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Words of Sociobiologists show their politics
Posted: 20 January 2007 07:16 PM   [ Ignore ]
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[i:edcc1da9eb]And seem to prove the Hobbesian beliefs they began with before/while they did the "science."[/i:edcc1da9eb]

David Buller in his brilliant book, [u:edcc1da9eb]Atapting Minds[/u:edcc1da9eb], while pointing out some of the silly complaints about SB and Evo Psych by S.J. Gould and R. Newonton, makes clear that much of what SBs and EPs claim under the umbrella of SB or EP is unscientific (he distinguishes real evolutionary psychology, for instance, from Pinker and crowd by using caps when talking about the later’s version of Evolutionary Psychology). 

Buller steers away from getting into the politics of these folks, but that is because his book is a science book and not a social science book.  Yet it is clear that these guys are pro-capitalistic and probably Right-Libertarians.  Their "science" seems to prove their political convictions rather than their political convictions coming from the science.

Sociobiologist Michael Ghiselin actually states in this book, [i:edcc1da9eb]The Economy of Nature and the Evolution of Sex[/i:edcc1da9eb], that nature runs according to the precepts of laissez-faire captialism!  He also says:  "Given a full chance to act in his own interest, nothing but expedience will restrain him from brutalizing, from maiming, from murdering - his brother, his mate, his partner, or his child.  Scratch an ‘altruist’ and watch a ‘hypocrite’ bleed.  No hint of genuine charity ameliorates our vision of society, once sentimentalism has been laid aside.  What passed for cooperation turns out to be a mixture of opportunism and exploitation."

[i:edcc1da9eb]Business Week[/i:edcc1da9eb] published an article titled ‘A Genetic Defense of the Free Market’ which claimed that ‘self interest is the driving force in the economy because it is ingrained in each individual’s genes’. 
"Bioeconomics says that government programs that force individuals to be less competitive and selfish than they are genetically programmed to be are preordained to fail."

Sociobiologist David Barash says, "Evolutionary biology is quite clear that "What’s in it for me?" is an ancient refrain for all life, and there is no reason to exclude Homo Sapiens."

Richard Dawkins in [i:edcc1da9eb]Selfish Gene [/i:edcc1da9eb] says, "A human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop it being true."

Alfie Kohn on Dawkins, et al: "Richard Dawkins is impatient with critics who think he is attributing to genes the desire to be selfish.  ‘It’s just a figure of speech,’ Dawkins replies; ‘the only issue is what organisms actually do and what we can infer about natural selection from their behavior.’ In fact, he says ... one could offer as an illustration of altruism a genetic predisposition to have bad teeth: useless morals mean reduced food consumption, which in turn means more food for everyone else…

"Now sociobiologists have a penchant for sliding back and forth between the two meanings of certain words - the version that merely describes the behavior of many species and the one that captures a uniquely human phenomenon - so a reader can be forgiven for concluding they think animals (or genes) really are selfish or altruistic.  When sociobiologists summon up evidence to prove something about altruism, what they have in mind bears only a superficial resemblance to the concept we normally discuss in the context of human affairs."

Alfie Kohn on sociobiologist, EO Wilson’s politics: "... In a passage that should have settled once and for all the arguments over Wilson’s political convictions—"true selfishness, if obedient to the other constraints of mammalian biology, is the key to a more nearly perfect social contract." - [i:edcc1da9eb]On Human Nature[/i:edcc1da9eb].

[i:edcc1da9eb]I wonder what sort of "social contract" Wilson has in mind?[/i:edcc1da9eb]

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Posted: 20 January 2007 07:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Words of Sociobiologists show their politics

And seem to prove the Hobbesian beliefs they began with before/while they did the “science.”

David Buller in his brilliant book, Atapting Minds, while pointing out some of the silly complaints about SB and Evo Psych by S.J. Gould and R. Newonton, makes clear that much of what SBs and EPs claim under the umbrella of SB or EP is unscientific (he distinguishes real evolutionary psychology, for instance, from Pinker and crowd by using caps when talking about the later’s version of Evolutionary Psychology). 

Buller steers away from getting into the politics of these folks, but that is because his book is a science book and not a social science book.  Yet it is clear that these guys are pro-capitalistic and probably Right-Libertarians.  Their “science” seems to prove their political convictions rather than their political convictions coming from the science.

Sociobiologist Michael Ghiselin actually states in this book, The Economy of Nature and the Evolution of Sex, that nature runs according to the precepts of laissez-faire captialism!  He also says:  “Given a full chance to act in his own interest, nothing but expedience will restrain him from brutalizing, from maiming, from murdering - his brother, his mate, his partner, or his child.  Scratch an ‘altruist’ and watch a ‘hypocrite’ bleed.  No hint of genuine charity ameliorates our vision of society, once sentimentalism has been laid aside.  What passed for cooperation turns out to be a mixture of opportunism and exploitation.”

Business Week published an article titled ‘A Genetic Defense of the Free Market’ which claimed that ‘self interest is the driving force in the economy because it is ingrained in each individual’s genes’. 
“Bioeconomics says that government programs that force individuals to be less competitive and selfish than they are genetically programmed to be are preordained to fail.”

Sociobiologist David Barash says, “Evolutionary biology is quite clear that “What’s in it for me?” is an ancient refrain for all life, and there is no reason to exclude Homo Sapiens.”

Richard Dawkins in Selfish Gene says, “A human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop it being true.”

