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Moravec's paradox - Wikipedia
Moravec's paradox is the discovery by artificial intelligence and robotics researchers that, contrary to traditional assumptions, high-level reasoning requires very little computation, but low-level sensorimotor skills require enormous computational resources. The principle was articulated by Hans Moravec, Rodney Brooks, Marvin Minsky and others in the 1980s. As Moravec writes, "it is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility".[1]

Similarly, Minsky emphasized that the most difficult human skills to reverse engineer are those that are unconscious. "In general, we're least aware of what our minds do best", he wrote, and added "we're more aware of simple processes that don't work well than of complex ones that work flawlessly".[2]


One possible explanation of the paradox, offered by Moravec, is based on evolution. All human skills are implemented biologically, using machinery designed by the process of natural selection. In the course of their evolution, natural selection has tended to preserve design improvements and optimizations. The older a skill is, the more time natural selection has had to improve the design. Abstract thought developed only very recently, and consequently, we should not expect its implementation to be particularly efficient.

As Moravec writes:

Encoded in the large, highly evolved sensory and motor portions of the human brain is a billion years of experience about the nature of the world and how to survive in it. The deliberate process we call reasoning is, I believe, the thinnest veneer of human thought, effective only because it is supported by this much older and much more powerful, though usually unconscious, sensorimotor knowledge. We are all prodigious olympians in perceptual and motor areas, so good that we make the difficult look easy. Abstract thought, though, is a new trick, perhaps less than 100 thousand years old. We have not yet mastered it. It is not all that intrinsically difficult; it just seems so when we do it.[3]

A compact way to express this argument would be:

- We should expect the difficulty of reverse-engineering any human skill to be roughly proportional to the amount of time that skill has been evolving in animals.
- The oldest human skills are largely unconscious and so appear to us to be effortless.
- Therefore, we should expect skills that appear effortless to be difficult to reverse-engineer, but skills that require effort may not necessarily be difficult to engineer at all.
concept  wiki  reference  paradox  ai  intelligence  reason  instinct  neuro  psychology  cog-psych  hardness  logic  deep-learning  time  evopsych  evolution  sapiens  the-self  EEA  embodied  embodied-cognition  abstraction  universalism-particularism  gnosis-logos  robotics 
june 2018 by nhaliday
Theories of humor - Wikipedia
There are many theories of humor which attempt to explain what humor is, what social functions it serves, and what would be considered humorous. Among the prevailing types of theories that attempt to account for the existence of humor, there are psychological theories, the vast majority of which consider humor to be very healthy behavior; there are spiritual theories, which consider humor to be an inexplicable mystery, very much like a mystical experience.[1] Although various classical theories of humor and laughter may be found, in contemporary academic literature, three theories of humor appear repeatedly: relief theory, superiority theory, and incongruity theory.[2] Among current humor researchers, there is no consensus about which of these three theories of humor is most viable.[2] Proponents of each one originally claimed their theory to be capable of explaining all cases of humor.[2][3] However, they now acknowledge that although each theory generally covers its own area of focus, many instances of humor can be explained by more than one theory.[2][3][4][5] Incongruity and superiority theories, for instance, seem to describe complementary mechanisms which together create humor.[6]


Relief theory
Relief theory maintains that laughter is a homeostatic mechanism by which psychological tension is reduced.[2][3][7] Humor may thus for example serve to facilitate relief of the tension caused by one's fears.[8] Laughter and mirth, according to relief theory, result from this release of nervous energy.[2] Humor, according to relief theory, is used mainly to overcome sociocultural inhibitions and reveal suppressed desires. It is believed that this is the reason we laugh whilst being tickled, due to a buildup of tension as the tickler "strikes".[2][9] According to Herbert Spencer, laughter is an "economical phenomenon" whose function is to release "psychic energy" that had been wrongly mobilized by incorrect or false expectations. The latter point of view was supported also by Sigmund Freud.

Superiority theory
The superiority theory of humor traces back to Plato and Aristotle, and Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. The general idea is that a person laughs about misfortunes of others (so called schadenfreude), because these misfortunes assert the person's superiority on the background of shortcomings of others.[10] Socrates was reported by Plato as saying that the ridiculous was characterized by a display of self-ignorance.[11] For Aristotle, we laugh at inferior or ugly individuals, because we feel a joy at feeling superior to them.[12]

Incongruous juxtaposition theory
The incongruity theory states that humor is perceived at the moment of realization of incongruity between a concept involved in a certain situation and the real objects thought to be in some relation to the concept.[10]

Since the main point of the theory is not the incongruity per se, but its realization and resolution (i.e., putting the objects in question into the real relation), it is often called the incongruity-resolution theory.[10]


Detection of mistaken reasoning
In 2011, three researchers, Hurley, Dennett and Adams, published a book that reviews previous theories of humor and many specific jokes. They propose the theory that humor evolved because it strengthens the ability of the brain to find mistakes in active belief structures, that is, to detect mistaken reasoning.[46] This is somewhat consistent with the sexual selection theory, because, as stated above, humor would be a reliable indicator of an important survival trait: the ability to detect mistaken reasoning. However, the three researchers argue that humor is fundamentally important because it is the very mechanism that allows the human brain to excel at practical problem solving. Thus, according to them, humor did have survival value even for early humans, because it enhanced the neural circuitry needed to survive.

Misattribution theory
Misattribution is one theory of humor that describes an audience's inability to identify exactly why they find a joke to be funny. The formal theory is attributed to Zillmann & Bryant (1980) in their article, "Misattribution Theory of Tendentious Humor", published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. They derived the critical concepts of the theory from Sigmund Freud's Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious (note: from a Freudian perspective, wit is separate from humor), originally published in 1905.

Benign violation theory
The benign violation theory (BVT) is developed by researchers A. Peter McGraw and Caleb Warren.[47] The BVT integrates seemingly disparate theories of humor to predict that humor occurs when three conditions are satisfied: 1) something threatens one's sense of how the world "ought to be", 2) the threatening situation seems benign, and 3) a person sees both interpretations at the same time.

From an evolutionary perspective, humorous violations likely originated as apparent physical threats, like those present in play fighting and tickling. As humans evolved, the situations that elicit humor likely expanded from physical threats to other violations, including violations of personal dignity (e.g., slapstick, teasing), linguistic norms (e.g., puns, malapropisms), social norms (e.g., strange behaviors, risqué jokes), and even moral norms (e.g., disrespectful behaviors). The BVT suggests that anything that threatens one's sense of how the world "ought to be" will be humorous, so long as the threatening situation also seems benign.


