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Do We Choose Our Politics?
Posted: 19 February 2008 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I think we’re falling into a trap by oversimplifying how natural selection operates on behavior. We are not “programmed to procreate.” We are predisposed by the way our brains are built and develop and respond to the environment to behave in ways that, on average, are more likely to lead to sucessful procreation than the behavior of our ancestors less successful conspecifics. Evolution, in the case of complex behaviors at least, doesn’t micromanage behavior. So homosexuality vs heterosexuality as reproductive strategies is a false conflict.

If the genes that lead to certain behaviors on average lead to more reproduction than other gene combinations, they will become more common. If 10% of the people with those genes happen to like the same sex, and if most of them don’t reproduce (and let’s face it, plenty of homosexuals do at some point), that may still be conserved if the gene combination on average is better at reproducing itself than the competition. Maybe genes that predispose to such a rate of homosexuality also predispose to less violent conflict between males than gene combinations that are associated with more strict heterosexuality, so the more hetero genes kill each other off more frequently and the more pro-homo genes are on balance better at reproducing. Obviously, that’s just something I made up, but the point is that it is quite plausible for homosexuality to arise from evolutionarily very successful genetic foundations. You have to look at the population level and over long periods of time to make appropriate evolutionary arguments.

As for tabula rasa, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that. I think there may be temperments that one is bonr with, and these may predispose one to a certain flavor of politics or social interaction, but again I don’t think evolution micromanages behavior to the point one can really say a political affiliation is innate.

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Posted: 19 February 2008 11:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Virtually no one I grew up with shares my views on Politics.  My family are all very conservative.  And yet somehow I came to view the world differently.  Does anyone think that can happen merely through some genetic hiccup, or through some kind of conditioning?

I think what happened in my case was more a factor related to my tendency to isolate myself in my room, read, write, paint, draw, reflect on my surroundings.  My behavior was considered odd, but tolerated as I did not bother anyone else.  No one cared much what I read, watched on TV or where I went what I did outside the house.

As I grew older, got work in delivering papers, cutting lawns, landscaping from the age of 11 or 12 on up I encountered different philosophies of others, became curious, studied, and found truth in what some of them subscribed to.  I’m sure it was a great surprise to my family when I began to challenge them on certain things, and the arguments I posed to them that had no basis in their views of the world.  Don’t most teenagers do this?  My brother and sister didn’t break away politically, they found other areas of life that they rebelled against.

I think what was key to the difference in my case, was that at no time was I forced to reject my views in favor of my parents, or any other way of seeing things.  I’m sure my parents felt some disappointment that I did not see things their way, but they never held it against me.

All this aside, my views are continually revised over the years as I see how various political philosophies have either worked or failed to realize human potential.  I imagine this will be so for the rest of my life.  I would give more credit to skeptical/critical thinking, than conditioning, in this regard.

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Posted: 19 February 2008 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Charles - 19 February 2008 11:21 AM

I think what happened in my case was more a factor related to my tendency to isolate myself in my room, read, write, paint, draw, reflect on my surroundings.  My behavior was considered odd, but tolerated as I did not bother anyone else.

Sounds more like a “genetic hiccup” to me. Or you might have been adopted…(?).

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Posted: 19 February 2008 11:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I must say it does surprise me a bit to see so many of you rejecting the influence of critical thinking in the process of determining political views.  Is evolution or environment, to blame for everything? Including how one views the world in political terms?  I think not.

Are people genetically predisposed to a belief in Intelligent Design vs. Evolution, or Religion vs. Atheism?  Come on folks!


And no, I was not adopted.

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Posted: 19 February 2008 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Charles - 19 February 2008 11:43 AM

Is evolution or environment, to blame for everything?

That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Pinker, who did an excellent job at discussing this topic in Blank Slate, thinks it’s about 40% genes, and 60% the environment. Have you read it?

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Posted: 19 February 2008 11:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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mckenzievmd - 19 February 2008 09:52 AM

Evolution, in the case of complex behaviors at least, doesn’t micromanage behavior. So homosexuality vs heterosexuality as reproductive strategies is a false conflict.

It’s not a matter of micromanaging anything.  Without sex there is no evolution.  Period.  And heterosexuality is far more likely to pass along genes.  Period.

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Posted: 19 February 2008 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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George - 19 February 2008 11:49 AM

Pinker, who did an excellent job at discussing this topic in Blank Slate, thinks it’s about 40% genes, and 60% the environment. Have you read it?

But in what areas of how we behave?  Surely not everything we do is the same 60/40.  I’m convinced sexual preference approaches 100% on the side of genes.  Other things we like or don’t like probably approaches 100% environment.  Others are probably a combination with 60/40 on some things, 90/10 on others, 50/50 here, 80/20 there, etc.  Where political persuasion falls on this scale, I don’t know.  But I would like to know.

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Posted: 19 February 2008 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I think you have missed my point completely. 

I think everyone here would agree, that it is possible to change your view on things, when presented with evidence that is contrary to your beliefs. 

A great many people are here, speaking in this forum, who underwent just such a change in perspective.  If someone with religious views can be convinced that the views are misguided, why not for political views as well.

Similarly, science is used to examine the material world and discover many things that are contrary to conventional thinking.  These are the same techniques that I used to come up with my political views, and the same techniques I continue to use today.