Alfie Kohn on Dawkins, et al: “Richard Dawkins is impatient with critics who think he is attributing to genes the desire to be selfish.  ‘It’s just a figure of speech,’ Dawkins replies; ‘the only issue is what organisms actually do and what we can infer about natural selection from their behavior.’ In fact, he says ... one could offer as an illustration of altruism a genetic predisposition to have bad teeth: useless morals mean reduced food consumption, which in turn means more food for everyone else…

“Now sociobiologists have a penchant for sliding back and forth between the two meanings of certain words - the version that merely describes the behavior of many species and the one that captures a uniquely human phenomenon - so a reader can be forgiven for concluding they think animals (or genes) really are selfish or altruistic.  When sociobiologists summon up evidence to prove something about altruism, what they have in mind bears only a superficial resemblance to the concept we normally discuss in the context of human affairs.”

Alfie Kohn on sociobiologist, EO Wilson’s politics: “... In a passage that should have settled once and for all the arguments over Wilson’s political convictions—“true selfishness, if obedient to the other constraints of mammalian biology, is the key to a more nearly perfect social contract.” - On Human Nature.

I wonder what sort of “social contract” Wilson has in mind?

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Posted: 21 January 2007 05:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Huh? Huh? Huh?!

Doug said:

More ad hominem arguments, Barry ... quotes taken out of context, insinuations, etc.

And just to take one example, the Dawkins quote doesn’t show anything about his politics. Indeed, he says it’s “nasty”, “unfortunate” and the sort of thing he finds “deplorable”. One should also not take this out of the context of his belief that altruism evolves as well.


I am beginning to wonder what Doug is saying lately.  Ad Hominem is attacking persons, not their ideas.  And I am not attacking (though I dislike) even the latter!  I am connecting the dots about certain folks and their political ideologies or feelings about human nature and coming to an opinion on those connections.  I may be wrong in the final analysis, but I am allowed those opinons without false name calling, no? 

As for quoting Kohn about these same folks, HE may be making false insinuations (though I do not think so), but not me.  I am just sharing information which made up part of the reasoning behind my coming to certain opinions.  The challange is for those who dissagree with what seems obvious via the actual words and arguements of these folks, and not to claim I am presenting bad arguements!  How is showing the words of the folks I am talking about engaging in ad hominem, anyway? 

ALL quotes are thoughts and opinions taken out of context, that is the nature of quotes!  If I have used quotes in such a way that I’ve left out a preceeding or proceeding sentence which shows that the speaker meant something quite different that that which is said in the quote I copied, then SHOW ME!  Am I supposed to transcribe an entire book in order that these telling sections of each book are REALLY what the author said and meant?  That would be an absurd suggestion…

Re Dawkins: His words are trickier than the rest.  Based on his thoughts and opinions in his “Atheists for Jesus” essay, it is clear he is trying to sound polite (re the quotes I copied; he is British, after all), by saying nasty selfishness is “unfortunate” (as opposed to bad?) or something we “might” not like… he is sugar coating his other sentiiment that can be read as: ‘So get over it you panzy progressives, pacifists and socialists, we ARE selfish .. that is reality .. and being nice (altruism) is a mistake of a faulty mind or something gone wrong because there is no evolutionary reason for altruism so let’s teach niceness like Jesus did!’ 

Doug, I would suggest you stop avoiding the essay I have mentioned in various places on this forum because it can’t get clearer than it does there… Dawkins’ and Wilson’s politics are liberal (certianly not progressive and/or socialistic), and as I have showed before, “liberal” is centrist at best.  They both are capitalistic as well, I presume.

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Posted: 22 January 2007 01:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Re: Huh? Huh? Huh?!

[quote author=“Barry”]I am connecting the dots about certain folks and their political ideologies or feelings about human nature and coming to an opinion on those connections.

An “ad hominem” argument is, following Wikipedia, “a logical fallacy consisting of replying to an argument by attacking or appealing to the person making the argument, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument.” For example, to argue (fallaciously) that sociobiology is wrong by attacking the politics of some of its adherents.

This is what you do. Indeed, it appears you can’t help doing it.

And of course you are allowed your opinions. I am allowed mine as well, of course, one of which is that this is a fallacious argument.

[quote author=“Barry”]Re Dawkins: His words are trickier than the rest.  Based on his thoughts and opinions in his “Atheists for Jesus” essay, it is clear he is trying to sound polite (re the quotes I copied; he is British, after all), by saying nasty selfishness is “unfortunate” (as opposed to bad?) or something we “might” not like… he is sugar coating his other sentiiment that can be read as: ‘So get over it you panzy progressives, pacifists and socialists, we ARE selfish .. that is reality .. and being nice (altruism) is a mistake of a faulty mind or something gone wrong because there is no evolutionary reason for altruism so let’s teach niceness like Jesus did!’

Barry, this is a really awful misstatement of Dawkins’s beliefs, as you know well. I have to wonder why you keep getting his views so wrong. Firstly, Dawkins himself is a pacifist. He states that altruism evolves in Selfish Gene, he gives the mechanism of its evolution, and he further claims that humans have the ability to act out of pure altruism.

I have shown you these quotes before.

I was going to ask you to stop misconstruing Dawkins. But these are becoming simple lies on your part, since you know well what he actually said.

[quote author=“Barry”]Dawkins’ and Wilson’s politics ARE progressives and pacifists and socialists, but as I have claimed before, “liberal” is centrist at best.  They both are capitalistic as well, I presume.