Sense of humor, sense of seriousness
One must have a sense of humor and a sense of seriousness to distinguish what is supposed to be taken literally or not. An even more keen sense is needed when humor is used to make a serious point.[48][49] Psychologists have studied how humor is intended to be taken as having seriousness, as when court jesters used humor to convey serious information. Conversely, when humor is not intended to be taken seriously, bad taste in humor may cross a line after which it is taken seriously, though not intended.[50]

Philosophy of humor bleg: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/03/philosophy-humor-bleg.html

Inside Jokes: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/inside-jokes
humor as reward for discovering inconsistency in inferential chain



People of all ages and cultures respond to humour. Most people are able to experience humour—be amused, smile or laugh at something funny—and thus are considered to have a sense of humour. The hypothetical person lacking a sense of humour would likely find the behaviour inducing it to be inexplicable, strange, or even irrational.


Ancient Greece
Western humour theory begins with Plato, who attributed to Socrates (as a semi-historical dialogue character) in the Philebus (p. 49b) the view that the essence of the ridiculous is an ignorance in the weak, who are thus unable to retaliate when ridiculed. Later, in Greek philosophy, Aristotle, in the Poetics (1449a, pp. 34–35), suggested that an ugliness that does not disgust is fundamental to humour.


Confucianist Neo-Confucian orthodoxy, with its emphasis on ritual and propriety, has traditionally looked down upon humour as subversive or unseemly. The Confucian "Analects" itself, however, depicts the Master as fond of humorous self-deprecation, once comparing his wanderings to the existence of a homeless dog.[10] Early Daoist philosophical texts such as "Zhuangzi" pointedly make fun of Confucian seriousness and make Confucius himself a slow-witted figure of fun.[11] Joke books containing a mix of wordplay, puns, situational humor, and play with taboo subjects like sex and scatology, remained popular over the centuries. Local performing arts, storytelling, vernacular fiction, and poetry offer a wide variety of humorous styles and sensibilities.


Physical attractiveness
90% of men and 81% of women, all college students, report having a sense of humour is a crucial characteristic looked for in a romantic partner.[21] Humour and honesty were ranked as the two most important attributes in a significant other.[22] It has since been recorded that humour becomes more evident and significantly more important as the level of commitment in a romantic relationship increases.[23] Recent research suggests expressions of humour in relation to physical attractiveness are two major factors in the desire for future interaction.[19] Women regard physical attractiveness less highly compared to men when it came to dating, a serious relationship, and sexual intercourse.[19] However, women rate humorous men more desirable than nonhumorous individuals for a serious relationship or marriage, but only when these men were physically attractive.[19]

Furthermore, humorous people are perceived by others to be more cheerful but less intellectual than nonhumorous people. Self-deprecating humour has been found to increase the desirability of physically attractive others for committed relationships.[19] The results of a study conducted by McMaster University suggest humour can positively affect one’s desirability for a specific relationship partner, but this effect is only most likely to occur when men use humour and are evaluated by women.[24] No evidence was found to suggest men prefer women with a sense of humour as partners, nor women preferring other women with a sense of humour as potential partners.[24] When women were given the forced-choice design in the study, they chose funny men as potential … [more]
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Baldwin effect - Wikipedia
If animals entered a new environment—or their old environment rapidly changed—those that could flexibly respond by learning new behaviors or by ontogenetically adapting would be naturally preserved. This saved remnant would, over several generations, have the opportunity to exhibit spontaneously congenital variations similar to their acquired traits and have these variations naturally selected. It would look as though the acquired traits had sunk into the hereditary substance in a Lamarckian fashion, but the process would really be neo-Darwinian.

Selected offspring would tend to have an increased capacity for learning new skills rather than being confined to genetically coded, relatively fixed abilities. In effect, it places emphasis on the fact that the sustained behavior of a species or group can shape the evolution of that species. The "Baldwin effect" is better understood in evolutionary developmental biology literature as a scenario in which a character or trait change occurring in an organism as a result of its interaction with its environment becomes gradually assimilated into its developmental genetic or epigenetic repertoire (Simpson, 1953; Newman, 2002). In the words of Daniel Dennett,[2]

Thanks to the Baldwin effect, species can be said to pretest the efficacy of particular different designs by phenotypic (individual) exploration of the space of nearby possibilities. If a particularly winning setting is thereby discovered, this discovery will create a new selection pressure: organisms that are closer in the adaptive landscape to that discovery will have a clear advantage over those more distant.

An update to the Baldwin Effect was developed by Jean Piaget, Paul Weiss, and Conrad Waddington in the 1960s–1970s. This new version included an explicit role for the social in shaping subsequent natural change in humans (both evolutionary and developmental), with reference to alterations of selection pressures.[3]


Suppose a species is threatened by a new predator and there is a behavior that makes it more difficult for the predator to kill individuals of the species. Individuals who learn the behavior more quickly will obviously be at an advantage. As time goes on, the ability to learn the behavior will improve (by genetic selection), and at some point it will seem to be an instinct.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Sexual Orientation | Bloody shovel
This proves two ideas which have been part of common sense since the advent of humanity until 1960.

One is that women’s sexuality is more malleable than men’s. More psychological. Men are more physically constrained. More hard-wired, say. Which makes sense of course, because in the ancestral environment, indeed for all mammals, to achieve successful reproduction you just need to motivate the male. The female will do what it must, Melian style.
gnon  right-wing  psychology  social-psych  correlation  autism  disease  gender  sex  sexuality  gender-diff  instinct  volo-avolo  flexibility  cynicism-idealism  realness 
march 2018 by nhaliday
Noble lie - Wikipedia
In politics, a noble lie is a myth or untruth, often, but not invariably, of a religious nature, knowingly propagated by an elite to maintain social harmony or to advance an agenda. The noble lie is a concept originated by Plato as described in the Republic.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
What era are our intuitions about elites and business adapted to? – Gene Expression
Above natural states are open-access orders, which characterize societies that have market economies and competitive politics. Here access to the elite is open to anyone who can prove themselves worthy — it is not artificially restricted in order to preserve large rents for the incumbents. The pie can be made bigger with more people at the top, since you only get to the top in such societies by making and selling things that people want. Elite members compete against each other based on the quality and price of the goods and services they sell — it’s a mercantile elite — rather than based on who is better at violence than the others. If the elites are flabby, upstarts can readily form their own organizations — as opposed to not having the freedom to do so — that, if better, will dethrone the incumbents. Since violence is no longer part of elite competition, homicide rates are the lowest of all types of societies.

OK, now let’s take a look at just two innate views that most people have about how the business world works or what economic elites are like, and see how these are adaptations to natural states rather than to the very new open-access orders (which have only existed in Western Europe since about 1850 or so). One is the conviction, common even among many businessmen, that market share matters more than making profits — that being more popular trumps being more profitable. The other is most people’s mistrust of companies that dominate their entire industry, like Microsoft in computers.
gnxp  scitariat  reflection  farmers-and-foragers  sapiens  instinct  politics  coalitions  anthropology  cultural-dynamics  political-econ  polisci  leviathan  north-weingast-like  unintended-consequences  open-closed  biases  government  markets  market-power  rent-seeking  capitalism  democracy  roots  EEA  inequality  egalitarianism-hierarchy  business  cost-benefit  interests  elite  hari-seldon 
december 2017 by nhaliday
The Function of Reason | Edge.org

How Social Is Reason?: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/08/how-social-is-reason.html

Reading The Enigma of Reason. Pretty good so far. Not incredibly surprising to me so far. To be clear, their argument is somewhat orthogonal to the whole ‘rationality’ debate you may be familiar with from Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s work (e.g., see Heuristics and Biases).

