Monday, June 3, 2013

The Hidden Divide between Conservatives and Liberals

The internet showers us with information and because we fear the unknown, we try to string together as many pieces of information as possible to form meaningful patterns. Thus, conspiratorial thinking is rampant on the internet. Instead of thinking critically about our glut of data, we may resort to imagining the most entertaining fictions to tie up the loose ends. One popular conspiracy theory is that the political division between the right and the left is a sham, because there’s some third group, some amoral, even superhuman elite that secretly rules modern societies, bent on establishing a totalitarian world order. But the various speculations about how such a minority controls the world shouldn’t interest us as much as the sense many people have that something is fishy about the way the mainstream media present the split between conservatives and liberals--especially in the US where there are only the two official parties. The consensus narratives about how the two sides of the political spectrum differ on policy questions are caricatures, at best. It’s worth examining, then, a couple of those narratives, to get at the real, hidden political differences in modern democracies.

Tradition and Progress
If you were asked how you think the Western media portray the political differences, you might say that conservatives defend tradition while liberals are progressive in that they embrace the new and deride traditions as dogmas and delusions. You can see from this distinction how the American culture war rhetoric emerges. From the conservative viewpoint, conservatives are the real, patriotic Americans and liberals are elitist, decadent traitors. The assumption here is that nationalism requires faith in the myths and ideals that are foundational to your country, so while a conservative can meaningfully swear allegiance to the flag, since she conserves precisely some traditions made up of just such myths or ideals, the restless liberal has no faith in anything but is always looking forward to the next frontier. The conservative has a moral code, while the liberal is ambivalent about the values needed for morality; to compensate and to keep the peace, the liberal merely obeys the politically correct rules that serve special interests. Meanwhile, from the liberal viewpoint, the liberal lives in the reality-based world while the conservative is mired in the past, wallowing in fantasies about how the world works. The liberal’s the hero, not the flag-waving conservative, since the former struggles to live in the real world while the latter is shamelessly opposed to reason.

So much for the caricatures, but where did the distinction between tradition and progress come from and what’s at the root of it? In the classic sense, “liberalism” is pretty much synonymous with “European modernism.” Skepticism about tradition and optimism about progress are defining features of early modernity, beginning with Renaissance humanism and continuing with the Protestant Reformation, which set the individual at odds with the Catholic institution; the Scientific Revolution, which overthrew the Thomistic synthesis of Aristotle’s worldview and the Bible; the American and French Revolutions which fulfilled Enlightenment ideals and established democracy and capitalism as the official expressions of the new faith in the sovereign individual; and ending in the Enlightenment’s science-centered, positivistic philosophy which set the stage for the postmodern period in which The Simpsons and Jon Stewart, for example, mock the Western culture that’s the fruit of all of that progress.

Early modern conservatives, that is, the monarchists and aristocrats were defending medieval traditions that were dashed by classic liberals who proclaimed the equal rights of every person. Now, in the medieval period, conservatism was genuinely heroic, because the choice was to have faith in tradition or to suffer the chaos left after the fall of the Roman Empire. But then a new world order emerged, thanks to the historical events just listed. The feudal lords were no longer needed as protectors, since advances in technology and in exploration were producing a globalized world in which the majority could make their own way as merchants and free workers, as opposed to living as serfs. Individualism became the rallying cry, and what made the individual special was his freedom, meaning his ability to choose how to act based on his rational, conscious control of himself. Eventually, this rationalistic appreciation of the worth of the sovereign individual was expanded to cover not just white males, but women and people of other races, such as African-Americans.

So liberalism was an ideology that celebrated the birth of the modern world in these respects. Freedom of thinking and of commerce, freedom to vote and thus to govern, the individual’s freedom to pursue her personal artistic vision--the early modernist saw the writing on the wall, the glory of ancient Greek writings compared to Thomistic dogma and the superiority of the empirical theories of Galileo, Newton, and Maxwell to those of Aristotle or Ptolemy; and the new wealth being created by the self-interested merchants and mercantilists. And for the liberal, progress went hand in hand with the power of the free individual. When a person is free to live as she sees fit (as long as she doesn’t deprive anyone else of the same right), she’s bound to be more or less original, because she has her personal identity to express--and so much the worse for the oppressive traditions of the dead-weight past that ought to be left behind by those who have woken up from the Dark Age, eager to explore new ideas.

There are at least a couple of curiosities here. First, the heart of classic liberalism looks like it beats now in the chest of the American conservative. After all, isn’t it the American talk-radio host, the Fox News pundit, and the Tea Party libertarian who champion personal liberty but who are loathe to stand anywhere near a left-wing Democrat, let alone to vote for one, while the Democrat wants to empower the government to regulate everything and take away people’s freedoms? There are a number of reasons why this turn-around has happened, but the one I want to focus on has to do with the fate of the liberal in the postmodern world. All of that eye-opening enlightenment, that righteous modern skepticism and trust in people’s freedom to decide what they should do with their lives, which birthed the culture of modernity have given way to postmodern cynicism, apathy, and anxiety, and to the heartbrokenness of folks who’ve lost their modern religion.

What happened, in short, is that the narrow progress in science and technology has far outpaced the individual’s ability to advance in terms of finding happiness, choosing creative goals, or of living peacefully with others. Indeed, part of the way science has progressed is by showing why we shouldn’t expect much personal or social progress. Darwin explained how our species is in fact continuous with the animals we eat, enslave, or hunt for sport; Einstein, Gödel, Heisenberg and others showed that knowledge is relative and partial, not absolute; and Freud popularized the discovery of the irrational unconscious, while cognitive psychologists today expose the myriad biases we have and the fallacies we’re prone to commit because of how our brains evolved. Moreover, amoral advances in technology have improved our lives in some ways while harming us in others. The world wars, for example, were devastating to the hope that societies might progress along with the narrow rational project of discovering the natural facts and exploiting them with technology. Then there was the corruption and collapse of the socialist utopias in the last century, including the communist and Nazi ones. In Britain and the US, the ‘60s hippie revolutions fizzled out (after serving up the progressive victory of civil rights) and gave way to the free market consensus in the ‘80s, under Thatcher and Reagan, and all the while the Western art worlds and philosophy departments were reflecting the public’s disenchantment with all overarching narratives that proclaim some universal meaning of life.

To return to the American conservative’s coopting of the liberal myths, then, one reason this has happened is that the conservative has been spared the suffering from the deflation of modern expectations, because she’s held on to the premodern myths without taking to heart the modern ones. Only the liberals were quintessentially modern and so only the liberals are left to writhe in the ashes of modern culture. To be sure, Western conservatism should have ended centuries ago at the dawn of the Age of Reason. But precisely because people are the animals that scientists have shown us to be, conservatives stubbornly clung to their prejudices and their theistic delusions, without much shame or cognitive dissonance. We are not as rational or as heroic as the Enlightenment myths proclaimed, and as modernists felt the full force of that discovery over the last couple of centuries, they lost the drive to cheer for the modern slogans. Postmodern liberals aren’t so keen to speak of individual liberty in the full-throated, early modern way, because those liberals have lost faith in the free individual’s ability to save herself.

Meanwhile, the wily conservative has taken a page from Thomas Aquinas’s playbook and synthesized the premodern Christian worldview with the modern one, creating a Frankenstein monster that ought to horrify all decent people. Instead of proclaiming the same old, transparently preposterous myths that no longer made sense in Europe after the Scientific Revolution, Protestant conservatives joined the ever-flexible (compromised) Christian doctrines with the modern myth of the greatness of the rational, autonomous individual. Martin Luther made this possible by following up on the Gnostic heresy, albeit replacing the ancient Gnostic’s elitist confidence in rational enlightenment with idol worship of the Bible. So postmodern Western conservatives hold on to premodern myths even while they zealously guard the modern privileges of the liberated citizens of capitalistic democracies. Not realizing that the ideal of modern freedom of thought and of action is condemned by the Christian Promethean tale of the rebellious angel Lucifer who goes his own way unto his destruction in hell, the postmodern Christian conservative cheerfully embraces the modern American project that precludes theocracy or any other tyranny in the US, out of trust in what rational and free individuals will choose to do. Isn’t the individual cursed with original sin? Aren’t God’s ways foolish to the worldly-wise elites? Isn’t satanic individualism the epitome of evil? No matter! If you can wrap your mind around premodern notions in the first place, even after the Age of Reason has blasted them a billion times over, you can betray Jesus’s hippie ideals, snatch the modern torch from the crestfallen liberal’s hand, and carry on like the oblivious pair that waits for Godot. Either that or you can use premodern myths to distract from your private postmodern nihilism.

The second curiosity is that liberalism can’t amount to the abandonment of faith for pure rationality, because the classic liberal committed himself to the modern faith that society could and would progress just like science and technology. Although there was some such progress, depending on your values, the cynicism and angst of the postmodern period indicate a crisis of faith, that is, disenchantment with the modern metanarrative. And this returns us to the first popular way of distinguishing between conservatism and liberalism (the conservative values tradition while the liberal is more open to change). The modern/classically liberal spin on this is to say that the conservative prefers feel-good superstitions while the liberal understands Reason’s empowerment of the individual to improve her circumstances. But we oversimplify the political difference if we assume that the conservative has religious faith while the liberal just follows Reason in all affairs. Modernism is not the sum of the scientific findings and rational calculations that have accrued over the last several centuries. Instead, modernism is, or rather was, itself a religion, featuring an ideology that posited a distinction between sacred things (progress, reason, freedom, equality) and profanities (dogma, irrationality, oppression, rigid hierarchy). Again, there would have been no postmodern angst were the modern ideology that discredited itself just a purely rational expression of modern culture. Thus, if you think the conservative irrationally commits to a tradition in spite of what Reason tells her, while the liberal is a sage with no irrational commitments, you’re not clear on the political difference in question. The classic liberal had faith in Reason, trusting that Reason would tell us not just how nature works and how we might modify our environments with technology, but how we ought to behave and how we can improve ourselves.

After a few hundred years of trusting in human nature, liberals began to lose their modern faith, in the last century, while conservatives managed to maintain their faith by combining premodern and modern myths. That means that scientific objectivity has rubbed off more on liberalism than on conservatism. Liberals had the decency at least to hit rock bottom with postmodern relativism and nihilism after recognizing the folly of certain modern ideals. Still, it’s not the case that conservatives have strong values while liberals have none. Modern skepticism presupposes an emotional attachment to the modern ideals and even to the myth about the brave utopian future opened up by rational exploration. In the end, modernists didn’t like what they found. Modernism has resulted in postmodern malaise and ennui, and so liberals currently have no basis for speaking of social progress. They lack a compass even if they pretend to know where they’re going, like the proverbial lost man who won’t ask for directions.

Postmodern liberal nihilism has been exacerbated by the rise of communications technologies, which have swamped experts with information that can’t be fully analyzed. The internet collects all of this information and it’s available at the push of a button, but this technological power intimidates more than it emboldens. Certainly, the availability of so much mental labour has its advantages, but its timing kicks liberals when they’re down. The difference between information and wisdom becomes clear when we see that we have an overabundance of the former and so little trust in any idea as to what should be done with the data glut. More and more information flows in so that we can’t create new traditions even if we wanted to: we lack the patience or the clarity of vision to commit to any new ideal to replace the modern one. American liberals trusted that Obama would change their society, but his biggest changes have been the tone of his rhetoric and his skin colour. Policy-wise, there’s been more continuity with the Bush regime than there has been change, and the deepest reason why that’s been so is that postmodern liberals no longer have a map to tell them where social progress lies. They’re left with hollow, vestigial rhetoric.

So far, then, the actual difference between conservatism and liberalism is that the former is an untenable synthesis of premodern and modern ideas and practices, which calls upon its adherents to boldly dispense with their capacity for shame--even if some conservatives only pretend to be premodern in their outlook--whereas liberalism/modernism was a new European religion that competed with Christianity until the modern myths lost their power to enchant in the face of recent history, leaving liberals with all too much shame.

The Size of Government

More likely, though, you’d answer the foregoing question by saying that conservatives want government to be small whereas liberals want to expand government, that conservatives privatize government functions and lower taxes while liberals add regulations and raise taxes. But this popular way of putting the distinction, too, isn’t helpful. For example, George W. Bush increased the size of the American government and Bill Clinton and Obama deregulated the economy. Obama even employed the same economic experts who laid the groundwork under Clinton for the Great Recession, to deal with that Recession (namely Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner who were one with Paul Rubin and Alan Greenspan in their zeal for deregulation). Foreseeably, then, as of mid-2013, the big banks are still too big to fail or to prosecute and the interest rates are once again low enough to punish savers and to inflate the stock and bond markets with borrowed money, encouraging the gambling that has historically produced the Ponzi schemes called “booms” that lead inevitably to busts.

To understand what’s going on here, I believe you should be aware of three principles that trump the mainstream media’s talk of small versus big government, low versus high taxes, and so forth. First, the default organization of groups within most social species, from fish to birds to mammals and primates, is the dominance hierarchy, which is to say the pecking order in which resources are split unequally between alphas, betas, and the rest. This inequality facilitates mating by laying bare genetic differences between competing males, and ensures that finite resources aren’t squandered on unfit individuals. Second, there’s the Iron Law of Oligarchy, which is that the larger a group, the more power has to be concentrated within fewer and fewer hands so that the group can operate with any efficiency. Third, there’s Lord Acton’s maxim that the more power someone has, the more likely she’ll be corrupted by that power, so that if she enjoys absolute power she has no chance of preserving her moral sense. You can test this maxim by asking yourself whether you’d act more immorally than usual if only you had no fear of getting caught; say, for example, you had the mythical Ring of Gyges which gives you the power of invisibility. When we put these principles together, we should see that for biological and pragmatic, organizational reasons, society tends to empower a minority to rule over the majority, which concentrates power, corrupts the minority, and endangers the whole society.

Given that default social dynamic (DSD), let’s return to the second superficial difference between the conservative and the liberal. The conservative wants to transfer power from the political sphere to the economic one, shrinking government and creating more opportunity for private profit. The belief here is that competition between suppliers in a free market is a more efficient way not just of setting prices but of managing society in almost all areas, compared to lobbying or voting in a democratic election. Notice that in either case, the DSD is in force, despite the appearance of a decentralization of power in the free market. If the collective demand of the majority of consumers actually determined what’s of value and thus what should be produced and how society should be run, the outcome would be far from optimal, because the population would be split and the society would lack a coherent plan of action on any issue. Moreover, majorities tend to be weighed down by those who are naturally inferior in their cognitive abilities and tastes.

To correct for this, the Iron Law of Oligarchy is applied, and so demagogues and public relations experts arise to manipulate mass opinion, to turn the population into a mob in which social pressures eliminate idiosyncratic differences of opinion. And in the political sphere, most modern democracies are representative rather than direct, so that again power is concentrated. Because of the DSD, we can expect corruption and eventual decline and possible revitalization in either a free market or a modern democracy. The more power is given to the private sector, the more monopolies will form and the majority will be manipulated for the sake of social unity and exploited as the monopolists are corrupted, until the majority come to resemble medieval serfs who depend on the largesse of the wealthy elites. Likewise, the more power is entrusted even to a democratically elected government, the more the government will abuse that power, manipulating mass opinion for the sake of national security and striking corrupt deals with cronies in the private sector, until the society exhibits the fixed inequality that’s typical of the default social order.

When it comes to the size of government, then, the effective difference between the conservative and the liberal is that the conservative values traditional social structures which most efficiently reflect natural inequalities, whereas the classic liberal proposed an egalitarian, socialist experiment which naturally failed, leaving the postmodern liberal to pretend that she has some viable way of overcoming the DSD. To understand the conservative reflex, you need to appreciate that the main difference between ways of organizing large groups is between the DSD and some radical challenge to that default. The conservative unleashes nature’s primary means of sustaining large groups, the dominance hierarchy, which is to say a pyramidal sort of economic and political inequality. Modern liberalism arose as a socialist, egalitarian rival to that default social order. When that rival first appeared, the dominance hierarchy took the forms of monarchies and oligarchies, while today the hierarchy is often more hidden from view but is still operative, for example, as a plutocracy (United States) or a kleptocracy (Russia).

At the start of the Age of Reason, classic liberals redefined human nature, based on an awakened view of our power of reason. Reason freed us from the tyrannies of natural forces and of dogmatic institutions like the Catholic Church, and again modernists thought that all people free themselves by their power of rational self-control. For modernists, that freedom is the source of human rights and so liberals feel that anyone who finds herself impoverished or disempowered mustn’t be allowed to languish. Marx gave voice to this secular humanism, predicting that because capitalism exploits and alienates the working class, the workers will revolt and establish a communist society that abolishes private property. Communism was thus supposed to be a democratic revolution, one that would liberate the majority. Russia provides the most instructive example of a country that carried out the modern experiment of diverging from the DSD for the sake of social progress.

The causes of the Soviet Union’s collapse are complex, but notice at least the pattern in the transitions from Marx to Lenin to Stalin. In applying Marx’s neo-Hegelian theory of history’s rational unfolding, Lenin found he had a practical need of a vanguard party of elite revolutionaries who would lead the workers in their revolt and secure the revolution by dealing with counter-revolutions. Thus, whereas Marx spoke of liberation for the working class, Lenin applied the Iron Law and said that the workers’ power would have to be concentrated for the revolution to succeed in the real world. Stalin added the paranoid thesis that political repression would always be needed even after the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, because the capitalists would continually try to worm their way into the worker’s paradise and corrupt it from within. Thus, Stalin purged the Communist Party and repressed the peasants, creating a police state to stamp out any sign of political opposition. In fact, this theory of ongoing class struggle provided a pretext for Stalin’s totalitarian entrenchment of the vanguard party. The Cold War turned on a contest between American and Soviet propaganda, and because the communist stronghold degenerated into a natural dominance hierarchy that repressed rather than liberated the majority of workers, soviet propaganda proved less effective in uniting and inspiring the communists. The soviet economy unraveled, there were nationalist uprisings in parts of the USSR, and the soviets lost control of their police state.   

Thus, the progressive experiment failed because the humanistic myth of social progress proved unequal to the task of escaping the force of social gravity, which is the DSD. This failure has monumental consequences besides the well-known ones. European modernists marveled at the secular humanists’ progress in understanding and controlling natural forces, and wanted to duplicate that progress in the social sphere, by speculating on how reason can control ourselves (our “passions,” instincts, or unconscious desires). Modern thinkers duly produced bureaucratic hierarchies that boasted all the formal justifications you could ask for; alas, the bureaucrats were mammals, not logic-chopping machines, and the leaders of modern states followed the cold dictates of reason to the point of exerting totalitarian control over the masses instead of liberating them.

And postmodern liberals are left without an inspiring ideal to motivate mass opposition to the DSD. Dominance hierarchies are found throughout the animal kingdom, so the conservative has no need to long for a glimpse of her shining city on a hill. Her model social arrangement is just the default one in which the weak members submit to the strong and exchange the right to their “fair,” equal share of the resources, for protection by the alphas. The conservative is mocked for calling this the Trickle-down theory, but as the Too Big to Fail banks on Wall Street made clear in 2008, the financial elites hold the integrated global economy hostage and so, as the beady-eyed economists said, the choice is between appeasement or apocalypse. By contrast, the classic liberal was a radical who dared to establish the supernatural kingdom dreamt up by spiritual visionaries from the Axial Age. This liberal trusted in Reason rather than in God to sustain an egalitarian utopia, and when people proved to be insufficiently godlike to overcome the force of social gravity, the communist bureaucracies and Keynesian welfare states disintegrated and had their treasures looted by predators who captured the regulators, rewrote or repealed the relevant laws, and installed or reinstalled crony capitalistic pecking orders.

There are rival ways of co-opting the modern rhetoric of freedom. The classic liberal bets on democracy as the vehicle of a rationally-illuminated and thus liberated majority. In the US, this democratic impulse got mixed up with individualism, self-reliance, and even social Darwinian xenophobia, because the US was settled, relatively recently, by tough pioneers who fought for their independence. Bur for all the modern rationalistic bluster and doubts about traditional religions, modernists like Marx had a spiritual, miraculous idea of progress. To progress from natural inequality, modern radicals promoted the ideals of freedom for all and of equally-shared political power. These ideals govern democracy: one person, one vote, which equalizes political influence. The moral reason for the equality is that people have the same rights because of their innate capacity for rational self-control. Conservatives counter with the mechanism of the free market, which frees the producer to satisfy the demands of the marketplace and that frees also the consumer to act on her preference by buying what she likes, thus rewarding the producer. A free market is clearly an instrument of deepening social inequality, because unlike in a democracy in which power is tied to the equally-distributed votes, the power of money is cumulative in an unregulated market, so that the more money anyone has there, the greater her power. (This is how money can corrupt a democracy.) Thus, while liberals want a permanent sort of freedom to honour our equality as dignified, rational beings, a freedom that wound up being preserved paradoxically by totalitarian communists, conservatives want mainly freedom of opportunity, which is the hypothetical freedom that stops at the starting gate, as the natural rewards and punishments, dished out by unregulated (wild) competition, are allowed to shape society, corrupting the winners and ensuring the losers’ downfall.

So back to the question of big versus small government. This is a tempest in a teapot since either way, nature wins. Liberals had their chance at supernatural progress and the DSD played its tune even on the modern instruments. The current split between conservatives and liberals on this issue of the government’s size is farcical because it’s so one-sided in light of the failure of large-scale progressivism to offer a sustainable alternative to the default social order. To be sure, the conservative society is execrable from the modern viewpoint, since it dehumanizes us, treating us as animals struggling on our own for survival and power. And to be sure, some conservatives tell noble lies to conceal that this is what they fight for. Thanks to its association with the Nazis, social Darwinism is politically incorrect, but this is the true difference between conservatives and liberals. A small government means a power vacuum in the private sector and thus a brutal natural competition, which corrupts the weakened government and tanks the whole economy in boom and bust cycles. And a large government means the empowering of the vanguard party or of the bureaucracy’s upper echelons, which again corrupts the power center and dooms the society. In a conservative social order, the powerful minority benefit the most, although as in most animal groups, the total population benefits from the stability which is preferable to anarchy. In a progressive, egalitarian society, the naturally weakest members benefit the most since they receive a free lunch, but because this sort of society is miraculous it tends to be short-lived. Thus, only the rich and the powerful now have ardent political defenders in modern states, leaving the poor to fend for themselves. Liberal politicians are much more confused about their social ideals than are conservatives, although the latter may seem confused in public if they keep their postmodern ideals secret.

The Culture War

Finally, I suspect you think that conservatives and liberals differ clearly on the current issues of the day like abortion, gay marriage, when to use the military, whether to legalize drugs, whether to teach Creationism in science classes, how to interpret religious scripture, and so forth. Indeed, there are these cultural differences in all modern democracies. I won’t go into them here, but I’ll close by suggesting that this culture war derives not just from the mainstream media’s need to stir up conflict to sell the news as prepackaged infotainment, but from the history and the other factors I’ve just discussed. Conservative smugness and schadenfreude, for example, are due to the self-evident benefits of the dominance hierarchy and to the lack of a viable alternative, while the liberal’s kneejerk confidence in technocracy derives from her need to lose herself in academic abstractions, so she can avoid perceiving the unsettling reality that she’s standing in the wilderness, which is where the conservative wants to be. True, just because the dominance hierarchy stabilizes most social species doesn’t mean it will stabilize ours. Corruption can affect human predators by making them downright evil, and we have the power to wipe ourselves out beyond the possibility of our recovery. In any case, there’s no arguing with the force of social gravity; instead, there’s just the mad vision of spiritual malcontents and the recent sinking of God’s kingdom into the swamp of hierarchy and corruption, after the socialist revolutions.

