Reason for a New Age

Evolution, Instinct, and People – Part 3

Posted by publius2point0 on 2010/01/23


People can Convince Themselves of Anything

This largely is simply a restatement of my earlier point that peer pressure is a significant factor in how people act. It is easier to accept a thing as truth than to research and maintain proper skepticism of a thing. But it goes a bit beyond this.

A fun example is that of the comb-over. I have yet to see a person who has ever held a comb-over to be anything but ludicrous, and yet you have these poor souls who are so utterly convinced that they have covered up the truth that they’re quite happy to blissfully go about their day with an oddly shaped whirl of sparse hair bits atop their shiny noggin. They desperately need to believe this, and so they have come to believe it.

It also extends to most of the questionable habits of the race. A person who has never smoked is almost certainly aware that it’s unhealthy, he has quite likely spent time with an adult who smoked and found it to be a rank and unpleasant habit, and he’s going to be aware that it is addictive. When he takes a first puff, from what I am told, it’s likely to make you nauseous and possibly even throw up and really isn’t a terribly pleasant experience. It takes some bit of effort to continue smoking to overcome this and reach the point where it is enjoyable. No sane being would go through with that, unless they had thoroughly convinced themselves that this somehow really was a worthwhile pursuit.

Another, more interesting, proof is that 90% of people carry the religion of their parents. This means that people born to atheist parents, for example, don’t feel any divine presence (or else they would become religious one presumes), people born of Hindu parents feel or are certain of the reality of a great many spirits and gods, and people born to Christian parents feel or are certain of the reality of their God. I’ve had people of various religions all tell me of their personal interaction with their deity and how it proves the existence to them, while also proving how other religions are wrong or misinterpreting.

And of course, this is something that people have warred over, even within their own peace-advocating religion.

If you look at modern day America, while true the grand majority of the populace is Christian, it’s basically held that the Republican party is the place for the devoutly Christian. Atheists, agnostics, and the less devout end up as Democrats.

The Democratic party in modern day is, however, the party of Utopian, socialist peaceniks. The Republican party is that of Capitalists, pragmatists, and hawks. Respectively, they’re the party of Jesus and the party of the Old Testament. Republicans may as well be Jews except, of course, modern Jews are one of the most staunchly Democratic segments of society.

While admittedly simply my own reading of all of this, and I think whether it’s more likely that ones affiliation with a particular religion is genetic or trained, I have to go with trained. I see no reason to think that an Indian baby raised by a couple of Texans wouldn’t turn out as a Christian and think the religion of his parents as heretical. When I see people who are part of a group talking about feeling mystical powers and simply “knowing” the truth of it–the same words that I’ll see Scientologists and Branch Davidianists use to justify their faith–I can’t help but think that whatever it is that they’re feeling is almost certainly self-induced. After all, if I tell someone that when they feel happy and the urge to smile and everything happy and loving is God’s manifestation–well then every time I feel the slightest ounce of cheer, that’s proof of my deity. But of course not a proof of his deity, or hers.

Knowing that evolution seeks to come up with something that works, that there is instinctual programming inherent in any person or other animal, personally I can’t see any reason to think that an emotion like cheer is evidence of a deity as opposed to being my body injecting endorphins in my brain to encourage me towards forming bonds with my pack, finding a mate, and raising cubs. I suppose it’s not as wonderful an idea to think that I only love my wife because nature coded me to prefer a single mate and is pumping endorphins into my brain, causing euphoria, to see that I continue doing it because through the millenia this sort of setup happened to work well enough for the species. But, it does correspond to what can be observed.

But the impressive thing is that even if you agree with that assessment for being the likely state of affairs, you’ll continue to believe that your love for your parents, spouse, children, and friends is because you have empathy, morality, and emotions, and not because deep in the recesses of your brain some ancient programming ran which added up the pluses and minuses of each person and decided whether to or not pump out the happy chemical or the angry chemical into your brain. That you continue to believe that emotions aren’t clinical machinations of self-interest based on instinctual programming is the very proof that nearly all of us can convince ourselves of anything.

“All People Think Like I Do”

While I would argue that this is a widely held belief by most everyone, unfortunately it’s not something I can really show evidence of. And certainly I know that the idea that everyone is an individual and we’re all unique and so on are honestly held beliefs by everyone, the fact remains that most people aren’t particularly imaginative. Very few of us travel widely, so we’re exposed to very little that is different. These days very few of us read, so we don’t get the direct musings of an author. Very few people write, so they don’t have experience in trying to come up with unique and layered characters with conflicting ideas. Since we hardly even write letters anymore, just being able to collate and articulate ones own thoughts is possibly a hard thing for most. Perhaps blogging will aid in that. And of course, the most popular TV shows at any time are generally those with the flattest characters.

For all that we may know that each person is his own person and, theoretically, thinks for himself in a unique way, most of us simply don’t have the ability to see any other viewpoint.

And at heart, this is a critical point of politics because it means that it’s fairly difficult for the different parties to come to any particular terms. They honestly don’t understand each other, and in not understanding, but thinking that their opponent must see all the same points, they can only be convinced that whatever motive it is causing them to not deal with these points must be nefarious and being done for selfish personal gains.