Exactly. First, they are left-wing progressives, not right-wingers in any sense. Second, I have no idea what it means to be “capitalistic”. Third, this is the very model of an ad hominem argument: appealing to someone’s political beliefs rather than to the arguments they give.

And one final thing: the bolding of all your messages is really tiresome. Do you like seeming to bellow all the time?

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Posted: 22 January 2007 10:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Not ad hominem

Doug said:

An “ad hominem” argument is, following Wikipedia, “a logical fallacy consisting of replying to an argument by attacking or appealing to the person making the argument, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument.” For example, to argue (fallaciously) that sociobiology is wrong by attacking the politics of some of its adherents.


But I am not arguing that sociobiology is wrong because of the politics of MOST of its adherents!  I DO think their politics guided their research and even their conclusions, but that is not the same thing as saying sociobiology or Evo Psych is wrong BECAUSE of this possible guidance.  Indeed, as David Buller shows in his book, it is quite good enough (and non-ad hominem) to show how the claims of Evo Psych (the Pinker/Cosmidas sort) are scientifically incorrect… There is no reason to talk about politics.

I talk about politics because I think it adds an interesting dimension to the discussion.  And did you ever stop to think that if Buller is correct, and these guys are scientifically wrong, that it may be their politics which lead them to say what they do about human nature (especially since there IS NO SUCH THING as a human nature?)

Barry wrote:
Re Dawkins: His words are trickier than the rest. Based on his thoughts and opinions in his “Atheists for Jesus” essay, it is clear he is trying to sound polite (re the quotes I copied; he is British, after all), by saying nasty selfishness is “unfortunate” (as opposed to bad?) or something we “might” not like… he is sugar coating his other sentiiment that can be read as: ‘So get over it you panzy progressives, pacifists and socialists, we ARE selfish .. that is reality .. and being nice (altruism) is a mistake of a faulty mind or something gone wrong because there is no evolutionary reason for altruism so let’s teach niceness like Jesus did!’

Doug Said: Barry, this is a really awful misstatement of Dawkins’s beliefs, as you know well. I have to wonder why you keep getting his views so wrong. Firstly, Dawkins himself is a pacifist. He states that altruism evolves in Selfish Gene, he gives the mechanism of its evolution, and he further claims that humans have the ability to act out of pure altruism.

I have shown you these quotes before.


Apparently THOSE quotes were out of context!  Dawkins only thinks altruism might have evolved in a SELFISH way as a SELFISH attribute (such as in Kin Selection or Reciprocal Altruism alone)... And Dawkins - pacifist or not - does say what I paraphrased above.  I DO “know well”, and now you will…

...Here are passages from the essay you refuse to read:

“My paradox comes from the UN-Darwinian fact, which any of us can observe in our own circle of acquaintances, that so many individual people are kind, generous, helpful, compassionate, nice…

“...I contemplate some of my friends and I feel like trying to bottle whatever it is that makes them so kind, so selfless, so apparently UN-Darwinian.

“Darwinians can come up with explanations for human niceness: generalizations of the well-established models of kin selection and reciprocal altruism, the stocks-in-trade of the ‘selfish gene’ theory, which sets out to explain how altruism and cooperation among individual animals can stem from self-interest at the genetic level. But the sort of niceness I am talking about in humans goes too far. It is a misfiring, even a perversion of the Darwinian take on niceness.

“Human super niceness is a perversion of Darwinism because, in a wild population, it would be removed by natural selection. It is also, although I haven’t the space to go into detail about this third ingredient of my recipe, an apparent perversion of the sort of rational choice theory by which economists explain human behavior as calculated to maximize self-interest.

“Let’s put it even more bluntly. From a rational choice point of view, or from a Darwinian point of view, human niceness is just plain dumb.”

Emphases mine.

Barry wrote:
Dawkins’ and Wilson’s politics ARE progressives and pacifists and socialists, but as I have claimed before, “liberal” is centrist at best. They both are capitalistic as well, I presume.
Doug Said: Exactly. First, they are left-wing progressives, not right-wingers in any sense. Second, I have no idea what it means to be “capitalistic”.


I see I completely botched that last line… I must have missed the mistakes because there is just so much writing going on here… What I meant to say (and what I changed it to) was:

Dawkins’ and Wilson’s politics are certainly liberal (not progressive and/or socialistic by any means), and as I have showed before, “liberal” is centrist at best. They both are capitalistic as well, I presume.
And what do I mean by capitalistic?  Selfish, uber-competitive, greedy, rugged individualizization… and the like… The evolution proves Free Market Captialism is natural agrument other SB’s and EP’s have made (see other quotes I posted)... 

“Long ago an anarchist wrote capitalism is theft.  I think that’s apt and that capitalism is also degradation, impoverishment, homogenization, commercialization, and pollution.  Capitalism leaves many people following orders, doing only rote tasks, and having little or no control of their economic lives.  It pits people against one another so that nice people finish last and garbage rises.

“Capitalism means production for profit, not for human fulfillment and development.  It creates hierarchy and class rule.  It gets much production, consumption and allocation accomplished - often too much - but with roles, conditions, aims, and agendas that sunder human solidarity, decimate economic, social, and ecological diversity, eviscerate equity, and mangle self-management.  Capitalism is more a thug’s economy than a humane economy.  When it is working less harmfully it is alienation and indignity.  When it is working most harmfully it is starvation and war.  I reject capitalism because it is so damn horrible.” - Michael Albert

Doug Said:

And one final thing: the bolding of all your messages is really tiresome. Do you like seeming to bellow all the time?