Conservatives look at liberal democracies, such as the hybrid ones in Europe and Canada, and see fattened calves doomed to go belly-up like Greece, to be double-crossed and slaughtered by predators like Goldman Sachs in the open market. True, Canada’s banking system was largely protected from the recent real estate bust, so liberals can take pride in the advantages of a social safety net. But there’s a reason Canada’s success here isn’t widely-celebrated or even well-known. As safe, clean, and peaceful as Canadian society is, few people dream of being Canadian. The cost of these liberal benefits is the postmodern liberal’s cultural vacuum, the result of her disillusionment. So Canadians and Europeans may enjoy some benefits of the modern vision of social progress, but whether these benefits can motivate liberals in the long run to save our moderately socialist states from the crushing reality of the biological and pragmatic pulls toward inequality, corruption, and catastrophe is doubtful. 


  1. When you speak of "liberals" and "conservatives," you are over-simplifying to the point of total error. Peons who self-identify as liberal have nothing in common with powerful politicians and leaders who self-identify as such.

    By doing that, you've corrupted your narrative with the naivete of believing that the major actors who created the several centuries of history which you rely upon to draw your conclusions were actually acting while believing in the philosophies they espoused. If we believe these actors, then most of what you said is correct--they were inevitably drawn toward inherent corruption by the alternating currents of self-contradictory worldviews. You are exactly the brilliant thinker that they want in this phase of society.

    These actors, though, did not actually believe the worldviews you ascribe to them. They said they did; they made speeches about it; they wrote screeds about it; they argued and spent and advertised and ordered other men to die for it. However, they did not actually believe these "conservative" or "liberal" things.

    What they believed in was your preferred ideology: the DSD. Their true beliefs--not their masks--created the history you're writing about, which is what makes your conclusions so seemingly close to accurate. The "conservative" and "liberal" powerful are the same families; the same stockholders; in cases, the same people, saying they disagree on stuff that they all actually agree upon. They have spoken, for centuries, with the same elite voice: "divide people into illusory sub-groups, foment internal and external strife through resource shortages, and have them make war on each other."

    Conservative, New Democratic, Liberal, conservative, liberal, Democratic, Republican: all these businesses and parties have spoken with the same voice. They call for slaughter, environmental destruction, mass financial exploitation, and hollow infotainment feeds.

    The things they've been telling you, Mr. Cain, about what they "believed," are not and were never the things they actually believed. They believed in your DSD, which is why they used their nation-states and their megacorps to create a history that expressed the DSD. Believing that they were ever actually philosophically opposed to one another is just a slightly higher stage of the very infotainment that keeps a different subset of the population unable to learn to read or think well enough to understand your blog. You are being played, too, to believe in and perpetuate the DSD.

    If we allow ourselves to see behind the set, we see the wars, diseases, and famines as part of that unified philosophy. We see that it is not inevitable, but rather, that they wanted us to believe it was inevitable. As intelligent (and interesting!) as your rhetoric is, it is still occurring within the Matrix, to use a metaphor you might prefer. :)

    The black knight thinks he is the more powerful because the white knight cannot defeat him; the white knight knows that she would defeat the black knight if she stopped trying to protect him.

    ~Ebenus Moravic

    1. I'd like us to get clear on this, High Arka. Until you said "You are being played, too, to believe in and perpetuate the DSD," I really thought we were on the same page, because the whole point of this article is that the distinctions that many people take for granted, between liberalism and conservatism, are phony. If we see what's really going on, the picture changes. You say the leaders of both sides actually agree on a naturalistic, subversive, and authoritarian viewpoint, which I call knowledge of the DSD. I can agree that that was often so (although you'd have to name names here), and now I'm trying to spill the beans for the masses.

      But as I read on I was forced to think that you reject not only the consensus that liberals and conservatives disagree in the standard ways, but that there is this underlying natural process, the DSD. I take it you'd replace the DSD with your Life-Antilife dualism, and you think the DSD is just a myth spread for nefarious, Antilife purposes. Do I have this right so far?

      Now, I agree with you that the DSD has unsettling consequences and that it tempts unscrupulous people to dominate others, but this doesn't mean the three assumptions that define the DSD are false. Honestly, those assumptions seem to me axiomatic. I don't know how in the world you could refute them. I'm afraid I do feel a little like the black knight on this one. Just tell me, do you dispute the fact that most social animal groups naturally form dominance hierarchies? Do you not see the pragmatic logic that the larger the group, the harder it is to manage without concentrating power and thus forming a hierarchy? And do you not think there's overwhelming evidence from history that power tends to corrupt people? If you agree with those three points, then you agree with me that the DSD is a natural fact. There is, as it were, a force of social gravity.

      This doesn't mean we can't break away from that force or that the DSD assumptions say everything there is to say about society. So I think my account is compatible with yours. But you've got to be clear about distinguishing between whether DSD is factual and whether elites have exploited those facts for nefarious purposes.

  2. Arka: A very interesting comment. Worth some further thought.

  3. Dear Mr. Cain, you raise a number of interesting issues. Is it natural when beavers build a dam of logs? What if they build that same dam using primarily discarded shopping carts and shipping containers? Is it natural when the American Pentagon builds an oceanic reef of outdated tanks? When a physician inoculates an infant with thimerosal?

    The DSD is "natural" in the sense that, over a very limited historical span of one species' allowable recollection, said to have occurred during a much smaller fraction of one planet's very limited lifespan, in one corner of one galaxy of one section of verse, the DSD can be said, with some accuracy, to have happened. It is natural for there to be confused, frightened life, wedded to a tiny portion of its current arrangement, and as a result, feeling disconnected from itself and everything else--ergo self-ish, temporally-limited behavior, providing us with a handful of written centuries of DSD.

    In observing that, you're in large part correct. DSD has happened. Is it natural? As natural as anything else. It is "natural" in the sense that it was created by nature, and has a high probability (maybe a near-inevitability?) of occurring in the presence of these types of living structures. It is "not natural" in the sense that it is the way living things (including organisms or the societies they produce) will always demonstrate DSD.

    Posit a grounded fourteen-year-old lying in her bedroom from 8PM until 1AM, every night for months, believing that she will never be allowed to drive, because Mom and Dad are such jerks. The metaphor is highly inaccurate in many ways, but it speaks to the perception of time and inevitability. Even if all our prior experience suggests "DSD = inevitable," the experience we allow ourselves to partake of here is sorely limited (to be less emotional about it, reword that to just "our experience" or "verifiable experience").

    Within that experience, though, we run into a number of problems, similar to what we've encountered before. Here, our fantasies will probably diverge: you have drawn upon official, elite, hierarchical sources of knowledge, in determining what the verse (and Earth) looked like in the past, and what they look like now. If we believe elite depictions of Nation-State History, Market-Style Evolution, and Big Bang Cosmology, then your model, however temporally-blind, finds complete evidentiary support from all reliable sources.

    Lacking either formal education or intelligence, many average people will find your writing radical, ridiculous, ignorant, or incomprehensible, because they will not understand the ways that all the things they believe in--Nation-State History, Market-Style Evolution, and Big Bang Cosmology--not only support, but mandate your conclusions. They look to elite thinkers for answers, and those elite thinkers--who have carefully, over many centuries, promulgated the cosmos' rules--will tell them to settle down, buy crap, and work.

    You are different: you have mastered the true meaning of the histories and sciences you've been fed, and drawn them to their logical conclusions. In a verse governed by those rules, you understand everything except a few trivial details. You duel this one at both the highest and lowest level of philosophy. Our fantasies are at the same point on the circle (if you prefer two dimensions): the point of simultaneous beginning and ending. Most people are involved busily journeying around different stages of the curvature, remarking often about the colours of the foliage, and still believing that they're heading to some sort of ending.

    So we come again to your reliance on the knowledge products produced by the hierarchies of the temporally selfish--of the frightened, disconnected souls trying to eat and fuck the most before they vanish into nothingness. Consider, in the next post, a few questions about our perceptions of Nation-State History alone:

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, High Arka. My question about the DSD wasn't so much about whether it's natural, but whether it's factual. The distinction is between whether the assumptions are true and whether they have bad consequences. I felt like you were running those two things together. Now you're saying the assumptions are true, but that the DSD needn't be permanent. Maybe you have an optimistic, Hegelian view of the destiny of our historical trends. At any rate, I like my social gravity metaphor, since it's possible for us to escape Earth's gravity, although this is very hard to do. So I too can hope for social progress (the point of my positive writings on existential cosmicism is to lay the groundwork for that progress), but I know of no reason to be confident that we'll socially progress.

      I just want to be clear that my impression is that biologists say the dominance hierarchy is found not just in primates, but in almost all social species, including fish, birds, and mammals. Your second paragraph speaks as though only humans were at issue, although in your second point in Part Two below, you come back to the broader issue, which is the one I'm raising. More on this below.

      When you criticize the elite, patriarchal telling of history, I wonder what other sources of information you have. You clarify below that you agree with what I'd call the feminist version of postmodern revisionism. I'm familiar with this line of argument, and I even enjoy some revisionism here, especially from Terence McKenna who posited a largely socialist prehistory for humans based on the assumption that they were high on mushrooms much of the time. I'll come back to this below.

      If we're talking about what humans were like many thousands of years ago, I agree the field is wide open since there's very little evidence one way or the other. If I speak of dominance hierarchies in humans, though, I'm speaking about recorded history (all the monarchies, emperors, oligarchies, and so forth).

  4. 1) We know the saying that the victors write history, right? Why do we take it for granted, then, that there are no good examples in our past, whether or not they've been properly recorded and maintained by the current ruling elite (or the even more trustworthy ruling elite of a century ago)? The only history we've been allowed to read, and been told to rely upon, is a history of elites using nations to trick uneducated simpletons to butcher each other.

    Is it at all possible that this is the only history remaining because this is the way we are supposed to believe people always were?

    I'm not saying "Atlantis!" here. I'm not saying something that needs to be taken in an outlandish sense. Is it not possible that the kings and conquerors we think of as responsible for "history" are the simply the ones who invaded, raped, spent, and wrote? How many thousands of globe-spanning tribal collectives could have existed in property-less, agrarian unity, for tens of thousands of years, before some among them fell ill, poisoned the wells, burned the old books, and created this 5,000 year spurt of nasty "war history" we have now?

    What makes you trust our leaders about our history? About the nations, and the sins, they claim existed? What other honest things have our greatest leaders said over the past couple hundred years?

    (How well is parchment preserved?)

    2) Oh, and the traditional biological and anthropological issues: the people who chart "dominance hierarchies" in "nature" are snobby, white, wealthy men, who were trying to justify colonialism, genocide, eugenics, and Market-Style Evolution at the same time as they founded modern zoology (including the caging, displaying, testing, torturing, etc. of animals for profit) and biology. Most of the "dominance hierarchy" crap that has built up in biology and zoology over the past century and a half is a result of the British Empire trying to explain why beautiful Hindi twelve-year-olds needed to be gang-raped by a bunch of pasty white fatshit Tudor lordlings and their entourages.

    Actual, "natural" animals have social arrangements, but it takes an advanced, civilized, probably Anglo-American human to see dominance hierarchies in even a significant minority of Earth's current species. White supremacy, monotheism, patriarchy, gender norms, sexual mores, and the rest of the nasty stew of western civilization informed the history of the modern "animal" disciplines, and the most recent stuff (you might appreciate this part) is highly tainted by obtuse, alogical notions of political correctness, game theory, and resource economics.

    1. Yes, the victors write the history, but what's your alternative source of information about the past? You seem to be positing peaceful socialist collectives in our agrarian past. Fine, if you're talking about prehistory, like McKenna, but how would those societies have worked? McKenna is interesting because he identifies a mechanism for overcoming the ego, namely psychedelic trips from magic mushrooms. We do have evidence from the last century about what happens to communist societies: they degenerate into dominance hierarchies. Now, if the group is small enough, as it would have been before recorded history, the Iron Law of Oligarchy might not have applied, and thus neither would Lord Acton's principle about corruption. So I'm open to thinking that thousands of years ago, there were many small socialist, non-hierarchical collectives. I'd like to know how that could work for a very large group, though, without massive spiritual (e.g. Buddhist, anti-egoistic) enlightenment, magic mushroom use, or something like that.

      As to the feminist criticism of science (and current history is more scientific than it was before), I don't think that criticism successfully overturns scientific consensus. The scientific methods of discovery withstand any demonstration that the scientists themselves have ulterior motives, biases, political agendas, etc. The whole point of those methods is that they take human subjectivity out of the process as much as possible. You simply run the experiment to see how nature works. I know that data can be manipulated or misreported, and experiments can be misleading, but if it's repeated and the data are accurately recorded as opposed to sensationalized, we have a genuine scientific finding, albeit perhaps a highly qualified one. And we should be wary of committing the genetic fallacy, as is the postmodernist's wont.

      As to whether most social species form dominance hierarchies, it's important we understand what those hierarchies are. Those hierarchies are just priorities when it comes to how much resources (food and sex) the group's members are consistently allowed to have. As long as there's consistent inequality in the use of those resources, you have a dominance hierarchy. So my understanding is that biologists have observed that in wolves, primates, and many other species, some males have privileged access to the food and to the females. They're called the alphas. Others get second pick, while still others are always given last pick (the omegas). Do you dispute that most social species (i.e. species in which the members live in groups rather than living alone) form hierarchies in that sense?

      I agree that game theory is fishy, though. In fact, I'm gearing up to write a criticism of economics in general, based mainly on Michael Hudson's articles on the misuse of mathematics in economics.

    2. This one isn't offering an alternative source of information about the past--rather, this one is saying that it would be irrational to trust that the elite history to which we have access is complete, or even "mostly complete." The history we have now is based upon the mandatory industrial school system adopted by America, which was based on the Prussian military university system, which was based on Christian church learning monopolies. Prior to that, "reliable written history" was controlled by the same sorts of people: king-priests making up moral and legal codes based on arcane documents that they rewrote whenever convenient.

      So, were there any socialist utopias (shudder) in our past? Maybe, maybe not. The operative point is that we do not have many, if any, reliable sources from which to draw conclusions that humans have always been "that way."

      Even if we do accept (and trust) only the sources we have, there are many reasons to believe that comprehensive histories, rather than Nation-State Histories, are more, well, comprehensive. For the simplest, silliest, best-known example of this trend, there's always Howard Zinn's A People's...

      What's an alternative source of information about the past? Well, we can see in today's pop culture (including "news") the types of behavior that elites tend to use to historically sanitize their actions. Using those same models, we can draw reasonably accurate conclusions about "what really happened" in any given formally-recorded ("historical") epoch.

      Permitting the modern and postmodern biologists to draw conclusions about "dominance" hierarchies based on their objective reading of the evidence is quite a grant of authority. When we project our own mores onto a group, it's easy to personify the animals, and project our own desires and worries onto their actions.

      Consider the Jerry Seinfeld joke about aliens observing a human walking a dog, then picking up the dog poop in a bag and carrying it to a trash receptacle.

    3. For example, we have males with "privileged" access to the food and to the females, right? Well, how many of the males are homosexual? How many are expected to be first in line to fight if an intruder enters the common space? Alien observers to Earth might notice that our enlisted soldiers get free clothes, meals, bed, shelter, entertainment, upgrades to first class, and encouraging posters and bumper stickers. They're given preferential access to the most powerful weapons and most sensitive areas, and appear larger and stronger, by far, than the population at large. They also have easier access to the lower-class prostitutes that surround military bases.

      Being an enlisted soldier, then, would seem like a really great role. However, that enlisted soldier might be getting 4 hours of sleep a day, have a handful of STDs from the Thai prostitutes he bought over the past few years, be making $26K a year, and be destined for dying of a slow bleed somewhere in Syria in 2015.

      When that enlisted soldier comes home, and needs to see a doctor, what happens? The enlisted soldier gets shown to a special room, just for him, where he is allowed to read free magazines and sit on a cushioned chair. The doctor (making $250K a year, and in a monogamous relationship with his wife) enters the room, and very deferentially asks what the soldier's problem is. He thanks the soldier warmly, then orders people to give the soldier prescriptions. Several receptionists and nurses attend to the soldier's needs on his way out.

      Now, who is the more powerful individual--the physician, or the corporal?

      A bunch of narrow-minded biologists can easily draw conclusions about food and mating, when they have no idea how much the animals in question value time for reflection; safety; first pick of sleeping area; first pick of bathroom territory; longevity; lack of responsibility for children; etc. You've seen Idiocracy, so you know that the person with the most access to food and mates is not always the most powerful in any given society. In fact, having too many mates and too much food may be bad. When we look at the "biggest male," we are projecting our own desires for masculine size onto animals that may actually value dexterity or nimbleness. Naive football fans will get most excited about the burly linemen, and naive MMA fans will get most excited about the fighter with the most muscles, and they'll be entirely missing the point.

      The alpha, beta, omega thing is an outgrowth of Anglo-Victorian ritualized courting and Victorian colonial dominance--where wolves, gorillas, fish, and African tribes were all likened to smaller, child-like versions of pasty white British guys.

      Sticking to alpha, beta, and omega frameworks is like trying to buy land from the Pequot--it just doesn't apply. They signed the treaty, but they don't know what the hell you're talking about, and it's only your own particular culture of insanity that gives the treaty a meaning.

      (Alpha, beta, and omega works great in the crap-buying dating culture of the now, though--no argument there.)

    4. I agree that social patterns can be complex enough to allow for different interpretations. Your examples dealing with soldiers and doctors are a little misleading, though, since they deal with enormously complex human societies, involving millions of people, whereas most animal groups are much smaller and thus not as hard to understand.

      You say the idea of the dominance hierarchy is just a projection of Anglo-American, Victorian mores. Not so, since the idea began with a Norwegian scientist's observation of chickens in the 1920s, when he coined the word "pecking order." The ethological theory of the dominance hierarchy emerges from that of natural selection. That is, given natural selection, we have to explain the pretty consistent pattern of ritualized violence within social groups all around the world. As a strategy for surviving, many animals learn to live together in groups, but they don't live peacefully. Resources (food and mates) are scarce, and many animals starve and never mate. But all animals have an instinctive will to live and to reproduce. Thus, there's competition, as Darwin argued.

      Death is the environmental mechanism for creating biological design, without any pre-existing intelligence. Whole species perish because they don’t fare as well, competing for resources, as mutated versions of themselves, and so a new species evolves. The point about the dominance hierarchy is that the same process occurs within small social groups. So the theory of dominance hierarchy builds on the theory of natural selection. Just as there’s competition between species and between groups within one species, there’s competition between members of each group. Why is there competition? Because resources are scarce, meaning there’s not enough for everyone. And why is that? Because there’s no God, life wasn’t meant to be, but is an accidental emergence in a largely inhospitable world.

      Only workable strategies for dealing with these harsh facts produce organisms that are most likely to survive. In groups with no mechanism for dealing with inter-group conflict, the group will fall apart from the anarchical violence. Remarkably, biologists observe that while social animals often fight, they very rarely fight to the death. Instead, they engage in ritual combat or displays of dominance. (You can observe this too by watching dogs or cats meet for the first time or watching birds at a bird feeder.) This happens between males and between males and females and also between females. The dominance hierarchy is precisely the result of those observable and curious matches and displays. The whole group often also observes the contests, so that the order of rank is remembered and put into effect. This is the most prevalent strategy for surviving in groups, despite each individual’s independent will to succeed: instead of always fighting to the death, symbolic competitions are held and the losers are allowed to remain in the group but are punished by being given a lower position in the social order. And the winners get most of the spoils.

      You may have an alternative interpretation of the evidence, but this interpretation makes sense to me. It’s a strong theory, meaning that it’s conservative in the sense that it coheres with what’s already known (natural selection), and it has wide scope since it can explain most social animal behaviour regardless of the species. I’m not a biologist, though, so I defer to the consensus so that I can get on with philosophizing. However, I don’t always so defer, since I think modern economics is bullshit.

    5. The soldier/doctor example is meant to show how an observer, unaware of the enormously complex nature of the soldier's society and the doctor's society, could draw erroneous conclusions. Even if some animals are 10 times simpler than us (or 1,000 times) there are still a lot of things to get wrong--particularly if we assume that their goals and desires are the same as ours. It might not concern them as much, for example, to go with less food or mating, if they feel that the group's survival chances are better with resources and genes allocated differently.

      It is humanity's own modern error--the pretension that death is the end of an isolated existence--that causes selfish observers to conclude that the resource allocation systems some animals employ are a reflection of the dominance of an elite. This is fostered by a human elite, which has subverted human kinship to the idea of a bleak, disconnected world, ruled by a greedy few.

      The animals we "study" also tend to be domesticated, caged, or highly aware of human observation. Most of our samples are tainted by the "subjects" being aware that they are being watched by powerful external beings. After thousands of years of animal husbandry, hunting, and geographical altering, the question of what "natural" animals might otherwise be doing is not as detached and scientific as we'd like to pretend. The animals that survive now on Earth are primarily animals who have learned to adapt to please, or endure, humans--their behavior would be more likely to mirror ours, and not because it's a "fact of reality," but because it's a fact of reality that we imposed upon them by our own dark choices.

      Your 1920s Norwegian had been raised in the world created by the British Empire. He was conducting his studies on a thoroughly domesticated line of obedient, human-mimicking chickens just after the Great War had shown all peasants that elite technological terrors would be chopping them all into mincemeat for the next few centuries. The idea of a "pecking order" was not novel; as you pointed out earlier, Sade had already laid out the philosophy of the strong dominating the weak, and that was centuries after the Torah.

      Quoting you:

      "This is the most prevalent strategy for surviving in groups, despite each individual’s independent will to succeed..."

      See the normative leap of "individual," "independent," and "will to succeed [in being superior to others]"? You've laid your own desires across the observations. You've personified your subject matter, assuming that it has the outlook you do.

      You are a child of advanced crony capitalism and bleak science, seeing value only in the artificially-pleasurable experiences you can grab for "yourself" during your short time here. Rise out of the matrix of the isolated spark of life, and see that you are perceiving the "evidence" this way because this kind of disparate-self nihilism leads inevitably to societies like those we have now: sad, futile murder factories, where the winners celebrate, the losers die, and the middling functionaries go onto the internet to complain about how empty the winners' parties truly are.

    6. Your point about how other species have adapted to submit to us is interesting. Adaptation takes thousands of years, though, so I think biologists still have plenty of observations of wild animal behaviour. But you're right that we shouldn't take out of context scientific findings made in highly artificial settings.

      Whoever was the first to think of the dominance hierarchy, I don't think the idea is just a mental projection of British imperialists. There is evidence in nature of hierarchies. Perhaps the data support socialist or spiritual interpretations, but that means there's ambiguity and so we'd have to argue about which theory is best.

      When I speak of the biological assumption about the "individual's independent will to succeed," I don't think this assumption is normative. The normative point would be that we ought to be egoistic. That's not part of the theory of natural selection. The theory begins with the observation of conflict over scarce resources, and it explains how social structures emerge to make the best of nature's frugality. Instead of fighting to the death all the time and settling for chaos, creatures whose love is limited to their kith and kin--because love is genetically determined--band together and form hierarchies so the members know where they stand. If they didn't know, they'd have to fight all the time to find out and that would be counterproductive.

      I wonder why you don't think of what I'm doing as plunging into the naturalistic, hedonistic Western ideology to critique it from within. I'm not a nihilist and soon, when I write on Emil Cioran, I'll explain why, although it should be clear from a number of my writings.

    7. A chimpanzee learning to paint is "adaptation," but not adaptation in the way you're using it. An individual animal's routine, and the nature of animal-animal interactions ("animal society") can be changed by one animal or a group of animal. If you've ever trained a dog to sit on command, you can believe that without even needing to acknowledge the tiny corresponding generational changes (which skilled breeders can observe in decades or years).

      Regarding the will to succeed, your explanation is a tautology. Again, what you view as "conflict over scarce resources" may not necessarily be "conflict" in the sense that Animal A is bitter at losing the first ten bites to Animal B.