One of the major problems in analysis is that rationality, reflection and ratiocination, are slow and error prone. To get a sense of that, just read ancient Greek science. Eratosthenes may have calculated to within 1% of the true circumference of the world, but Aristotle’s speculations on the nature of reproduction were rather off.

You may be as clever as Eratosthenes, but most people are not. But you probably accept that the world is round and 24,901 miles around. If you are not American you probably are vague on miles anyway. But you know what the social consensus is, and you accept it because it seems reasonable.

One of the points in cultural evolution work is that a lot of the time rather than relying on your own intuition and or reason, it is far more effective and cognitively cheaper to follow social norms of your ingroup. I only bring this up because unfortunately many pathologies of our political and intellectual world today are not really pathologies. That is, they’re not bugs, but features.

Finished The Enigma of Reason. The basic thesis that reasoning is a way to convince people after you’ve already come to a conclusion, that is, rationalization, was already one I shared. That makes sense since one of the coauthors, Dan Sperber, has been influential in the “naturalistic” school of anthropology. If you’ve read books like In Gods We Trust The Enigma of Reason goes fast. But it is important to note that the cognitive anthropology perspective is useful in things besides religion. I’m thinking in particular of politics.

My point here is that many of our beliefs are arrived at in an intuitive manner, and we find reasons to justify those beliefs. One of the core insights you’ll get from The Enigma of Reason is that rationalization isn’t that big of a misfire or abuse of our capacities. It’s probably just a natural outcome for what and how we use reason in our natural ecology.

Mercier and Sperber contrast their “interactionist” model of what reason is for with an “intellectualist: model. The intellecutalist model is rather straightforward. It is one where individual reasoning capacities exist so that one may make correct inferences about the world around us, often using methods that mimic those in abstract elucidated systems such as formal logic or Bayesian reasoning. When reasoning doesn’t work right, it’s because people aren’t using it for it’s right reasons. It can be entirely solitary because the tools don’t rely on social input or opinion.

The interactionist model holds that reasoning exists because it is a method of persuasion within social contexts. It is important here to note that the authors do not believe that reasoning is simply a tool for winning debates. That is, increasing your status in a social game. Rather, their overall thesis seems to be in alignment with the idea that cognition of reasoning properly understood is a social process. In this vein they offer evidence of how juries may be superior to judges, and the general examples you find in the “wisdom of the crowds” literature. Overall the authors make a strong case for the importance of diversity of good-faith viewpoints, because they believe that the truth on the whole tends to win out in dialogic formats (that is, if there is a truth; they are rather unclear and muddy about normative disagreements and how those can be resolved).

The major issues tend to crop up when reasoning is used outside of its proper context. One of the literature examples, which you are surely familiar with, in The Enigma of Reason is a psychological experiment where there are two conditions, and the researchers vary the conditions and note wide differences in behavior. In particular, the experiment where psychologists put subjects into a room where someone out of view is screaming for help. When they are alone, they quite often go to see what is wrong immediately. In contrast, when there is a confederate of the psychologists in the room who ignores the screaming, people also tend to ignore the screaming.

The researchers know the cause of the change in behavior. It’s the introduction of the confederate and that person’s behavior. But the subjects when interviewed give a wide range of plausible and possible answers. In other words, they are rationalizing their behavior when called to justify it in some way. This is entirely unexpected, we all know that people are very good at coming up with answers to explain their behavior (often in the best light possible). But that doesn’t mean they truly understanding their internal reasons, which seem to be more about intuition.

But much of The Enigma of Reason also recounts how bad people are at coming up with coherent and well thought out rationalizations. That is, their “reasons” tend to be ad hoc and weak. We’re not very good at formal logic or even simple syllogistic reasoning. The explanation for this seems to be two-fold.


At this point we need to address the elephant in the room: some humans seem extremely good at reasoning in a classical sense. I’m talking about individuals such as Blaise Pascal, Carl Friedrich Gauss, and John von Neumann. Early on in The Enigma of Reason the authors point out the power of reason by alluding to Eratosthenes’s calculation of the circumference of the earth, which was only off by one percent. Myself, I would have mentioned Archimedes, who I suspect was a genius on the same level as the ones mentioned above.

Mercier and Sperber state near the end of the book that math in particular is special and a powerful way to reason. We all know this. In math the axioms are clear, and agreed upon. And one can inspect the chain of propositions in a very transparent manner. Mathematics has guard-rails for any human who attempts to engage in reasoning. By reducing the ability of humans to enter into unforced errors math is the ideal avenue for solitary individual reasoning. But it is exceptional.

Second, though it is not discussed in The Enigma of Reason there does seem to be variation in general and domain specific intelligence within the human population. People who flourish in mathematics usually have high general intelligences, but they also often exhibit a tendency to be able to engage in high levels of visual-spatial conceptualization.

One the whole the more intelligent you are the better you are able to reason. But that does not mean that those with high intelligence are immune from the traps of motivated reasoning or faulty logic. Mercier and Sperber give many examples. There are two. Linus Pauling was indisputably brilliant, but by the end of his life he was consistently pushing Vitamin C quackery (in part through a very selective interpretation of the scientific literature).* They also point out that much of Isaac Newton’s prodigious intellectual output turns out to have been focused on alchemy and esoteric exegesis which is totally impenetrable. Newton undoubtedly had a first class mind, but if the domain it was applied to was garbage, then the output was also garbage.


Overall, the take-homes are:

Reasoning exists to persuade in a group context through dialogue, not individual ratiocination.
Reasoning can give rise to storytelling when prompted, even if the reasons have no relationship to the underlying causality.
Motivated reasoning emerges because we are not skeptical of the reasons we proffer, but highly skeptical of reasons which refute our own.
The “wisdom of the crowds” is not just a curious phenomenon, but one of the primary reasons that humans have become more socially complex and our brains have larger.
Ultimately, if you want to argue someone out of their beliefs…well, good luck with that. But you should read The Enigma of Reason to understand the best strategies (many of them are common sense, and I’ve come to them independently simply through 15 years of having to engage with people of diverse viewpoints).

* R. A. Fisher, who was one of the pioneers of both evolutionary genetics and statistics, famously did not believe there was a connection between smoking and cancer. He himself smoked a pipe regularly.