I apologize.  I bold things so that I can read them better as I review what I wrote in “preview” - to separate it from other’s writings too.  I will stop this practice.

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Posted: 22 January 2007 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Re: Not ad hominem

[quote author=“Barry”]Apparently THOSE quotes were out of context!  Dawkins only thinks altruism might have evolved in a SELFISH way as a SELFISH attribute (such as in Kin Selection or Reciprocal Altruism alone)... And Dawkins - pacifist or not - does say what I paraphrased above.  I DO “know well”, and now you will…

...Here are passages from the essay you refuse to read:

“My paradox comes from the UN-Darwinian fact, which any of us can observe in our own circle of acquaintances, that so many individual people are kind, generous, helpful, compassionate, nice…

“...I contemplate some of my friends and I feel like trying to bottle whatever it is that makes them so kind, so selfless, so apparently UN-Darwinian.

“Darwinians can come up with explanations for human niceness: generalizations of the well-established models of kin selection and reciprocal altruism, the stocks-in-trade of the ‘selfish gene’ theory, which sets out to explain how altruism and cooperation among individual animals can stem from self-interest at the genetic level. But the sort of niceness I am talking about in humans goes too far. It is a misfiring, even a perversion of the Darwinian take on niceness.

“Human super niceness is a perversion of Darwinism because, in a wild population, it would be removed by natural selection. It is also, although I haven’t the space to go into detail about this third ingredient of my recipe, an apparent perversion of the sort of rational choice theory by which economists explain human behavior as calculated to maximize self-interest.

“Let’s put it even more bluntly. From a rational choice point of view, or from a Darwinian point of view, human niceness is just plain dumb.”

Emphases mine.

Barry, in your original post, you attributed to Dawkins the belief that we should, “get over it you panzy progressives, pacifists and socialists, we ARE selfish .. that is reality .. and being nice (altruism) is a mistake of a faulty mind”.

This is a total, and indeed extremely nasty, mischaracterization of his views. And you just contradicted that quote when you showed that Dawkins does believe that altruism can evolve. It can by reciprocal altruism, kin selection, and he does allow now group selection under certain circumstances as well.

This is no different from Sober and Wilson’s view that you seemed to be so friendly towards, before.

Now, as to these quotes, none of them are the slightest bit surprising to me, since they state part of Dawkins’s view, as stated many places elsewhere. He is setting up a rhetorical “paradox” to make it seem as though compassion can’t evolve. That is why he says, e.g.,

“I contemplate some of my friends and I feel like trying to bottle whatever it is that makes them so kind, so selfless, so apparently UN-Darwinian.” My emphasis.

But it is even worse. The last two quotes demonstrate that you have got Dawkins precisely backwards. What he is saying is that human niceness exists, even though it appears not to have any evolutionary reason to exist. Now, I don’t even know that I would go that far, but Dawkins certainly seemed to in his Selfish Gene when he said:

[quote author=“Dawkins”]We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism—something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. (pp. 200-1)

This is the precise opposite of the sort of “Hobbesianism” that you like to tar people with. Dawkins is saying humans are nice! And he is saying that that is a good thing.

And just to be absolutely, plonkingly clear ... when he says that “from a Darwinian point of view, human niceness is just plain dumb”, he means that FROM A DARWINIAN POINT OF VIEW, i.e. not from a moral point of view. Dawkins stresses over and over again that our morality does NOT come solely from evolution, as the quote above shows.

As for the stuff about capitalism, I am no friend to the laissez-faire type, but that is just a high-school caricature. You would be all over that if it came from Dawkins’s mouth and was about religion ... I thought you didn’t like his intemperate tone?

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Posted: 22 January 2007 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Dawkins means, what?

Doug said:

Barry, in your original post, you attributed to Dawkins the belief that we should, “get over it you panzy progressives, pacifists and socialists, we ARE selfish .. that is reality .. and being nice (altruism) is a mistake of a faulty mind”.

This is a total, and indeed extremely nasty, mischaracterization of his views. And you just contradicted that quote when you showed that Dawkins does believe that altruism can evolve. It can by reciprocal altruism, kin selection, and he does allow now group selection under certain circumstances as well.

This is complicated. What Dawkins IS saying can be politicized as in the words I suggested he might actually mean.  After all, all of society is political.  Dawkins clearly likes folks who are nice, but says that this niceness - scientifically speaking - is a “perversion,” a “misfiring,” and “dumb.”  He then tries to say that the belief of ridiculous ideas (like with “religion”) shows that folks can trick themselves into being nice!  So this seems to imply that had they believed in reality, they would not be nice (even if niceness is, well, nice) ... That somehow niceness memes, I presume, born of wishful thinking, leads to some folks being purely nice DESPITE the persons’ evolutionary human nature which is selfish or self-interested. 