      Lionesses hunt, but yield much of the initial meat to the male lion, despite his frequent worthlessness in the hunt; lionesses provide for cubs despite their massive negative net value on lioness survival prospects.

      Why? Because they're forced by "[exclusively] chemical love" to harm themselves by giving away food? Because they're slaves to selfish investors, excuse me, genes, who demand a return next generation? Even if so, those genes would be selflessly, replicating slightly altered versions of themselves, then dying off. The selflessness, or kinship, of the network is built into the seemingly irrational, harmful-to-self actions of providing for others (or wolves raising and training a random pup found in the wild). The behavior you decry as "just chemical" is antithetical to the idea of selfish genes or individuals, ergo why a fertile young urban white man and a fertile young urban black woman in Toronto might adopt a Filipino orphan boy, work and slave to raise him, then leave him all their property.

      Even if they're social jerks, avowedly adopting so they can brag to their friends about how cosmopolitan they are, they end up dead and the Filipino genes end up reproducing.

      Alternatively, Barack and Michelle Obama are the end result of strains of African genes that dispersed to the west, then became the most recent front for a predominantly-white imperial faction that has recently exterminated six million Congolese blacks (to say nothing of their other crimes). Where is the genetic "selfishness" there?

      The pulling forces of life and antilife, and the banding effects of what you might call "kinship," will regularly overlap, but kinship (all the way down to the most elemental "more similarity in atomic particle arrangement" version of the same argument) can never consistently explain the behavior. Kinship only seems to work because it frequently overlays a relationship on behavior essentially motivated by something else.

    8. I know there's a standard objection to natural selection, which is that this theory can't explain altruism, but I'm not sure I understand your particular formulation of it. I think you're saying that even short-term selfish behaviour can have long-term selfless or self-destructive consequences, and so selfishness is just an illusion, because something else is going on.

      There certainly is something else going on, since genes aren't literally selfish. But genes cause their hosts to have narrowly-directed interests, to prefer to help some of their kind more than others. Animals also cooperate, especially if their behaviour and their genes are connected by a long rather than a short leash. Alternatively, their selflessness might be a spandrel, an accidental side-effect of a trait that was selected to perform some other function. I assume you think selflessness isn't accidental in nature, but I prefer a cosmicist or mysterian metaphysical picture to an anthropocentric or life-centered one.

      In any case, the process of natural selection is blind; it doesn't look into the future to ensure that selfish behaviour always benefits the selfish creatures. So the long-term effect of selfishness carries no weight against natural selection, as far as I can see.

      Moreover, my fallback defense continues to be that I assume the conventional, elite worldview of naturalism to critique it from within. I do believe that natural selection explains biological design, but I'm interested more in the philosophical implications of the worldview and in the prospects for adding existential and religious dimensions to it.

  5. Now, that part about Canada's cultural deficit is just ridiculous.

    I happen to live in a country on the opposite end of the "success" list. And here, believe it or not, a hell of a lot of educated people dream about living in Canada. Reason? (beside safety and professional prospects) Canadians are far more compassionate, respectful and understanding people than what human material we have here.
    Cultural vacuum? Values not present in Canada? In my country values and the likes are far more often than not brought up to justify your need to kick a gay (or an asian immigrant or anyone defenseless really) in the face, and needless to say you will get away with it. Museums, classic or modern literature, arts are not just unpopular, they barely scrape by. If you lived here, my friend, you would howl on the moon from the lack of culture.
    Some of my friends who moved to the west 10 or so years ago sometimes repeat your complains. I have to remind them about this dull feeling of despair you develop when on a daily basis you have to watch pensioners searching for things of value in garbage containers (pension is 300$ and prices are just like in your country), drunk or drugged people lying on the streets in winter, policemen robbing and beating immigrants from even more miserable countries in broad daylight and, most of all, faces of the overwhelming majority not giving a ****, but talking about supremacy of their "values".

    You may complain about Canada's or America's cultural inadequacy in the face of the overarching natural tendencies, and its probably the right thing to do, but you have to remember that in less developed countries almost universally this deficit is far, far more dire.

    1. Well, Samir, if you didn't care for the few sentences about Canada in this article, you might really be livid if you read an article I just sent to, called "Why is Canada So Boring"? If it doesn't appear there, I'll post it here in a week or so.

      We have to make sure we're defining "culture" in the same way since the word has multiple meanings. Here are some definitions from

      1. the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action
      2. the total range of activities and ideas of a group of people with shared traditions, which are transmitted and reinforced by members of the group: the Mayan culture
      3. a particular civilization at a particular period
      4. the artistic and social pursuits, expression, and tastes valued by a society or class, as in the arts, manners, dress, etc
      5. the enlightenment or refinement resulting from these pursuits
      6. the attitudes, feelings, values, and behaviour that characterize and inform society as a whole or any social group within it: youth culture

      When you imply that Canada has a lot of culture because it has museums, literature, and respect for the arts, you're talking about culture in the fifth sense, whereas I'm more interested in the first, second, and sixth definitions, as well as the third (when I talk about Spengler). The point is that you're focusing on the arts, whereas I'm talking more generally about ideas, beliefs, and values. I'm sure Canada does have more respect for the arts than do some oppressive countries, but oppressed people probably feel stronger about certain ideas than do decadent, postmodern folks like most Canadians. Also, although Canada has produced many first-class actors and comedians, it's done so by allowing them to move to the US. Homegrown Canadian novels, movies, and TV are usually dreadfully dull. (Hopefully my novel will be an exception!)

      Also, you say Canadians are very compassionate, respectful, and so forth. I agree and I actually use that fact as part of my argument in this other article. Anyway, if you can stomach it, have a look at my full argument about Canada when it comes out, before you make up your mind. You should know, though, that my writings about Canada are a little facetious.

  6. I will read the article, but honestly I don't think it will make me change my mind.
    This is a very important question indeed, what definition of culture should we use when we're trying to evaluate it.
    I'm not a religious person at all, but I take close to heart these famous words from the bible I read when I was a child: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have no love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have no love, I am nothing".

    So what kind of value do traditions, beliefs or artistic pursuits claim to hold if they're not concerned with disastrous (physical, emotional and intellectual) conditions of fellow humans? In my opinion such "values" mock the very idea of value.

    I am one of those folks who refuse to give artists like Leni Riefenstahl any respect regardless of their achievements in professional sphere. Regarding traditions, I do not care (do not include in my definition of culture) about any tradition or belief that accepts discrimination or ignores the calamity that human life so often is.
    Its totally not politically correct, but I believe that not all traditional national cultures should be allowed to persevere. And while Canadians may have not much "traditional culture", I deeply respect you for, among other things, your attempts to adopt some of our hapless children.
    It infuriates me when I hear my countrymen express their "need to defend our valuable traditions and beliefs from foreign influence", when we have more children in (horrible, inhuman - "White on Black" by Rubén David González can give you a glimpse) orphanages than we had after the WWII.

    1. Yes, this is an interesting question about what sort of culture is best. I take your point that traditional cultures can be horrible and not worth preserving. Indeed, I've always maintained on this blog that not all values or ideals are equal, even if we have only aesthetic means of judging them. So if a country has virtually no authentic culture, that's one problem, and another problem is which culture is best, given those countries that do have cultures.

    2. Oh, I forgot to add that I address this question of whether love is the meaning of life here:

      For the record, I think Paul's comment on love is sentimental nonsense. Socrates's view is far superior in Plato's Symposium.

    3. Samir mentions a good point that many "western dissidents" miss, namely that, in the vernacular, a lot of third world countries suck. Compared to the student, tourist, or other-popular-image of the first world, the third world is incredibly violent, backward, and filthy.

      What Samir may be missing is that the first world is much like a British castle: everything looks great and civilized until you find the dungeon (or just the servants' quarters off the stable). Samir, there are many places in America and Canada where sewage chokes the ground, children starve, wives are mutilated, minorities are killed, and fags are beaten to death. You might think of "ghettos" or "Indian reservations," but that kind of lifestyle is not limited to such places.

      African-American infant mortality and prenatal care rates are comparable to, or worse than, many places that are considered "third world."

      The "first world" is an illusion, built up by the corporate movies that sell Canada and America as pillars of civilization. In actuality, the pollution-soaked violence is still there: it's just being cropped out of the picture.

  7. A confusing article that seems to cherry pick some ideas to suit a particular agenda.

    The medieval Catholic church... even the Catholic church today, has always been more left wing than protestantism. It looks to a central government. And while it doesn't formally vote, it considers itself the true church because of a consensus of belief, or rather, their numbers are bigger than the heretics. So it's a social consensus organization, which used that bulk to enforce itself on everybody. Even today, its adherants are well known to be more left wing than protestants.

    This is why the word conservative is unhelpful. Surely we can't equate someone wanting to conserve the Soviet Union with someone wanting to conserve libertarianism. Those are not equivilent in any way. Throwing that word into a deep discussion is always a strategy to obfuscate rather than enlighten.

    "The conservative unleashes nature’s primary means of sustaining large groups, the dominance hierarchy,"

    No, it is the leftist who always inserts the dominance hierarchy. There is always the government at the apex, and inevitably a despot at its helm, whether his name be Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or Castro. The leftist always says "we have determined it will be thus, and you WILL comply. If you don't we will enforce it with our dominance hierarchy, of which you shall not compete with".

    1. There's no cherry-picking in saying that Protestantism furthered modern individualism and progressivism at the expense of Catholic dogmatism (i.e. traditionalism/conservatism). That's all very standard stuff.

      I agree that "liberal" and "conservative" are unhelpful labels--indeed now more than ever. That's precisely why I aim to show in these articles what's really at stake in the conflict, namely the difference between humanism and animalism (social Darwinism or a religious rationalization of dominance hierarchy).

      There were no "conservatives" in the Soviet Union, because communism as a whole was a radical, progressive project. That's only a semantic point you're making. I'm talking about where liberalism and conservatism stand in the broad sweep of history, and I'm talking about the assumptions and implications of the policies of liberals and conservatives in general. Conservatives, as in traditionalists or libertarian social Darwinians would have us go back to the Stone Age, since they're opposed to that which civilized us (the government's monopoly on the use of force). I show this in detail in the cases of Julius Evola's and George Will's conservatism, by the way (see the links below, the second one on Will dealing at length with libertarianism).

      Social democracies can certainly revert to tyrannies (as might be happening now to the US under Trump and the amoral Republicans), and then they become dominance hierarchies, but that's where liberal humanism ends. A democratic republic gives power to the majority through the political representatives. Majority-rule is a virtually miraculous (anti-natural) and thus tenuous progression from the natural dominance hierarchy.

      Libertarians would reduce the government's power until the majority of voters lose their indirect monopoly on the use of force to special interests such as the wealthiest one percent, turning the system into an illiberal plutocracy. Likewise, religious traditionalists would establish a theocracy, a naked dominance hierarchy, taking us back to the early days of civilization, before the more recent spiritual revolutions such as the Axial Age (first millennium BCE) that enlightened us about the importance of our common human potential.

    2. "There were no "conservatives" in the Soviet Union, because communism as a whole was a radical, progressive project."

      Well everybody called the soviet old guard "conservatives". So I don't know if we're agreeing or disagreeing, but if you want to be precise, don't use the word conservative unless you want to encompass them.

      "would have us go back to the Stone Age, since they're opposed to that which civilized us (the government's monopoly on the use of force)."

      So the ancient principle of "an eye for an eye", is in no way civilized, but the KGB and North Korea and Nazi Germany are civilized because.. hey they're the government and they monopolize force? That's retarded, no?

      "A democratic republic gives power to the majority through the political representatives."

      And... should I be impressed at this point? Don't get me wrong, there could be much worse things, but the tyranny of the majority is a well known phenomenon.

      "Libertarians would reduce the government's power until the majority of voters lose their indirect monopoly on the use of force to special interests such as the wealthiest one percent"

      People won't physically attack the accepted status quo if there is a terrible retaliation awaiting. That's why the nuclear mutual assured destruction works. That's why the one percent can't monopolise force with a well armed populace.

      "Likewise, religious traditionalists would establish a theocracy, a naked dominance hierarchy, taking us back to the early days of civilization"

      Political parties are naked dominance hierarchies already. AND they are monopolising power.

    3. What's civilized in the sense of being miraculously antinatural is the _democratic_ government's monopoly on the use of force, since that empowers the majority at the expense of the would-be dominators. The majority are entirely disempowered in North Korea as they were in Nazi Germany and in animal dominance hierarchies.

      The Code of Hammurabi represented the beginning of civilization, the start of moral progress away from pure animal hierarchies. This is because the Code was a constitution that regulated government and thus, in theory, prevented a tyranny of alpha males. However, the Code was still primitive, patriarchal, and caste-based: "While the Code of Hammurabi was trying to achieve equality, biases still existed against those categorized in the lower end of the social spectrum and some of the punishments and justice could be gruesome. The magnitude of criminal penalties often was based on the identity and gender of both the person committing the crime and the victim. The Code issues justice following the three classes of Babylonian society: property owners, freed men, and slaves. Punishments for someone assaulting someone from a lower class were far lighter than if they had assaulted someone of equal or higher status" (Wikipedia).

      I agree that the majority can be tyrannical against, say, a scapegoated minority, as happened in Nazi Germany (and as Trump is trying to emulate). I'm not saying any actual form of government is ideal. I'm only observing that novelty has at least aesthetic merit. Social systems that actively oppose animal norms are anomalous and progressive because of their resistance to cliche.

      By contrast, libertarianism is dull, predictable, and animalistic. Now if there were libertarian plans on the table for a sustainable kind of anarchy that would empower each individual and respect everyone's right to life, that would also be progressive in the aesthetic sense. I believe Noam Chomsky has worked on that kind of anarchism.

      Don't forget about Joseph Nye's distinction between hard and soft power. The top one percent may not have hard power over the majority, but they do have soft power, because they control the corporate media, including Fox News.

      If political parties are democratic, their hierarchies are about efficient management (Law of Oligarchy), not about the distribution of power, since those at the top would represent the majority of voters (in theory).

      If what you're saying is that these parties are typically captured by special interests so that power tends to be monopolized anyway against the majority's interests, I agree. The miracle of democratic progress is very fragile and tenuous, because the progressives are going up against titanic natural forces. (It's like the Money Speech in the movie Network where Ned Beatty's character shouts at the prophet Howard Beale, "You have meddled with the primal forces of nature.")

      What I find distasteful is that libertarians are effectively pagan nature-worshipers. If you're going to surrender so wholeheartedly to "the primal forces of nature," I don't want to see the libertarians pretending to be civilized, wearing suits like Beatty's character. Better to be honest and authentic and walk around like a half-naked savage hunting heads and such.

  8. "The majority are entirely disempowered in North Korea as they were in Nazi Germany and in animal dominance hierarchies."

    Ummm, no. Adolf Hitler was democratically elected. There were MINORITIES that were disempowered in Nazi Germany, but the majority got what they asked for.

    As for animal dominance hierarchies, it's not like the alpha ape is enslaving the troop into his communist dystopia. He breaks up fights and keeps the peace. And nothing stops you leaving the troop to go elsewhere. If you stay, it's voluntarily.

    "I'm only observing that novelty has at least aesthetic merit. Social systems that actively oppose animal norms are anomalous and progressive because of their resistance to cliche"


    "By contrast, libertarianism is dull, predictable, and animalistic."

    Dull and predictable sounds like what we want in a government system. Animalistic is a meaningless adjective. We are animals, so I supposed that's good.

    "The top one percent may not have hard power over the majority, but they do have soft power, because they control the corporate media, including Fox News."

    Corporate media is ending. Nobody trusts them anymore, and information flow is distributed.

    "If political parties are democratic, their hierarchies are about efficient management (Law of Oligarchy), not about the distribution of power, since those at the top would represent the majority of voters"

    Well... alpha males in a troop of chimps only rule because the other chimps let them. If they all gang up against him, his rule is over. It's no different in political parties. You get to be top dog by being overbearing, talking smack, manipulating others, and generally acting exactly like you would in a naked dominance hierarchy.

    "The miracle of democratic progress is very fragile and tenuous, because the progressives are going up against titanic natural forces."

    Are you saying that "progress" is made by "progressives" in government? Please explain what progress has occured in society as a result of progressives in government that was NOT simply the removal of government oppression. i.e. that wasn't a move towards libertarianism.

    "What I find distasteful is that libertarians are effectively pagan nature-worshipers."

    I'm not a libertarian because it is natural (although that itself would be a fairly compelling argument for it). I'm a libertarian because it's moral, and the government never helps things by getting involved. So libertarianism is morality + pragmatism.

    1. The people that initially voted for Hitler didn't vote for a dictatorship. Hitler took advantage of the Reichstag fire, using it as a pretext to intimidate the government into giving him special powers to change the constitution, which he eventually leveraged to make himself dictator (see link below).

      The alpha animals do keep the peace but by way of tyranny or the equivalent of a police state, like in Nazi Germany, North Korea or like the US of Trump's dreams. So-called libertarian governments that turn predictably into kleptocracies or plutocracies are animalistic in that they reestablish rule-by-dominance-hierarchy.

      "Animalistic" is hardly meaningless. The folks in prison for committing violent crimes typically acted like animals and were treated as such by being put in cages or exterminated. Biologically, we're animals. Psychologically and socially we're people. If you don't think there's difference, be sure to treat all the animals and insects you meet like people.

      Corporate media are ending? Tell that to Trump who takes his orders from Fox News. But I agree, the old media are being replaced by the internet. But the internet isn't the anarchy it was promised to be. The law of oligarchy applies, so power is concentrated in Facebook, Twitter, and some other new media players.

    2. This is the problem with libertarian as a celebration of individual freedom. Such freedom is self-defeating, because it allows natural forces (the law of Oligarchy, corruption from the concentration of power) to override our capacity for cooperation and intelligent collective decision-making. As I explain elsewhere (link below), Wikipedia was supposed to be an open-sourced encyclopedia with no heavy-handed editors as overseers. But such regulators were eventually needed to manage such a sprawling system, and they were granted exclusive access to special tools to edit pages. So the libertarian fantasy is for everyone to be free, but the reality is that libertarians surrender control to sociobiological dynamics that are familiar from the animal kingdom. Libertarianism thus betrays our potential to transcend such norms and act as godlike people (as intelligent creatures that can cooperate and make long-term, sustainable, wise, compassionate collective plans).

      You don't seem to understand how tyrannies work. Why does any dictator stay in power, such as in Nazi Germany, North Korea, Stalin's Russia, or Saddam's Iraq? Or to take a much simpler example, why aren't the big players like Boston Rob voted off right away on Survivor island? It's because we're wired to submit to authority, to fear and even worship alpha males. (Kings used to be literally identified with gods.) Dictators stay in power by imposing a police state that exploits our biological weaknesses and fears, and intimidates the majority into surrendering and hoping for the best, even though technically the majority could (and sometimes does) rise up in revolution.

      It's similar in the wild in a dominance hierarchy. Yes, the alpha is sometimes challenged and even replaced, but it's hardly a democracy. The alpha rules by intimidation, by terrorizing the subordinates and forcing them into humiliating, symbolic displays of their submission, not to mention by the alpha's physical strength and savagery (traits that aren't evenly distributed, due to genetic variation). Those are the sociobiological mechanisms that sustain dominance hierarchies. They're wired into most social animals as nature's solution to power distribution.

      I was using "progressive" in a more general sense, not as a label for explicitly democratic socialist governments. Such governments are often progressive in that more general sense, though, as in the Scandinavian governments that have high taxes but also a strong welfare state that protects the citizens' human rights instead of demonizing losers like in the more individualistic and Darwinian US. Other progress would be the regulation of the economy that doesn't allow capitalism to regress into plutocracy or that prevents the formation of private, exploitative monopolies.

      What are the moral principles that you think support libertarianism, and how would you justify those principles?

  9. "The people that initially voted for Hitler didn't vote for a dictatorship."

    Irrelevant, unless you think Hitler's reign was fine in between his valid 1933-1936 rule and/or you think he would have lost a free and fair 1936 election, which I think is unlikely.

    "The alpha animals do keep the peace but by way of tyranny or the equivalent of a police state"

    I don't see how alpha animal rule is like a police state. It's only tyranny if it's cruel and oppressive, but how can you define the natural and correct state of an animal to be cruel and oppresive?

    "So-called libertarian governments that turn predictably into kleptocracies or plutocracies"

    Which libertarian government would you cite as an example? Bearing mind that referring to a "libertarian government" is a contradiction in terms.

    " The folks in prison for committing violent crimes typically acted like animals"

    Meaningless, unless you want to specify what animal and give details. Does the government act like animals when they do bad stuff?

    "Psychologically and socially we're people. If you don't think there's difference, be sure to treat all the animals and insects you meet like people."

    What does that even mean? If a certain animal sacrifies itself for the collective, and we humans won't, does that mean it is animalistic to be selfless? You're just poisoning the well with fluffy meaningless monikers.

    "But the internet isn't the anarchy it was promised to be."

    Not quite, and not yet. But it's early days.

    "Wikipedia was supposed to be an open-sourced encyclopedia with no heavy-handed editors as overseers."

    When Wikipedia isn't free, it's tyranical. It's not like Wikipedia is a democracy or something. Is that what you advocate? The difference between Wikipedia and reality is that every square on the board is potentially a political fight. It's not like you can have private property in Wikipedia which others keep out of.

    "Why does any dictator stay in power, such as in Nazi Germany, North Korea, Stalin's Russia, or Saddam's Iraq?"

    Because the populace are unarmed?

    "Dictators stay in power by imposing a police state that exploits our biological weaknesses and fears, and intimidates the majority into surrendering and hoping for the best"

    Okaaay, and you want to deliberately give a central authority the power to actually carry out that. Strange.

    "The alpha rules by intimidation, by terrorizing the subordinates and forcing them into humiliating, symbolic displays of their submission"

    I'm not an expert on animal behavior, but that doesn't sound right to me. The alpha won't bother you much if you don't cause conflict within the troop. If you cause fights, then he'll come and break them up. They are not forcing you to humiliate yourself if you're just minding your own business. But all this is irrelevant. Whether animals do or don't do something, doesn't make it good or bad for humans. "Animalistic" is just a meaningless smear.

    "What are the moral principles that you think support libertarianism, and how would you justify those principles?"

    The most basic principle of all, do unto others as you'd have others do unto you. The principle found in every major religion. If you don't support that, you don't support morality in any shape or form. And nobody, but nobody wants somebody else to come into their life forcing them to do things against their will at the point of a gun. If you can't agree on this most basic principle of non initiation of violence against peaceful people, then you don't even have the most basic foundation stone of a moral system.

    1. I’m going to let the minor points go and focus on what I think are the two major ones that have come up.

      You say ‘“Animalistic” is just a meaningless smear.’ Again, if you think there’s no significant difference between animals and people, why don’t you treat all animals like people? You’re venturing into trollish territory if you’re pretending not to understand the difference between animals and people. Do you see how much I’ve written on this blog and on Medium? It comes out to around two thousands pages spread across three anthologies (the third one’s coming soon). Much of that writing is devoted to explaining that difference despite the need for philosophical naturalism. For example, that’s what I argued at great length in my dialogue with R. Scott Bakker.

      So I’m not going to argue that case in this comment section. Regardless of whether you’re being needlessly obtuse or trollish, we can agree to disagree. Still, you should at least understand the nature of my objection to libertarianism (i.e. to classic liberalism or American conservatism). The objection is that those political views are regressive and self-destructive. Despite their rhetoric and myths, a truly individualistic society or free market that doesn’t respect our capacity for collective, intelligent, long-term decision-making lets nature take the wheel. As a result, the society turns into a glorified dominance hierarchy, an oligarchy in which power is concentrated in a private monopoly or oligopoly which becomes more or less tyrannical.