** From what we know about Blaise Pascal and Isaac Newton, their personalities were such that they’d probably be killed or expelled from a hunter-gatherer band.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Edward Feser: Conservatism, populism, and snobbery
feser is good on this: chief task of conservative intellectuals is to defend epistemic credentials of mere prejudice

The Right vindicates common sense distinctions: https://bonald.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/the-right-vindicates-common-sense-distinctions/
In some ways, we’re already there. One of the core intellectual tasks of the Right has been, and will continue to be, the analysis and rehabilitation of categories found useful by pre-modern humanity but rejected by moderns in their fits of ideologically-driven oversimplification.
Consider these three:
1. Friend vs. Enemy. Carl Schmitt famously put this distinction at the core of his political theory in explicit defiance of the liberal humanitarianism of his day that wanted to reduce all questions to abstract morality and economic efficiency. The friend vs. enemy distinction, Schmitt insisted, is independent of these. To identify a threatening nation as the enemy does not necessarily make any statement about its moral, aesthetic, or economic qualities. Schmitt observed that the liberal nations (for him, the victors of WWI) in fact do mobilize against threats and competitors; forbidding themselves the vocabulary of “friend” and “enemy” means they recast their hostilities in terms of moral absolutes. The nation they attack cannot be called their own enemy, so it must be demonized as the enemy of all humanity. This will be a reoccurring conservative argument. Eliminating a needed category doesn’t eliminate hostility between peoples; it only forces them to be incorrectly conceptualized along moral lines, which actually diminishes our ability to empathize with our opponent.
2. Native vs. Foreigner. Much of what Schmitt said about the distinction between friend and enemy applies to the more basic categorization of people as belonging to “us” or as being alien. I argued recently in the Orthosphere, concerning the topic of Muslim immigration, that we can actually be more sympathetic to Muslims among us if we acknowledge that our concern is not that their ways are objectionable in some absolute (moral/philosophical) sense, but that they are alien to the culture we wish to preserve as dominant in our nation. Reflections about the “universal person” are also quite relevant to this.
3. Masculine vs. feminine. Conservatives have found little to recommend the liberals’ distinction between biological “sex” and socially constructed “gender”. However, pre-modern peoples had intriguing intuitions of masculinity and femininity as essences or principles that can be considered beyond the strict context of sexual reproduction. Largely defined by relation to each other (so that, for example, a woman relates in a feminine way to other people more than to wild animals or inanimate objects), even things other than sexually reproducing animals can participate in these principles to some extent. For example, the sun is masculine while Luna is feminine, at least in how they present themselves to us. Masculinity and femininity seem to represent poles in the structure of relationality itself, and so even the more mythical attributions of these essences were not necessarily intended metaphorically.

The liberal critique of these categories, and others not accommodated by their ideology, comes down to the following
1. Imperialism of the moral. The category in question is recognized as nonmoral, and the critic asserts that it is morally superior to use only moral categories. (“Wouldn’t it be better to judge someone based on whether he’s a good person than on where he was born?”) Alternatively, the critic presumes that other categories actually are reducible to moral categories, and other categories are condemned for being inaccurate in their presumed implicit moral evaluations. (“He’s a good person. How can you call him an ‘alien’ as if he were some kind of monster?!”)
2. Appeal to boundary cases. Sometimes the boundaries of the criticized category are fuzzy. Perhaps a particular person is like “us” in some ways but unlike “us” in others. From this, conclude that the category is arbitrary and meaningless.
3. Emotivism. Claim that the criticized category is actually a sub-rational emotional response. It must be because it has no place in liberal ideology, which the liberal presumes to be coextensive with reason itself. And in fact, when certain ways of thinking are made socially unacceptable, they will likely only pop out in emergencies and moments of distress. It would be no different with moral categories–if the concepts “evil” and “unfair” were socially disfavored, people would only resort to them when intolerably provoked and undoubtedly emotional.
4. Imputation of sinister social motives. The critic points out that the categorization promotes some established social structure; therefore, it must be an illusion.

Why the Republican Party Is Falling Apart: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/why-the-republican-party-falling-apart-22491?page=show
Moore and a great many of his voters subscribe to a simplistic and exaggerated view of the world and the conflicts it contains. Moore has voiced the belief that Christian communities in Illinois or Indiana, or somewhere “up north,” are under Sharia law. That’s absurd. But why does he believe it, and why do voters trust him despite such beliefs? Because on the other side is another falsehood, more sophisticated but patently false: the notion that unlimited Islamic immigration to Europe, for example, is utterly harmless, or the notion that Iran is an implacable fundamentalist threat while good Sunni extremists in Saudi Arabia are our true and faithful friends. Each of the apocalyptic beliefs held by a Roy Moore or his supporters contains a fragment of truth—or at least amounts to a rejection of some falsehood that has become an article of faith among America’s elite. The liberal view of the world to which Democrats and elite Republicans alike subscribe is false, but the resources for showing its falsehood in a nuanced way are lacking. Even the more intellectual sort of right-winger who makes it through the cultural indoctrination of his college and peer class tends to be mutilated by the experience. He—most often a he—comes out of it embittered and reactionary or else addicted to opium dreams of neo-medievalism or platonic republics. Since there are few nonliberal institutions of political thought, the right that recognizes the falsehood of liberalism and rejects it tends to be a force of feeling rather than reflection. Moore, of course, has a legal education, and he assuredly reads the Bible. He’s not unintelligent, but he cannot lean upon a well-balanced and subtle right because such a thing hardly exists in our environment. Yet there is a need for a right nonetheless, and so a Roy Moore or a Donald Trump fills the gap. There is only one thing the Republican establishment can do if it doesn’t like that: reform itself from stem to stern.

Who Are ‘The People’ Anyway?: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/who-are-the-people-anyway/
Beware of those who claim to speak for today's populist audience.
- Paul Gottfried

Gottfried's got a real chip on his shoulder about the Straussians
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july 2017 by nhaliday
history and progressive virtue: moral technology, moral fashion, and ancestor-memorial retro-trauma chic – ideologjammin'
A terrific point. The rapidity with which good liberals suddenly internalize and enforce novel norms is striking in itself, content apart.

The rapid shift in moral norms in our society should worry us. We are being conditioned to adapt rather than to hold to our principles.

A thread on the psychology of liberalism, which replaces historical memory by a stereotyped darkness of the past, to be eternally overcome

losing a battle to push something new forward is understandable. having something repealed? going BACK? this is quite incomprehensible to us

i think it's instinctual, not conscious.

Almost everybody today is a Whig: ie think in terms of 'moral progress', 'forwards' vs 'backwards' thinking, 'stuck in the past', and so on

the slope is "progress". we slide down every single one eventually. just read some history; recent history will do; it will become obvious.

The real problem is that America has already ceased to be a tolerant society. It has, instead, become a celebratory one.
In a truly surreal display, NFL great Brett Favre is being denounced by the left’s new cultural commissars for not clapping long and hard enough at ESPN’s ESPY awards, as Bruce/“Caitlyn” Jenner received a “Courage” award for his efforts to become a woman. Oddly, Favre did applaud – not doing so would have been a grave heresy to America’s new church of progressive inquisitors. His sin was not applauding enthusiastically enough.


