Re: poly: polymath digest for 07 Feb 98

From: Damien R. Sullivan <>
Date: Mon Feb 09 1998 - 10:50:25 PST

>From the 31 Jan _Economist_:
* After years of sanction and hardship, Iraqis are turning to Islam.
Ramadan is being celebrated more this year, and most women cover their
heads in public.

I think I'm rapidly supporting trade with China and Iraq. Even without
more rights, if China and the US become dependent on trade with each
other, war is less likely. And Iraq needs to be let back into the
bourgeoisie. We don't need another "Great Satan"-hating Iran.

On Feb 9, 12:52am, d.brin wrote:

> * While I think many biologists have been rash to utterly reject group
> selection, they are clearly right that individual selection is at least an

Have they? If you can show how the group prevents defection at the
individual or genetic level then I think you can make an acceptable case
for group selection. Eusocial colonies can be considered as competing
superorganisms, although Wilson says that the first wave of this idea
wasn't productive, and only recently is it being re-constructed out of
selfish-gene reductionism.

I did wonder, after posting my piece, whether the ideas I was carrying
ran afoul of the old group selection fallacy. The systems Posner talks
about, though, are precisely the ones for determining group membership
and sanctions for misbehavior, so I think it works. I'm not a big
enough fan of 'memetics' to have tried a reduciton to selfish-meme

> The upshot? Basic human nature has encouraged leaders, through massive
> reproductive success (via harems) to pass on and reinforce traits that
> suppress the very social mechanisms that would lead to civilization
> success! Hence the rarity of Periclean democracy, as opposed to that other

Um... I doubt harems in historical times have had much effect on
society. Are you saying the leaders spread their genetically ingrained
tendencies through the population? I doubt it, and happily predict much
attack of this idea if you present it, and much scorn if you don't back
it up very heavily.

And I don't think most prehistorical societies had large harems.
We're a mostly monogamous species (with cheating); harems arise with
(concentrated) societal surplus. Extant 'primitive' societies are more
marked by egalitarianism and social insurance schemes.

Best not to appeal to genes to explain any behavior younger than 10,000

> If group selection were more powerful, democracy might have come to
> dominate by now. But group selection is weak. Only the overpowering
> demonstration of success in American civilization has enabled the new meme
> to gain a partial dominance in this age, and it is fought tooth and nail by
> old-fashioned dominating hierarchs.

If group selection were more powerful, the liberal countries might have
to actively attack and defeat the others, a la WWII. Instead the desires
of individuals in the old hierarchies agitate for reform and prosperity,
and can step in when a hierarch dies or the inefficient economy
collapses. (see Asia.)

> Ironically, neither side has yet proved its point. Both can cite a myriad
> anecdotes, showing examples of either memic-poisoning or surprising degrees
> of conceptual strength. The jury is still out with this one... even though

Tangentially, I'm impressed by the complacency of the US public in the
face of the current scandal, and in the face of media frenzy. ("The
media are holding an orgy, but nobody's coming.") Even the Economist is
saying "if he lied, even a little bit, he must go". What I'm picking up
is "eh, he lied about sex. I'm employed, my stocks are going up. Yawn."

I suppose this might connect to your "T-cells run amok".

> of shared community. Kevin Costner tried preaching a gentle, centripetal
> patriotism in The Postman, and was severely punished for it by
> solipsist/cynic critics. If our immune cells spend all their time

I haven't seen the movie myself, but every opinion I've heard --
from friends, not from critics -- has been "Ugh. Too much Costner."
I think you're the only person I know who actively liked it.

-xx- GOU Learning From Others' Mistakes X-)

The ROTC giveth and the ROTC taketh away;
Bureaucratic is the Name of the ROTC.
  -- Psalm of Corinne
Received on Mon Feb 9 18:58:11 1998

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