      You say the same can happen to a democratic government, and I agree. Indeed, it’s happening right now in the United States. But the glimmer of hope is hardly in the conservative’s notion of anarchy or “free markets”; rather, it’s in democracy that empowers the majority with a humanist’s education, to make them worthy of ruling themselves via their elected representatives and regulators, as opposed to letting predatory corporations indoctrinate the masses with waves of fallacious, associative ads.

      The second issue is your appeal to the Golden Rule. Are you unaware that you’re appealing to what Nietzsche called slave morality which featured so prominently in Christian egalitarianism? Shouldn’t the Christian applications of that morality make you suspicious as an individualistic, crypto-social Darwinian libertarian?

      The reason you’re supposed to do onto others is because everyone’s equal in terms of our preciousness as people (not as animals). Kant tried to show this moral principle is based only on logic, but his view is controversial at best. Predators aren’t contracting themselves when they exploit others if they welcome the chance to resist others’ attempts to exploit them.

      So what you’re doing in appealing to that basic moral principle is setting up your libertarianism to collapse into egalitarianism. If everyone has equal rights, why not guarantee that no one falls behind, by setting up a welfare state? How could the social Darwinism of a free market, combined with an impotent government protect those who necessarily lose out in such an environment, given that everyone’s equal preciousness is what grounds your Golden Rule?

  10. " if you think there’s no significant difference between animals and people, why don’t you treat all animals like people? "

    Why.. do you treat ants the same as dogs the same as elephants? Just because two things fit in a category doesn't mean they are the same. That people are animals is scientific fact, not even really up for debate.

    " a truly individualistic society or free market that doesn’t respect our capacity for collective, intelligent, long-term decision-making"

    You don't explain why, since individuals are free to collectively gather together for whatever reason whatsoever, without resorting to an authoritarian government enacting violence to achieve it. Why you would think violent force in the aim of collective cooperation is superior to voluntary cooperation is beyond me.

    "As a result, the society turns into a glorified dominance hierarchy, an oligarchy in which power is concentrated in a private monopoly or oligopoly which becomes more or less tyrannical."

    You have that in the government. Why you want this with certainty instead of a mere conjectural hypothetical, is beyond me.

    "with a humanist’s education, to make them worthy of ruling themselves via their elected representatives and regulators, as opposed to letting predatory corporations indoctrinate the masses with waves of fallacious, associative ads."

    What makes you think the masses aren't being educated in schools with waves of fallacious ads for nonsense right now, resulting potentially in the worst kind of brainwashed tyranny we've seen in Germany, China or Russia? On the one hand you seem to think the masses are malleable with brainwashing, and this is your big concern. On the other hand you want them to vote in an authoritarian government to oppress everybody by force, in the blind hope they aren't brainwashed.

    " Are you unaware that you’re appealing to what Nietzsche called slave morality which featured so prominently in Christian egalitarianism?"

    I don't see how.

    "Shouldn’t the Christian applications of that morality make you suspicious as an individualistic, crypto-social Darwinian libertarian?"

    Morality is an imaginary concept, but if you want to talk about it as if it were real, the golden rule is one of the few things all religions agree on.

    "The reason you’re supposed to do onto others is because everyone’s equal in terms of our preciousness as people (not as animals)."

    That's not a logical reason for the golden rule. If everyone is equally precious, then that might imply it's ok to steal from the rich. The reason the golden rule is universally acknowledged is that it's a symmetrical rule that allows an orderly society without the imposition of external force. And if morality were to be thought of as a real thing, that criteria would be as good as any.

    " If everyone has equal rights, why not guarantee that no one falls behind, by setting up a welfare state?"

    Because a right can't involve oppressing somebody else to fulfill it. Free speech is a right because you can do it in the middle of the jungle, and nobody should be there to stop you. But to give you free stuff means holding a gun to the head of somebody else to force them to give it to you. That's immoral by any definition of that idea.

    "How could the social Darwinism of a free market, combined with an impotent government protect those who necessarily lose out in such an environment,"

    Well there's two possibilities. Either most people agree that those people are deserving of the things you suggest, and they'll give their money to support such a program voluntarily. Or people don't agree they deserve it, in which case a proper functioning democracy wouldn't give them those things either. Either way democracy wins, and no guns needed.

    1. Your point about ants, elephants, and people as animals is specious. Yes, biologically speaking, we’re animals and primates, and yes, there are many differences between animal species. Elephants are much larger than ants, for example. But you’re ignoring the anomalous characteristic of our species, our personhood, which makes us different from all other animals and which enables us to dominate the planet in what’s called the Anthropocene.

      It’s funny that you should speak of the capacity for individualists to voluntarily cooperate and make rational long-term plans in a free market, at a time when the US has done more poorly than more collectivist cultures in planning to handle something like the coronavirus. It’s not just Trump’s fault (though he’s obviously unfit to be in any leadership position), since the lack of planning for a pandemic has gone on since at least 2012 (see the link below). This suggests the broader American culture of individualism, libertarianism, and mistrust in government is a contributing factor to that country’s lack of preparedness for a predictable pandemic.

      Anyway, when you talk about the “violent force” needed to enforce the government’s laws, you’re ignoring the social contract. We implicitly volunteer to live under that enforcement as a tradeoff because of the benefits of cooperating in society, compared to living on your own in the wild. If government couldn’t enforce its laws by force, the society would be susceptible to being exploited by predators and free-riders.

      There’s a difference between an oppressive or exploitative monopoly or dominance hierarchy and a democratic society. Power flows from the bottom up in the latter, not in the former. Yes, democracies can become predatory oligarchies, as has happened to a large extent in the US. But with a democratic government, you get the “certainty” of the violent enforcement of its laws (which we implicitly volunteer to live under, due to the social contract) and the certainty of the right to vote and to change the government. Again, all of which can be corrupted by demagogues and free-riders, especially in an individualistic, Wild West-minded country like the US and especially under Republican, “conservative administrations.” But the Scandinavian democracies show that this corruption can be minimal.

      Regarding what you say about education under an “authoritarian government,” democracies aren’t generally authoritarian, compared to dictatorships or police states. Trump’s administration is an exception that proves the rule, as would be even more apparent if we weren’t so incompetent.

    2. Now you say that “morality is an imaginary concept” and that it’s not “real,” but before when I asked you, “What are the moral principles that you think support libertarianism?” you said, “The most basic principle of all, do unto others as you'd have others do unto you. The principle found in every major religion. If you don't support that, you don't support morality in any shape or form…If you can't agree on this most basic principle of non initiation of violence against peaceful people, then you don't even have the most basic foundation stone of a moral system.” Moreover, you explicitly said earlier, “I'm not a libertarian because it is natural (although that itself would be a fairly compelling argument for it). I'm a libertarian because it's moral.”

      So if you think morality is unreal, why did you talk about “the most basic foundation stone of a moral system”? Why did you proudly proclaim that you’re a libertarian because it’s moral rather than just natural? What you’re saying now, in saying that morality is imaginary is that there’s no such foundation stone and there’s no such support for morality, the implication being that for you, libertarianism has no real moral foundation. Do you see how you fell into that trap?

      The reason that morality is irrelevant to your libertarianism, by the way, is that your politics amounts to social Darwinism, just as I argued in the above article with regard to conservatism in general. So thanks for helping to prove my article correct.

      You say, “Because a right can't involve oppressing somebody else to fulfill it. Free speech is a right because you can do it in the middle of the jungle,” but this is confused. Again, in theory there’s no oppression in a free, democratic society, because of the social contract and the rational tradeoff of living under enforcement of the law. Rights come into existence with society, because rights are artificial. There are no rights in the jungle; the talk of “natural rights” commits the naturalistic fallacy. The freedom that animals enjoy is quite amoral. Free speech as a right is artificial, not natural. In so far as we act as natural beings, that is, as animals rather than as people who rise above nature literally by creating anti-natural, artificial worlds (called “cities,” “civilizations,” and “cultures” regulated by artificial, human-made laws), we have no rights because we have no personal capacity for autonomy to support the idea of moral responsibility. The rights come with anti-natural, anomalous personhood, which creates the dichotomies between the natural and the artificial, and the amoral and the moral.

  11. "There are no rights in the jungle; the talk of “natural rights” commits the naturalistic fallacy. "

    Well you'd be at odds with the United Nations who defines a human right as "rights inherent to all human beings". If certain things are not to be regarded as inherent, then you can't complain about any particular regime or system. You can't prosecute Nazis since they are just following the laws of their society's social contract.

    " In so far as we act as natural beings, that is, as animals rather than as people who rise above nature literally by creating anti-natural, artificial worlds (called “cities,” “civilizations,” and “cultures” ....."

    So what you are saying is that people gathering together into communities (aka cities) or forming cultures, is "unnatural". I'm gobsmacked. You think the natural state of man is merely mindlessly plucking bananas and waving our arms like chimps.

    But how can the natural state of man be anything other than what we see around us? Man is part of nature, so what he builds is natural. I mean, it's not natural in the colloquial sense of "not made by humans", but it's natural in the general sense that it comes from the same place as animal societies: from within the mindset of the human animal.

    "we have no rights because we have no personal capacity for autonomy to support the idea of moral responsibility."

    Again, I'm gobsmacked that you would claim that humans in their natural state have no personal capacity for autonomy.

  12. "But you’re ignoring the anomalous characteristic of our species"

    I'm not ignoring the anomalous characteristics of our species, any more than I'm ignoring the anomalous characteristics of elephants compared to ants. You're ignoring the non-anomalous characteristics of our species.

    "It’s funny that you should speak of the capacity for individualists to voluntarily cooperate and make rational long-term plans in a free market, at a time when the US has done more poorly than more collectivist cultures in planning to handle something like the coronavirus"

    Cultures like.... what? Authoritarian communist China? If you want to seriously argue for the wonderful virtues of the authoritarian state, I can debate you on that, but surely you'll have the sense to now backtrack on that. I mean, did China's multi month cover up and persecution on doctors blowing the whistle on this actually help anyone?

    "This suggests the broader American culture of individualism, libertarianism, and mistrust in government is a contributing factor to that country’s lack of preparedness for a predictable pandemic."

    It's natural for bureaucracies to not prepare for things until they're hit squarely in the head. I defy you to argue otherwise. If anything, the only people prepared are some INDIVIDUAL preppers. That communist societies can't prepare for anything, whether it be next year's production plan, or anything else, is the very reason it doesn't work.

    "We implicitly volunteer to live under that enforcement as a tradeoff because of the benefits of cooperating in society"

    Again, you're trying to claim that societies cannot cooperate without an enforcer. You're an authoritarian.

    "If government couldn’t enforce its laws by force, the society would be susceptible to being exploited by predators and free-riders."

    What predators and free riders?

    "Power flows from the bottom up in the latter, not in the former."

    That's one way of putting it. Another way of putting it is that power flows from the majority interest against the minority interest.

    "you get the “certainty” of the violent enforcement of its laws"....


    "all of which can be corrupted by demagogues and free-riders, especially in an individualistic, Wild West-minded country like the US and especially under Republican"....

    So after proclaiming the wonderful "certainty of violent enforcement" you decry the Republicans, after the Democrats have been responsible for non enforcement of laws in sanctuary cities, of non enforcement of minor crimes in New York and California (resulting in widespread petty theft) and so forth. I'm baffled.

    "But the Scandinavian democracies show that this corruption can be minimal."

    I guess that's why they have so called no-go zones where the police are scared to tread.

    " democracies aren’t generally authoritarian, compared to dictatorships or police states. Trump’s administration is an exception that proves the rule,"

    I suppose all of Trumps deregulation, advocating of free speech, and low taxes, pro free enterprise is deeply authoritarian. [ face palm ]

    I don't know what link you're making between education and authoritarianism. My point was that the current education system is often little more than a propaganda machine for Marxist ideology. That we live in a "democracy" doesn't change that. The great stock you put in the education system is misplaced.

    1. Yeah, I'm going to leave it there for the most part, because your method of debating has become tiresome. It's roughly the same method as Inmendham's, the YouTube antinatalist, whom I debated. I pointed out to him at length the defects with the so-called point-by-point approach. His use of that method may be worse, because he's giving just his first impressions on camera, whereas you're writing your responses and at least theoretically have time to think before you write.

      Still, as I said to Inmendham, that method, where you break up the text to which you're replying, responding often to just sentence fragments to give the illusion that you're being comprehensive, has numerous drawbacks, including these: it "lends itself to taking cheap shots, which of course is the goal of micromanaged pwning for infotainment" and which is common in social media; it "encourages hyper-defensiveness instead of a more philosophical (constructive, collaborative) mood"; and with this method, you're liable to "lose sight of the wood for the trees, getting lost in minutia." In future debates, I'd recommend that you reflect on the differences in method between, say, my responses here and yours.

      I'm just going to point out that you're getting lost in two senses of "natural," the metaphysical sense which is opposed to the supernatural, and the sense in which "nature" refers to the wilderness, which is opposed to artificiality and personhood. I went over that distinction back in 2014 (link below).

      Thanks for the discussion, though.

  13. It's ironic that I would accuse you of obfuscate meanings of "natural", then you'd accuse me right back of same. Is a beaver dam "intelligently designed" and thus not natural? I bee hive? I'm guessing that for some strange reason you think a 1 mile long beaver dam is "natural", but a human house is not.

    1. Yes, some other animal species use tools and build homes. Their creations are limited, while ours are practically unlimited. Many distinctions in nature begin as matters of degree, but then a different in type emerges from those differences in degree. In fact, this is how species separate by natural selection.

      Human personhood--the combination of our consciousness, reason, and autonomy or freedom--emerged after we separated from our nearest ancestors and developed in a unique direction. Our capacity for language marks us as unique, as do all aspects of our personhood. Other animals have similar capacities, but not to the point where they can be treated as morally-responsible people rather than animals.

      One of those capacities is our creativity. We don't build just homes. We can build or at least imagine building anything at all. We're not stuck within just one niche or environment. We've mastered the planet with our tools and artificial environments. The differences in degree built up into an emergent difference in kind, between animals and people, and part of what it means to be a person is to be steeped in artificiality (language, culture, cities, society, tools, machines) rather than in nature (the wilderness).

    2. When humans had developed language, but were still ape-like in our IQ, and thus had no ability to build civilizations, were we different in degree or in kind?

    3. At some point in the Stone Age we'd evolved the cerebral cortex and had the capacity for language (although the origin of language is much-debated), but we may or may not have figured out yet how to be behaviourally modern.

      In any case, I'd say the difference in kind has more to do with potential than with cultural achievement. Personhood is psychological and anatomical, and it depends mainly on our brain and the innovation of language, which give us "abstract thinking, planning depth, symbolic behavior (e.g., art, ornamentation), music and dance, exploitation of large game, and blade technology, among others."

      For much of the Stone Age, we may not have had language or a fully-developed human brain. We were thus somewhere between behaviourally modern humans and apes. We were different in degree from animals, but the degrees were adding up, making us especially clever and social animals.

      I don't know when exactly you're talking about, though, since no one really knows when language or even behavioural modernity originated. There's speculation that the two arrived together with the first use of red ochre pigments, as early as 100,000 years ago. It's not just a question of being able to build civilization, since we also had to develop the interest in doing so. Just because we didn't build civilization or didn't want to, for tens of thousands of years, didn't mean we had no cognitive ability to build them.

  14. "didn't mean we had no cognitive ability to build them."

    And what if, we did not have the cognitive ability to build civilizations? For example, what of the Australian aboriginies, believed to have an IQ of about 62, who never invented the wheel, never build even a single storey structure? Is that really enough for civilization? Sure they had very rudimentary art, but bowerbirds are creative in making art to attract females. A critically acclaimed artist turned out to be a chimp. You might say, the humans prompted him to do it, but hey, you made the criteria "ability" rather than actuality, and chimps have ability. Some chimps naturally like to make "rock music". Pretty basic sure, but aboriginal music is banging sticks together. Blade technology? Chimps use tools. And what is planning depth? Can you prove an aboriginal has more planning depth than a chimpanzee? If you were an advanced alien coming to earth, finding aboriginals with no structures, no technology beyond sticks and stones, where would the proof be that they were different in kind than chimps rather than different in degree?

    1. First of all, you're comparing us specifically to chimps, and chimps don't represent the whole animal kingdom in terms of intelligence, since they happen to be our nearest related species.

      Secondly, you accept those IQ studies of Australian Aboriginal intelligence instead of wondering whether the tests are culturally biased, which is appalling. If you have an IQ of 62 and you're white, you have severe mental issues such as Downs Syndrome and can't care for yourself at all, but the Australian Aboriginals don't have such issues. So it's more likely the IQ results are due to cultural bias: the Australians aren't interested in or don't understand those kinds of academic questions. Or maybe there were language and translation issues. See the ink below for contrary findings.

      Thirdly, I already said that others species can communicate and use tools, but there's still a difference in kind between our species. If you disagree, be sure to treat those animals as people or to treat people as animals, and see how far you get. Do you eat meat? Why not, then, go out hunting for human flesh, if there's no difference in kind between people and animals? Why not marry a female chimpanzee?

      Planning depth, presumably, is how far you can plan in advance in terms of time or logical steps. So it's how many steps you can think of in advance to achieve a goal, as in solving a complex puzzle. Humans can project far ahead in time, so that we understand we'll inevitably die in the future, for example. Other species don't have that knowledge.

      Even if the Australians couldn't build civilization, they still have the fundamental kind of artificiality, which is language. Language is a technology that underlies all our other technologies, which makes for a difference in kind. Besides language, art, religion, and culture, the Australians would have human brains, including the cerebral cortex, which makes them different from chimps.

      Again, I regard your line of questioning as just trolling. Trolling is the primary mode of "thinking" in American conservatives.

  15. Modern IQ tests are definitively not culturally or racially biased. To suggest so in this day and age is flat out science denial. IQ test questions don't even have language and are not "academic". They are just pictures of shapes.

    There's a difference between someone with low IQ due to a medical condition, and due to your innate abilities. I mean, can a chimp "care for itself"? A chimp has been estimated by some to have an IQ of 50.

    Besides which we can see with our own eyes that Aboriginals didn't invent the wheel or the single storey building. And in the 21st century they can't, for the most part, partake in modern society despite untold billions being spent on achieving this.

    Chimps don't represent all the animal kingdom? Sure, but your argument is that there is not a difference in degree, but a hard difference in kind between humans and animals. If you're going to start differentiating animals, you've admitted a difference in degree.

    Be sure to treat animals as people or vice versa? What does that even mean? People treat their pets like people all the time. People treat others like animals all the time. What am I supposed to take away from this?

    Marry a chimpanzee? I mean, a chimpanzee won't mate with a horse, so... does that mean a chimp and a horse are different in kind or in degree? Yes, we all know humans, chimps and horses are distinct species that don't mate together. And? Does this have some great weight in your argument? Chimps have reversable thumbs, horses do not. But they're both mammals. Humans have speech, chimps do not, but they're both primates. Yes, humans have distinctions from other animals, and chimps have distinctions from other animals.

    Chimps know how to plan ahead. Lots of humans are bad at it. I don't know how you can know what chimps think about death.

    As for your linked question with one answer that tries to obfuscate by saying "oooh, what's intelligence anyway, and can we even measure it"? Pure garbage science denial. Yes, we measure intelligence all the time, we know what it is, we know how to measure it. If you disagree, maybe chimps really are as intelligent as humans.

    1. I think you're losing sight of the forest for the trees in this argument about my distinction between humanists and animalists. Remember that the point of that distinction is to make sense of the hidden difference between liberals and conservatives. For all their rhetoric about gods and the supernatural, conservative policies treat people generally like animals. Monarchy (or the modern variant, plutocracy) is just a dominance hierarchy, protected more by cultural rhetoric than by natural instinct and other evolutionary mechanisms. By contrast, liberals are humanists who attempt to achieve some vision of progress away from animals' social norms.

      So if by defending animalism and the natural continuity between humans and animals, you mean to defend conservative dominance hierarchies (e.g. plutocracy or theocracy in place of democracy), you'll have no end of that social Darwinism. You'll have no philosophical defense against murder, rape, or any other amoral behaviour that's common in the animal kingdom, since you'll have no distinction between that kingdom and the human world. All you'll have are the physical differences between species. So reptiles can't fly like birds, since reptiles have no wings. No such biological limitations are truly limits for our species, mind you, because we can offset them all with technology. But you won't be able to draw the obvious conclusion from that anomalous power of our species, which is that animality differs from personhood.

      Instead, you'd condemn our species to using its technological advantages only as means by which we can act like animals (rather than like people whose reason liberates them from animal habits and from the preoccupation with the biological life cycle). So we'll have more efficient ways of raping, killing, warring, exploiting, as well as of cooperating. Certainly, we'd have no moral basis of any of our actions. The notion of progress would be an illusion and capitalism wouldn't really be superior to communism, for example, since all values would be subjective in the enlarged animal kingdom, which kingdom would include the United States and every other country.

      The secular Enlightenment notion of historical progress from theocracy to technocratic, capitalistic democracy would be as wrongheaded as theistic religions that posit miracles and immaterial spirits to differentiate us from the other animals. Social laws, such as those that protect private property would be as meaningful as a chimp screech or a bird squawk. Linguistic values of symbolic meaning and semantic truth would be as illusory or subjective as moral values.

      Is that the kind of social Darwinian naturalism (i.e. barbarism and Philistinism) you have in mind, in your defense of animalism and your rejection of humanism? If not, go ahead and contradict yourself by showing how people differ from animals.

  16. What you write is very puzzling because you rail against all sorts of things on the basis of the necessity for "morality" as the foundation of your argument, but then you write that all morality is based on fiction and that morality based on religion, or reason or naturalism is nonsense. Apparently, it is based on aesthetics, whatever the hell that is. One man's beauty, is another's ugly. Many have argued that ugliness doesn't exist, and therefore the unaesthetic cannot exist. Certainly the whole basis of your argument can not be anything more than special pleading. Maybe if you could define an objective basis for morality, there'd be some basis to have a discussion. But as it is, all you have is a very hifalutin way of saying "me no like". How ironic you would accuse conservative philosophy of resulting in "all values subjective" when your own basis is just that.

    To make matters worse, having tried to define humans as different to animals because of some need for morality, you argue that the masses are unenlightened, they don't think about morality, and are controlled by their animalistic nature. So having defined humans as the enlightened ones who love morality, you then described the mass of humans as unenlightened animals with no morality.

    You say "All such [immoral] behaviours are viscerally disgusting, if nothing else, because they involve violence or sadden the victim", but this idea that avoiding making people sad is the highest form of morality is irrational. It leads to letting your kids eat candy for dinner. It leads to helicopter parenting where a child is never allowed to stand on their own feet and experience failure. It leads to the mediocrity of "everyone gets a prize" because we don't want to see the sad face of a loser. It leads to a weak, sick, grey, monotone society with no sadness, but no happiness either. It leads to snowflake culture where everything is a microaggression, because we are terrified of the least possibility of sadness. A more enlightened morality would say "you've got to be cruel to be kind".

    1. I see that you've ducked the issue I raised. That issue was for you, not for me, because it was a reductio of your naturalistic conservatism or libertarianism. The _reductio ad absurdum_ argument reduces certain premises to self-contradiction. I was working with what I take to be your premises, not with mine.

      I'm happy to explain my view of morality to you and to consider whether my view is coherent, but I'd like you to answer the question: Do you disagree with anything in that presentation of social Darwinism, and if so, on what grounds other than a presupposed distinction between animality and personhood?

      As for my view, indeed I've argued that conventional, exoteric morality rests on delusions, and that most people don't have personhood in the highest sense. But I've argued against nihilism and naturalistic eliminativism, in favour of an aesthetic reconstruction of morality and of the reality of values and meanings in general. Esoteric or reality-based morality derives not from God or reason, but from feelings of attraction to beauty and of disgust towards ugliness, and from the difference between originality and cliche.

