[extropy-chat] Side note (was Are vaccinations useless?)

Lee Corbin lcorbin at tsoft.com
Tue Mar 21 02:38:45 UTC 2006

Keith writes

> I wrote a follow up paper (so far unpublished) where I made the case that 
> humans have a psychological trait to go non-rational that is switched on by 
> either needing to go to war because of a resource crunch or when their 
> tribe is attacked.

I'm at a loss to understand what "non-rational" means here. (Or maybe anywhere,
these days.) How could the usual response of people "when their tribe is
attacked" be any more non-rational than the response of bees when you disturb
their hive?

Or are you addressing non-rationality of an *individual*? (It certainly
is perfectly sensible and effective behavior for the genes.) 

Let me illustrate what I mean by "individual": one might say (are you?)
that it may not benefit a particular person to rise up in his tribe's defense
because his own private standard of living may instead be maximized by, say,
feigning illness or becoming a CO. So loyally joining the fight on behalf
of his tribe is in this case an instance of non-rationality?  Might we say
the same (loosely speaking) of an individual bee defending the hive?

> In a report early this year Dr. Drew Westen using fMRI identified the brain 
> structures and circuits involved in "partisan mode" which I feel is along 
> the continuum to full blown warrior-insane.

An excellent way of putting it.

> So:  When you see people going Mau Mau on Robin's ass, you are seeing the 
> partial activation of brain circuits for war mode right out of our bloody 
> hunter gatherer past.

Well, the overt behavior is not readily distinguishable from mere outrage:
Some people here reacted to what Robin wrote exactly as if he had submitted
a long proof that heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.


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