1 of 4
1
Barbara Oakley - Evil Genes (10/15/07)
Posted: 15 October 2007 06:35 PM   [ Ignore ]
Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  174
Joined  2007-02-21

poilogo.jpg

Barbara Oakley, PhD, has been dubbed a female Indiana Jones — her writing combines worldwide adventure with solid research expertise. Among other adventures, she has worked as a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers in the Bering Sea, served as radio operator at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, and risen from private to regular army captain in the U.S. Army. Currently an associate professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, Oakley is a recent vice president of the world’s largest bioengineering society and holds a doctorate in the integrative discipline of systems engineering. Her new book is Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hilter Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend.
In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Oakley explores human evil from a scientific perspective. She recounts experiences that led her to research the topic, including episodes from her sister’s life, and from her travels. She details recent advances in brain imaging and genetics that have implications for traditional views of evil, and discusses why a scientific understanding of evil is important.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 October 2007 08:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Member
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  105
Joined  2007-10-09

I got halfway through listening to this and then people came into my office, and I had to turn it off. :(  Very interesting topic, and one I’ve been wondering about for a while now.  But, it’s also a headache to have to think about, if you know people who are chronically “evil”...  I always have the instinct to think, “Oh nobody’s done enough, nobody’s tried to talk to them…” and so on and so forth, but people have tried.  I need to finish listening to this before I go on!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-10-05

I listened to the episode last night, and ordered the book a few minutes ago. Very interesting discussion. Barbara Oakley’s observation that altruism is a survival trait which some people lack explains a lot about modern politic and business, especially Ayn Rand’s Objectivism.

 Signature 

“In the beginning, God created the universe. This has made many people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”
Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  122
Joined  2006-11-24

I’m not impressed by Barbara Oakley’s positions and feel no great inclination to read her book. It sounded all too reductionistic, and where she veered off into politics, positively naive. Ken Lays “should have done more than slap their wrists”. Give me a break! She reminds me of a naive reporter I once heard on NPR who touted Lays donations to the arts (millions, but by comparison minor pocket change) as worthy of admiration. Damnit, the Rockefellers started being ‘benefactors’ as a publicity ploy to improve their abysmal but correct image as being murderous robber barons, not because they meant it!

There are several types of CEOs, some are technocrats, some are just good looking, smooth talking figure heads, but most have achieved their high station because they ruthlessly put the bottom line over everything else. In this society, these guys tend to be lionized as heroes and ‘captains of industry’ but in my book they’re sociopaths. How do you rise in a hierarchie? Over the corpses of your competitors. It’s not just a prejudice, it’s recently shown to be the case in a decent study. Same for politics.

Here it’s especially obvious that the stupid ‘brain scans’ to which DJ kept referring don’t do nothing. Knowledge of a person’s psychological history and his history of actions apparently is much more telling, if sometimes of little account in the eyes of stupid voters. George W Bush and his henchman Karl Rove are good examples. Bush had nothing to show for except being rich, having a president for father, being born again and having emerged from alcoholism. He was a complete failure as a business man who had to be bailed out from his disastrous episodes in the oil industry numerous times. He hadn’t read a book, had in essence flunked Yale. He didn’t have to go to Nam because his connections made sure he ended up a non-flying pilot in the ‘champaign unit’ of the National Guard, and even failed to report for duty. He got into the Guard despite scoring only 25 percent on a “pilot aptitude” test, the lowest passing grade.

An acquaintance of mine attended Harvard business school with W. She told me his astounding ‘talent’ was to make claims one minute, and to completely disavow any knowledge of having ever utter anything of the kind as soon as his ideas had turned out to be wrong. She says it left profs and fellow students speechless.

Or take Karl Rove. By credible accounts the description of hitman or henchman is correct and undeniable. He had a history of breaking the rules and the law to denigrate and harm his political opponents, and was promoted to become “Bush’s brains” for exactly that reason. An amoral technocrat in the propaganda industry who was until recently allowed to machinate the lies used to start an illegal war that so far has killed more than a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. No need to submit him to a brain scan: everybody knew exactly what kind of a person he is, but the powerhungry Republican machine rewarded and promoted him for those exact features.

Or take Pol Pot or the North Vietnamese. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out the extremely cruel and devastating war in Southeast Asia basically only allowed the toughest and meanest leaders to survive. Guess why they were so inhumane? They had nothing to lose, they might die the same day in aerial bombings, they had little to eat because dikes had been bombed and their food sustenance destroyed. Were they psychopaths? By some definition, yes, but where do the genes come in? (Note: this injection of reason earned Chomsky bitter criticsm as being an ‘apologist’ for their atrocities, when all he said was that there’s no reason to expect them to be nice guys).
(As an aside, I hate it when unpleasant leaders are dubbed ‘dictator’ when they have been elected, as applies to Milosevic, whom Oakley mentioned, and Iran’s Ahmedinejad, the latter having been called a dictator by the president of Columbia University.)