      The highest kind of personhood is rare, since it requires enlightenment. This is the "spiritual" or exisitentially-deep kind of authentic self that's produced by introspection, by philosophical awakening, by freedom from delusion and by the creation of a worldview that filters out nonsense and liberates us to make certain foundational life choices. When we defer to society, we typically make ourselves puppets of social conventions that serve elites who fall prey, in turn, to natural mechanisms of control (such as to the Law of Oligarchy and to our psychological susceptibility of being corrupted by concentrations of power).

      But there's also a lower-level, biological and psychological kind of personhood which suffices for the distinction between animals and people. Even deluded humans are people in this lower sense, since they have much more self-awareness, reason, language, imagination, culture, and self-control than other animal species, not to mention the potential to enlighten themselves and thus to become people (transhuman) in the fullest sense. This universal kind of personhood is due to our brain structures and to enculturation, which equips us with language and thus with sophisticated techniques for organizing our thoughts and for understanding what's going on in the world.

      So most people stand between animals and enlightened, existentially-excellent people or transhumans. In that middle ground, we're largely deluded, compared to the transhumanist's worldview, but we're also enlightened compared to the limited conceptions of insects, fish, or reptiles. So you see, personhood is a relative concept.

      You've drawn from some of my older writings on aesthetic morality. My more central recent writings on that subject are these:

  17. I'm not sure what issue with regards to Darwinism I'm supposed to have ducked. Darwinism, social or otherwise is a fact, unless you're a science denier or a creationist. Are you seriously taking the position you want to deny it? Seemingly, you hope to defeat Darwinism (as if it were the enemy, when it is really your friend), by giving free resources to everyone. I pointed out that this would lead to humans rapidly evolving into amoebas, which you ducked and dodged. You didn't deny this aspect of reality, but you didn't provide a solution either. Nor did you embrace your amoeba-like future.

    The rest of what you are saying is begging the question. You say there is something wrong with standard reality but we can rise above by being "enlightened", but then you define everybody, "the masses" and "the conservatives" of not having this mysterious enlightenment, and therefore are bad. I mean, that's a beautiful starting point for a cult, but not really for a rational based discussion. All you need now is some Kool-aid, or some mystical chant to form the basis of getting enlightenment.

    I agree in a general sense that societies form their morality and laws from some kind of disgust feeling, but the problem you have is you are not happy when society's disgust response doesn't precisely line up with your own. Apparently if conservatives are in charge, their disgust response is a bit different to yours, therefore bad. That's not an argument. And if society voted for a disgust response that represents society's morality, and it's not yours, then you're the only one out of step. So who's wrong?

    Besides which, your morality is shallow and doesn't take into account unintended consequences. Not giving your child candy for dinner gives him a sad face, and is ugly, but the consequences are worse down the track. Similarly, the results of social engineering along the lines you argue for sounds great and utopian, but leads to destruction later on. The argument is not between beauty and ugliness, but between differing theories of what leads to beauty. Utopian theories that lead to utter destruction are ugly, no matter how high and mighty their vision was. I mean, if having a utopian vision gives you the moral high ground, then taking on one of the religions would be the pinnacle, because their vision of the future is probably far more utopian than yours.

    I mean, even if someone bought into your exact definition of beauty, it doesn't therefore follow that your idea of how to get there is correct. Maybe capitalism, or conservatism or even evangelical religiosity is the way to get there. Like the Chinese finger trap, pulling in the obvious direction doesn't necessarily get you where you want to be. Or in the current climate, one might say that a utopian idea of open borders and free movement isn't exactly leading to utopia either.

    1. Yeah, I'm going to ignore your strawman and red herring criticisms of my view of aesthetic morality, until you answer the question I've now posed twice for you. This will be the third time. Who's talking about Darwinism? Are you unaware of the difference between Darwinism (natural selection in biology) and social Darwinism (the crude application of that biology to sociology and to ethics)?

      The problem I'm now raising three times is for you to go through that reductio presentation of social Darwinism, line by line, and explain where you agree or disagree with it, and to do so without presupposing the distinction between animality and personhood that you say you reject. I'm talking about my April 2 comment, from the second paragraph to the second-last one.

      It seems pretty telling that you've ducked this challenge twice now. If I were you, I'd pause before replying, think about what I really believe, and just come clean. Do you really disagree with the psychological and philosophical distinction between animals and people, and if so are you really willing to defend that degree of social Darwinism or nihilism?

  18. I don't see how I'm ducking anything. You complained bitterly when I would go through your postings line by line, and now you are complaining bitterly that I am not going through them line by line.

    Social Darwinism is a "crude" application of Darwinism? Crude sounds more like a smear meant to obfuscate than an actual argument. Darwinism is by definition crude at all times, because it kills things that don't work.

    So to go through your April 2 posting. Your accusation is I won't have a "philosophical defense" against murder and other behavior. I don't know what you consider a philosophical defense", or why I would need one. The general social contract is "I won't murder you, if you don't murder me". That works for me, and it works for other people, thus we enshrine it as a law. Isn't that a philosophical argument? All animals defend themselves, and the most efficient means of defense is mutually assured destruction. If you try and murder me, society will come down on you and wipe you out. It's exactly what animals do, but a bit more sophisticated in its efficiency. Do I need a better "philosophical argument" than that? Historically, societies haven't needed an argument even on that level to ban it, they just do it.

    Then in your next paragraph, you seem to be arguing that stopping murder is non-animalistic, but murdering is animalistic. Lot's of animals that live in groups will enforce a kind of order and turn against the one who defies the social order. Does that mean that when humans do the same, we are animalistic? Humans have perfected killing in a way that animals never dreamed of. Does that mean animals are above us in enlightenment?

    Apparently "liberation from the preoccupation with the biological lifecycle" is somehow the height of enlightenment. Are you seriously going to argue that humans have any interest in such liberation? Humans are obsessed with sex, aka the biological life cycle. We're not in any way capable of turning to quiet contemplation on top of a mountain. All of our behavior is caused by the biological life cycle. In fact, even your own aims of some kind of left wing altruism is rooted in your need to preserve genes, the human genes. This Darwinian need to propagate your genes doesn't end in your own testicles, it extends outwards in concentric rings to your immediate family (whose genes are very close to your own), your tribe (whose genes are also pretty close to yours), your nation (whose genes historically would have been close-ish to yours) and even your species, whose genes are closer to yours than any other species. I mean your whole argument about the primacy of humans is a Darwinian attempt to justify the propagation of your human genes above other creatures. You're the penultimate social Darwinist. I mean I presume you would agree that you propagate your own genes, and that you take special care of your family's genes. You've just missed a few rings that everybody else cares about before leapfrogging to the human species concentric ring. Why you would love those 3 rings but label some of the other rings that everybody else has historically cared about, labeling them "social darwinism", is just inconsistency on your part.

    1. Thanks for addressing directly that earlier comment. I was just trying to clarify what it is that you believe. It seems like you subscribe to evolutionary psychology or to a reductive form of philosophical naturalism. You see much continuity between all animal species, including ours. Thus, your objection to the above article isn't that it points to the animality of the conservative's preferred type of society, but that it assumes there's something objectionable about such a society, compared to a more "progressive" or "humanistic" one.

      So whereas you look for the continuities, I look for the discontinuities. The thing about evolutionary psychology is that it's unfalsifiable and pseudoscientific. As you may have heard, these reductionists frequently resort to "Just So" stories, to explain away any appearance of emergent, anomalous, progressive, or personal (as opposed to animalistic) behaviour, as arising instead from something more primitive, such as from a stage in the natural selection of our species. You can posit a Just So story to explain away even a sci-fi transhumanist scenario in which our species acquires godlike control over evolution and over the galaxy. It's all just the genes working to spread their influence.

      Likewise, I can look at all the evidence for the Anthropocene as simultaneously being evidence in support of the psychological and moral distinctions between animals and people.

      The point is that the above article assumes some such distinction, in which case conservatism can be distinguished from liberalism in that the liberal is really just a humanist who prefers progressive societies, namely those that celebrate personhood as opposed to animality (dominance hierarchy). For a reductionist, such as an evolutionary psychologist or a social Darwinian, the difference between conservatism and liberalism must be as illusory as that between animals and people. The progress or humanism of liberal societies must be as unreal as our alleged psychological and moral advances beyond animal aggression, fear, territoriality, and so forth.

      I set myself the task of explaining the true difference between liberalism and conservatism. That's quite different from explaining away any such difference or from showing that the distinctiveness of liberalism or of progressivism can be eliminated altogether, because really there's just conservative animality. So whereas democracy and capitalism might seem to represent advances beyond theocracy and feudalism or serfdom, in reality it's all just primitive animal behaviour. That's the same eliminativist line Inmendham took in my YouTube debate with him. I ended up showing that his worldview is incoherent on this point, but it was a slog, and I'm not really interested in doing the same with your worldview. But at least I think I'm clear now on where we're coming from, and I hope you are too.

  19. I'm not sure why you keep holding onto the word "liberalism", since you seem to realise you don't believe in individual liberty, you believe in collectivism, which is the polar opposite of liberalism.

    Dominance hierarchies? Can you please point to any society on this planet, past or present that has no dominance hierarchy?

    Evolutionary psychology is non-falsifiable? That's kind of like saying that it is non-falsifiable that fish have fins so they can swim. If humans have behavioral traits, and you can see and measure how they are affecting their reproduction rates, then that's just as proven as saying fish have fins so they can swim.

    Saying that progressivism is that which celebrates personhood as opposed to animality is just a worthless tautology that says nothing. I already pointed out that every kind of behavior you promote as more human like is found in animals.

    1. Who says I believe in collectivism? I've written hundreds of pages celebrating individuals for standing against certain social conventions, such as the presumptions that we ought to be religious or to strive to be happy (content).

      Dominance hierarchy is the natural default for most social species, including ours. That means as soon as we stop trying to be creative and progressive, we succumb to the default pressures and surrender our potential to transcend animal norms. Liberals are in favour of trying to transcend even if our attempts are ultimately doomed to fail and will always be subject to degrading pressures, whereas conservatives want us to submit straightaway to psychopathy, oligarchy, and draconian oppression for the masses.

      Stephen J Gould pointed out that natural selection needn't be the only method by which species evolve and adapt. The defect of evolutionary psychology is the narrowmindedness of assuming that behaviours are always explainable by a Just So story, by a direct instance of natural selection. I believe Daniel Dennett called that "greedy reductionism." With our species, in particular, there's also cultural evolution to consider (since we're not animals as enslaved by biological factors).

      What's the trait in other animal species that enables them to build spaceships that can fly to the moon? Or is there some difference that makes the prospect of a kangaroo, toad, or snail mission to Mars inconceivable?

      Notice how as soon as you admit there's an emergent property in our species (personhood) that sets us apart from animals, putting us in a different order of being (psychologically and culturally speaking), we get to accuse conservatives of being traitors against humanity. That's the fun part of this thesis, you see. I get to dispose of the pretty, supernaturalist rhetoric to get at the ugly truth of conservatism, and reveal the monstrosity of conservative policies. Wouldn't it be fun to explain how the alleged guardians of tradition and of divine commandments are just savage anti-humans or betrayers of personhood?

      Are you a betrayer of humanity?

  20. You seem to equate conservatism with Christianity, which is obviously silly. But ironically Christianity has an actual basis in its belief system for thinking humans are unique, whereas you do not.

    Apparently you think it is "fun" to demonize most of humanity, for believing we are like animals, ironically you demonize the religious who are the ones who specifically don't believe that. Meanwhile as an atheist you try and escape the same accusation on the basis of "art", as if that was an actual argument.

    I suppose cultural evolution is a thing, but cultures rise and fall continually. And we live in an age where cultures are not respected and under attack. In past times, cultures might have lasted hundreds of years. Now they are washed away, and every cultural assumption is challenged and defied. And you in fact celebrate defiance of cultural norms, so any evolution of culture in your world can only last until the next person defies them.

    You claim to not be a collectivist, and yet... the very foundation of your arguments and complaints is "inequality", a concept that doesn't even have a meaning outside of the collective, let alone a remedy. Inequality, as a collective problem, which is the way you frame it, could only be remedied, even theoretically by the collective, and by some highly authoritarian and oppressive system to force this result onto people. In short, a hard authoritarian dominance hierarchy is what you are calling for, who can force the result you desire. Are you a betrayer of humanity?

    And you didn't answer my question of where there was any culture in the history of the world that didn't have a dominance hierarchy. You are longing for something that never existed and cannot exist. I at least advocate that people voluntarily join whatever dominance hierarchies they choose to. You want to have one, and one only dominance hierarchy that forces everybody into lock step.

    1. You’ve presented me mainly with presumptuous strawmen and red herrings. It’s fine if you’re not familiar with my views or haven’t read many of my articles. Obviously, you’re under no obligation to do so, but in that case you should still have the self-awareness to be asking questions for clarification, if you’re interested, instead of presuming you know what you’re talking about. That’s just trolling.

      Where do I equate conservatism with Christianity? Conservatives appeal to traditions which are often religious. Libertarians are often more secular, but they make a cult out of free market capitalism, Ayn Rand’s bastardization of Nietzsche, or social Darwinism.

      Yes, Christians say we’re unique because we’re made in God’s image and have an immortal soul. All I have are reality-based science (including cognitive science, social science, and anthropology), philosophy, and history to explain the obvious differences between personhood and animality. I’m afraid that will have to suffice.

      You’ve reversed matters regarding demonization. Conservatives demonize humanity by saying (or more often implying) that we’re nothing but animals that deserve to be oppressed by psychopathic tyrants. I’m just the messenger calling attention to the underlying dispute between so-called conservatives and liberals. Calling conservatives “anti-human” for ignoring the obvious differences between animality and personhood is just a literal description of the facts, not an unfair caricature.

      Atheists don’t have to be eliminativists. Plenty are property dualists who think there are emergent properties, such as consciousness, autonomy, reasoning, meaning, purpose, value, culture, and so on. The difference between animality and personhood isn’t just about art. Just look at my dialogue with the eliminativist R. Scott Bakker, where the same issues came up. See, for example, “Personalizing Ourselves” (link below), especially the third section where I show how we build up a personal self with freewill, values, consciousness, and rationality.

      Here’s a snippet from that 2013 article: ‘For instance, in cold weather, warm-blooded animals may shiver or seek shelter if their fur provides insufficient warmth, but this is the extent of their ability to cope with that suboptimal circumstance. Hence, their behaviour is explained by the biological concept of homeostasis. However, when humans in modern societies are cold, we go far beyond those rudimentary responses. We build substitutionary environments with artificial heating and air conditioning, and we design and manufacture all manner of clothing to express our culture and social station in addition to moderating our temperature. Far from seeking only equilibrium with our environment, we aim to master our environment, as gods, by replacing the wilderness with artificial worlds. So while other species have some tools and an interest in social status, none has the sort of godlike power and knowledge that we do.

      ‘The upshot is that as we detach ourselves from nature, thanks to all our thinking which gives us an extraordinary degree of autonomy, we must create an artificial, chosen way of life which involves coming up with ways of regulating our activities. We do so with prescriptive laws which we’re free to follow or to violate. Thus, “merely” thinking there’s right and wrong isn’t so insignificant, after all, since that thinking brings into being phenomena that aren’t well-explained in strictly biological or mechanistic (objective and non-normative) terms. The phenomena which call for normative explanations are all around us.’

    2. Culture itself isn’t really under attack. You may be referring to how the culture of white male privilege is coming under attack by snowflake, multicultural feminism. To see what it would be like for culture itself to disappear, simply watch a postapocalyptic movie. Any such movie or novel should clarify the difference that culture makes. Hint: culture helps to make us people rather than animals in the psychological and social senses (in all the obvious ways).

      Who says the foundation of my political argument is just about “inequality”? The problem isn’t just inequality, but grotesque inequality in the context of godless nature in which certain social dynamics take hold (the Law of Oligarchy, evolutionary dominance hierarchies, and the psychological corruption by the concentration of power), producing some form of tyranny such as a theocracy, kleptocracy, or a plutocracy. In that clichéd, animalistic society, the few dominate, degrade, and oppress the many. And the problem is that such a barbaric arrangement prevents us from fulfilling our existential potential to enlighten ourselves and to creatively transcend nature’s mindless amorality and pointlessness. “Conservatives” are only sociopathic heralds of godless nature, since their policies systematically enable natural mechanisms of control to overwhelm our personal defenses.

      Is a dominance hierarchy needed to impose progressive values? A benevolent dictatorship might be one way to go, since that’s how some progress was made in Europe in the interim between monarchies and early-modern democratic republics (Napoleon, Catherine the Great, etc). But now, long after the American and French Revolutions, we have some understanding not just of the value of capitalism and democracy, but of their fragility. As to how to fix or perfect these systems, I don’t have all the answers. But it doesn’t take a genius to appreciate the progress in modernity compared to the savagery of much of the ancient world. Again, I’m no apologist for modernity. I criticize many aspects of what’s taken for modern progress. For example, I have an article coming out hopefully soon, called “Capitalism and Fake Modernity.” Or see my articles on mental health and secular humanism.

    3. There’s likely no society that’s perfectly free of dominance hierarchies. For example, the family is a dominance hierarchy in which the parents rule over the children. There are dominance hierarchies in corporations, the military, and virtually every other social organization, although these aren’t primitive or naked dominance hierarchies, since they’re governed by artificial, cultural ideals, rather than by primitive evolutionary ends.

      In any case, there are cultures that aren’t run by tyrants and that don’t feature barbaric idols. Constitutional republicanism, social democracy, and capitalism are liberating in these respects. These are also flawed forms of progress, though. Conservatives helped to spoil matters by worshipping a fake form of capitalism as a means of generating plutocracy (a modern form of their idolized theocracy). The neoliberal consensus and the deficits of globalization laid the groundwork for the populist backlash and for grotesque, authoritarian pseudo saviours like Trump, Putin, and Viktor Orban. In the US, the failures of Democrats are partly to blame for the catastrophe of Trump, although the main culprit is obviously the long descent of the Republican Party (since Reagan).

      The Scandinavian democracies are often held up as being much more progressive than the US, on the whole, at least until recently. Canada and Australia are likewise more honest about the benefits of socialism (minimal collectivism as opposed to anarchical individualism or American social Darwinian “libertarianism”). But again, things are evidently changing because of the global populist revolt against neoliberalism (against the erstwhile Washington consensus, now hypocritically abandoned by the Republicans because of their neofascist cult of Trump).

      “Voluntarily joining a dominance hierarchy” is oxymoronic. We can voluntarily enter an organization and agree to be governed by its rules, but a true dominance hierarchy forms rather by unequal demonstrations of power. Anyway, we voluntarily join liberal or “socialist” societies to be run by governments and by the law, by implicitly understanding that cooperating and compromising with others is better than living on your own in the wilderness. That’s called the social contract.

      Again, American libertarians are much less honest about the benefits of such cooperation and compromise than most other inhabitants of democratic societies. Yes, the libertarian says he’s in favour of voluntary social arrangements—until it turns out the organization won’t run efficiently if every step of the way is perfectly voluntary, with no enforcement of laws to regulate conduct. If you want anarchy, you’ll have the mess of the Occupy Wall Street movement, in which everyone had their say, no one was in charge, and nothing really was accomplished. The movement fell apart because the members were too spoiled to be willing to defer to experts or to elected representatives. So-called socialism is about the compromises needed to cooperate in large-scale undertakings. If you have any empathy, you learn to think about the good of the many, not just about your private interests. When everyone thinks only narrowly about their self-interest, you have social Darwinism and the formation of dominance hierarchies and tyrannies, the betrayal of human rationality, morality, creativity, and of our potential to progress beyond animal behavioural norms.

  21. There should be a class somewhere using your writings as a case study in special pleading.

    • "Conservatives imply we are nothing but animals, despite conservatives being THE major group who do NOT think we are nothing but animals (in the case of the religious)"
    • Atheist conservatives are actually religious because capitalism is a "cult".
    • I guess progressivism isn't a cult though, even though everybody thinks it is. Progressivism has its original sins, mysteriously infecting the present day (colonialism, slavery), it has its satan (Trump), its sacraments (virtue signalling), its saints ( the oppressed, the LGBTs, the people of color), its sinners (straight white men), its seminaries (feminist studies).
    • We "voluntarily" join liberal or socialist societies run by governments even though we have no option to opt out. Ha!
    • Your favourite dominance hierarchies aren't actually dominance hierarchies because they "have cultural ideals". But conservative meritocracies can't possibly have any cultural ideals. Pfft!
    • A libertarian cooperative dominance hierarchy isn't actually a dominance hierarchy (because it wasn't formed by power, but voluntarily).... but... it's actually the worst kind of dominance hierarchy anyway, because... reasons.

    So you've noticed some differences between humans and other animals. We can create more sophisticated homes, which we can heat. Okay... and? I dare say every living thing has its unique aspects. But pointing them out, doesn't prove what their significance is. We have higher cognitive ability than animals, sure. But how significant is it? If an alien came to earth with an IQ of 500, would he think we were more like the animals or more like himself? In any case, you already conceded that the masses are slaves to their animalistic desires, so we know where you stand on that.

    1. Apparently, you don’t know what the fallacy of special pleading is. That fallacy is the appeal to an exception to a principle without giving any reasons to think there’s such an exception. I gave reasons, as you even concede when you contradict yourself in attempting to mock my argument, saying, “it's actually the worst kind of dominance hierarchy anyway, because... reasons.” Yeah, if you give reasons, you’re not committing that fallacy. So if there were a class on this alleged fallacy of mine, it would be a very short class. The teacher would enter the class and say, “Alright, students, sit down and welcome to this course on a case of special pleading. Oh wait, the author gives reasons after all. So class dismissed.”

      Notice, by the way, that every single category and concept has exceptions, because they’re models or simplifications of the total body of data. Our generalizations are ceteris paribus, which means we ignore the exceptions because they don’t always make a difference, for practical purposes. As I said, your counterarguments are strawmen and red herrings, because you’re not aware of the reasons I give to support my arguments or you’re choosing to ignore them. Instead of asking for clarifications or arguing in good faith, you’re trolling.

      Just to take one example, I said, “There are dominance hierarchies in corporations, the military, and virtually every other social organization, although these aren’t primitive or naked dominance hierarchies, since they’re governed by artificial, cultural ideals, rather than by primitive evolutionary ends.”

      You say the same reasoning can be given to justify “conservative meritocracies.” First of all, notice that I include corporations in that list, at least some of which may operate on ideological principles that don’t reduce to savagery. But the point is that if the libertarian’s reasoning is just a case of social Darwinism or a phony appeal to monotheism (the “invisible hand” allusion), there’s no such higher ideal or purpose on the table. The ideals of a military might be to protect the country’s values and the life of its citizens. In WWII, for example, there was a clash between liberalism and fascism. That war wasn’t just animalistic, since the battle was also between ideas and cultures. When a kleptocrat like Trump receives millions of dollars from his father to start a business, hiding that fact and pretending his whole life he’s a self-made billionaire, and goes bankrupt multiple times to screw over his contractors, I don’t see any transcendent values at stake in his business practices. I see a primitive, amoral struggle for power and domination. That’s explicitly what capitalism is about, according to its major theorists.

    2. Moreover, I explained how dominance hierarchy is the default social order and how it creeps back into our creative efforts as a fallback position. We can build on that primitive dynamic to create something new, to compromise with nature, using primitive materials to create a higher order of life such as one infused with cultural purpose. There are, then, naked or pure dominance hierarchies, such as explicitly Darwinian ones or kleptocracies in which the ruler’s concern with her ideological propaganda is superficial at best. And there are the sublimated hierarchies or social orders that include power asymmetries but that exploit those dynamics to build an emergent way of life, a social organization that isn’t purely about the strong or amoral man’s domination of the weak. So there’s no special pleading there or anywhere else in my case against your criticisms.