So, progressives, (maybe) pacifists and socialists - it follows based on the idea of humanity these theories hold to - have an unreal concept of humanity as informed by sociobiology as well, because like Jesus, they advocate for niceness (cooperation, etc) ... they have false beliefs.  Instead of Dawkins wearing a mocking shirt (as he does on his website) which reads: “Atheists for Jesus,” he might also wear “Atheists for Progressive Politics,” for “socialistic politics,” or for “Humanism” - as I define humanism.  Dawkins likes and thinks is a good thing, niceness and nice people, but he has no idea how this might have evolved (since the kind of niceness he is referring to goes beyond kin or reciropical altruism ...  the only kinds he can account for.) Instead of offering a better scientific understanding, he offers the false belief meme method of religion… which he thinks elsewhere (God Delusion) is a bad thing.

He is also CLEARLY saying that we ARE selfish, and niceness seems to mean a faulty “mind” (since the mind is a product of his selfish gene theory, and also the “place” where the niceness emotions “misfire” from).  Maybe I am being to literal here with my resuse of his word, ‘misfiring,’ but if the brain/mind is a product of selfish gene evolution, and the brain/mind can believe in false things like religion or has other false beliefs which can lead to pure niceness - and that pure niceness is a misfiring or a perversion of evolution - then something is abnormal or has misfired in the brain of these folks… Even if Dawkins says this is a good thing, he is in a way dismissing it as a mistake we should make more of… Odd way of talking about altruism, no?

And afterall, Dawkins does say about being nice in this essay:  ”...the human brain expanded to the point where"it overreached itself and started to behave insanely.”

So yes, my sentence might have been a bit of bombast, but it is not so far out a possibility as you think.  Of course, Dawkins himself might be missing the meaning of what he himself is saying - if he indeed means other than what he seems to be meaning - but that might seem a bit sad a situation for someone like he.  No matter what Dawkins actually means, it seems his words can be - like religious texts - interpreted differently by different people… and not just me, but scientists with degrees closer to evolutionary biology than Zoology.  If Dawkins truely wants to seperate himself from folks like EO Wilson, Pinker, and the rest, he ought to.

Doug said:

Dawkins wrote:
We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism—something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. (pp. 200-1)

How does Dawkins suggest we “defy” our selfish genes?  Genetic engineering?  That would work.  How can we defy “memes” - plant opposing memes all around?  That does not seem to have worked for atheists (if religion is a meme as Dawkins and Blackmore say it is). 

If humans are a part of nature, just how should we go about ‘discussing a way of cultivating pure, disinterested altruism’ which “has no place in nature?”  Should humans become other than natural?  Should we gain supernatural powers to will ourselves into creating and nurturing such an altruism?  How can we turn against our “creators” if we ARE programed creations… programed by selfish genes and memes?  Dawkins does not offer any suggestions anywhere I have seen except in the ‘Atheists for Jesus’ essay, where he is advocating we believe in nonsense (like his understanding of religion) which will create its own memes which could override our selfish gene and meme creators ???  But is not religion part of nature - our nature?  Did not religion evolve either as an adaptation as DS Wilson says or in other ways as Scott Atran says? 

Furthermore, Dawkins in ‘God Delusion’ is adamantly AGAINST believing in such nonsense - even re liberal religionists who may just do good because of religion! 

The paradox for Dawkins seems to be that HE can’t think of any good reason that humans are GENUINELY altruistic, and so we must adopt false beliefs to override our “nature,” but at the same time, we need to jettison false beliefs!  Damn, what a task! 

Maybe Dawkins is starting to (like EO Wilson is) rethink Group Selection and other ideas so that he won’t have to deal with such a paradox.  Maybe he will discover that humans have no fixed nature (and that there is a place in nature for what he thinks there isn’t), and our ability to be altruistic (which may have evolved in ways beyond his “rare” and “selfish” ways) is highly dependent on how our environment “plays” on our FLEXIBLE “natures.” 

I don’t know about you, but Dawkins and crew just don’t seem to be saying the same things I am saying (and their critics are saying)...

Here are some thoughts on Dawkin’s essay from a friend of mine.  This was to be published in Free Inquiry but was turned down at last moment.  CFI are fond of Dawkins, after all.

————————————————————————————————

...Dawkins seems to state that Christianity isn’t really all that bad because, after all, it does encourage us to be “nice.” Yet in doing this Dawkins does not acknowledge the most destructive of all Christian beliefs: that at their core humans are fundamentally anti-social, ruled by a selfish, greedy and destructive nature; in short, sinful.  Dawkins fails to identify these most toxic of Christian ideas because they are ideas to which he clearly subscribes.

“The theory of natural selection itself seems calculated to foster, selfishness at the expense of public good; violence, callous indifference to suffering, short term greed at the expense of long term foresight.” -Dawkins

Such a Victorian era view of human nature as being fundamentally anti-social has far more in common with the anti-humanistic bias of ancient religion than with a modern objective understanding of human behavior.  Years of scientific study in a variety of fields indicate a picture of humanity which significantly differs from the traditional view that in one way or another says, “Man is a sinner.”  Instead, modern social science substantiates something far closer to what many humanistic philosophers have long believed; the degree to which they are subject to neglect, deprivation and/or abuse, humans, like most living things, will generally suffer a corresponding diminution in ability to function at their fullest potential. 

Instead of rethinking his presumptions, Dawkins’ solution is one which has always represented science at its worst; Dawkins creates an ad hoc hypothesis.  Throughout history many meritorious ideas championed by radical thinkers such as Galileo or more recently, Lyn Margulis, have been initially rejected by the scientific establishment because their revolutionary implications would force a reconsideration of long accepted beliefs. 

