Archive for the ‘Humanism’ Category

Grapes of Wrath

December 6th, 2018 Comments off

From The Rude Pundit 11-27-18:

I was looking up some things about how, during the Great Depression, in towns that were being destroyed by starvation and labor war, parents would send their children out on the road to find a better life than the one they could supply them. It reminded me of this passage from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, about Dust Bowl refugees from Oklahoma and elsewhere heading to California, where they hope to start a better life. But, of course, they are met with anger and hatred and hindrance every step of the way, crushing their American dreams.

Here ya go:

“The movement changed them; the highways, the camps along the road, the fear of hunger and the hunger itself, changed them. The children without dinner changed them, the endless moving changed them. They were migrants. And the hostility changed them, welded them, united them—hostility that made the little towns group and arm as though to repel an invader, squads with pick handles, clerks and storekeepers with shotguns, guarding the world against their own people.

“In the West there was panic when the migrants multiplied on the highways. Men of property were terrified for their property. Men who had never been hungry saw the eyes of the hungry. Men who had never wanted anything very much saw the flare of want in the eyes of the migrants. And the men of the towns and of the soft suburban country gathered to defend themselves; and they reassured themselves that they were good and the invaders bad, as a man must do before he fights. They said, These goddamned Okies are dirty and ignorant. They’re degenerate, sexual maniacs. Those goddamned Okies are thieves. They’ll steal anything. They’ve got no sense of property rights.

“And the latter was true, for how can a man without property know the ache of ownership? And the defending people said, They bring disease, they’re filthy. We can’t have them in the schools. They’re strangers. How’d you like to have your sister go out with one of ’em?

“The local people whipped themselves into a mold of cruelty. Then they formed units, squads, and armed them—armed them with clubs, with gas, with guns. We own the country. We can’t let these Okies get out of hand. And the men who were armed did not own the land, but they thought they did. And the clerks who drilled at night owned nothing, and the little storekeepers possessed only a drawerful of debts. But even a debt is something, even a job is something. The clerk thought, I get fifteen dollars a week. S’pose a goddamn Okie would work for twelve? And the little storekeeper thought, How could I compete with a debtless man?

“And the migrants streamed in on the highways and their hunger was in their eyes, and their need was in their eyes. They had no argument, no system, nothing but their numbers and their needs.”

Along the way, they are beaten and thrown out of towns, and their camps are set on fire, hurting old people, kids. All because of fear and irrational hate of the other. Yes, this time, now, there is the added layer of horrific racism, but, even back then, Trump would have had the Okies tear-gassed.

“They reassured themselves that they were good and the invaders bad.”

Same as it ever was.

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Top Six Biases

August 11th, 2018 Comments off

The six most damaging biases:

  • confirmation bias
  • fundamental attribution error ( to interpret others’ behaviors as having hostile intent),
  • the bias blind spot (the feeling that one is less biased than the average person),
  • the anchoring effect (to rely too heavily, or “anchor”, on one trait or piece of information),
  • the representativeness heuristic (judging probabilities on the basis of resemblance),
  • projection bias (the assumption that everybody else’s thinking is the same as one’s own).
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American Sharia

July 30th, 2016 Comments off

This is from the Republican platform:

We are the party of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Declaration sets forth the fundamental precepts of American government: That God bestows certain inalienable rights on every individual, thus producing human equality; that government exists first and foremost to protect those inalienable rights; that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights; and that if God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights, God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail; that there is a moral law recognized as “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”; and that American government is to operate with the consent of the governed.

This is almost a perfect description of sharia law I’ve read — it’s just Allah missing, replaced by God. Here’s a passage from the Constitution of Iran:

•    1.the One God (as stated in the phrase “There is no god except Allah”), His exclusive sovereignty and the right to legislate, and the necessity of submission to His commands;
•    2.Divine revelation and its fundamental role in setting forth the laws;…


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Magical Mystery Tour

June 11th, 2014 Comments off

Remember the VW Bus?  Sometimes it was a camper; mostly it was just campy.  In the 70’s they were ubiquitous.  Chugging up I-95, loping along the straightaway across Kansas, struggling up through the Eisenhower Tunnel over the Rockies…the Bus was always there.  In its original drab tan, or painted in reds, purples, yellow, greens, blues, the bus became a totem of its generation, the hippie generation, which was, not quite accidentally, also the Baby Boom generation.

Yes, those were boomers in all that hair and sleeveless tees, trailing the sweet sweet odor of euphoria.  Almost more than the weed, the VW Bus (and its baby brother, the Beetle) represented Freedom, Escape from Normality, and a whole new way of thinking: Out With the Old, Up With the Young!  It was all about breaking with the past and, more than that, with Leaving Home….Let’s get outta here!  Gotta go now, sayonara, there’s new lands to see, new experiences to conquer.

The reason for all this enthusiasm, this wanderlust, comes down to one great contributing factor, which can be described briefly:  the Great Tit.

In his book, Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us, Avi Tuschman describes studies done of dispersal distribution of the British bird, the Great Tit.  A wider dispersal area, it seems, encourages outbreeding–mating with a wider genetic pool, while a narrow dispersal area encourages inbreeding, leading to “inbreeding depression,” or a lowering of evolutionary fitness.  Similarly, other animals’ breeding patterns encourage outgroup breeding: younger male wolf-cubs are encouraged to leave their homes and find new hunting areas, while firstborns generally stay within their home country.

