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Liberals against evolution - Page 2

post #41 of 48
I ask again:
Why are compassion and social structure incompatable with "natural selection"? Why? Don't just say it is, provide a rationale.

What animals operate under "I kill all competition" basis? None. Not even pirhanas. Not even snakes. Not even Canadians.

Compassion exists in nature. Altruism exists in nature. Social structure exists in nature.

Nature is not simply a constant series of physical battles and natural selection is exponentially more complicated than "kill it!"

The social structures we have exist because of an evolutionary process. How else did we arrive at them? Did Jesus come down in the 18th century and tell the people to suddenly do stuff democratically? No, it is a political philosophy crafted over time using the lessons of history. Evolution.

Any animal will care for its own infirmed and weak so long as it does not risk their own well-being on a consistent or dire basis. The EXACT SAME THING is true of the human animal.

It is a childish understanding of the world that does not realize this. Either childish or religiously-informed; "nature is Satan, overcome Satan brothers and sisters!"
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post #42 of 48
Natural selection and religious destiny are often wrongly used as excuses for greed and selfishness.
post #43 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by BRussell
Can you provide any additional information on this idea that "crude" natural selection isn't a part of current evolutionary theory? It certainly seems apparent in most other species. Of course society can have evolutionary advantages too, through kin selection. But I doubt liberal society was somehow selected for. I think it's a mistake to take every human behavior and say that it must have been selected through evolutionary mechanisms and therefore must be adaptive in some way. Some behaviors may just be by-products of other selected traits.

For example, perhaps complex cognition was adaptive, but then complex cognition led to compassion. In that way, compassion needn't be adaptive at all.

Compassion is a learned trait. Cognition is one that is inheritable. They aren't really comparable when talking on the individual or social order -- that is all individuals have cognition, but not all societies need to have compassion to be made up of individuals who aren't by genetics forced to be compassionate; yet it is clear that they do. The application of evolutionary theory to social order is hand wave-y at best, utter crock of shit at worse. .

All human behaviors are selected for, regardless of whether they are by-products of other traits because in the selection of those traits the behaviors were selected for as beneficially or negatively associated with a trait that may help a population survive.

One of the major issues here is that what our definition of liberal is changes with time to variously include concepts that in retrospect aren't liberal at all. For instance, eugenics was a liberal movement.

But I digress. There is no possible way for humans and their society to escape the pressures (whether internal or external) to adapt to changing conditions that individuals and the societies experience -- that is, the social structure and rules cannot be thought of as opposing evolution so much as being a part of it. I was discussing a related topic last night in fact, about the Viking settlements on Greenland whose Christian social order and strict observance of tradition lead to their slow agonizing death while the Native American tribes didn't experience a similar die off during the little ice age. You either adapt or you die.
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post #44 of 48
Quote:
Compassion is a learned trait.

Perhaps we need to define "compassion".
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post #45 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by groverat
I ask again:
Why are compassion and social structure incompatable with "natural selection"? Why? Don't just say it is, provide a rationale.

Because there is a scarcity of resources, there is therefore competition for resources, and therefore only the fittest - the best competitors - survive. The only way compassion could be adaptive is if it directly promoted the survival and reproduction of specific genes. Check out Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene." He does argue that there are specific cases where altruism would evolve, but they're very limited and the exception rather than the rule. I don't want to overstate it, because I think all sociobiology types would agree that certain types of niceness can evolve. But I think it's pretty fundamental that natural selection promotes selfishness over niceness, due to scarcity of resources and opportunities for survival.
Quote:
The social structures we have exist because of an evolutionary process. How else did we arrive at them? Did Jesus come down in the 18th century and tell the people to suddenly do stuff democratically? No, it is a political philosophy crafted over time using the lessons of history. Evolution.

Any animal will care for its own infirmed and weak so long as it does not risk their own well-being on a consistent or dire basis. The EXACT SAME THING is true of the human animal.

It is a childish understanding of the world that does not realize this. Either childish or religiously-informed; "nature is Satan, overcome Satan brothers and sisters!"

