Showing posts from 2014

Adaptive Coherence

Biology and culture evolve together. For example, cattle-herding is a cultural adaptation, and lactose tolerance is a biological adaptation. Those adaptations evolved together and fit together. Each selects for the other. The two adaptations together are more useful than either is separately. You can’t just take a bunch of lactose intolerant people and drop them into a cattle-herding culture. They will get sick, because their biology does not fit the culture. The linked adaptations of cattle-herding and lactose tolerance emerged in two different parts of the world, Europe and Africa, thousands of years ago, and have spread widely since. The coevolution of biology and culture makes them fit together. They cohere. They are codependent. Society and culture are also codependent. To live together in a society, people need a common culture, which includes language and concepts that are necessary for social organization. People develop a common culture by living together in the sam

Social Delusions

Human beings are cultural animals. As individuals, we acquire knowledge from other people. People who interact tend to synchronize their beliefs and behaviors. Conformity has many advantages. It makes knowledge acquisition faster and easier. It enables communication and cooperation. However, conformity can generate social delusions. A social delusion is a belief that is its own inductive basis. People believe it just because other people believe it. Groups often generate delusions, due to conformity. This is commonly called “groupthink”. Suppose that X is a social delusion, believed by a group G. Each member of G believes X because the other members of G believe X. New members of G will acquire the delusion from existing members. Everyone is just conforming to everyone else, and no one has any independent reason for the belief. Religion is an example of a social delusion. There is no evidentiary basis for religion other than religion itself. People believe a religion just be

Apollo and Daphne

In the myth of Apollo and Daphne, Apollo angers Eros, the god of love. Eros shoots Apollo through the heart with a gold arrow, making him fall in love with the beautiful nymph Daphne. Eros shoots Daphne through the heart with a lead arrow, making her scorn Apollo. Apollo relentlessly pursues Daphne, but she spurns him. In the end, to escape his advances, she turns into a tree. The modern world is a bit like Eros. Men are full of desire for women, but women seem to be full of contempt for men. I read a couple of articles lately about the problems women have finding good men. One article was about how women are harrassed by “creeps” on dating sites, and lack “control”. The evidence for this was that women receive 17 times more messages from men than men receive from women. Another was about how men are wimps who are too shy to approach women. Either men are too aggressive, and creepy, or they are wimpy losers who won’t approach women. What happened to all the good men? Did they all tur

Ferguson: Race and Violence

The Incident Michael Brown was an 18-year-old black man who was killed by the police. He was a big guy: 6 feet 4 inches tall and almost 300 pounds. Based on video surveillance, it appears that he robbed a convenience store on the day of his death, stealing cigarillos and pushing the store clerk. Afterward, he was walking down the middle of the street with his friend, when a cop showed up. The cop told him to get out of the street, and he refused. The cop then decided to detain him either because of his attitude or because he was a suspect in the robbery. A fight ensued. It seems that Michael Brown began to flee, then turned back, and was shot 6 times, one wound being fatal. That is my understanding of the incident. For the purposes of this essay, the details are not that important, as long as we know what did not happen: the cop did not see a young black man and decide to shoot him for no particular reason. Michael Brown died because of his own bad decisions. He decided to

Game Theory and Society

Game theory is a branch of mathematics that deals with decision making when there are multiple decision-makers, called “players”, and outcomes depend on the decisions of other players. Game theory is based on the metaphor of a game, in which the rules of play and the outcomes are well defined. The game metaphor is a very useful abstraction. Game theory is used to understand behavioral strategies in economics, evolutionary theory, politics, warfare and other domains. It is especially important for understanding how society works. The Prisoner’s Dilemma The prisoner’s dilemma is an important concept in game theory. It illustrates the benefits and challenges of creating cooperation between selfish individuals. The prisoner’s dilemma is named after a thought experiment in which the police try to get two prisoners to confess and implicate each other in the crime. Unfortunately, that thought experiment is somewhat complicated and can be confusing. Rather than telling the story of the t