In fact, it all smacks of the gulag – literally. On my shelf at my office is Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s classic, The Gulag Archipelago. There, on page 69 of volume 1, is a chilling account of a Stalinist Soviet Union where men were actually penalized for not clapping ardently enough.

Transgenderism Is Propaganda Designed To Humiliate And Compel Submission: https://www.socialmatter.net/2017/09/26/transgenderism-is-propaganda-designed-to-humiliate-and-compel-submission/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Everything Under the Heavens and China's Conceptualization of Power
These guys are not very quantitative, so let me clarify a part of their discussion that was left rather ambiguous. It is true that demographic trends are working against China, which has a rapidly aging population. French and Schell talk about a 10-15 year window during which China has to grow rich before it grows old (a well-traveled meme). From the standpoint of geopolitics this is probably not the correct or relevant analysis. China's population is ~4x that of the US. If, say, demographic trends limit this to only an effective 3x or 3.5x advantage in working age individuals, China still only has to reach ~1/3 of US per capita income in order to have a larger overall economy. It seems unlikely that there is any hard cutoff preventing China from reaching, say, 1/2 the US per capita GDP in a few decades. (Obviously a lot of this growth is still "catch-up" growth.) At that point its economy would be the largest in the world by far, and its scientific-technological workforce and infrastructure would be far larger than that of any other country.

- interesting point: China went from servile toward Japan to callous as soon as it surpassed Japan economically (I would bet this will apply to the US)
- conventional Chinese narrative for WW2: China won the Pacific Theater not the US
- serious Chinese superiority complex overall
- "patriotic education", the fucking opposite of our god-awful ideology
- in Chinese history: each dynasty judges the last, unimpeachable
- ceding control of South China Sea would damage relations with neighboring countries (not enforcing their legitimate claims) and damage international norms (rule of law, etc.)
- next 10-15 years dangerous (Thucydides); of course Hsu criticizes
- suggestions: cultivate local alliances, prevent arms races, welcome Chinese international initiatives
I'm highly skeptical of all but the alliances
- ethnic melting in Chinese history, population structure (not actually as much as he thinks AFAIK), "age of nationalism", Tibet, etc.

Gideon Rachman writes for the FT, so it's not surprising that his instincts seem a bit stronger when it comes to economics. He makes a number of incisive observations during this interview.


At 16min, he mentions that
I was in Beijing about I guess a month before the vote [US election], in fact when the first debates were going on, and the Chinese, I thought that official Chinese [i.e. Government Officials] in our meeting and the sort of semi-official academics were clearly pulling for Trump.


I wonder if the standard of comparison shouldn't be with the West as a whole, not just the United States?

It depends on what happens to the EU, whether western powers other than the US want to play the role of global hegemon, etc.

The situation today is that the US is focused on preserving its primacy, wants to deny Russia and China any local sphere of influence, etc., whereas Europe has little appetite for any of it. They can barely allocate enough resources for their own defense.

Europe and the US have their own demographic problems to deal with in the coming decades. An aging population may turn out to be less challenging than the consequences of mass immigration (note population trends in Africa, so close to Europe).

If China behaved as an aggressive hegemon like the US or former USSR, it would probably elicit a collective back reaction from the West. But I think its first step is simply to consolidate influence over Asia.


interesting somewhat contrarian take on China's girth here: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/08/03/manufacturing-chinese-history-cheaply/

China Does Not Want Your Rules Based Order: http://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2016/06/china-does-not-want-your-rules-based.html
There is much that is good in this narrative. McCain proclaims that "no nation has done as much to contribute to what China calls its “peaceful rise” as the United States of America." He is right to do so. No nation has done more to enable China's rise than America has. No country's citizens have done more for the general prosperity of the Chinese people than the Americans have. This is true in ways that are not widely known or immediately obvious. For example, the role American financiers and investment banks played in creating the architecture of modern Chinese financial markets and corporate structures is little realized, despite the size and importance of their interventions. Behind every great titan of Chinese industry--China Mobile, the world's largest mobile phone operator, China State Construction Engineering, whose IPO was valued at $7.3 billion, PetroChina, the most profitable company in Asia (well, before last year), to name a few of hundreds--lies an American investment banker. I do not exaggerate when I say Goldman Sachs created modern China. [2] China has much to thank America for.


In simpler terms, the Chinese equate “rising within a rules based order” with “halting China’s rise to power.” To live by Washington’s rules is to live under its power, and the Chinese have been telling themselves for three decades now that—after two centuries of hardship—they will not live by the dictates of outsiders ever again.

The Chinese will never choose our rules based order. That does not necessarily mean they want to dethrone America and throw down all that she has built. The Chinese do not have global ambitions. What they want is a seat at the table—and they want this seat to be recognized, not earned. That’s the gist of it. Beijing is not willing to accept an order it did not have a hand in creating. Thus all that G-2 talk we heard a few years back. The Chinese would love to found a new order balancing their honor and their interests with the Americans. It is a flattering idea. What they do not want is for the Americans to give them a list of hoops to jump through to gain entry into some pre-determined good-boys club. They feel like their power, wealth, and heritage should be more than enough to qualify for automatic entrance to any club.

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june 2017 by nhaliday
- the genetic book of the dead [Dawkins]
- complementarity [Frank Wilczek]
- relative information
- effective theory [Lisa Randall]
- affordances [Dennett]
- spontaneous symmetry breaking
- relatedly, equipoise [Nicholas Christakis]
- case-based reasoning
- population reasoning (eg, common law)
- criticality [Cesar Hidalgo]
- Haldan's law of the right size (!SCALE!)
- polygenic scores
- non-ergodic
- ansatz
- state [Aaronson]: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3075
- transfer learning
- effect size
- satisficing
- scaling
- the breeder's equation [Greg Cochran]
- impedance matching

- reciprocal altruism
- life history [Plomin]
- intellectual honesty [Sam Harris]
- coalitional instinct (interesting claim: building coalitions around "rationality" actually makes it more difficult to update on new evidence as it makes you look like a bad person, eg, the Cathedral)
basically same: https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/903682354367143936

more: https://www.edge.org/conversation/john_tooby-coalitional-instincts

interesting timing. how woke is this dude?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Solidarity Forever | West Hunter
If you had a gene with a conspicuous effect (like a green beard) that at the same time caused the carrier to favor other individuals with a green beard, you could get a very powerful kind of genetic altruism, one not limited to close relatives. A very strong effect, one that caused you to act as if other carriers were just as valuable as you are (as if other carriers were your identical twin) could exist, but weaker effects (green fuzz) could also be favored by selection – if you were just somewhat more likely to cooperate with others bearing the mark. That could be enough to drive strong selection for the gene, and might not even be terribly noticeable.