      Again, I’m not going to attempt to demonstrate in this comment section the obvious difference between animality and personhood. Maybe we could debate that issue separately in a format I could post on this blog. If you’re interested, use this blog’s contact form to contact me by email. I’ll just say here that I already pointed out in an earlier comment that personhood is a relative concept: “So most people stand between animals and enlightened, existentially-excellent people or transhumans. In that middle ground, we're largely deluded, compared to the transhumanist's worldview, but we're also enlightened compared to the limited conceptions of insects, fish, or reptiles. So you see, personhood is a relative concept.”

  22. But ok, so humans have higher cognitive ability. Where is the evidence this means we need to be "progressive"? What if the hypothetical alien with a 500 IQ turned out to be a conservative? What if his alien race acquired their 500 IQ by being conservatives, what then? What if the whole reason you have a 100+ IQ is because your predecessors were conservatives, then what?

    As I've pointed out to you, and as you keep dodging, Darwinism is what made you above the animals. It's what has raised humanity over the past 100,000 years from an IQ of 50 to an IQ of 100, and potentially eventually even higher. It's what will drag you back to 50 or worse if you defy it. What if you institute perfect progressivism, and it takes human IQs back to animalistic IQs of 50, what then? Back to conservatism then?

    Sure culture is under attack. What culture does a modern person of today have in common with someone from 100 years ago? It's hard to think of much. What little is left is probably explained by biological proclivities than actual culture.

    Capitalism is the most anti-fragile concept ever. It just means everybody doing what they want to do. Democracy is somewhat fragile because it implies a centralised government, which can be co-opted.

    Scandinavia and Australia are not socialist. They are more socially governed, and the populace in large part hates it. Do a google search on "Australia is a nanny state" for example to have an insight on the continual revolt against government in Australia.

    Occupy Wall Street achieved nothing, because they were socialists hoping for someone to give them free stuff. They were protesting AGAINST the people who achieve things. And yes, those people were doing so cooperatively. What is Wall Street if not a mechanism for people from all walks of life to collectively own companies who go out and do stuff? Wall Street is the penultimate capitalist libertarian voluntary cooperative system. Appealing to Occupy Wall Street participants, the most unproductive, useless element of society as a case study of what is possible cooperatively? Ha!!

    Libertarians don't like cooperation unless "every step of the way" is perfectly voluntarily. Where do libertarians ever say that?

    1. Indeed, natural selection turned some animals into people, by evolving the cerebral cortex, the opposable thumb, and our upright posture and social instincts. Contrary to evolutionary psychology, though, the resulting properties of personhood (rationality, consciousness, freewill, morality) can be what Gould called spandrels or byproducts rather than adaptations. Moreover, personhood can become an exaptation rather than being condemned to serve only the primitive biological functions that matter to natural selection.

      In what sense would the superintelligent alien who can travel between the stars with godlike technology be “conservative”? What would be the principles of conservatism that would cohere with that scenario? This reminds me of Star Trek’s silly concoction of the Klingon race. How would such a barbaric species as the Klingons achieve spaceflight in the first place? How would science be supported in their retrograde culture? There’s evidently such a thing as an incoherent thought experiment.

      It’s obvious that culture itself isn’t under attack, since no functioning society today resembles the postapocalyptic condition. Are you just making an empty semantic point and defining “culture” in terms of patriarchal or other conservative pseudo-values? Modern culture is typically explained in terms of the consumer monoculture, which includes materialism, narcissism, political correctness, multiculturalism, and so on. The fact that this is a relatively new culture doesn’t mean it’s not a culture at all. There were famous political revolutions in the early-modern period that produced this monoculture.

      Europe, Australia, and Canada are known not for being simply “socialist” but for being democratically socialist. Just as the US mixes democracy with republicanism, most developed societies mix individualism with socialism. The US, for example, has Medicare and Medicaid. The question is only where the balance lies between those ends of the spectrum. The US is more individualistic than the other democracies, in that many Americans (like Ayn Rand) prefer to fool themselves about the nature of socialism, pretending they’re more independent than they really are.

    2. Speaking of that pretense, you’ve misunderstood my point about Occupy Wall Street. I wasn’t using that example “as a case study of what is possible cooperatively”; on the contrary, I was using that failure as an example of what becomes of libertarian anarchy. Obviously, those critics of Wall Street weren’t protesting against capitalism. They were protesting the socialism for the rich that’s practiced in American’s plutocratic regime. Remember how Obama bailed out the banks with no strings attached and left the average folks high and dry? Remember how that anti-capitalist episode demonstrated that Wall Street is precisely NOT “the penultimate capitalist libertarian voluntary cooperative system”? Yeah, that’s what was at issue in the Occupy movement—which became the pro-Bernie Sanders movement, overlapping in turn with the Tea Party and the pro-Trump movements, I might add.

      Why do I say that libertarians are essentially anarchists who demand that social interactions be voluntary with no socialist compromise or deference to authority? Because libertarians say things like, “But to give you free stuff means holding a gun to the head of somebody else to force them to give it to you,” or like, “Again, you're trying to claim that societies cannot cooperate without an enforcer. You're an authoritarian.” That’s what you said in opposition to the idea of a government enforcing its laws with police, prison, and the military. That degree of libertarianism is anarchism, which amounts to an anti-human return to the primitive state of nature. Again, that’s perfectly in line with the above article.

    3. "That degree of libertarianism is anarchism, which amounts to an anti-human return to the primitive state of nature"

      You haven't shown why anarchism is anti-human.

      Libertarians don't say that giving free stuff is holding a gun to the head of someone else. Libertarians say that the GOVERNMENT giving free stuff is holding a gun to your head, because they stole it from someone else. I would argue stealing resources from other humans is anti-human. If I came to your front door, knocked it down, and took half your stuff because I think you've got more than me, would you not protest me as an animal? But why is it suddenly ok if the government does it?

      Anarchists don't say that laws shouldn't be enforced. It's just that they believe in the Primary Law, the non aggression principle Whoever breaks that primary law subjects themselves to vigorous enforcement. It's just that the government is the primary perpetrator of breaking that law. How on earth is the non aggression principle a return to nature? Where in nature do you see creatures obeying this law? Do you see lions saying, gee that Zebra looks yummy, but I'm going to eat grass because of the NAP ?

  23. Trump is a neo fascist? Fascism is defined as a high degree of government control over society, whereby everybody must do as they're told for good of the many. Trump's a capitalist who steadfastly avoids acquiring federal powers. He's an anti-fascist. In point of fact, your philosophy is quintessential fascism, and I don't mean that as a smear, it's just an accurate description of your philosophy. Your highest good is the good of the many. Giovanni Gentile, the inventor of fascism couldn't have put it better.

    When I quote Giovanni Gentile, it sounds exactly like the sort of thing you would say: "He ceases to be a natural thing and lifts himself to that superior realm, that is the domain of morality, when the human being must progressively exhibit his humanity. Whether or not human beings are capable of so much, we admit every human being into the society of humans with the presupposition that they are capable of so conducting themselves."


    "Fascism combats the abstract conception of society, rejecting the entire notion of anithetical class interests upon which the artificialities of "class struggle rests"

    Substitute "class" for "position in the dominance hierarchy" and this could have been written by you.

    You're pretty much just a conventional everyday fascist, huh?

    1. The Wikipedia page on fascism defines that system as “a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.”

      Now that’s fascism. Neo-fascism would be a late-modern variant that can differ in certain respects from the original forms. Trump isn’t competent enough to impose his will on society, so his version of fascism is only notional and stylistic, not a real threat to society. (The real threat is his incompetence or chaos.) But the “far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism” fits perfectly, as do the “forcible suppression of opposition” (think of his treatment of the media and his petty vendettas against political rivals and independent thinkers in his “administration”) and Trump’s fantasy of “dictatorial power.”

      Calling Trump a “capitalist” is a joke. I hope you already understand that and aren’t entirely new to these matters. A capitalist is the owner of the means of production who invests some of his profit into his business to grow it. By contrast, Trump intentionally went bankrupt multiple times to avoid paying his debts. Trump is a con artist and a kleptocrat, not an honest businessman. He didn’t earn his wealth but started on third base, thanks to the many millions of dollars his father slipped him under the table, to avoid paying taxes on his real estate empire. (See the NY Times expose, linked below.) Now Trump’s using his political conflicts of interests to enrich himself and his family, in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

      Sorry, but your argument that I’m a fascist because Giovanni Gentile, the neo-Hegelian idealist philosopher sounds like me is pitifully weak. That’s like saying that because Mr. Gentile wrote in Italian in support of fascism, all Italians everywhere are also fascists since they likewise write in Italian. Fascists are hardly the only ones who distinguish between the natural and the artificial or between animality and personhood. By the way, Gentile didn’t “invent” fascism. He was a ghostwriter for Mussolini and provided some intellectual support for fascism. And as I already told you, I’m far from being a collectivist who champions the good of the many, like a utilitarian. I’m much closer to Nietzsche and the other existentialists in lauding the rebellious minority who oppose the dehumanizing conventions of the majority. You don’t have to take my word now for it, since my views are all over this blog.

    2. Cain, I just finished reading your debate here with John. I know it's nearly a month old now, but I think I have something to contribute. If you agree, go ahead & post it; but if you would rather let this argument lie then I'm okay with that decision.

      To begin, it seems to me that John is confusing the term 'unnatural' with 'supernatural'. He accuses you of inconsistency because, though you are an avowed philosophical naturalist, here you are condemning the natural tendencies of humans to form pecking orders. John seems to think that only someone who believes in a supernatural reality has any right to condemn nature.

      I think the easiest way to refute this position is to consider the conservative Christian who, unlike you, does believe in the supernatural. And yet, when the Christian condemns homosexuality as 'unnatural', he clearly isn't trying to assert that any kind of sexual behavior could occur outside of nature. To the contrary, the Christian believes that the natural man is in emnity with God, who is a supernatural being. If the Christian believed that homosexuality were unnatural in the sense that John wants to define the word, then he ought to praise the lesbian who has evidently liberated herself from nature by refusing to reproduce or indeed have anything carnally to do with the opposite sex! But of course the Christian doesn't do this. He recognizes that homosexuality is just as mundane as heterosexuality; the only difference being that the latter is in harmony with God's intentions while the former isn't. He confounds 'unnatural'(1) with 'immoral', thinking they are synonymous, but he still recognizes the difference between the unnatural & the supernatural - a distinction which John seems to have missed.

      (1) In fact, homosexuality is not even unnatural in this sense since anyone who spends time with animals knows that they are just as likely to engage in homosexuality as humans. But most Christians are either ignorant of this fact or choose to ignore it.

      A naturalist doesn't believe in the supernatural, but she still grasps the difference between transcending nature & being outside of it altogether. Just as a physicist observes certain regularities in nature & calls them 'laws' without necessarily believing that they are dictated & enforced by a supernatural beings & thus 'good', a philosophical naturalist can recognize regularities in animal behavior & come up with laws like 'the law of oligarchy' without any implication that these laws are good & should be obeyed. But wheres an exception to a physical 'law' might properly be termed supernatural, exceptions to normal animal behavior are merely unnatural; to label them 'supernatural' would be a category error because it would confuse fixed natural laws(2) with with mutable natural behavior that adapts to circumstances. So uniquely human behavior isn't supernatural, but it can be profoundly unnatural if we take the behavioral regularities of other animals as normative. Writing, for example, is something that only human animals can do, which makes it 'unnatural' with respect to the class of animals; but the capacity to write doesn't necessarily prove that humans have some supernatural element like a soul. Writing is anomalous with respect to animal norms, but not in relation to nature.

      (2) Even if 'fixed' natural laws like the gravitational constant turn out to be mutable as some physicists speculate, the distinction would still hold. Physics & behavioral psychology are distinct categories.

    3. Furthermore, John's assertion that authoritarian collectivism, by eliminating selective pressures, would result in genetic decadence has no historical basis. To the contrary, such societies have typically practiced eugenics. The Spartans dropped unfit newborns over a cliff (See Herodotus & Plutarch's biography of Lycurgas). The Nazis had the mentally handicapped euthanized like dogs . Stalin sent undesirables to work in Siberia, effectively removing them from the Soviet gene pool & the Chinese communist party simply sterilizes anyone who, in their judgment, shouldn't reproduce. It's the democracies, that respect the rights of individuals, which allow the physically, mentally or morally handicapped to reproduce like rabbits. Capitalism places very different selective demands on us than the paleolithic lifestyle. Socialism is actually closer to 'natural' human society in that it simply extends the concept of 'tribe' to include everyone in a nation. Does John really think primitive societies didn't have the equivalent of welfare?

      Finally, regardless of what the general intelligence of Australian Aborigines might be, it wouldn't be the determining factor in the question of whether or not they were psychologically human. Their culture may be primitive in comparison with European culture, but it's still a culture nonetheless. Aborigines have language, music, religion & folklore - distinctly human traits. The difference between an Aborigine who's spent his entire life in the Outback & a feral white kid would be qualitative. Even if the child had superior neural intelligence, he'd still be nothing but a wild beast in comparison to the tribesman who can speak, make music & tell stories. Of course the child, being biologically human, would have the capacity to learn all those things from the Aborigine, which is what makes humans special in the first place: even the dullest among us harbors potential that all but the cleverest apes lack(4).

      (4) Coco the Gorilla is famous for having learned sign language & using it to create novel 'words' like "shit-scientist" for caregivers she didn't like. Was she human in the psychological sense? Possibly. However, she needed to be taught sign language wheres deaf human children will spontaneously create their own if no one teaches it to them.

      If John's going to advocate the type of social order that humans evolved in before the onset of the neolithic, then laissez-faire capitalism would be the worst possible choice! No society in history has departed so completely from the human norm as the USA of the 21st century. How Republicans can call themselves 'conservative' boggles my mind. What exactly do these clowns think they're conserving? Certainly not our country's natural resources or our western cultural heritage. They idolize the post WWII era as the pinnacle of American culture while they systematically destroy everything that made that period in our history so happy & prosperous!

    4. Hi again, Sybok. Hope you’re doing well. I’m a little surprised to hear you read this debate. I’m inclined not to credit the conservative or the libertarian as having a philosophy, strictly speaking. What they have is social Darwinian prejudice, as I go over in the above article.

      I agree a lot here turns on how we define the natural and the supernatural. My next article will return to this issue of how nature is already virtually miraculous without the need for any appeal to supernature. The trick is to switch to the distinction between nature and artifice, and to note that what’s so anomalous about us is how anti-natural we are. Nature has metaphysical levels distinguished by emergent properties. Talk of “nature” in monolithic terms is just lazy. Yes, we want our explanatory models to hang together so that we can explain how higher-level properties arise from or reduce to lower ones, but that’s different from the eliminativist’s view that only the lowest level is real.

      That’s an interesting point about how collectivist societies engage in eugenics. But those policies wouldn’t be strictly evolutionary. I think John would say the selective pressures have to be impartial and mindless to stave off unwanted mutations. But of course this is all pseudoscientific, since biology is amoral. There are no good or bad mutations; there’s only the ability to thrive in a particular environment. We create our own environments, which makes us people rather than animals, psychologically and socially speaking, so social Darwinism is arbitrary and regressive.

      Unless I’ve forgotten something from our debate, I don’t think John says we should return to a hunter-gatherer society. He’s a libertarian (as I recall; it’s been a while), so the struggle for power within a capitalist system is natural enough for him. What’s unnatural or perverse, he suggests, is collectivist cooperation or central planning that coerces the individual to obey society’s laws.

    5. As many have clearly documented, fascism is... for the most part... a far left phenomenon. Wikipedia, as a left wing controlled site is propaganda on this issue.

      Trump isn't competent enough to impose his will on society? But he's not even trying. He keeps saying lots of things are a matter for the states. He keeps deregulating the economy and removing government regulations. This is not incompetent authoritarianism, it's anti-authoritarianism.

      His fascism is "notional". Notional: "A suggestion, not existing in reality". Ha ha, yes, it's notional all right. Notional in the minds of people with TDS.

      Petty political vendettas against rivals? How is Trump rampaging on Twitter a more notable form of vendetta than Adam Schiff trying to impeach him, or Joe Biden getting Flynn investigated and destroyed as a rival? Which side of politics has weaponised the state against the other party? Petty ranting on Twitter is a nothing compared to that.

      Ultranationalism: disdain for other nations and xenophobia. That's a remarkable accusation against someone with a hotel in every major city in the world.

      Trump "intentionally went bankrupt to avoid paying bills". No, Trump has NEVER been bankrupt. Some companies he had went bankrupt. That's what happens when companies fail, they don't pay their bills. Why is this notable, you don't tell us.

      Trumps getting rich on conflicts of interest? Nonsense, Trump lost tons of money being president. That's a baloney argument. There's absolutely no evidence of this.

      Gentile: Mussolini called him fascism's philosopher. Mussolini doesn't seem like the kind of guy to give the credit to someone else if he didn't have to. The similarity between what you say and what he said is far beyond your analogy of two people speaking Italian. He bags the class hierarchy. You bag the dominance hierarchy. They're the same thing. You're both promoting the same view.

      How can you claim to be not a collectivist, when you keep sandbagging conservatives because they are not collectivists? When you pan people for being "social darwinists" that's the same thing as saying they're not collectivists. They are not advocating policies for the good of the many. You know, like Gentile said:

      "In the human family, in society, in the city, in any community, we constitute but one collective spirit with common needs that are satisfied through individual activity within a social matrix"

      That's exactly what you're saying, that there needs to be government healthcare and welfare safety net for the community, because to do otherwise is "social darwinism". You've done nothing to convince me you're not a fascist, and that Trump isn't an anti-fascist libertarian.

  24. Sybok, that's an interesting observation that the extreme collectivist governments have euthanized those who don't come up to scratch. But... how many collectivists, at least in this day and age choose to be collectivists in the hope this will happen? There were eugenicists in the early 20th century loudly advocating this, but here in the 21st century everyone is shouting about giving rights to the least successful and those who most depart from the normal. Even back then it's hard to imagine "we'll kill your disabled kids" would have been a winning propaganda.

    From the point of view of someone purely advocating for the gene pool, it is the collectivists wiping out those who disagree with the government that is the most concerning. Like breeding the most docile dogs until you get a lap dog, do we want a human population too docile to challenge even the most absurd of government propaganda. Do we want to literally live in the movie Idiocracy where we are ruled unchallenged by idiots? At least in a free society, any pruning the gene pool is going to be based on success and failure in real life pursuits, and not based on some government bureaucrat consigning you to the gulag.

    You say that Socialism merely extends tribe to nation. However all humans are in groups, whether it be family, extended family, community groups, religious organisation or whatever. The question is not "should humans be in groups", the question is "should the individual choose what group to be in" and "what scale of group is natural for humans to be in". In this way, a nation state of hundreds of millions of people is completely out of scale with the natural state. Your extended family of say 50 people is at least close to the correct scale. Even a family of 2 is closer to the right scale than 100,000,000 people.

    What exactly are Republicans supposedly destroying? And how could a party advocating for individual freedom and small government destroy anything since they're advocating for a government to not do things?

    Natural: I'm not sure why you decided to insert Christianity into this. Sure, Christianity uses the word inconsistently. On the one hand it calls homosexuality something contrary to nature. On the other hand it refers to unrepentant people as a "natural man". But what's this got to do with my use of it? I used it in the sense that natural means according to the proclivities of the being. Something needn't be supernatural to be unnatural. It's unnatural for humans to live in the dark for example. Forcing humans to live in an unnatural way means going against their innate desires and behavior.

    1. Thanks, Ben. I think I might be immune to COVID, since I've never failed to catch a flu before. I agree that 'artificial' is a much better word. The workings of the universe are just too complex & multi-layered to be summed up with a single word like 'natural'.

      John, it's true that docility is one trait any government is going to select for to some degree & that's to be expected. But I don't see any way around it unless you wish to dispense with government & return to jungle politics. Rousseau said it best when he wrote: “The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty.” Anarchy does have the advantage of giving practically everyone at least some chance of being top dog for a little while. Anarchy is more dynamic (and egalitarian in its own way) than civilization, but for most people the price would be too high. Most humans value peace & stability over freedom & for that reason governments will always have the backing of the majority. The problem with modern governments is their technological supremacy has freed them from any need for majority support. Advanced surveillance tech obviates the need for citizens to spy on each other as they did in the Soviet Union & military grade weapons have rendered the 2nd Ammendment obsolete. Revolutions are only possible when the citizens have access to the same level of firepower as the government they would depose. I think one of the reasons the 18th century saw a wave of democracy sweep through the western world was the invention of the firearm: a weapon that was inexpensive to produce & easy to use. But what's an AR-15 going to do for you if the government can just send an assassination drone to blow up your truck or your home? Does it matter at that point if the government in question is left wing or right wing?

      I'm glad you mentioned one of my favorite movies. Though I didn't see Idiocracy as an indictment of socialism, but of technological progress run amuck, as well as American capitalism's tendency to cater to the lowest common denominator in order to make a buck. Notice that no one in that movie was an unemployed welfare leech. They all had jobs; it's just that their computers had rendered those jobs ridiculously easy & their agricultural system (at least before they started watering their crops with Gatorade) was so efficient that food was cheap & abundant enough such that no one could possibly starve. Likewise, the 'culture'(if you can call it that) was only a slight exaggeration of contemporary American pop culture which, again, caters to what is worst in human nature because that is what has proven to yield the most profit.

    2. If humans are getting weaker & dumber, it's due to modern technology not welfare. Jobs are neither here nor there. How much intelligence do you think it takes to work the burger line at McDonalds? Even many higher paying professional jobs have been reduced to pressing buttons & pushing paper thanks to computers. Our technology has not only made staying alive & reproducing absurdly easy, but it has also created innumerable temptations like Netflix, YouTube, & online pornography to occupy people who should be using their leisure time to learn & improve themselves rather than indulge their basest impulses. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much anyone can do about it. No government is able or willing to slow down technological 'progress' or decide which technologies should & shouldn't be allowed to proliferate. Ted Kaczynski may have been a mad, homicidal hermit, but I must admit he made some valid points in his manifesto about what technology is doing to us.

      Darwin's theory of natural selection is predicated on a scarcity of food, shelter & mates; but if technology reduces & eventually eliminates scarcity, then we must find other ways. Personally, I think gene therapy is the best solution. Genetic diseases, from hemophilia to myopia can simply be edited out of the human genome. Of course, new diseases will always show up because DNA doesn't replicate perfectly, but we can eliminate them as quickly they appear. So technology solves the very problem it creates & ultimately offers us something far better than natural selection.

      Perhaps it would be fairer & more accurate to say that neo-liberals destroyed America - it's just that the GOP has been a little more cooperative in that destruction than the DNC (though, at this point, both parties are equally compromised). It's too long a story to tell on a blog comment section, but there are lots of books on the subject. The best summary I've read would have to be Morris Berman's Why America Failed. Berman isn't biased either. In fact he probably has more acrimony for Bill Clinton than Nixon or even Reagan.

      You say Republicans advocate individual freedom & small government; I think you've got them confused with the Libertarian Party. The only Republican I'm aware of who actually seems to believe in the the party line is Ron Paul & I think you know how much respect his fellow conservatives have for him (Hint: about as much respect as the DNC has for Bernie Sanders). Small governments don't need massive programs like PRISM, & DHLS. But as you pointed out, we're not living in a small government. Representative Democracy in a country of this size is a farce. I hope I live to see the day when the first state successfully secedes from the union. If the USA fractured into a dozen independent states, we'd have choices galore! Here in Cascadia we pay many times more in federal taxes than what we get back in federal funding (which we'd have no use for anyways). We have all the food, water, & other resources we need to be an independent nation & we could easily rival the most productive east Asian economies like Taiwan & Japan. All that money that the fed is bleeding us for could go into programs like high speed, public rails & free university education for our brightest citizens. Let the Bible Belt have its neo-fascist corporate theocracy so long as we on the west coast get our progressive 'socialist' republic. Each to their own.

