[extropy-chat] Is Ignorance part of the genes?

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Thu Mar 23 18:04:23 UTC 2006

Bounced, spike?

Your message was not delivered because the return address was refused.
The return address was '<hkhenson at rogers.com>'
Reporting-MTA: dns; tomts40.bellnexxia.net
Arrival-Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 12:04:50 -0500
Received-From-MTA: dns; entheta-b1df6f6.rogers.com (
Final-Recipient: RFC822; <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
Action: failed
Status: 5.1.1
Remote-MTA: dns; lists.extropy.org (
Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 550 5.1.8 <hkhenson at rogers.com>... Access denied. 
HELO does not resolve. (HELO tomts40-srv.bellnexxia.net)

At 02:01 PM 3/22/2006 -0800, samantah wrote:
>-- resent from bounces yesterday ---
>I wouldn't call this an "hypothesis" really as it is a set of 
>questions.  The are pretty good questions particularly given some recent 
>discussions here.

Not well formed, but yes.

>We have had discussion as to the relative value and even "kinds" of 
>rationality (versus logic of our genes), whether it can be taught or not, 
>to what extent our genes cause us to be not that purely interested in 
>truth or reason,  how they cause us certain grief when our favorite ox is 
>gored and so on.

You really need to be very careful with mixing levels.  Genes only 
indirectly cause things.  The *only* thing a gene (in the string of DNA 
sense) can do--besides being copied--is to make mRNA, which makes proteins, 
which regulate the proliferation of cells that make bodies and brains.  So 
genes remotely direct the building of brains that have characteristics such 
as how we feel when one of oxen or memes is being gored.

Eventually the feedback loop closes because if the genes have built a brain 
that causes the body to behave in ways that result in it not passing on 
genes or contributing to near relatives passing on the same genes, then the 
genes responsible for building this body dead end.

Contra wise, with luck and appropriate behavior, the genes make the jump 
into the next generation.  40,000 times per million years, 240,000 times 
since we parted ways with the chimps/bonobos.

>So it is a very pertinent question if our genes contain (or perhaps 
>better, cause) ignorance then wouldn't ignorance be OK if our rationality 
>is not actually privileged over the "reason" of our genes or genetic 
>programming?   This question has surfaced a few times recently.  Thanks 
>for bringing it out, Anna.

As the EP people point out, there is a major psychological bias toward 
learning snakes are dangerous as opposed to learning that electrical 
sockets are dangerous.  We have all sorts psychological mechanisms in us 
left over from the stone age.  We are usually *not* aware of them in 
operation.  I cite capture-bonding and mother infant bonding as examples.

Drew Westen's partisan mode "unthinking" and the visceral rejection of 
people who admit they are doing (whatever) for status are others.  It is 
fairly clear that brains have "blind spots."

If you value rational thinking . . . brains may be the only instrument we 
have but they aren't very good at it.  On the other hand, they got your 
genes to you almost 1/4 of a million times if you only counting from 
hominid line splitting off.

Keith Henson

PS  speaking of goring an ox

  Irate 'South Park' Fans Threaten Tom Cruise Boycott Washington Post
"South Park" Roasts Chef, Literally E! Online
BBC News - Forbes - Chicago Tribune - The Hornet - all 441 related »

>In Lee's discussion about the teachability of rationality, he posited that 
>critical thinking is more or less genetically determined.  Hence the 
>second question.  Is being knowledgeable (or rational) a good in itself or 
>only to certain people of distinct genetic makeup.  This is a fair question.
>- samantha
>On Mar 21, 2006, at 5:41 PM, Anne-Marie Taylor wrote:
>> >Hypothesis:
>> >I keep asking myself if it's better to be ignorant:)
>> >If genes contain certain characteristics of ignorance,  wouldn't it be OK.
>> >To ask that if genes really do contain ignorance,  then it 
>> would  perhaps  >be a needed to a distinct gene for a certain type of people?
>> >Hypothesis:
>> >I keep asking myself if it's better to be knowledgeable:)
>> >If genes contain certain characteristics of knowledge, wouldn't it be OK
>> >To ask that if genes really do contain knowledge, then it would be 
>> perhaps >be a needed to a distinct gene for a certain type of people?
>>Is it better to be ignorant or knowledgeable?
>>Just curious
>>Enrich your life at <http://finance.yahoo.ca/>Yahoo! Canada Finance
>>Make free worldwide PC-to-PC calls. Try the new 
>><http://ca.messenger.yahoo.com/>Yahoo! Canada Messenger with Voice
>>extropy-chat mailing list
>><mailto:extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
>extropy-chat mailing list
>extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list