This might be especially powerful in humans: we have so very many ways of cooperating or tripping each other up. Now and then you get partial alignment of interests, and remarkable things happen. If we could all just get along, we could conquer the world and make everyone else our slaves and playthings!


Shortly after the Green Beards became influential, you’d see a lot of people wearing fake green beards, which would cut down on the advantage and possibly turn green beards into easy marks, chumps doomed to failure. It would work best if the identifying mark was hard to copy – difficult today, but in the past some things, eye color for example, would have been hard to copy.

This all gets complicated, since it’s not always easy to know what someone else’s best interest is – let along that of the entire Greenbeard race. For that matter it’s not always that easy to know what your own best interest is.

I’m for it, of course: trying to fighting off such a mutant takeover would make life more interesting.

There no evidence, that I know of, of anything like a strong green-beard effect in humans. If there was one, it would have dramatic consequences, which we haven’t observed, so I doubt if one exists. Although we could always create one, for laughs.

Any gene that selected for extended kin altruism would not flourish – would not increase in frequency – because the expensive altruistic effort would not be focused on people who were more likely than average (in that population!) to carry the relevant allele. Which means that every time that expensive altruism happened, the average allele frequency in that population would go down, not up: this is not the route to success. If you can’t understand, that’s your problem.

Frank Salter is entirely wrong. There is no such thing as “genetic interest”, in the sense he’s talking about, not one that makes people feel the way he’d like them to. Sheesh, if there were, he wouldn’t have to argue about it, anymore than you have to argue parents into caring about their children. Now if he said that having more Swedes in the world would result in something he liked, that could well be true: but there’s no instinct that says everyone, even most Swedes, have to favor that course.

You have to do the math: when you do, this idea doesn’t work. And that’s the end of this conversation.

That lady’s mind ain’t right.

Speaking of which, one has to wonder which is the greater threat – the increasing dumb fraction of this country, or the increasing crazy fraction.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Animal spirits (Keynes) - Wikipedia
Animal spirits is the term John Maynard Keynes used in his 1936 book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money to describe the instincts, proclivities and emotions that ostensibly influence and guide human behavior, and which can be measured in terms of, for example, consumer confidence. It has since been argued that trust is also included in or produced by "animal spirits".
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Social Epistasis Amplifies the Fitness Costs of Deleterious Mutations, Engendering Rapid Fitness Decline Among Modernized Populations | SpringerLink
- Michael A. Woodley

We argue that in social species, interorganismal gene-gene interactions, which in previous literatures have been termed social epistasis, allow genomes carrying deleterious mutations to reduce via group-level pleiotropy the fitness of others, including noncarriers. This fitness reduction occurs by way of degradation of group-level processes that optimize the reproductive ecology of a population for intergroup competition through, among other mechanisms, suppression of free-riding.


Fitness indicators theory (Houle 2000; Miller 2000) predicts that the behavioral and physiological condition of prospective partners strongly influences female mate choice in particular, as these constitute honest indicators of underlying genetic quality. Furthermore, as deleterious mutations are pleiotropic (i.e., they can influence the development of multiple traits simultaneously), they are a source of genetic correlation among diverse behavioral and physiological domains, yielding a latent general fitness factor( f ). This optimizes the efficiency of sexual selection, as selection for quality with respect to one domain will increase the probability of selection for quality “across the board” (Houle 2000; Miller 2000). If purifying selection is primarily cryptic—working by virtue of those lower in f simply being less successful in competition for mates and therefore producing fewer offspring relative to those higher in the factor—then considerably less reproductive failure is needed to solve the mutation load paradox (19% instead of 88% based on simulations in Leseque et al. 2012).


Theoretical work involving humans suggests a loss of intrinsic fitness of around 1% per generation in the populations of modernized countries (Lynch 2016; Muller 1950). Thus, these might yet be undergoing mutational meltdown, albeit very gradually (i.e., over the course of centuries)


An interesting observation is that the fitness of the populations of modernized nations does appear to be rapidly decreasing—although not in a manner consonant with the direct action of deleterious mutations on the fitness of individuals (as per the mutation load paradox).


Increased education has furthermore encouraged individuals to trade fertility against opportunities to enhance their social status and earning power, with the largest fitness losses occurring among those with high status who potentially carry fewer deleterious mutations (i.e., by virtue of possessing higher levels of traits that exhibit some sensitivity to mutation load, such as general intelligence; Spain et al. 2015; Woodley of Menie et al. 2016a). Hitherto not considered is the possibility that the demographic transition represents a potential change in the fitness characteristics of the group-level extended phenotype of modernized populations, indicating that there might exist pathways through which deleterious mutations that accumulate due to ecological mildness could pathologically alter fertility tradeoffs in ways that might account for the maladaptive aspects of the fertility transition (e.g., subreplacement fertility; Basten, Lutz and Scherbov, 2013).


Cooperation, though offering significant fitness benefits to individual organisms and groups, involves some costs for cooperators in order to realize mutual gains for all parties. Free riders are individuals that benefit from cooperation without suffering any of the costs needed to sustain it. Hence, free riders enjoy a fitness advantage relative to cooperators via the former’s parasitism on the latter.


The balance of selection can alternate between the different levels depending on the sorts of selective challenges that a population encounters. For example, group selection may operate on human populations during times of intergroup conflict (i.e., warfare), whereas during times of peace, selection may tend to favor the fitness of individuals instead (Woodley and Figueredo 2013; Wilson 2002). A major factor that seems to permit group-level selection to be viable under certain ecological regimes is the existence of free-rider controls, i.e., features of the group’s social ecology that curb the reproductive fitness of the carriers of “selfish” genetic variants (MacDonald 1994; Wilson 2002).


High-status individuals participate in the generation and vertical cultural transmission of free-rider controls—these take the form of religious and ideological systems which make a virtue out of behaviors that overtly benefit the group, and a vice out of those that only favor individual-level fitness, via the promotion of ethnocentrism, martyrdom, and displays of commitment (MacDonald 1994, 2009, 2010; Wilson 2002). Humans are furthermore equipped with specialized mental adaptations for coordinating as part of a group, such as effortful control—the ability to override implicit behavioral drives via the use of explicit processing systems, which allow them to regulate their behavior based on what is optimal for the group (MacDonald 2008). The interaction between individuals of different degrees of status, i.e., those that generate and maintain cultural norms and those who are merely subject to them, therefore constitutes a form of social epistasis, as the complex patterns of interactions among genomes that characterize human culture have the effect of regulating both individual- and group-level (via the curbing of free-riding) fitness (MacDonald 2009, 2010).

Mutations that push the behavior of high-status individuals away from the promotion of group-selected norms may promote a breakdown of or otherwise alter these social epistatic interactions, causing dysregulation of the group’s reproductive ecology. Behavioral changes are furthermore a highly likely consequence of mutation accumulation, as “behavior” (construed broadly) is a large potential target for new mutations (Miller 2000; Lynch 2016) 1 owing to the fact that approximately 84% of all genes in the human genome are involved in some aspect of brain development and/or maintenance (Hawrylycz et al. 2012).