Utopian Ideologies

The communists who took power in the Russian revolution did not want the totalitarian, terrorist state that they created. Their idea of communism was a peaceful, cooperative system, in which people would work for the good of society, and society would take care of everyone. They believed that a new, utopian form of society and a new type of human nature would naturally emerge, once elites were overthrown and capitalism abolished. But that didn’t happen. After the initial purge of elites, a small-scale form of capitalism emerged in the countryside. Capitalism emerged, not communism. At first, the communist leaders tolerated it as a transitional condition, expecting communism to break out at any moment. Eventually, they got tired of waiting, and decided to force communism on the peasants. From the Wikipedia article on the Holodomor : The “liquidation of the kulaks as a class” was announced by Joseph Stalin on 27 December 1929.[1] Stalin had said that “Now we have the oppor

Elliot Rodger - When You're Strange

Why did he do it? Why did Elliot Rodger go on a killing spree that ended in his own death? To the feminists, Elliot Rodger was a misogynist, and his actions were an expression of a misogynistic culture. But that doesn’t explain anything. Even if we did live in a culture of misogyny, which we don’t, that would not explain his actions. Elliot Rodger was an anomaly, a very strange case. The explanation cannot be something that affects everyone, such as culture or society. A strange case requires a strange explanation. What made Elliot Rodger so strange? I read his so-called “manifesto”. It is not really a manifesto. It is the story of his life, told from his perspective. He portrayed himself as a tragic figure, because the world stubbornly refused to revolve around him. In a sense, that is the great tragedy of life. We are born into a world that, for the most part, doesn’t give a shit about us. For some reason, this universal aspect of the human condition was unbearable to E

Bees are not Social

I was recently in a debate about the nature of society. My opponent used the analogy of a beehive to claim that altruism exists in nature. This analogy is common in discussions of human society. It is a bad analogy, so I thought I would debunk it. Also, bee biology is fascinating. There is something very unusual about bee genetics and sex determination. The females are diploid and the males are haploid. A female bee has two copies of each chromosome, but a male bee has only one copy of each chromosome. Male bees grow from unfertilized eggs. This arrangement is called “haplodiploidy”. There are three kinds of bees: queens (fertile females), workers (infertile females) and drones (fertile males). Evolution has provided the queen bee with the ability to create infertile offspring to help her out. The queen has control over which eggs to fertilize with sperm stored from mating. Fertilized eggs grow into females. If a female larva is fed royal jelly, it will grow into a queen. Other

Killing the Unicorns

This is a response to Ryan Faulk. In one of his recent videos ( here ), he complained that white conservatives do not show racial solidarity. You might as well complain that white conservatives are killing all the unicorns. Racial solidarity doesn't exist. It never has and it never will. That is an implication of evolutionary theory. First of all, what is race? Race is a categorization scheme for human beings based on phenotypic similarity. Humans evolved differently in different parts of the world, and there are also founder effects due to small populations migrating to new areas and expanding. So, yes, there are meaningful ways to categorize people into racial groups. African blacks are not the same as Amerindians, East Asians are not the same as Europeans. It is valid to inquire into the differences between different human population groups. There are real differences, and that does have implications for social policy. On the other hand, race is somewhat vague and arbit

Family and Society

Humans have the capacity to form different types of relationships, which are mediated by emotions. We can divide these relationships into two categories: family and social. They create two types of structure: family and society. The family is held together by the pair bond between a man and a woman, parent-child bonds, and (to a lesser extent) sibling bonds. Society is held together by cooperative relationships, and (for large-scale societies) some degree of coercion. Behavior is driven by emotions. Sexual emotions cause us to seek mates and form sexual relationships. Parents bond with children, and are motivated to protect and support them. Social emotions cause us to seek cooperative relationships with others and avoid conflict. Emotions cause us to self-organize into families and societies. The sexual emotions can be divided into attraction and attachment. Attraction can be further subdivided into sexual attraction (aka “lust”) and a more holistic attraction that I call “ado