Personally, I think too many people have treated politics in the same way that many here have accused theists of treating their religions.  The gross inability of people to use reason when examining issues.  The tendency to defend, indefensible positions as they are key to party agenda, and so forth.

And here I thought we were free thinkers. Sorry, my mistake.

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Posted: 19 February 2008 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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  “I must say it does surprise me a bit to see so many of you rejecting the influence of critical thinking in the process of determining political views.  Is evolution or environment, to blame for everything? Including how one views the world in political terms?  I think not. “

Another thing overlooked in this discussion is class position. Historically this has tended to be decisive in politics and remains so, though often clouded and distorted by other factors. It’s commonly argued (e.g. Thomas Frank in “What’s the Matter with Kansas”) that the ‘culture wars’ were introduced with the intention of diverting U.S. workers into support for reactionary and religious campaigns and consequently into voting in ways directly opposed to their class interests.

Of course, leading workers to vote for their bosses is what the two-(capitalist)-party system was all about from the get-go. As with so many other issues, the U.S. bourgeoisie is unique in having prevented the emergence of a union-based social democratic party of the kind that exists as a rule in all other advanced capitalist countries.

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Posted: 19 February 2008 12:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Rocinante - 19 February 2008 12:00 PM

Where political persuasion falls on this scale, I don’t know.  But I would like to know.

This is a very complex topic, and I recommend you all to read Pinker’s book. I remember in Blank Slate Pinker says that twins separated at birth, growing up in different places, share the same political views. I don’t have his book with me, but I remember that when talking about the environmental impact on our behaviour he quoted Woody Allen saying: “We live in a society that puts a big value on jokes…If I had been an Apache Indian, those guys didn’t need comedians, so I’d be out of work.”

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Posted: 19 February 2008 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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It’s not a matter of micromanaging anything.  Without sex there is no evolution.  Period.  And heterosexuality is far more likely to pass along genes.  Period.

Well, you either missed or just ignored my point. There is no “have sex” gene. Nor is there a “have sex with the same sex” or “have sex with the opposite sex” gene. There are a whole bunch of genes which contribute to complexes of behavior which lead to reproduction. As I said earlier, it is not at all hard to come up with a plausible set of genes which increase fitness more than the competing sets while still predisposing a low percentage of the population towards homosexuality. It’s the same argument about why celibate religious orders shouldn’t exist because their members don’t have children. So, why could homosexuality exist as a genetic predisposition?

1. It might be maladaptive and it just hasn’t disappeared yet. I doubt it, since it is seen in almost every mammal examined so far, but it’s possible. What exists now isn’t some perfect static evolutionary state, just a moment in a long process.

2. It could be the genes that predispose to it are sufficiently adaptive in other ways that this effect swamps the decrease in reproduction among those who end up on the strictly homosexual end of the spectrum

3. It could be that homosexuals are not as unlikely to have kids as you think. I know plenty who do, and this must have been even more true when it was a forbidden behavior in our culture.

And probably there are lots of others. So the idea that homosexuality is a predisposition established by genes is not incompatible with natural selection.

I also notice a tendancy for people to argue here that because some individuals are personally unable to imagine being attracted to one sex or the other, that this is somehow evidence for either the genetic OR the learned hypothesis. I don’t think this is true. It shows how deeply ingrained the behavior is but doesn’t really offer proof as to its genesis.

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Posted: 19 February 2008 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Charles and Balak.  I certainly agree that critical thinking and class are important factors, but the initial argument seemed to be about genetics vs nurture.  Rather than make the discussion more complex I put such factors as critical thinking, class, accident, etc. aside. 

Mriana, my 99% was from a male oriented viewpoint.  However, assume the average number of children per pair of heterosexuals is between two and three; call it three.  Assume that the average person is sexually active (not necessarily with another) from fourteen to seventy-four.  That means sixty years.  If the person was responsible for three children and I guessed at 99% that means the person would have had 300 orgasms in his/her life.  Dividing that by the number of years one gets five orgasms per year.  So you’re right that I should correct the percentage.  It should probably be between 99.90 and 99.95%  LOL

Occam

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Posted: 19 February 2008 02:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Occam - 19 February 2008 01:39 PM

Charles and Balak.  I certainly agree that critical thinking and class are important factors, but the initial argument seemed to be about genetics vs nurture.  Rather than make the discussion more complex I put such factors as critical thinking, class, accident, etc. aside. 

Mriana, my 99% was from a male oriented viewpoint.  However, assume the average number of children per pair of heterosexuals is between two and three; call it three.  Assume that the average person is sexually active (not necessarily with another) from fourteen to seventy-four.  That means sixty years.  If the person was responsible for three children and I guessed at 99% that means the person would have had 300 orgasms in his/her life.  Dividing that by the number of years one gets five orgasms per year.  So you’re right that I should correct the percentage.  It should probably be between 99.90 and 99.95%  LOL

Occam

Interesting, I thought the topic was “Do We Choose Our Politics?”.

It would appear that this thread is then engaged in deductive reasoning, rather than considering alternative explanations, we are expected to go along with the premise and provide only evidence that supports the argument.

Hmmm.

Meanwhile, the thread degrades into discussions of irrelevant evidence such as methods one might use to achieve orgasm, sexual preferences, and procreation.

Sounds like an exercise in mental masturbation to me.

[ Edited: 20 February 2008 11:19 AM by Charles ]
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