add gene-culture co-evolutionary 
> factors to the mix. (Anglo-Saxon vs. Celt keeps popping up in 
> reflections on the Civil War, and this may be racial, or rather 
> sub-racial. It merits yet another unearthing.) American hubris will 
> be much reduced as racial explanations emerge. As a 21st century 
> leftist, I approve.
> My focus, then, for at least a year: "deep cultural change" and 
> "persistence of differences." Help me with my projects by sending me 
> things, and please excuse the great reduction of forwardings of 
> articles while I do this.
> Meanwhile, you can use my favorite sources to find more things on your
> own:
> The New York Times, http://nytimes.com
> Arts & Letters Daily, http://aldaily.com
> The Last Ditch: http://thornwalker.com/ditch, the best
> paleolibertarian site
> Also various Yahoo! groups, for which to get add to
> http://yahoogroups.com/group/
> Evolutionary Psychology: evolutionary-psychology
> Rael Science: rael-science-select
> Rational Review of the News: rrnd (libertarian newslinks)
> Transhuman Tech news: transhumantech
> You may also join various discussion groups of the World 
> Transhumanist Association, esp. talk and politics (the latter I no 
> longer take) at http://transhumanism.org/index.php/WTA/lists/
> I have passwords for these, but there's much public content:
> The New Scientist, http://www.newscientist.com (www is essential)
> The Economist, http://economist.com
> Foreign Policy, http://foreignpolicy.com
> The Times Literary Supplement, http://www.the-tls.co.uk
> The Chronicle of Higher Education, http://chronicle.com
> Wikipedia should be regulary consulted:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
> Laird Wilcox, who founded The Wilcox Collection of Contemporary 
> Political Movements in 1965 at the University of Kansas, which deals 
> with extreme groups both left and right, runs a list forwarding 
> articles like mine. He concentrates more on civil liberties issues 
> than I do and has a mostly paleo bent. Drop him an e-mail at Laird 
> Wilcox <LWilcox3 at aol.com> to subscribe.
> [I am sending forth these memes, not because I agree wholeheartedly 
> with all of them, but to impregnate females of both sexes. Ponder 
> them and spread them.]

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