I'm not sure where this religion thing comes in. It could be argued that it's the opposite of what you're suggesting - religions argue that we are by nature like God, biologists argue that we are instead like animals. I'm sure it varies by religion, but that's not really what I wanted to get at.

Anyway, it's certainly not true at all that all animals care for others. Not by a long shot. Mammals especially do care for their immediate families and offspring, but there's a very specific mechanism through which that can be understood - that when you care for a child, your selfish gene is ensuring its own reproduction. I don't see a specific evolutionary mechanism for me to care about the survival of a stranger in Poughkeepsie.

You said that our political philosophies developed by learning lessons of history. I agree. I just don't think that's biological evolution. I'd argue that we have put social structures and laws into place essentially in order to act as a counterweight to evolution. I don't think liberal society is a product of evolution. I don't think we evolved medicare and social security. And I don't think medicare and social security help our genes in any way, especially since people who receive help from those programs are past reproduction. Let me turn it around to you - by what plausible evolutionary mechanism could we have evolved those types of social programs?
post #46 of 48
You brought up an interesting point, and one that I use from time to time during friendly arguments about my political beliefs.

As a Libertarian it's another very simple point to use evolution and its peripheral axioms and arguments for the use of very limited government, especially in the case of social security, wellfare, and the like.

"The rest of the world evolves, man and his culture should too." Of course, social Darwinism isn't very cool right now.
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post #47 of 48
Why the hell would the Dems or the GOP want to pick up labour unions and labourers as a part of their base, when both parties are busy shipping their jobs overseas? Thereby further reducing the validity of labour unions.
"Beware the Jabberwock , my son! The jaws that bite, the claw that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the the frumious Bandersnatch!"

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"Beware the Jabberwock , my son! The jaws that bite, the claw that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the the frumious Bandersnatch!"

from Jabberwocky, excerpt from Alice through the looking...
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post #48 of 48
Quote:
Originally posted by BRussell
Because there is a scarcity of resources, there is therefore competition for resources, and therefore only the fittest - the best competitors - survive. The only way compassion could be adaptive is if it directly promoted the survival and reproduction of specific genes. Check out Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene." He does argue that there are specific cases where altruism would evolve, but they're very limited and the exception rather than the rule.

You're actually pretty far off the current thinking on evolution with this 'nature red in tooth and claw' stuff. A good starter is Axelrod's Evolution of Co-operation book though it's 20 years old and even it starts with 'selfish' rational individuals, rather than selfish genes that may force 'unselfish' and non-rational acts (e.g. a mother's overwhelming love for a child, or the very urge to reproduce itself).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Evo...of_Cooperation

I think the mistake many people make with "The Selfish Gene" is that, unlike the "gay gene" and other so-called 'genes' that you read about, it is not talking about a gene that makes people selfish, but about the gene itself being selfish. But this gene can be shared by more than one member of a species so you can have complex societies such as ant colonies where entire swathes of the population live and die without any chance of reproducing but do their thing so that another member of the colony can reproduce and pass on the shared genes.

So what is totally selfless behaviour at the organism level is 100% selfish as far as the gene is concerned. It is happy to use, abuse and discard its temporary hosts in order to unsure its own propagation.

One striking result of this is the fact that the most deadly animals in the world will show no compunction when it comes to slashing, crushing or poisoning their pray but when battling for dominance between themselves will restrain themselves to shows of force and posturing since mass self-genocidal slaughter of a species doesn't benefit the selfish gene (humans being the big exception here because we're smart/dumb enough to outwit our genes in many cases).

Right-wingers like to cling to this 1930's style Social Darwinist approach to justify exploitation of, well, anyone and anything they can get away with: women, 'inferior races', the mentally or physically disabled, the poor etc. but it's mostly nonsense.

But talk of co-operation for rational selfish reasons, or unthinking co-operation (or 'love') enforced by subconscious urges and inherenet brain wiring are both very far removed from morality which for many people involves making an informed choice. And since we can and do defy our genes every single day it's a bit absurd to choose to do something because it's allegedly in our genes.

But at that point your straying into Evolutionary Psychology, which is mostly bollox.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology
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