Showing posts from November, 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