Friday, July 16, 2010

I Will Survive!

My original beef with Libertarians is at a very basic level--I disagree with a great many of their philosophical foundations. Now this--Libertarians are Darwinian?

Well, selection might have maimed me
And the old Grim Reaper claimed me
Many years ago, but medicine kept both of them at bay.
Penicillin gave protection,
When without its help, selection
Would have taken me in childhood, and there'd be no me today.
My political opinion?
If your party is Darwinian
You're a right cold-hearted bastard who assumes your kind survives.
Evolution? Hell, I love it,
But I'm glad to rise above it
And to help both friend and stranger to live better, longer lives

From PZ again


Svlad Cjelli said...

Err, longer, better lives are selected.

Cuttlefish said...


Are you suggesting that the use of penicillin is genetic?

Blake Stacey said...

It's hinted our genes are tuned for selfish dealings,
but fuck our genes, for we're the ones with feelings.

Svlad Cjelli said...


Not really, but intentional cooperation is.

Cuttlefish said...

As is competition, depending on reproductive strategy. We can have all the intentional cooperation in the world, but without insulin, cuttleson would never get the chance to live long enough to reproduce. Evolution would not have a problem with that... but I would.

Svlad Cjelli said...

Now I'm just confused. (It looks like we're disagreeing on something, but I'm not sure what it is.) Did you homebrew insulin without help? On another note, I think the continued evolution of your lineage would indeed have a problem with the end of your lineage.

Cuttlefish said...

I think we are disagreeing (if we are) on mechanism. Cultural changes may or may not be an example of biological evolution; certainly, biological evolution influences cultural change (it must!)--for instance, much of Asian cuisine reflects the lactose-intolerant population, whereas European cuisine gives thanks to cheeses. But genetics is certainly not the only means by which cultures change and propagate.

Our cooperation, when compared to other social animals, appears unique; we cooperate with non-relatives! (Mind you, I believe that the genetic components of cooperation, selected while those who were physically close to us were also genetically close to us, do underly our cooperation with strangers. But there are more mechanisms at work than just genetics.) Cooperation is learned through imitation, through explicit teaching, through individual learning... These mechanisms are much faster than biological evolution, as they are not dependent on genetic change. And, of course, the progress of [in this case] medicine has been phenomenal.

Natural selection would deal with diabetes, in the long run, by killing off those who are predisposed to it (or perhaps by making reproduction happen younger, before diabetes can kill of the breeders). And it would not care that my son was an evolutionary dead end.

I would.

Svlad Cjelli said...

Imitation and teaching don't themselves seem to be learned behaviours. Specialists like professional teachers have rather reinforced a behaviour they could already show.

My original point was that social darwinism in most cases seems based on an interpretation of "fit" as "looks good covered in baby oil", and in most remaining cases as either "can lift a fridge" or "enjoys sport hunting".

Cuttlefish said...

The teaching of imitation is a very important method for ABA--it is such a tremendously important skill (and one which most of us have learned at a very early age--no doubt with a strong genetic predisposition), but it absolutely is shaped and strengthened through interaction with the environment--learning. And while the notion of teaching being a behavior we do not have to actually learn may fit the beliefs of most of my university-level colleagues (yes, I'm being cynical), the evidence suggests that they are wrong.

WHat does social darwinism have to do with any of this? The original claim was that Libertarian philosophy was closest to Natural Selection; my point was that this is nothing to brag about, if you are concerned with the individuals who make up your society. Natural selection works by culling genetic lines who don't make it to the next generation; if this is something the Libertarians wish to emulate, they are right bastards.

A recent article found a Tibetan genetic mutation allowing for high-altitude living, described as the most recent human genetic adaptation yet found, emerging roughly 3000 years ago. The tremendous advances in medicine, technology, sanitation, etc., which have so impacted our lives, have emerged in a fraction of that time. Certainly, a genetic predisposition toward cooperation underlies that, but of course it also underlies our banding together to kill other groups. Yes, you need raw materials to work from, but the same ingredients can make very different dishes.

Svlad Cjelli said...

Yeah, there's been a shortage of educated teachers here for many years now. By "behaviour" I meant initiative rather than skill. In small similarity to the many things that make humans excellent distance runners - but only with enough maintenance.

"WHat does social darwinism have to do with any of this?"

It has been my understanding that libertarians have a tendency in favour of social darwinism, and that the two things share a certain similarity. But I acknowledge that political -ism words can lack a strong consensus, especially outside of academia.

On a side note, the tendency I think can be selected for isn't the technology of penicillin, only to give it to people. This came from a possible misunderstanding on my part that you were presenting a dichotomy between giving and withholding penicillin.

If your way results in longer and (better) healthier or more successful lives than the way of the libertarians, your way is at least a viable way, a fit way.