In such cases confirmation bias can give rise to some amazingly twisted attempts to salvage erroneous, conventional thinking.  Consistent with this most regrettable of scientific traditions Dawkins, determined to retain his ruthless ‘survival of the fittest’ model while trying to account for healthy interconnected human behavior, comes up with a workaround worthy for inclusion in the “Ad Hoc Hall of Fame.”

Labeling the expression of healthy mature extended-self interest as “human super-niceness,” Dawkins’ explains it as being a “misfiring, even a perversion of Darwinism”” and ““just plain dumb,” the result of “the human brain expanded to the point where"it overreached itself and started to behave insanely””  Dawkins’ “misfiring” theory serves a dual purpose; it preserves the belief that humans are naturally anti-social while providing a way to acknowledge the non-conforming data.  In the end not only are humans still selfish bastards, they’re also malfunctioning freaks. 

Referring to the success of religion, he suggests with a touch a smug humor:

“If people can be infected with such self-harming stupidity, infecting them with niceness should be a doodle.” -Dawkins

To Dawkins being nice is “just plain dumb.” Since the masses are just dumb enough to fool, the answer, to Dawkins, seems obvious- dupe the masses into being nice.

“Could this susceptibility, this palpable vulnerability to infections of irrationality be put to good use?” - Dawkins

How ironic that such obnoxious arrogance and condescension come from the Oxford University professor who has the special distinction of holding the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science. 

Perhaps one reason why the general public is alienated from intellectual discourse relates to the reality that, as in the case of Dawkins, so many of the academics entrusted with elevating the general public’s appreciation of science and other rigorous subjects not only lack an understanding of why the general public behave as they do; they may even think of the general public with smug contempt. 

When a teacher regards those he or she is expected to teach with disdain, effective learning is usually compromised.  If we’re misunderstood by our nation’s faithful, perhaps we need to examine if there is anything we are saying that would merit their attention. As we echo the same old message about human nature being fundamentally flawed and anti-social, as found in their existing religion, while in place of their traditional practices, we supply no alternative what-so-ever, we really have precious little to offer the masses. 

==========================================

Doug Said:

As for the stuff about capitalism, I am no friend to the laissez-faire type, but that is just a high-school caricature. You would be all over that if it came from Dawkins’s mouth and was about religion ... I thought you didn’t like his intemperate tone?

Dawkin’s tone in not just intemperate, it is insulting to religionists - from a person who himself has no good understanding of why people are religious or become fundamentalists (other than his memes idea) - though I would hope that he is less clueless about the sociopolitical and economic reasons for religion than Sam Harris seems to be. 

See not all forms of religion are dangerous or ought to be attacked as Dawkins does.  Indeed, much of religion is a good thing for us (even Dawkins seems to agree to this via his Jesus tee-shirt).  And attacking what fundamentalists do without understanding how they became such (no, not brainwashing), is silly… to say the least.

Michael Albert is talking about a system which HAS nothing good about it .. not even its seeming production success!  The inherent nature of capitalism is unhumanistic.  Free Markets are unhumanistic.  Profit is unhumanistic.  And a New Deal capitalism is not stable because it is bad for business and markets will fail under regulation in time.  This is why FDR himself began repealing the New Deal in his own term… We did not need Ronald Reagan to do this. 

Socialism and the market economy don’t work together ... we saw what happened in the USSR (which was more about state capitalism than socialism anyway post-Stalin). 

If you think Albert or others are offering amateur arguments, you have not read Albert or others.  What I posted was a simplification for the media, not a section of one of his books…

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Posted: 22 January 2007 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Re. the evolution of altruism, Dawkins has the same problem that Sober, DS Wilson, and indeed any naturalist has: it is not clear that there is any real evolutionary reason for the evolution of “pure” altruism. (If indeed “pure” altruism exists).

So while you castigate Dawkins, I don’t hear you castigating Sober and DS Wilson for precisely the same thing. After all, the Sober/Wilson group selection thesis involves competition between groups just as much as the other theses involve competition between individuals.

The only way I can figure that any naturalist can make sense of defying genes is with some sort of rational perspective on ethics, which certainly could be analyzed in terms of “memes”.

The essay about Dawkins is really trashy stuff. No surprise it didn’t get published.

Re. capitalism, you say,

[quote author=“Barry”]Dawkin’s tone in not just intemperate, it is insulting to religionists - from a person who himself has no good understanding of why people are religious or become fundamentalists ... See not all forms of religion are dangerous or ought to be attacked as Dawkins does. Indeed, much of religion is a good thing for us

One could say precisely the same thing about the folderol you quoted earlier: it is not just intemperate, but insulting to capitalists—from a person who himself has no good understanding of why people are capitalistic or become capitalist ... See, not all forms of capitalism are dangerous or ought to be attacked as Albert does. Indeed, much of capitalism is a good thing for us.

... and to think you called me a fear-monger for saying you were a religious apologist!

LOL  LOL

BTW, socialism and a market economy work pretty well in Europe ...

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Posted: 22 January 2007 04:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Doug said:

Re. the evolution of altruism, Dawkins has the same problem that Sober, DS Wilson, and indeed any naturalist has: it is not clear that there is any real evolutionary reason for the evolution of “pure” altruism. (If indeed “pure” altruism exists).

So while you castigate Dawkins, I don’t hear you castigating Sober and DS Wilson for precisely the same thing. After all, the Sober/Wilson group selection thesis involves competition between groups just as much as the other theses involve competition between individuals.