    3. Sybok: A quick revision to how evolution works. What you do in your life can't affect the gene pool unless it either causes you to reproduce more, or prevents you from reproducing. Therefore the nature of the McDonalds burger process, or how many buttons are involved in professional jobs are unlikely to affect the gene pool. Welfare does affect the gene pool because it gives resources to people who otherwise wouldn't have had them. And as we all know, reproducing requires a lot of resources. And free resources for those who reproduce (e.g. single parents) even encourages the least productive to reproduce more than the productive. i.e. we are engineering the destruction of the gene pool.

      As for Netflix and porn, it reduces reproduction, but doesn't reduce the quality of the gene pool, unless you have a theory that smarter people watch more Netflix, which could be true, but I'd need to see data on that.

      Gene therapy: this may happen... for wealthy people, but is unlikely to be more than a drop in the ocean compared to regular reproduction, at least as far as can be foreseen right now.

      Eliminating diseases via gene therapy: all well and good BUT would require everyone to do IVF, which is extremely expensive. Once an organism's DNA has been set, we don't have the technology to change it after than point, so you'd have to do it prior to the egg being implanted. (You watched Bladerunner right?). Furthermore, you're ignoring the slow degrading of the gene pool. There are probably hundreds of genes contributing to intelligence. Losing one or two of them is no great loss. But by implementing a society that either doesn't select for intelligence, or even worse selects against it, the gene pool will be continually degrading due to random mutation.

      Yes, the Republicans are not hard line on small government, but tend more in that direction. They include many libertarians, tea party and other people who keep them somewhat in that direction.

    4. "I might be immune to COVID, since I've never failed to catch a flu before."

      From what I can gather, having the flu doesn't help your immunity to COVID. And if you always get the flu, it means you have a weak immune system. Suggest taking regular vitamin D.

      Docility and the government: It's not going to affect the gene pool unless the government kills you or incarcerates you in your reproductive years. To some extent that's inevitable. It's theorized that Europe's killing of murderers during the 2nd millenium had a profound effect on the gene pool of Europeans. However I would suggest we wouldn't want to take this any further than necessary. Engineering a populace so docile that they will willingly institute Orwell's 1984 seems like a bad idea.

      Idiocracy: the plot of the movie is that over the centuries, intelligent people didn't reproduce, but stupid people did. This is exactly what welfare encourages. Technological progress in and of itself has no effect whatsoever on the gene pool. Having an easy life doesn't make your genes stupider. Giving resources to stupid people so they can reproduce makes the gene pool stupider. Now sure, the general advancement of society makes it far easier for stupid people to acquire resources than it would have been 1000 years ago. But must we magnify that effect beyond its natural effect?

    5. Actually, what you do in life can & does effect the gene pool via epigenetic inheritence. For example: if your dad smoked, this could effect gene expressions not just in you, but your children. Epigenetics is very well-documented at this point. Enviromental conditions can activate genes & deactivate others & these changes can be transmitted to descendents. I have no idea if dull work makes Jack's son a dull boy, but I wasn't even suggesting that. The point I was making is that automation & technological advancement have made it enormously easier for people who would have been unfit in a more primitive society to reproduce. Do you think someone who was only smart enough to push buttons all day could have fed seven children a 500 years ago? Without cheap calories and/or an ready source of income, that person would likely have been a genetic dead end. Even well off families lost children all the time due to diseases that, thanks to modern medicine, either no longer exist or aren't a threat. The correlation between modern technology & the rise in human population far outweighs any effects welfare may have had. Look at population statistics going back to 1700. The introduction of the potato to Europe saved more lives than food stamps or welfare ever did. How much more intelligence do you think it takes to grow potatos than to game the system for free food & money? Is the welfare mooch who fills out stacks of paperwork & navigates the labyrinth of government bureaucracy for his meager pittance necessarily less intelligent than the guy who digs a shallow hole in the ground, drops a potato in it, & then fills it back up again? Maybe if the government gave to anyone who asked for it a plot of land for growing potatos & raising chickens on, we wouldn't have so many people on food stamps. Though I guess that would be 'communism' & somehow lead to mass starvation.

      Most single parents work . They might be on food stamps or other government programs, but they wouldn't have to be if their employers paid them a living wage. In any case, cutting welfare isn't the answer. Children should not be made to suffer for the sins of their parents & if all the people on welfare were cut off tomorrow, I guarantee that it would result in a rapid escalation of crime. One solution might be to make it so that contraception is a condition of anyone continuing to receive government benefits. There are alternatives to the welfare problem that don't involve endangering children.

      Gene editing will be expensive in the beginning, but like all technological innovations it's likely to become very cheap in the long run. I predict that gene editing will one day be as routine as vaccinations are today; in fact it will be mandatory. An engineered retro virus could probably be used to modify the DNA of an adult human. It's already been done on humans.
      I already explained in my last post that gene editing would be an ongoing process. There's no arbitrary point at which we'd stop using the technology once it was perfected. The gene pool won't degrade. If anything, it will continually improve as we learn more & more about what each gene does & how they interact.

    6. I wasn't trying to imply that watching porn somehow helps the stupid reproduce;; how you could have read that meaning into it is beyond me. But as you should know, the extent to which IQ is heritable is unclear. In my studies I've seen figures that state that between 30% to 60% of our IQ is actually accounted for through heredity, which means the rest is a product of enviromental factors. Now, googling 'The Ghulāmiyeh Who Gave Me Gonorrhea' on your free time isn't likely to increase your IQ, but studying math, logic, or philosophy will since those are disciplines that teach you how to think with more precision. In other words: dull environments create dull people & unregulated economies tend to create dull environments because capitalists have learned to use cheap psychological tricks (brown sugar water = sexy young people) to sell rubes rubbish they don't need. Imagine if TV shows were selected for syndication on artistic & intellectual merit rather than on how well they would appeal to the dumbest audience. Imagine an entire economy not predicated on the goal of squeezing every last cent from gullible consumers who've been brainwashed to believe that the buying the latest release of Windows or the newest I-phone is more important than getting a flu shot. If capitalist wanted to make money from smart people, they'd have to produce things that smart people would want to buy like healthy food, sturdy, well-crafted apparel & gadgets that have no built-in obsolescence date. A few massive industries, like big tobacco, would of course just go bankrupt & never recover. Obviously, this would drastically reduce corporate profits & hence most corporations have a keen interest in keeping the population stupid.

      In any case, you're making an empirical claim here. We can debate this 'till the cows come home without learning anything. If a welfare state really does have a significant impact on the fitness(1) of its citizens then it would be reasonable to predict that people in welfare states, on average, are less fit than people who live in states with minimal to no welfare. So prove your hypothesis: show me data that indicates Scandinavians are more likely than Americans to be stupid, overweight & suffering from a host of heritable illnesses like diabetes & heart disease.

      (1) By fitness, let it be understood in terms of whether or not the individual in question could survive & reproduce without the aid of welfare.

    7. As far as I'm concerned, the heritibility of IQ is very clear, and is around 80%-ish (for a western country). And that's why different groups have different IQs

      On the other hand, there is no evidence at all that studying will do anything to your IQ. That's why the government has spent decades fiddling around with schooling and moving underprivileged kids around to better schools in the hope of improving outcomes, with the result of... absolutely no improvement or change. Learning to think "with more precision", if that's a thing, might help you better perform some tasks, but won't actually change your IQ.

      "unregulated economies tend to create dull environments"... really. So nothing dull about the architecture or the cars of heavily regulated economies then?

      How on earth is it dull to have a lot of brown sugar I don't really need? That sounds the opposite of dull. Dull is having only the things I really need.

      No it's not reasonable to say that "If a welfare state really does have a significant impact on the fitness(1) of its citizens then it would be reasonable to predict that people in welfare states, on average, are less fit than people who live in states with minimal to no welfare.". It takes a highly advanced people to institute a welfare state. And degrading the gene pool will take dozens of generations. That doesn't mean though that it might not be possible to measure it. The scandanavian welfare state is less than 100 years old. Obviously caring about the gene pool is a long term concern, not a short term one. But if some data would make you happy, 53% of Swedish adults are overweight or obese. I believe the number for the United States is 39%. However since the racial makeup of Sweden and the United States is quite different, there's thousands of years of other environmental pressures that would affect those numbers too.

    8. "Do you think someone who was only smart enough to push buttons all day could have fed seven children a 500 years ago?"... Umm, in general yes, because people who "push buttons all day", generally have a high IQ, and IQ is the most important predictor of success in ALL areas of life, and ALL jobs. Yes, even the simple jobs.

      Of course, when we're talking about fitness, it's not just IQ. To push buttons you need good vision, possibly good hearing, you need the fitness and persistence to wake up every day, get yourself moving to where you've got to go. They might not sound like much but they are SOMETHING. Something that is required to survive and put some arrestment on gene mutations. For the gene pool to at least stay static and not move backwards, that might be just enough if it translates into having the resources to reproduce.

      Is the welfare mooch less intelligent than the person who puts a potato in a hole? If you hadn't noticed, not many people are employed putting potatoes into holes. But I'll tell you one thing, the guy putting a potato into a hole is probably super fit, with no weird diseases or disabilities. To protect the gene pool we don't need every guy smart, every guy fit, we just need to maintain the averages and excise damaged genes at a faster rate than genes are mutating.

      But paying the unproductive to sit at home and reproduce will reduce the averages. I remember I knew a couple where both of them had never held any kind of job, they were on their 11th child, and the money they were making from welfare was fantastic. Imagine now a world where all the smart people are too busy to have more than 1 child, and all the stupidist people stayed home and had 10 kids. A few generations of that, and you'd literally have plummeting IQs and skyrocketing obesity and other diseases, because everybody with something wrong with them would be paid to stay home and reproduce.

      Gene editing of humans is unlikely to ever be cheap because think of the disaster of screwing it up. Can you think of any medical procedure where there is such scope to screw up that is cheap? But let's say it was cheap, it can't be any cheaper than IVF, because you've got to get those genes into an egg and implant it. And that's going to cost you tens of thousands of dollars. How is that ever going to be widespread when the conventional way of fertilizing and implanting is so cheap, easy and enjoyable?

      Gene editing of adults... It's not going to change your IQ. Your brain is already built and wired up as an adult, changing your genes then, in the remote circumstance that could be possible, isn't going to make you smart. Like giving you a tall gene when you're grown up already isn't going to make you taller. It also isn't going to change the genes in a woman's eggs, which already exist at that point.

    9. John, what you don't seem to understand is that even if it were 99% instead of 80%, it wouldn't mean dumb parents couldn't have smart kids or vice-versa. You're confusing a statistical correlation with a direct cause-effect relationship &, even worse, your trying to derive certainty from intrinsically uncertain mathematical relations. If I made the effort, I'm sure I could find correlations between genes & religious denominations, but that wouldn't mean there were Catholic genes, Methodist genes, LDS genes etc. Yes, religious affiliations do tend to run in families, but at best a statistical analysis of those correlations would only give me a way of establishing the specific probability that someone with genes x, y, & z are Mormon; it would not mean that their Mormonism was genetically predestined at their birth. You probably think I'm being facetious at this point comparing religion to IQ; I'm not. Genetics is NOT the same as Newtonian physics. If anything, it's more like quantum physics insofar as the mathematics employed by geneticists is statistical. To take an analogy from QM: a particle could literally be ANYWHERE in the universe because a probability cloud has a center, but no definite circumference. It's just that, statistically speaking, it's more likely to be closer to the center of the cloud than further away from it. Intelligence is like that. Smart parents are more likely to have smart kids. But just as particles can tunnel through empty space, so can dumb parents occasionally produce geniuses.

      You're also apparently unaware of the discrepancy between the estimates of direct & indirect heritability. The indirect method (using different degrees of family relations) gives the heritability of IQ at 50%, while the direct method (using identical twins) yields a figure of 75% (or 86% in the paper you cited); something’s not right. Fortunately, that something was accounted for by the Devlin, Daniels and Roeder study. See, the standard equation for determining the covariance cv of identical twins raised in different families is cv = A + D where A is 'additive' individual gene expression (as opposed to the kind of synergetic expression that happens when genes work together) & D is the the non-additive gene expression (genetic synergy).This is the equation that gave us that pesky 75% figure. What Devlin, Daniels and Roeder did was add an additional variable to the equation 'M', that is the maternal in utero & perinatal environmental influences. Once that was accounted for, the discrepancy narrowed substantially. It seems the standard equation cv = A + D had inflated the heritability of IQ by an amount roughly proportional to M. By the way, that link you offered was based on the direct heritability method & it seemed to be more concerned with the establishing the soundness of the concept of IQ rather than how heritable it is.

      In any case, 200,000+ years of human evolution is not going to be undone by a few million idiots on welfare. Genomes tend towards stability, a principle known as Regression Toward the Mean. A significant & permanent change in the general intelligence of our species & its various races/subspecies is therefore highly unlikely & in any case will not happen within the foreseeable future. Homo Sapiens, as a whole, will retain the intelligence & instincts of hunter-gatherers for millenia to come no matter how radically our lifestyles deviate from those primitive conditions.

    10. And before you bring up Ashkenazi Jews, let me preempt you & point out that Jews are more like an extended family than a race. The various races have been around tens of thousands of years; the Jews have existed for, at most, 3000 years. Abraham married his half-sister. Isaac & Jacob married their cousins. Moses forbade sibling intermarriage, but cousin-marriage persisted. Inbreeding exposes the worst, but also the best in a genome; it exaggerates what's latent. Hence the Jews' extraordinary intelligence. But as Jews begin to integrate with the goyim, a seeming exception to the general rule of maintaining the mean should be expected since they aren't a bonafide race, but merely a large, extended family. This does not refute anything I wrote earlier; in fact it would be a perfect demonstration of regression to the mean if the descendents of Jew/Gentile couplings had an average IQ distribution. Of course it will take generations to see if this is what happens.

      Your statement that studying can't change your IQ is debatable. It's a fact that individual IQ does change over time & the kind of questions they ask in IQ tests are mostly concerned with pattern recognition & logical deduction - skills that can be refined through experience. Now I'm not saying that a retard can become Einstein by studying anymore than I would claim an ectomorph could become the world's heavy weight champion with enough exercise, but some improvement is always possible through effort. I'm not so sure that better schools don't lead to smarter kids (evidence?), but if you are talking about American public schools, this isn't so surprising. In my experience, public schools in this country are closer to daycare centers: a little busy-work to keep the kiddies occupied, but no serious effort to educate them.

      I was using the adjective 'dull' in the sense of 'stupid', not boring. But of course you knew that a pun isn't an counter argument, or did you?

    11. I just love it how you use Soviet style communism in your attempts to discredit the idea of there being any kind of safety net for the poor or regulation of the economy. It's as if you aren't aware that there's a vast spectrum of economic systems between Wall Street & Pyongyang. There are even economic systems perpendicular to the capitalism-communism dichotomy like Distributism. But like all ideologists, you seem to be incapable of discerning any shades between black & white, much less red, blue or yellow. You've obviously read Ayn Rand, but have you bothered to peruse John Maynard Keynes? He was a another high IQ Jew (much smarter than Rand) who loved capitalism, made mint from his economic theories, & because he loved the market so much & wanted to continue making money, advocated for its regulation; he understood that unregulated capitalism is like an ouroborus: in the end all that's left is a steaming pile of snake-shit.

      And of course, when you attack welfare, you've just got to use the welfare-queen card. You seem to be trying to say that because some people abuse welfare, it should be abolished; have I misunderstood? Do I really have to point out why that's illogical?

      Alas, I must concede you have a point about it being too early in the game for you to prove your hypothesis. Plus, the skandis are bound to have a higher average IQ anyways what with all the pure Aryan blood flowing through their veins, wheres we Americans are a bunch of contaminated mutts with strains of dago, injun & even (gasp) negroid ichor. I'm sorry, but sarcasm runs in my Scot Irish blood, so I can't really be held responsible for these outbursts.

      Unless you can up with some devastating comeback that could overturn what I've wrote here & all the science it's based upon, this will be my final post on this thread. I doubt I've changed your mind, but hopefully this exchange will serve to steer any lurkers clear of pseudo-scientific theories like the ones you've espoused. Social Darwinism & Scientific Racism are labeled pseudo-science for three good reasons. First, they rely on a superficial understanding of evolution, heredity & statistical mathematics for their claims. Second, they make the philosophical error of deriving an 'ought' from an 'is', they confuse objective facts with subjective value judgments. Worst of all, though, they violate the ethical principle of treating every individual AS an individual. They attribute to living, flesh & blood people, ghostly, Thomist 'essences like 'intelligence', 'stupidity', 'Jewishness', 'Aryaness' etc. In short, they take mundane & rather unsurprising facts like the heritability of traits & statistical differences between racial groups to justify stupid & evil ideologies like racism, unregulated capitalism & yes, communism too ("Bourgeois thinking"). So go ahead, keep jerking it to 'Atlas Shrugged' & repeating your inane BS; I've got studying to do.

    12. That was quite thorough, Sybok. I don't think anyone's mind is going to change here, even though I'm sure we all can't fathom why the other side believes what it does.

      Stay safe, and let's all keep trying to enlighten ourselves.

  25. Benjamin: selective pressures have to flow in some particular direction to give evolutionary "progress", where we define progress as having new features in the organism. Or evolutionary stasis requires not losing any features. A feature is something that requires some genes to enact or make work. Total lack of evolutionary pressure in any direction leads to devolution, and loss of features. Creatures go deaf, dumb, blind, stupid, and immobile. Selective pressure doesn't have to be mindless and impartial. It has to flow in a particular direction. The natural direction is survival in the environment. And artificial direction would probably have that as a bare minimum.

    1. Well, the idea of progress in adding new traits to an organism isn’t part of biology. There’s just adaptation to occupy a niche and fit into an environment, where fitness is defined as surviving long enough to reproduce a member of your kind. Mutations crop up and provide the resources for changing the species over a long period, as the environment changes. That’s natural selection.

      But are you familiar with the far-future science-fiction scenario in which we’ve become master of genetic engineering and have conquered the natural forces on the planet, including climate and so forth? There may no longer be any other natural animal species, but our descendants will engineer new species or simulate whole worlds in computers. By that point, we’d have godlike power over evolution. You might say we’d be decadent since we’d no longer be subject to biological pressures, but of course we’d still be vulnerable to the fact that we wouldn’t have conquered or humanized absolute everything in the universe. We’d still be physical beings that could fall victim to accidents and indeed to social corruption.

      Surely you see how history illustrates that we may be on the way towards that future, or at least that that future is one valid extrapolation of our technological trajectory. The notion of progress would depend on this social and technological evolution which is artificial (mind-centered) rather than natural (mindless). Cultures develop based on the paradox of self-awareness and relatively free decisions. Animals don’t know about natural selection; they don’t know they’re evolving. Not only do we now understand the underlying process, but we’re intent on conquering that process and overlaying our values and goals. We’re recreating ourselves with technology rather than waiting for biology. In short, we’re become posthuman, just as we’ve already went from being animals to people.

  26. "progress in adding new traits to an organism isn’t part of biology"

    Nonsense. Traits are abilities of the organism expressed in genes. That's real, there's no getting around that.

    " Mutations crop up and provide the resources for changing the species over a long period, as the environment changes. That’s natural selection."

    I'm sure you know this, but mutations are not natural selection. And mutations don't just provide resources to natural selection, they also degrade previous traits absent natural selection. That's why creatures that live in caves have vestigial non-functional eyes. Not because eyes hinder the organism, but because those genes continually degrade when they are not selected for.

    Maybe there is some future where we engineer ourselves and everything. But our ability to do so, so far is extremely limited, and makes me think that won't happen. For one thing, it's very expensive and to affect the global human gene pool would require everybody to participate. Either that, or the super race wipes out the ordinary humans, which sounds rather dystopian.

    1. Natural selection is real. The progressive, normative aspect of changes in a species is subjective and not posited by biologists, since they refrain from committing the naturalistic fallacy.

      The sentence "That's natural selection" referred to the whole first paragraph, not just to the reference to genes.

      Our ability to control natural processes may be limited compared to the ultimate sci-fi scenarios having to do with ten thousand more years of our technological advances. But our current abilities aren't so limited compared to the animalism of all other species currently on this planet. Compared to them, our control over ourselves and over the planet is godlike and virtually unlimited. That's why we count as people and not just animals. But none of this seems to be sinking in for you.

    2. "The progressive, normative aspect of changes in a species is subjective"

      I mean, we could be arguing about word definitions, but I'm saying you're wrong. When a species acquires new functional genes that help it survive then it has progressed. That's why we aren't so limited compared to the animalism of all other species currently on this planet. Compared to them, our control over ourselves and over the planet is godlike and virtually unlimited. But none of this seems to be sinking in for you.

    3. If you're talking about progress in biological evolution, you're assuming social Darwinism, not just biological evolution. If you're assuming you can make value judgments based only on the biological facts of a species' developments, you're committing the naturalistic fallacy.

      The value judgments you're making are based on cultural developments, not just on the biological facts. You're assuming survival is good for the species, whereas scientists have no business talking about what's good or bad. Those value judgments are subjective, and scientists are concerned with objective explanations.

      By quoting back what I said to you at the end of your comment, are you conceding now that we're people and not just animals, in which case primitive social Darwinian value judgments are regressive and misplaced, compared to more sophisticated understandings of what's right and wrong?

      Or is this just more trolling? Maybe you should read up on social Darwinism and the naturalistic fallacy, as well as on the difference between people and animals.

  27. Are you suggesting that it is a mere subjective value judgement that a human being has progressed in evolution compared to an amoeba? I would suggest to you that this is not in any way subjective, many thousands of steps and genetic features are required to progress from an amoeba to a human. Adding features is by definition progress, because that's what the word means "development towards a more advanced condition" as the dictionary says, and a human is more advanced than an amoeba, because the amoeba lacks advanced features that humans have. Those features require genes, and those genes are further along the evolutionary tree, and necessarily so.

    Am I now conceding we are not just animals? Whatever we are, we are still subject to the genetic rules animals are, and no matter how much you want to elevate our developments, they can all be thrown away if you defy evolution and nature by devolving the genetic pool. Your argument comes down to a claim that we must go contrary to nature because we are advanced, and that's as wise as defying the four winds.

    1. So you're equivocating between the two meanings of the verb "progress." The word means "to move forwards or onwards, as towards a place or objective" or "to move towards or bring nearer to completion, maturity, or perfection." The latter definition includes the value judgment, but even the more neutral first definition includes the idea of a goal, which makes it partly subjective since the goal is optional.

      Just ask yourself, "advance to where"? Where are humans and amoebas advancing towards such that we're ahead of them in the race? You're assuming either a teleological view of natural developments, which modern biology rejects, or the subjective representation of goals on the part of creatures. So given the goal that animals want to be powerful, we may be ahead of amoebas. But that would still be a subjective form of progress, since nothing forces us to care about that goal.

      I don't say we "must" go contrary to nature. I'm saying that's what humanistic progress has consisted in, a judgment that nature is absurd, monstrous, amoral, etc and that we should transcend nature by building an artificial refuge known as civilization.

      Is it wise to go against nature? I've written a lot about that, and what I say is that the humanistic heroism in question is tragic, since our efforts will likely come to nothing, at least in the very long run, short of some transhumanistic, sci-fi miracle.

    2. If I was equivocating I'd be using multiple meanings of progress to confuse some issue. Instead I'm just using one meaning, a plain meaning.

      "development towards a more advanced condition"

      What does "advanced" mean? It means "ahead of", "further along in complexity", "further along in time".

