[extropy-chat] Humans--non-rational mode

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Fri Mar 10 09:31:13 UTC 2006

On Mar 9, 2006, at 7:28 AM, Keith Henson wrote:
> The unexplained freakin' out of the Libertarians over "Memes,  
> MetaMemes and
> Politics" is perhaps due to these paragraphs being seen as an  
> attack on the
> fundamental Libertarian belief that people are (or at least should be)
> objective and rational.

What freakin' out was that?  I find such rather irrelevant myself  
besides the annoyance of a contrived debunking using dubious  
analysis.  Libertarians as a group  have no fundamental belief that  
people are or should be objective and rational.  That is not a  
definitive belief of libertarians.  What made you think that it is?

> "But a good fraction of the memes that make up human culture fall  
> into the
> categories of political, philosophical, or religious. A rationale  
> for the
> spread and persistence for these memes is a much deeper problem.  
> The spread
> of some memes of these classes at the expense of others is of intense
> concern to many readers of Reason. If we are to be effective at  
> judging
> ideas and promoting the spread of ones we think are more rational,  
> it would
> be useful to understand how memes come about, how they use people to
> spread, and why the self-interest of the people who spread a meme  
> and the
> meme's "interest" are not always the same.

We need a better way to speak about this than to impute an "interest"  
to either a meme or a gene.  I know what you mean but the wording  
bogs down the discussion imho.

> "Study of these concepts may provide insight into why some ideas  
> are more
> attractive than others and into what "rational" and "objective"  
> mean. Much
> of the recent progress in understanding evolution came from a  
> viewpoint
> shift:biologists started looking at the world from the viewpoint of  
> genes.

This seems a bit over the top.  EP for instance is about a lot more  
than "the viewpoint of the genes".

> Because genes influence their own survival (via causal loops) the  
> ones we
> observe seem as if they were "striving" to be represented by more  
> copies in
> the next generation. Memes too seem to "strive." Of course, this is
> metaphor, since neither genes nor memes are conscious. In the  
> process of
> making more copies of themselves in human minds memes sometimes  
> work at
> cross purposes with human genes.
> "At least three different and conflicting viewpoints for
> determining"rational" and "objective" exist: from the viewpoint of the
> genes a person carries, from the viewpoint of the memes they carry  
> (or are
> infected with) and from their conscious mind, shaped by both genes  
> and memes."

You first say that genes and memes are not conscious and these  
"viewpoints" etc. are metaphorical then you purport to redefine  
rational and even objective in terms of these metaphors.  I don't  
derive much real meaning from this.  Care to try again?  We already  
know humans and any evolved intelligent creature is subject to genes  
and memes.  How does this change what is and isn't objectively  
real?   How does it change what is and isn't the best choice in a  
particular situation for the benefit of the person or persons?

> If any of you can put yourself in the Libertarian mind mode--do you  
> think
> this is the part of the article that invoked the response to this  
> article
> that persisted for at least ten years?

You are asking people to guess at something you purport to be the  
case from ten years ago and say whether they think it is "explained"  
by this dubious attribution of a shared common belief of all/most  
libertarians?   Why?

> ""My contention, simply put, is that the evolutionary approach is  
> the only
> approach in the social and behavioural sciences that deals with  
> why, in an
> ultimate sense, people behave as they do. As such, it often unmasks  
> the
> universal hypocrisies of our species, peering behind self-serving  
> notions
> about our moral and social values to reveal the darker side of human
> nature." (Silverman 2003)

> It may be to late to do anything about the hundreds of millions or  
> billions
> of deaths event(s) even if everybody understood the EP reasons  
> behind it.

Do you have any positive tools from your study of EP beyond dark  
understanding of the seeming inevitability of it all?   How can we  
unprogram, reprogram or channel our programming into less disastrous  

- samantha

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