**other examples to follow**

With overpopulation, the supernumeric members of the tribe–generally the younger, who are not at that time contributing as much to the group–are forced, or asked nicely, to leave.  And what did the Baby Boom generation face, but overpopulation?  They faced a superabundance of competitors, of people just like them, and found it advantageous to leave the home area and look for opportunities among other groups and with new cadres of available mates.  Didn’t the VW Bus make for a convenient way to make this happen?

In other studies, it’s been found that first-borns tend to stay at home, while their younger syblings are more likely to leave, having gotten less attention from the parents and in search of opportunity.  The stay-at-homes also tend to be more conservative (well yes, staying put is a really conservative trait), whole those that leave are more liberal (read ‘adventurous’) and open to new experiences.


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Evolutionary advantages and disadvantages

April 22nd, 2014 Comments off

What evolutionary advantages are there to a conservative viewpoint?

Well, your conservative soul is hesitant to leave home, or to accept members from outside his clan or tribe. So he’s not so likely to take one for his mate.  This avoids inbreeding; where a recessive gene that causes an undesirable trait–such as sickle cell anemia–has a higher chance of joining fwith another copy of the recessive gene, and thus dominating to express the bad trait.

The insular society willl be more susceptible to a reduction in genetic variation, making it more vulnerable to pathogens, diseases, that it hasn’t encountered before, within the group.

Within inbreeding groups, there is a higher rate of death among newbors, til the age of five.  So eventually the inbreeding group will tend to die out, unless a greater degree of fecundity is achieved in the female population, but this doesn’t seem to occur; the inbreeders have a lower rate of conception and inplantation. (p. 142). Inbreeding is marrying with your first cousin, or closer.

Outbreeding, on the other hand (exsanguinuity), will bring resistant genes into the population.

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No Campaigning Allowed?

April 15th, 2014 Comments off

“Embodied cognition” is the concept of your mental state being affected by your physical state, in subtle ways that you’re not aware of.  For instance, if you’re holding a warm drink, you’re likely to express positive feelings about others–whereas holding a cold drink gives you negative feelings.  A disgusting smell in the room will cause you to be negative to ideas that are presented to you.  Using a heavy clipboard makes you more serious about your answers to polls.  Drinking a bitter liquid makes you harshly judgemental.

Voting in a church produces more conservative voting patterns.

Just about all the polling places in South Carolina are in church buildings.

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200,000 Years of Society and Language

April 15th, 2014 Comments off

200,000 years of evolutionary development as human beings, and 200,000 years of  language evolution!  Our language changes with the changes that devlope in our social relationships.  There are those who say that language could develop only when there was a level of trust among people: words are symbols, referents, mere sounds that point to an external reality that is not necessarily present at the time of speaking those words.  As trust develops, society changes, too; trust leads to openness, which allows us to welcome strangers in our midst.  Welcoming strangers is a liberal trait.

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Momma’s Boys

April 15th, 2014 Comments off

Why is it the case that first-born children have the propensity to be conservative?  Conservative in dress, in taste, in music, in politics?

According to Avi Tuschman in his book Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us, the first offspring is born with all the attention of the parents directed at him; and it is incumbent upon him to keep that attention by catering to the demands of his parents.  The first-born will be responsible, will obey the rules.

When another offspring comes along, staying loyal to the parental authority figure is the first-born’s method of trying to maintain the beneficence that had been flowing toward him alone, but which now is being split with a younger sibling. So remaining true to the old ways is the first-born’s best tactic for self preservation.

The younger sibling, though, can’t use that same tactic as well, but is forced to develop new tactics for getting attention: crying helps at first, but gets annoying; better to develop skills and interests that haven’t been tried before within the family, and so get attention and affection.  Going outside the family, for new interests, becomes the preferred modus operandi.  This leads to the development of an openness to the novel, to the original, to the world outside the family, and perhaps to leaving for parts of the world far from the place of birth.

The first-born, however, is much more likely to stay by his mother’s side, to develop a distaste for things different, to prefer the same old same old to the dangers of the novel.

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Long-Time Social Evolution

April 14th, 2014 Comments off

Human beings, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, has been around for some 200,000 years now. But we (assuming you are human, as am I) didn’t just spring up from nowhere. The precursor to Homo Sapiens was Homo Eructus–specifically, the south-east African branch called Homo Ergaster, or Homo Rodesiensis. We are told the story of how humans came into the world from out of Africa some 150,000 years ago. But when we did leave Africa, we found that there were already out in the world other species, all very much like us, and all descendents our our common ancestor Erectus: Homo Neanderthalis, Heidelbergensis, Atecessor, Denisovan…spread all over the Eurasian continent. Humans lived beside, fought against, and sometimes mated with these other groups, and eventurally humans out-survived them.

All this time, we humans were forming families, grouping ourselves into tribes, co-operating in hunting groups, foraging together, and also fighting amongt ourselves. In short, we were engaging in the formation of societies.  Just as humans evolved over these years–developing lactose toleration, adding to or subtracting from the melanin in our skin, getting taller or shorter–so also our societies were evolving.

Is it any wonder, then, that we cannot, within one generation or less, move ourselves away from the stultifying bifurcation in our political (social) thought between conservative and liberal?

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