      Clearly, human beings are more advanced than amoeba. That's not subjective, it's objectively fact. Humans have more features, more functional genetic code, more processes going on their bodies. This is because their development is further along in evolutionary time than amoebas, and hundreds of millions of years of development further along than them. There doesn't have to be an end goal or a purpose to make that observation. Amoebas are somewhere like the starting point of evolution. Humans are, at least for now, the end point.

      Nature is monstrous and amoral? But it also wins whenever you defy it. You don't build your house on the sand, because you know the ocean can't be defeated. So you build your house, but not where you must defy the ocean. And you build your civilization, but not so that you defy genetic reality. You don't have infinite control. You have limited control (as the present world circumstances are highlighting), so you don't pretend you can do everything. That's why you don't do communism, because it looks great on paper, but defies reality. But other attempts to control the world that look less ambitious than communism also defy reality in more subtle ways that destroy everything just as surely.

    3. You've switched from equivocating on "progress" to equivocating on "advance." If you want to use those words in a purely quantitative sense, to mean an increase in complexity or number of traits or genes, fine, but then you're not entitled to say any species to superior to any other one on that basis, except in a purely instrumental sense. You could say birds are better than fish at flying, meaning that given a certain goal, some species would achieve it while others would fail.

      But if that's the sense of "progress" or "advancement" you want to use, why did you say earlier, "Total lack of evolutionary pressure in any direction leads to devolution, and loss of features. Creatures go deaf, dumb, blind, stupid, and immobile"? Why did you pick only negative results of devolution when you could have picked positive ones? The reason is that you're equivocating, since you're assuming the increase in complexity and in the mere number of genes is always a good thing, that evolution is headed in a positive direction, which is nonsense, given just the science.

      Do you know what the naturalistic fallacy is? Do you know that scientific theories or pure descriptions or explanations of facts have no normative implications whatsoever? Who says an increase in biological complexity is always a good thing? Maybe there's such a thing as being too complex for your own good, as in the case of being burdened by intellect which causes you to suffer and to sabotage your chance at happiness, as Buddhists say. The point is that biology is insufficient for making such value judgments. To justify those value judgments, you have to get into philosophy or religion.

    4. Benjamin: Since your article here is advocating for big government and welfare state, how well is your typical amoeba colony going to manage a big government welfare state?

      I'm arguing this point on your own terms. A welfare state requires massive sophistication to work... some would say that's why it never works... but to the extent that it does work, it's not going to work if everybody is blind, deaf, dumb, stupid and immobile. Who's going to produce stuff for redistribution when that's the quality of workers you've got? You know full well the level of biological advancement necessary to keep that machine running, we don't need to get into arguments about whether humans are better than amoebas. Humans are better at the the thing that you are advocating for.

    5. How on earth do you conclude that that’s what the above article is about? Clearly, you’ve forgotten that article, assuming you ever read it, because you’ve been too busy in this comment section discussing your pet topics. That article is a critique of both liberalism and conservatism, and a rejection of the conventional ways of distinguishing between them.

      There’s one section on the size of government and here are some highlights from it: “When it comes to the size of government, then, the effective difference between the conservative and the liberal is that the conservative values traditional social structures which most efficiently reflect natural inequalities, whereas the classic liberal proposed an egalitarian, socialist experiment which naturally failed, leaving the postmodern liberal to pretend that she has some viable way of overcoming the DSD [default sociobiological dynamic].”

      “So back to the question of big versus small government. This is a tempest in a teapot since either way, nature wins. Liberals had their chance at supernatural progress and the DSD played its tune even on the modern instruments. The current split between conservatives and liberals on this issue of the government’s size is farcical because it’s so one-sided in light of the failure of large-scale progressivism to offer a sustainable alternative to the default social order.”

      “A small government means a power vacuum in the private sector and thus a brutal natural competition, which corrupts the weakened government and tanks the whole economy in boom and bust cycles. And a large government means the empowering of the vanguard party or of the bureaucracy’s upper echelons, which again corrupts the power center and dooms the society.”

      As you can see, I don’t advocate here for any particular size of government. My point is that that issue is trivial compared to the underlying social dynamic which produces a natural form of inequality. So-called modernity is a heroic attempt at resisting that dynamic, but it failed with communism, and it fails with liberal democracy whenever that system is captured by plutocrats, as has happened in the US. It’s an open question whether liberals can find a way to regulate capitalism to prevent that capture and to prevent our worst instincts from corrupting us regardless of our social structures.

      Regarding your other points, I’m really just repeating myself. It’s like talking to a brick wall. You’re saying progress is impossible without biological vitality, without surrendering to nature’s shaping of our species. Do you not realize that that shaping is extremely slow in the case of individual species? It takes hundreds of thousands of years for natural selection to significantly change a whole species.

      Also, we’re no longer confined to the limits of our biological traits, because we have this thing called technology, which is subject to cultural rather than biological evolution. If we’re getting blind, deaf, dumb, and lazy over time, that would obviously be due to cultural factors, not to genetic ones. We’re adapting to the artificial environments we create and they can infantilize the population, as in the case of mass media, associative advertisements, and pandering populist politicians. You keep ignoring epigenetics and cultural evolution, when they’re obviously more important to us that brunt natural selection.

      We no longer live in nature (the wilderness) and are therefore not subject to purely natural selection. We artificially select our mentality, by adapting to our artificial, anti-natural environments. Our brain is highly flexible, so we perform social roles to fit in in different situations. That’s how we currently evolve, adapting to revolutionary technologies that change the landscape, such as the printing press, electricity, television, and the internet.

    6. You talk about talking to a brick wall, but then you come out with this: "If we’re getting blind, over time, that would obviously be due to cultural factors". Now scroll up to my previous statement: "That's why creatures that live in caves have vestigial non-functional eyes." Is it your contention that creatures that live in caves have non-functional eyes "obviously due to cultural factors"?

      No it doesn't take hundreds of thousands of years for natural selection to change a species. Lactose tolerance is theorized to have become widespread between 2000 and 20,000 years ago. It's theorized that Ashkenazi Jews gained their 15 point IQ advantage over other Europeans sometime in the last 1500 years due to their unique circumstances. But we're not even talking about getting better as a species, we're talking about not degrading as a species. Getting better is hard because the good gene has to propagate through the population. But genetic degradation happens everywhere, all the time, like a computer floppy disk left to rot in the sun. In natural environments damaged units die thus purging the gene pool. In modern society we pay them to stay home and reproduce. That's why we are in danger of slowly dropping IQ points every generation, and becoming more and more corrupt and decrepit, blind, deaf and immobile. Muscles will atrophy, not from lack of use, but from continual decay in the genes that produce working muscles. Working muscles requires a specific set of genes, that are continually corrupting. In nature, if those genes corrupt, you'd die and wouldn't reproduce, thus purifying the remaining gene pool.

      And your technology doesn't fix this, unless the future you envisage is that we are brains in vats.

      Welfare states: your article seemed to be saying that welfare states are basically a great idea except that it was " looted by predators who captured the regulators" whatever that means. Then in later comments you went on to praise the welfare state... "a strong welfare state that protects the citizens' human rights instead of demonizing losers like in the more individualistic and Darwinian US." But now what.... you are distancing yourself now from big government and the welfare state? I mean, you're claiming that you don't support any particular position, but then you characterize the welfare state in glowing terms, and characterize those against the welfare state in derogatory terms, then feign as if you're an impartial observer? You've called conservatives animalists and progressives humanists because of this issue, whilst pretending you don't support anything in particular?

      Small government tanks the whole economy with boom and bust cycles? Where's the evidence of that? Where is the history of the government not fiddling around with the money supply and causing the boom and bust cycles through their meddling with interest rates and the money supply. Show me where they didn't meddle. Maybe if the government stayed out of it there wouldn't be boom and bust cycles.

    7. The fact that I have an opinion on free markets and social democracies doesn’t change the fact that the article itself doesn’t really take a position on those matters. So I was pointing out that you either didn’t read the article or didn’t understand it.

      The reason natural selection is so slow is that the mechanisms for copying genes are very good, so mutations are rare. Species change their phenotype when a mutation proves to be useful in an environment. That process needn’t go on forever, though, unless the environment changes a lot so that millions of years of honing traits go out the window. Sharks and alligators haven’t changed much in millions of years, because they’re perfectly adapted to their environment.

      Once again you’re equivocating on the two senses of “progress,” when you talk about the “corruption” or “purity” of genes. Those are Nazi-like, social Darwinian conceptions that aren’t part of biology. You’re smuggling value judgments into the talk of evolution.

      What would you consider the pure form of humanity? The kind that used to live in the jungle as hunter-gatherers?—because that’s the obsolete lifestyle our phenotype is adapted for, biologically speaking. Obviously, we changed the game by adding a cultural level of evolution onto the genetic kind, so that we train our minds by intentionally passing along information, by educating ourselves. That’s more like Lamarckian than Darwinian evolution.

      It would take hundreds of thousands of years for genetic mutations to decrease human IQ. If people are getting stupider, there’s a much simpler explanation: they’re not being well-educated or they’re becoming spoiled by the fact that technology now does much of our work for us. That said, I reject your bogus statistics on IQ, but we’ve already been over that.

      You ask for the evidence that small governments tank the economy. First of all, the notion of the size of government is a euphemistic oversimplification. The issue isn’t just how much money the government collects in taxes or how many people work directly for the government; rather, the question is whether the government serves the whole population or only a privileged subset. What happens in a “deregulated” economy isn’t that there are fewer laws; instead, the laws are written by lobbyists to rig the markets for the top one percent at the expense of everyone else. And if there’s government tinkering in that “free market,” the tinkering is likewise done at the behest of that same top one percent, roughly speaking.

      All of which tanks the economy, as we saw in the Great Depression and the 2008 Great Recession, for example. The neoliberals in both parties worked, in effect, for the bankers and the plutocrats, regardless of how they were voted into office. The wealthiest individuals are disproportionately sociopathic, owing to their unearned godlike power over others which no human whatsoever can have for long without becoming grotesquely corrupt.

      Therefore, those power elites capture the regulators and the politicians, by funding their campaigns and threatening to leave and take their business elsewhere. As a consequence, the laws that are put in place are short-sighted: the top one percent is invariably enriched by its control over the government and the economy, and by a fraudulent bubble market the wealthy are allowed to inflate, which inevitably bursts because it’s essentially a Ponzi scheme or some other con, as Matt Taibbi and Nomi Prins explained in the case of the 2008 crash. A wiser, more equitable economy would be less “free” and perhaps even less innovative in that such self-destructive, parasitic business practices would be outlawed or monitored to protect the whole society, not just the predator class.

    8. I don't know where you get the idea that mutations are rare. When copying, about 1 in every 10 billion base pairs is corrupted. The human genome has about 3 billion base pairs. So one in three cell divisions is corrupted. Now how many cell divisions are your gametes from your parents gametes? Well they grew from an egg, those cells divided and divided and divided many times, eventually specializing into germ cells and those germ cells eventually, maybe decades later (if you're a man) generating eggs and sperm. So it's virtually guaranteed that every single one of us has mutations. Most are harmless, some are not. Very rarely they're beneficial.

      Natural selection is not slow. It's only as slow as it takes you to die, which is related to how bad you are adapted to the circumstances. The more difficult the environment, the more who die, the faster evolution works, the faster mal-adapted genes are purged from the gene pool. The less organisms die, the more mutations pile up, the more frequently organisms come into being with multiple diseases. If you could somehow cure every disease with a drug, eventually all humans would need every single drug, because every corruption would accumulate to everybody. No diseased genes would ever be purged from the gene pool, no natural selection would take place. But random mutation would continue at the normal rate. Eventually, nobody can see, hear, smell or move.

      Come on now, don't give me this Nazi stuff. You know full well that a genetic corruption that makes you less fit is a bad corruption. Do you seriously want to go down the rabbit hole that genetic diseases are bad is to "smuggle value judgements" into it? Really? We can go down that road if you want, but it's pretty darned ridiculous. Nobody in their right mind will look at a child born without limbs, without working organs and think this is neither good nor bad. A "pure" form of humanity is one that has all its limbs and appendages, that has well functioning 5 senses, preferably at least the same average IQ as they did 500 years ago, an average lifespan of at least 3 score and 10, and no genetic defects that need treatment. Is that so much to ask? Or if we degrade the gene pool so much that nobody can expect any of those things anymore, you're fine with that are you? All children born without limbs and with multiple genetic diseases. Maybe you're the Nazi.

    9. The idea that it would "take hundreds of thousands of years to decrease human IQ" is utterly ridiculous. 100,000 years ago, we had only just broken away from Chimpanzee/Bonobo predecessors, and would have had an IQ to match. Can't you see that the reason there was no civilization till the last 5000 years-ish, is that people didn't have the IQ to achieve it until then. And the reason we only had the technological revolution in the last... thousand years roughly, is we only just achieved the IQ for that. Ashkenazi Jews presumably only achieved their 115 average IQ in the last 1500 years. That's how fast you can gain 15 IQ points (at least, assuming humans in Europe back then had 100 IQs which itself isn't a given). And that's how fast you can drop IQ points too. In fact, you can drop it WAY faster when the power of the state is involved. These rates of evolution are relatively slow compared to what directed evolution can do (look at dogs), and the power of the state over all society is the apex of directed evolution. We could be dropping or gaining 10 points in a century or two depending what government policy is place.

      IQ: I already pointed out that in a western country, environment only accounts for 20% of IQ differences. So I suppose you can appeal to that for a few points of IQ, but we've got a heck of a lot more to lose in that 80% of genetic influence.

      Small government: Now you're equivocating, claiming that in a deregulated economy there are a ton of laws to benefit particular parties. That's not a deregulated economy! Just because some people may have been fooled that it is a deregulated economy doesn't actually make it a deregulated economy.

      The Great Depession was caused by the central bank pushing up interest rates. Having one central government actor controlling the economy is the very thing that allows big depressions to happen. But you apparently are in favor of single central government actors who can screw up.

      As far as I can see, your objections are not against deregulation, they are against democracy, or whatever you want to call the governmental system because it allows bad players to implement bad policy, like laws that benefit only the rich. That's fine, but it's not actually an argument against deregulation, it's an argument against regulation.

    10. What is the purpose of arguing here that some races are genetically inferior to others? My article is about how conservatism boils down to social Darwinism. You’re explicitly a social Darwinist, but you think you’re somehow disagreeing with me.

      What you’re doing is arguing against liberalism or progressivism, by defending social Darwinism/conservatism. You’re saying it’s wrong to think we can transcend natural selection, since we’re animals rather than people. I’ve written a lot on this question. One thing I say is that I don’t have faith in human progress via technoscience. I call modernity satanic and say that, short of a transhuman miracle, humanistic societies are likely doomed to tragic failure in the long run, as monstrous nature has the last laugh, extinguishing our species and eventually erasing all traces of our “transcendent progress.”

      However, I also say that the attempt to progress and to revolt against nature, by using our intelligence, creativity, and technology to replace the wilderness with an intelligently-designed, artificial “habitat,” is heroic. The human condition is thus a case of tragic heroism.

      The question is where a social Darwinist stands on this larger question. Just how regressive is the conservative in question? I would submit the average “conservative” is just a hypocrite, with a vacuous, self-contradictory pseudo-philosophy in tow. If we’re animals, then go live in the wild and stop making use of modern amenities to which you have no right. Certainly, the richest one percent is hypocritical in talking about the need for “deregulation,” without stopping to think that a deregulated economy would be precisely the state of nature that would afford the wealthy zero governmental protections.

      Again, “deregulation” is a euphemism devised by “conservatives” to hide the incoherence and hypocrisy of their social Darwinian pseudo-philosophy. They want legal protections removed for the majority, but legal protections preserved and strengthened for the minority of power elites, so that they can consolidate their power over democracy and rule in a plutocracy. They certainly don’t want to live in a state of total, Wild West-style lawlessness, since then their businesses would suffer, as they do in Putin’s kleptocratic Russia where there’s no confidence in the neutrality of the law to protect private business transactions.

      There’s no such thing as a deregulated economy in the strict sense of those words, since that would be an oxymoron. Economies are artificial and unnatural social arrangements, requiring the traits of personhood (including the abstract concept of money) which result in a government (not just a tyrant or alpha male) that extracts us from the state of nature and puts us in an artificial, civilized setting.

      I was talking about the slowness of mutations in producing significant changes in the whole species.

      Genes determine 50% of IQ and environment does the rest (see the links below). You’re leaving out epigenetics.

      The relatively recent rise in human intelligence wasn’t due to physiological or genetic factors, since there was a period of vast cognitive and technological stagnation for most of the Stone Age, which lasted for 3.4 million years, even though the brain didn’t change that much from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens. Behavioural modernity began in the Upper Paleolithic, around 50,000 years ago, and that was due mainly to cultural, not biological developments. For example, language was needed for high intelligence.

      Again, it’s culture that best explains differences in intelligence between “races” or rather between the average members of different societies/cultures. That centrality of culture to our species is what makes us people rather than animals, and it’s what supports the heroism of our progressive attempts to transcend the inhuman state of nature.

    11. Saying that the Fed caused the Great Depression is like saying WWII was caused by Hitler’s invasion of Poland. There’s a wee bit of laissez faire historical buildup in the decade that preceded the Depression, which Nomi Prins explains at great length in All the President’s Bankers:

      ‘For the most part, the philosophy of these three Republican presidents [Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover] was simple. They believed the role of government should be to facilitate, rather than regulate, the growth of business and finance, and that such an approach would strengthen America. They embodied the “laissez-faire” (in English, “Let them do”) doctrine, and they were determined not to leave a distinctive mark on the post of the presidency. Isolationism became a form of denial, leaving room for the bankers to expand their control over the country’s economy—and to take greater financial risks domestically and globally...

      ‘On October 20, 1923, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, already expressing concern about excessive private loans, had addressed a bankers’ convention about bankers’ risky behavior in extending more debt. “There are responsibilities which come to you…to develop an understanding of the difference between speculation and investment at home, but of even more importance, to safeguard our country in the investments abroad. In the case of loans…to foreign countries our people are even less able to judge of the security than they are in the case of domestic issues. Thus where foreign loans are involved even more depends upon the character of the bankers.”

      ‘But by late 1924, the bankers didn’t care about a possible collapse of international loans. Such lending expanded their power to finance and thus to direct development of the world. The combination of isolationism at home and internationalism abroad had rendered bankers more reckless, competitive, and hungry. They embraced Coolidge’s leadership, unencumbered as it was by notions of regulation or oversight. Coolidge and Mellon were spectators, cheerleaders, and enablers, infatuated with what appeared to be substantial growth in the nation’s wealth—which is, of course, always good for politics…

      ‘Early in his second term, on February 26, 1926, Coolidge signed the Mellon Bill, which further cut income taxes, deleted the gift tax, halved the estate tax, and reduced taxes on the wealthy to 25 percent.61 Solidifying his stance in the face of rising public criticism of favoritism to the elite throughout the year, Coolidge argued that “human nature cannot be changed by an act of the legislature. It is too much assumed that because an abuse exists it is the business of the national government to remedy it.”

      ‘Coolidge’s belief that government should yield no overbearing presence in people’s lives coincided with Mellon’s plans to cut taxes and tighten budgets—a tactic that might have worked had it not left the financial world to its own devices in the process. But increasingly, prosperity was measured by bankers’ ability to inflate the values of paper representations (stocks and bonds) of production and goods, not the goods themselves. Money in people’s pockets, realized or illusory, needed an outlet. That was the stock market, which billowed on extensive domestic borrowing to fund investment…

    12. ‘Even before the bubble of the mid-1920s, there existed signs of trouble brewing in the land of plentiful credit extensions. In November 1923, the Federal Reserve began increasing its holdings in government securities (such as Treasury bonds) by a factor of six, from $73 million to $477 million, in what could be considered the first instance of “quantitative easing.” This keeps rates low, not by setting them explicitly but by forcing the price of bonds up, which has the net effect of driving rates down.

      ‘The Fed’s move made money cheaper for the banks to borrow at the beginning of the 1920s and paved the way for speculative excess. The prevailing mentality was that prices would rise forever—a classic bubble mentality. But by the mid-1920s, the amount of deposits backing loans or shaky investments declined significantly as leverage increased, such that any losses would reverberate more than during any prior crisis…

      ‘These 1920s bankers weren’t deer caught in the headlights of market mayhem. They knew much more about why the market was tumbling than the unsuspecting public. They were aware that the margins (or collateral backing loans) they had tried to collect from customers would put many out of business. They understood that inflated stock and bond prices were the result of their words and strategies and how flimsy that kind of support was. Lamont and Wiggin had taken profits on their personal trades. They also knew that international bonds were poorly constructed and backed by shaky collateral.

      ‘These men took comfort in knowing that the institutions they represented were deeply interlocked with board memberships and stock ownerships. They might as well have been one big bank, and a bank that contained so much potential for future American financial glory couldn’t—wouldn’t—fail. All they needed was a plan to convince the average American that this “panic” selling was temporary and unfounded. Or so the thinking went…

      ‘…the bankers were coordinating to save the markets they had overinflated to begin with. The Federal Reserve’s actions in buying securities to boost prices also helped promote the illusion of financial health. If anything, the very public actions of the bankers and the more private (or less widely understood) actions of the Fed served to suck more people into an unstable market.

  28. "If we’re animals, then go live in the wild"

    Cities are the natural environment for humans. Cities are the "wild" for people. I don't get why you keep conflating some kind of untouched jungle or whatever, with the natural state for humans. Beavers build dams, we build houses, neither one allows us to escape from natural reality.

    "Certainly, the richest one percent is hypocritical in talking about the need for “deregulation,” ".... That's a rather unnuanced claim. According to that argument, the richest one percent should want full blown communism because that gives the maximum government protections. What makes you so sure the richest 1% can't protect their interests without the government?

    ". They want legal protections removed for the majority, but legal protections preserved and strengthened for the minority of power elites,"... citation please.

    "so that they can consolidate their power over democracy"... so according to you, the roughly 50%-ish of the population who are conservatives "have power over democracy and rule in a plutocracy" and want to consolidate it? Seriously?

    Percentage of IQ caused by genes: I cited actual results from a plethora of studies that says it is 80%, not 50%. You cited a Scientific American fluff piece that says 50%, but doesn't say where and when. For children, yes it's lower than 80%. And if you compare in a 3rd world country, also it will be less because the environment is so much more variable. But in a 1st world country, for adults, it is 80%. As for epigenetics, it still has to work with the raw material of your genetics and is accounted for in the 80%.

    I don't know why you bring up the Stone Age, since I wasn't even talking about back that far. As for "behavioral modernity", also irrelevant, I'm not talking about that either. Whatever theory you want to run with, there was a time, 100,000 years ago when we were too stupid to create the modern world, with buildings, streets, governments, written language etc etc. Over time we became smarter to the modern day, when.. at least some races have been able to achieve that modernity. But still not all! The fact that aboriginal Australians never invented the wheel, never built a single storey structure, never made a road, never invented an alphabet or a written language, means when humans started out, they also were incapable of that.

    Why are you still waffling on about culture explaining differences in intelligence between races? Even you've conceded genetics is at least 50% (which may be a reasonable number if comparing primitive people with people in the modern world), so even you've conceded it's half genetic, and the best we can hope for is to take someone from a low IQ group and raise them half way towards ourselves. But now you're backtracking again to some kind of 100% environmental, 0% genetic position, which no scientist, even raving hard left ones would try and claim. With Aboriginal Australians, the government is continually confused like little children why they can spend untold billions on Aboriginal Australians, give them special quotas for universities, special allowances and so forth, free houses, and yet they never seem to make even small strides towards having the success of white people or Asians. For many decades they've had endless programs to "close the gap" and yet the gap is as wide as it ever was.