The only way I can figure that any naturalist can make sense of defying genes is with some sort of rational perspective on ethics, which certainly could be analyzed in terms of “memes”.

I am not so sure you are correct about Sober/Wilson, though they themselves do not seem to be willing to offer much beyond GS (in which competion exists but is not primary, because altruism exists alongside it… and not in the way Dawkins says), and that much has to do with our environment - which - memes or not - is not really what Dawkins’ is saying.  But we’ve went on enough about Dawkins, Wilson/Sober or others and have not gone very far on these forums toward a plan. 

The key to all of this is to determine - based on knowing what sort of creatures we are - what sort of environment/society would be best for us to create for a lasting, healthy, peacefull future.  From all I have read, Dawkins, Pinker and the Evo Psychs of their breed offer us a very negative view of our chances while Wilson/Sober, Buller, Fry, Du Waal, Kohn and others are not so negative, and even positive at times.  Perhaps if we ACTUALLY TRIED to create a better society, we might see our “natures” will be better in the long run.  But fostering the worst in us via the state, authoratarianism, selfishness, greed, uber-competitiveness, radical individualism, capitalism, etc will surely continue to destroy us.. as it has been doing so far.

Doug Said:

The essay about Dawkins is really trashy stuff. No surprise it didn’t get published.

I’ll pass that on to him!

Doug said:

Re. capitalism, you say,

Barry wrote:
Dawkin’s tone in not just intemperate, it is insulting to religionists - from a person who himself has no good understanding of why people are religious or become fundamentalists ... See not all forms of religion are dangerous or ought to be attacked as Dawkins does. Indeed, much of religion is a good thing for us…

One could say precisely the same thing about the folderol you quoted earlier: it is not just intemperate, but insulting to capitalists—from a person who himself has no good understanding of why people are capitalistic or become capitalist ... See, not all forms of capitalism are dangerous or ought to be attacked as Albert does. Indeed, much of capitalism is a good thing for us.

... and to think you called me a fear-monger for saying you were a religious apologist!

BTW, socialism and a market economy work pretty well in Europe ...

Again, religion and capitalism are not the same sort of “evil.”  There are redeeming factors of religion.  I see nothing redeeming about captialism other than it is better than feudalism (hardly something worth cheering about ... State Communism is better than Feudalism!) 

Insulting capitalists?  Is that like insulting neocons or neoliberals?  What about insulting torturers or Nazis?  I mean, these all are people too!  Anyway, I am not insulting any person, just talking truth to power about capitalism.  If capitalism is a “good” thing to any, those folks are the ones with the money!  A world where capitalism continues on is indeed something to be fearful of… and it is its’ own cause! 

Religious fundementalism can be scary, and people who act under this ism can do scary things… but the underlying cause is not the seeking of spirtuality or God, it’s the problem(s) of society (which foster it).

As for Europe, that is socialism and a market economy different from the USSR only in that it is a Rep. Democracy instead of a system of totalitarianism.  Better for the people in general, but not sustainable… as we see.  Social Democracy has been on the decline since 1975, and part of the reason is market capitalism and part is the concentration of power in a representative democracy.

“Today we face a very serious multidimensional crisis. This crisis affects all spheres of life ... it is an economic crisis, it is a political crisis, it is a social crisis, an ecological crisis, even a cultural crisis. 

“The cause is always the concentration of power on various levels. It is the concentration of economic power, which leads to the economic crisis, of political power, which leads to the political crisis, and so on.

“The political crisis is a by-product of the dynamics of representative democracy.  Representative democracy is not a system that was always there - it was created at about the same time as the system of the market economy, 200 years ago, and its dynamics has led to the present situation, where it’s not parliaments any more that take important decisions, it’s not even the governing parties, but it’s just cliques around the president or the prime minister which take all the important decisions.” - Takis Fotopoulos

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Posted: 23 January 2007 01:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“Barry”]I’ll pass that on to him!

I’m sure you will! LOL

... of course, my comment was predicated on the supposition that you didn’t take those quotes out of context, about which I am less than entirely certain ...

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Posted: 23 January 2007 03:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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[quote author=“Barry”]Again, religion and capitalism are not the same sort of “evil.”  There are redeeming factors of religion.  I see nothing redeeming about captialism other than it is better than feudalism (hardly something worth cheering about ... State Communism is better than Feudalism!) 

Humm ... seems to me you have capitalism, at least in part, to thank for the food and drink on your table, your electricity, gas, car, house, furniture, appliances, clothing, medicine, hospitals, radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, books, computers, the internet, air travel, rail travel, the restaurants and hotels you visit, on and on.

“Nothing redeeming” is a joke.

OTOH, what do you have the Catholic church to thank for? I mean, really.

[quote author=“Barry”]Insulting capitalists?  Is that like insulting neocons or neoliberals?  What about insulting torturers or Nazis?  I mean, these all are people too!

Oh, we have to bring up the Nazis again? rolleyes

Just for the record, Hitler had about the same opinion of capitalism that you do, except that he believed it was a Jewish plot. His movement was called “National Socialism”, after all.

[quote author=“Barry”]Religious fundementalism can be scary, and people who act under this ism can do scary things… but the underlying cause is not the seeking of spirtuality or God, it’s the problem(s) of society (which foster it).

It’s not one or the other. It’s both. Both issues need to be tackled.