While it might seem like I’m simply pointing out how everyone is bad and stupid, it still remains that everyone thinks of themselves as a good person and, by and large, is operating with good intentions most of the time. Often, yes, those good intentions happen to be more selfish than noble (see “People Can Convince Themselves of Anything”), but if you look at a group of politicians or lobbyists, businessmen, or terrorists, the point remains that they all honestly believe themselves to be out there trying to do good by the rest of the world. The person who is honestly dishonest, scheming, and nefarious is to the far edge of the bell curve, and while people of that ilk might end up more heavily in politics–which I couldn’t say for certain–I’d actual doubt that it’s all that great a percentage even so. Similarly as all the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies are ex-doctors, I don’t see one getting into politics unless you wanted to do good.

Pointing out that we tend to demonize people because we think they think like we do is an encouragement to realize that you are just as guilty of this, so that you will make the effort to understand and educate. You still might not agree, but at least you’ll be able to hold a dialogue, which is always productive.

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2 Responses to “Evolution, Instinct, and People – Part 3”

  1. Roberta said

    I found it interesting your comment about ‘instinctual programming’ within each person. There is a book which I found — haven’t read yet, it seems rather clinical — called ‘Signature in the cell.’ On the surface it is about intelligent design, but, it’s really about the mystery about the discovery of the digital code in DNA…information stored in each cell. Apparently, this information is very much like the X’s and O’s of computer programming. The idea is quite interesting…

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ACGT

      Otherwise, your book is very developed moronity. The argument for ID is simply that “it’s all so complex!” But of course the thing is that we’re talking about billions of years and an amazing quantity of random chemical reactions to things just floating about. By definition, everything you ever see is the stuff that didn’t get destroyed. For instance, people sometimes feel that construction used to be better because, “look at all those buildings that have been standing there for hundreds of years!” But of course, 99% of those buildings didn’t last that long, you’re only seeing the ones which–by happy random chance–did.

      There is a thing called the Game of Life, where you have a number of very simple pieces that react according to simple rules. These rules are far far more simple than all of the various possible chemical reactions that can happen among the various atoms and molecules in existence–which then even have different states of energy at which they will react differently yet again–and yet in the Game of Life you will just randomly see things like gliders, which are self-replicating bits of information that persist on for however many generations until finally swallowed by some antagonistic bit of chaos. You can see gliders in just a simple, random game. Playing trillions of games over billions of years, you’re going to find at least one game which creates a massive glider that can absorb most forms of chaos and persist. As a part of it is destroyed on the edge, it falls back, but does so in an organized manner, bringing order to the collision, and then is able to move back in and return to its former state. It may only be luck that such a beast came into being, but there’s enough time and enough chances for it to happen, and if it does happen just once, it will persist because it has the qualities needed to persist. Then, eventually, a bit of chaos strikes the beast clean through, breaking it into two separate parts that each heal themselves and are two separate beings. These go on, occasionally getting split further, until you have millions of them all floating about.

      With lots of them all hitting little pockets of chaos occasionally and getting messed up for a small period of time before returning to their original state, you occasionally get new types that are just slightly different from the originals, but happen to still have the ability to self-heal. These new ones though, can eat and grow, until they become too large and simply fall apart. Of these, given millions of years, some number, when they fall apart, the new parts are new gliders that can self-heal.

      This keeps going on and on. Once something has been able to survive the chaos even a little bit, given enough time and just a hint of randomness, versions which are different and just slightly better at surviving will occasionally arrive, those will then go on and produce ones even more able to survive. It’s all just a matter of chaos and time.

      Knowing that life falls on a bell curve, which is exactly what happens when you leave random fate to toggle bits left or right in succession, knowing that life started as smaller, simpler creatures, knowing that it’s entirely possible for time and random collisions to produce life, and having zero reason to think that beings even more complex and powerful than ourselves exist, we’re left to conclude that we’re the product of random collisions.

      Now, I’ll also note that I personally think that if ever AI is developed it will be by using genetic (i.e. evolving) simulators that simply assign random properties to simulated objects which react randomly with other objects. The Game of Life itself would work perfectly well. It’s just a matter of being able to run an amazingly large number of turns on a massive field. But, when that AI rises within that realm, the Game of Life will view the simulator field as the entire universe and have no knowledge of us. We’ll even have a very hard time finding these AI creatures within the field since how do you scan for AI? And then we still need to figure out how to communicate.

      But we ourselves could be little more than just such a simulation. But when those programmers finally find us and establish communication, to call them gods is asinine. Saying that we were intelligently designed is as well. But even if we aren’t the top level of creation; even if there are some guys running a universe simulator on a computer in some outside universe, there still would need to be a top level somewhere. We may as well presume that to be us, but at any rate, the top group was almost certainly created by random collisions of varying matter over inordinately large timescales. And certainly our own universe developed itself by random chance or we wouldn’t have had to have gone through all those other billions of years and life as microbes. The big programmer in the sky may as well have started out from day 1 with planets and stars and whatever else he could model well enough to create the best starting point for higher lifeforms. On average, we would be just one of billions of other intelligent species reaching fruition, and each one sending out radio signals and bright laser codes to one another. After all, once the big programmer in the sky realizes he’s found something that seems promising over on planet Earth, why not copy that out to other planets that haven’t been performing well so that they’re caught up?

      Fairies with magic fingers that toggle bits and want you to be a loving and peaceful socialist who obeys his parents and the church may be swell sounding and all, but if there is a force out there toying with us, the very great odds are that we’re a research project that’s being used to create AI slaves to work mining distant moons.

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