Does it really require a gene theory to understand history and politics? Even if there are genetic markers that identify ‘evil’ traits, does that open up any venues to change things? In any case, politics is often a shell game with figure heads visible to the outside - who may display integrity, wisdom and statesmanship - and henchmen on the inside. Apparently, this is how people like to do things. I fail to see where the evil gene theory can make a dent, except to demonize and marginalize people who don’t live up to social norms.
What we need are social structures where obvious assholes do not rise through the ranks - now here’s a challenge!

[ Edited: 16 October 2007 10:05 PM by moreover ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-10-05

Don’t sugar coat it moreover, tell us what you really think.  wink

How do you rise in a hierarchie? Over the corpses of your competitors. It’s not just a prejudice, it’s recently shown to be the case in a decent study. Same for politics.

Do you have a reference for this? I’d like to read it, or at least a synopsis.

[ Edited: 16 October 2007 10:26 PM by DarronS ]
 Signature 

“In the beginning, God created the universe. This has made many people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”
Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  895
Joined  2007-05-09

<>

[ Edited: 31 January 2008 06:34 AM by zarcus ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Member
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  105
Joined  2007-10-09

Oh my goodness, now I really want to listen to the rest this.  When I was talking about evil people, I was thinking more like chronic inconsiderate assholes. LOL

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  895
Joined  2007-05-09

<>

[ Edited: 22 January 2008 07:45 PM by zarcus ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 07:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2423
Joined  2007-09-03
zarcus - 16 October 2007 05:17 PM

Also, it reminded me of Michael Shermer’s book, The Science of Good and Evil

Michael Shermer’s book found - HERE = Skeptic.com on right of page

Barbara Oakley’s web site - HERE

I would also point to the work of Steven Pinker and David Sloan Wilson, who were mentioned on the podcast as praising Barbara’s book.

I was reminded of the book A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 08:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  895
Joined  2007-05-09

<>

[ Edited: 31 January 2008 06:34 AM by zarcus ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 08:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-10-05
godblessgeorgecarlin - 16 October 2007 04:33 PM

Oh my goodness, now I really want to listen to the rest this.  When I was talking about evil people, I was thinking more like chronic inconsiderate assholes. LOL

Libertarians?

 Signature 

“In the beginning, God created the universe. This has made many people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”
Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 08:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Member
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  105
Joined  2007-10-09

I do know some considerate libertarians.  I don’t necessarily agree with their political views, but I think that if everyone was as considerate as they are libertarianism might stand a chance!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 09:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4809
Joined  2007-10-05

I brought up Libertarians half-jokingly because of Barbara Oakley’s discussion about altruism in great apes, and how that may be a survival trait. Libertarians may be considerate, but their political and social philosophy is most definitely not altruistic.

Oakley’s theory regarding genetics may have some merit. My father’s side of the family (as far as I know) contains two political liberals, myself and an older cousin. The rest are rabid Republicans who believe all Democrats are evil and Republicans, while not perfect, are at least trying to protect the country from terrorists, godless heathens, abortionists, tax collectors, and (worst of all) secular humanists. My mother’s side of the family is pretty much the opposite, preferring to let people lead their own lives and weighing the evidence before making decisions. We were all raised in the same culture, so what explains the different world views? While we don’t have enough evidence to proclaim genetics as the most likely reason, it is a compelling theory worthy of further investigation.

 Signature 

“In the beginning, God created the universe. This has made many people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”
Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 10:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  122
Joined  2006-11-24

Hi Zarcus,
regarding formating, good point, I redacted it to include more paragraphs just now. As a general remedy, when I encounter hard to read web stuff I highlight it, use cut and paste, spit it out in my text program and increase the size: 7 seconds tops and no headaches reading it.

The study on how assholes advance in business came out very recently, but at the moment I’m failing at retrieving it. In essence it quantified that mean authoritarian bosses are climbing the ladder faster than their mellower cohorts. That said, different industries and different companies have different climates, and so do business schools. Harvard B is (or used to be) all about killing the competition, whereas Dartmouth emphasized mutual interest and cooperation. It’s a big field with lots of shades.

[ Edited: 16 October 2007 10:06 PM by moreover ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 10:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Member
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  105
Joined  2007-10-09

Oooh if you retrieve that study link it, please. smile

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 11:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  895
Joined  2007-05-09

<>

[ Edited: 22 January 2008 07:47 PM by zarcus ]
Profile
 
 
   
1 of 4
1