[quote author=“Barry”]As for Europe, that is socialism and a market economy different from the USSR only in that it is a Rep. Democracy instead of a system of totalitarianism.  Better for the people in general, but not sustainable… as we see.  Social Democracy has been on the decline since 1975, and part of the reason is market capitalism and part is the concentration of power in a representative democracy.

I don’t see this at all. The vast majority there is quite happy with nationalized health care, and a larger safety net, to take just two prime examples.

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Posted: 23 January 2007 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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... of course, my comment was predicated on the supposition that you didn’t take those quotes out of context, about which I am less than entirely certain ...

I will send him the same thing I posted, with your comment.. just to make sure ...  8)

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Posted: 23 January 2007 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Barry wrote:
Again, religion and capitalism are not the same sort of “evil.” There are redeeming factors of religion. I see nothing redeeming about capitalism other than it is better than feudalism (hardly something worth cheering about ... State Communism is better than Feudalism!) 

Doug Wrote:
Humm ... seems to me you have capitalism, at least in part, to thank for the food and drink on your table, your electricity, gas, car, house, furniture, appliances, clothing, medicine, hospitals, radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, books, computers, the Internet, air travel, rail travel, the restaurants and hotels you visit, on and on.

“Nothing redeeming” is a joke.


Getting my food, car, house… etc. via capitalism does not redeem capitalism anymore than getting the oil to run our cars, etc. redeems our war in Iraq.  The ends do not justify the means.

Doug wrote:
OTOH, what do you have the Catholic church to thank for? I mean, really.

Nothing.  But I was talking about religion and not the Church.

Barry wrote:
Insulting capitalists? Is that like insulting neocons or neoliberals? What about insulting torturers or Nazis? I mean, these all are people too!

Doug said:
Oh, we have to bring up the Nazis again? 

Just for the record, Hitler had about the same opinion of capitalism that you do, except that he believed it was a Jewish plot. His movement was called “National Socialism”, after all.

Well, Hitler was right about something then, huh? (I mean capitalism, not the Jews, of course)... And his movement was CALLED Socialism but was fascism in reality ... a lot like Bush’s America!

Barry wrote:
Religious fundamentalism can be scary, and people who act under this ism can do scary things ... but the underlying cause is not the seeking of spirituality or God, it’s the problem(s) of society (which foster it).

Doug wrote: It’s not one or the other. It’s both. Both issues need to be tackled.

The fundamentalist problems stemming from supernaturalism or religious texts themselves will NEVER be successfully tackled UNLESS we change the environment where fundamentalism thrives.  Offering intellectual arguments for alternatives to religion will not change this at this time.. not even close (so much for Dawkins and Harris.. they had best get their priorities straight)

Doug wrote:
I don’t see this at all. The vast majority there is quite happy with nationalized health care, and a larger safety net, to take just two prime examples.

Of course they are happy with having a larger safety net than us - we hardly even HAVE a net (or else it is a net full of large holes).. But their system is still failing - since the peak in Sweden in 1975 - and it is because of the neoliberal consensus.  Read on…

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Posted: 13 April 2007 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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right on

Thanks Meatball!

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Posted: 13 April 2007 05:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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[quote author=“meatball”]Dawkins says some real goofy stuff ! some totally unscientific and unreasonable trash.

Damn straight!  I only wish I can get his “fans” to realise they just like his fancy lingo and angry atheism and nonsense selfish gene crap ... and that none of these are usefull to the advancement of science and humanism.  Sigh.

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Posted: 13 April 2007 07:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Back in December of 2004, on my radio program we had Lynn Margulis on and mentioned Dawkin’s essay in FI (Atheists for Jesus), and we mentioned that Dawkins thinks that niceness (as said in that essay) is sort of an aberration - a misfiring in the brain, etc, etc.  This is what Margulis said:

“I think he’s (Dawkins) an aberration. I also think he’s very selfish, and probably at the base of this he’s trying to justify it ... Dawkin’s statement of evolution is just completely misguided. He takes literally the concept of the individual ... the selfish individual.  His concept of the selfish gene is ridiculous because the gene has no self.  And if we look at minimal selves, we find that there is no such thing as an individual, and an individual person isolated from the social experience is dead.  It’s dead as an infant, child and adult.  Its certainly dead evolutionary.

“Social interaction between ourselves and with other species is vital to our survival.  Therefore terms like benevolence which cannot be measured are not ... although he claims they are evolutionary terms, they have no scientific meaning per say.  Neither has altruism.  These terms are reflections of a kind of peculiar Victorian misstatement of Darwinism that Dawkins is so good at.

“The problem is that he has no education in the relevant issues here. He’s trying to talk about ‘niceness’ and social interaction, selfishness, greed and so on, and these are terms which are not scientific and he knows nothing about them philosophically or sociologically or psychologically or anthropologically or historically or other terms regarding real scholarly and practical knowledge.

“I think he’s got a very platonic and anachronistic evolutionary view to begin with, and then he’s tripped up into these logical arguments because he just doesn’t have the knowledge base to handle these subjects. I do not mean to offer any ad hominem arguments, it’s just that in his case, it’s just so clear.

“This (Victorian view) passes as science, and that’s why I find it so insidious.  Because it’s not science, and it’s very easy for me to show you how it’s not science.  His misuse of Darwinism - and there is a difference between Darwin himself ... (and his ideas) and the way they were co-opted by politicians in the late 19th century… and Dawkins is still using the vocabulary of that time.”

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