Consistent with the theorized role of group-level (cultural) regulatory processes in the maintenance of fitness optima, positive correlations exist between religiosity (a major freerider control; MacDonald 1994; Wilson 2002) and fertility, both at the individual differences and cross-cultural levels (Meisenberg 2011). Religiosity has declined in modernized nations—a process that has gone hand-in-hand with the rise of a values system called postmaterialism (Inglehart 1977), which is characterized by the proliferation of individualistic, secular, and antihierarchical values (Welzel 2013). The holding of these values is negatively associated with fertility, both at the individual level (when measured as political liberalism; Goldstone et al. 2011) and across time and cultures (Inglehart and Appel 1989). The rise of postmaterialist values is also associated with increasingly delayed onset of reproduction (Klien 1990) which directly increases the (population) mutation load.

Pathological Altruism

Some of the values embodied in postmaterialism have been linked to the pathological altruism phenomenon, i.e., forms of altruism that damage the intended recipients or givers of largesse (Oakley et al. 2012; Oakley 2013). Virtues associated with altruism such as kindness, fidelity, magnanimity, and heroism, along with quasi-moral traits associated with personality and mental health, may be under sexual selection and might therefore be sensitive, through the f factor, to the deleterious effects of accumulating mutations (Miller 2007).


Another form of pathologically altruistic behavior that Oakley (2013) documents is self-righteousness, which may be increasing, consistent with secular trend data indicating elevated levels of self-regarding behavior among Western populations (sometimes called the narcissism epidemic; Twenge and Campbell 2009). This sort of behavior constitutes a key component of the clever silly phenomenon in which the embrace of counterfactual beliefs is used to leverage social status via virtue signaling (e.g., the conflation of moral equality among individuals, sexes, and populations with biological equality) (Dutton and van der Linden 2015; Charlton 2009; Woodley 2010). There may be a greater number of influential persons inclined to disseminate such beliefs, in that the prevalence of phenotypes disposed toward egoistic behaviors may have increased in Western populations (per Twenge and coworkers’ research), and because egoists, specifically Machiavellians and narcissists, appear advantaged in the acquisition of elite societal stations (Spurk et al. 2015).

[Do Bad Guys Get Ahead or Fall Behind? Relationships of the Dark Triad of Personality With Objective and Subjective Career Success: http://sci-hub.tw/http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550615609735

After controlling for other relevant variables (i.e., gender, age, job tenure, organization size, education, and work hours), narcissism was positively related to salary, Machiavellianism was positively related to leadership position and career satisfaction, and psychopathy was negatively related to all analyzed outcomes.]


By altering cultural norms, elite egoists may encourage the efflorescence of selfish behaviors against which some older and once highly influential cultural systems acted. For example, Christianity in various forms strongly promoted personal sacrifice for the good of groups and proscribed egoistic behaviors (Rubin 2015), but has declined significantly in terms of cultural power following modernization (Inglehart 1977). Thus, it is possible that a feedback loop exists wherein deleterious mutation accumulation raises population levels of egoism, either directly or indirectly, via the breakdown of developmental constraints on personality canalization; the resultantly greater number of egoists are then able to exploit relevant personality traits to attain positions of sociocultural influence; and through these … [more]
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Justified by more than logos alone - The Unz Review
The scientific study of religion is another topic where I once had a lot of interest, but where I concluded that the basic insights have stabilized. Since I stopped reading much in this area I stopped writing much about it too. To get a sense of where I’m coming from, Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion is probably the best place to start. It’s about 15 years old, but I don’t see that much has changed since then in the basics of the field.

And what are those basics? At its fundamental basics religious impulses must be understood as an outcome of our cognitive mental intuitions. All religion operates on top of this basic kernel of our mental OS. Religion may have functional utility as a social system of control, or channeling collective energies, as argued by David Sloan Wilson in Darwin’s Cathedral. Or, one might be able to fruitfully model “religious marketplaces” as argued in Marketplace of the Gods. But these are all basically simply applications installed into on top of the operating system.


Very few are Roman Catholic because they have read Aquinas’ Five Ways. Rather, they are Roman Catholic, in order of necessity, because God aligns with their deep intuitions, basic cognitive needs in terms of cosmological coherency, and because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole. People do not believe in Catholicism as often as they are born Catholics, and the Catholic religion is rather well fitted to a range of predispositions to the typical human.


There are a subset of believers who are not well captured by the generalizations in books such as Slone’s, or in ethnographic descriptions which trace the assimilation of Catholicism into the American scene. They are usually highly intellectual and analytical in their orientation. Often, they seem to be converts. Rod Dreher was a convert to Catholicism from Methodism, before he became Orthodox. Leah Libresco and Eve Tushnet also seem to fall into this category. Highly intellectual. And, converts to Catholicism.

Because they are analytical and articulate, these sorts of religious people are highly prominent on the public stage, and, they also write the histories that come down to us through the centuries. These are also the type of people who are overrepresented in the clerical apparatus of any organized religion. This is a problem, because their prominence can obscure the reality that they are not as influential as you might think. As a metaphor, imagine mountainous islands scattering amidst a featureless ocean. The islands are salient. But it is the vast ocean which will ultimately be determinative. Similarly, the vast number of believers who move along a nexus of inscrutable social forces, and driven by powerful universal psychologies, may be hidden from our view.

And yet even for the “analytics” reason does not dictate. Both Dreher and Tushnet have made references to mystical and emotional occurrences and impulses which are beyond my ken. I have no need, no wish, no impulse, and no intuition as to what they are talking about in that dimension (Libresco seems a somewhat different case, but I haven’t read much of what she’s written; I suspect I’ve been in the same room with her since she worked for an organization which I have many personal connections with, but I’m not sure).

It isn’t a surprise that I think Hume was onto something when he asserted that “reason is a slave to the passions.” In many instances I suspect theological analysis is simply the analytic engine being applied to a domain whose ultimate rationale is driven by a passion.

Addendum: Leah Libresco seems to have been associated with the broad umbrella group of Bay Area rationalists. I’ve been associated in some fashion with these people as friends and acquaintances for nearly 10 years. I will admit that I’ve generally found the conceit of rationality as an ends, as opposed to a means, somewhat off-putting. Ultimately I’m more of a skeptic than a rationalist I suppose at the root.

The nature of religion and Breaking the Spell: http://www.unz.com/gnxp/the-nature-of-religion-and-breaking-the-spell/

Buddhism, a religion or not?: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2007/02/buddhism-a-religion-or-not/

Against the seriousness of theology: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2013/04/against-the-seriousness-of-theology/
This is the hard part for many intellectuals, religious or irreligious, to understand. For intellectuals ideas have consequences, and they shape their lives. Their religious world view is naturally inflected by this. And most importantly they confuse their own comprehension of religious life, the profession of creeds rationally understand and mystical reflection viscerally experienced, with modal religiosity. This has important consequences, because intellectuals write, and writing is permanent. It echoes down through the ages. Therefore our understanding of the broad scope of religious history is naturally shaped by how intellectuals view religion. In a superficial sense the history of religion is the history of theology, because theology is so amenable to preservation.


What Religion Is: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/12/what-religion-is/
It’s been about 10 years since I addressed this topic. Largely because I have no new thoughts. But probably after 10 years, it’s useful to revisit/clarify on this topic to clarify confusions, since people have a lot of opinions on this topic.

People mean different things when they mean “religion,” and the different meanings are not contradictory, nor in conflict.

At the lowest level in terms of individual cognition religion emerges from deep intuitions about the nature of the universe. Colloquially one might say that religion bubbles out of our unconscious.

In relation to social units, say the clan or tribe, religion consists of these intuitions about the nature of the universe and the world around us, bound together with rituals and verbal descriptions and narratives. These rituals and communal narratives help forge some sort of group Weltanschauung that has a functional utility in terms of inter-group competition and relations. Here religion steps out of the individual and becomes an expression of collective consensus.

As human societies became more complex the role of religious professionals became more elaborated. The common role of a shaman can be thought of as a magician, one who manipulates and operates in the domain of the supernatural. Shamans are common and ubiquitous in pre-state societies (even if a tribe does not have a “professional” shaman, someone takes on the role when needed). The priest adds on top of this institutional authority, often supra-clan or tribal. No king, no priest. Eventually, though the shaman-priest took on the role of the metaphysician. The metaphysician generates abstract principles and rationales, which can transcend the tribe or ethnicity, and allows religion to generate meta-ethnic civilizational identities in the service of priestly functions.

So in the post-Axial Age, the religious professional is often shaman, priest, and philosopher.


What about the priest? Though I am wary of the term “political religion,” due to semantic confusion, it seems clear that the function of the priest can be stripped of its supernatural valence. Many of the most objectionable characteristics of religion for people of liberal orientations derives from the institutionalized priestly functions. Unfortunately, the persistence of the priest in the absence of gods, shamanic powers and metaphysical justification opens the doors to secular totalitarianism.


These different aspects of religiosity exist and persist simultaneously in most contexts, but sometimes in tension. Philosophers and priests often take a dim view of shamanic religiosity. In organized religion of the modern sort shamanism is marginalized, or highly constrained and regulated in sacraments. But the recession of state-sponsored Christianity across much of the West has arguably resulted in a resurgence of shamanism, and the proliferation of diverse supernatural beliefs which had previously been suppressed (much of East Asia is characterized by relative weakness of philosophical religion but the strength of shamanism).

The relevance of all this in relation to New Atheism is that New Atheism seems to posit a religious “Blank Slate.” That is, children are indoctrinated in religion at a small age, previous to which they had been atheists. Part of this is due to the fact that the philosophical-metaphysical aspect of religion is quite clearly indoctrination, and often of a superficial sort at that (judging by how weak most believer’s grasp of theology is). But the communal and psychological aspects are not indoctrination, as much as specific instantiations of general human sentiments, dispositions, and intuitions. The erasure of a Christian, Buddhist or Islamic religious orientation will not necessarily leave in its wake a mind primed for scientific naturalism. Rather, it will simply be one shorn of Axial-Age accretions, reverted back to the shamanic age…

Atheism As Mental Deviance: http://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2011/09/18/atheism-as-mental-deviance/
Tyler Cowen points me to a PDF, Religious Belief Systems of Persons with High Functioning Autism, which has some fascinating results on the religiosity (or lack thereof) of people with high functioning autism. I’ve seen speculation about the peculiar psychological profile of atheists before in the cognitive science literature, and there’s a fair amount of social psychological data on the different personality profile of atheists (e.g., more disagreeable). But there hasn’t been a lot of systematic investigation of the possibility that autistic individuals are more likely to be atheist because they lack a fully fleshed “theory of mind,” which … [more]
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february 2017 by nhaliday
The malicious serpent: Evolved adaptations for responding to snakes
Instinctive Fears: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/instinctive-fears/
It is easier to develop a phobia about snakes than electricity or carbon monoxide, probably because we have built in neurological mechanism that confer that propensity.

Likely most animals have a similar propensity to develop a fear of fire: or it might come automatically. If there was such a fear-of-fire mechanism, we have lost it: and dogs have as well. If this is correct, one could learn about this hypothetical mechanism by comparing dogs and wolves.

Apparently nobody knows this anymore, but many animals do indeed fear fire, enough so that a fire gives significant protection in predator-rich places like Africa. Most of the world, back in the day. So you don’t need to wonder whether selection could create such an instinct – it already has.

Wolves fear fire. Dogs don’t – they like to hang out around the campfire.
org:edu  evopsych  psychology  cog-psych  eden  nature  sapiens  evolution  roots  deep-materialism  emotion  org:junk  multi  westminster  scitariat  speculation  ideas  instinct  recent-selection  fire  technology  west-hunter  domestication  poast  survival  outdoors  africa  farmers-and-foragers  aversion 
february 2017 by nhaliday
Before the Startup
You can, however, trust your instincts about people. And in fact one of the most common mistakes young founders make is not to do that enough. They get involved with people who seem impressive, but about whom they feel some misgivings personally. Later when things blow up they say "I knew there was something off about him, but I ignored it because he seemed so impressive."

If you're thinking about getting involved with someone—as a cofounder, an employee, an investor, or an acquirer—and you have misgivings about them, trust your gut. If someone seems slippery, or bogus, or a jerk, don't ignore it.

This is one case where it pays to be self-indulgent. Work with people you genuinely like, and you've known long enough to be sure.
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october 2016 by nhaliday
Guess the Correlation
some basic rules?
- more trouble w/ high than low end (maybe because I'm just guessing slope/omitting outliers?)
- should try out w/ correlated Gaussians to get some intuition
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july 2016 by nhaliday
Answer to What is it like to understand advanced mathematics? - Quora
thinking like a mathematician

some of the points:
- small # of tricks (echoes Rota)
- web of concepts and modularization (zooming out) allow quick reasoning
- comfort w/ ambiguity and lack of understanding, study high-dimensional objects via projections
- above is essential for research (and often what distinguishes research mathematicians from people who were good at math, or majored in math)
math  reflection  thinking  intuition  expert  synthesis  wormholes  insight  q-n-a  🎓  metabuch  tricks  scholar  problem-solving  aphorism  instinct  heuristic  lens  qra  soft-question  curiosity  meta:math  ground-up  cartoons  analytical-holistic  lifts-projections  hi-order-bits  scholar-pack  nibble  giants  the-trenches  innovation  novelty  zooming  tricki  virtu  humility  metameta  wisdom  abstraction  skeleton  s:***  knowledge  expert-experience 
may 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : thinkingvague

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