2 September 1999................evolution and the EEA
Quoting from THE MORAL ANIMAL by Robert Wright---------------"The point is just that it isn't correct to say that people's minds are designed to maximize their fitness, their genetic legacy. What the theory of natural selection says, rather, is that people's minds were designed to maximize fitness in the environment in which those minds evolved. This environment is known as the EEA---the environment of evolutionary adaptation. Or, more memorably: the ' ancestral environment.' Throughout this book, the ancestral environment will lurk in the background. At times, in pondering whether some mental trait is an evolutionary adaptation, I will ask whether it seems to be in the ' genetic interest ' of its bearer. For example: Would indiscriminate lust be in the genetic interest of men? But this is just a kind of shorthand. The question, properly put, is always whether a trait would be in the ' genetic interest ' of someone in the EEA, not in modern America or Victorian England or anywhere else. Only traits that would have propelled the genes responsible for them through the generations in our ancestral social environment should, in theory, be part of human nature today.
What was the ancestral environment like? The closest thing to a twentieth-century example is a hunter-gatherer society, such as the !Kung San of the Kalahari Desert in Africa, the Inuit (Eskimos) of the Arctic region, or the Ache of Paraquay. Inconveniently, hunter-gatherer societies are quite different from one another, rendering simple generalization about the crucible of human evolution difficult. This diversity is a reminder that the idea of a single EEA is actually a fiction, a composite drawing; our ancestral social environment no doubt changed much in the course of human evolution. Still, there are recurring themes among contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, and they suggest that some features probably stayed fairly constant during much of the evolution of the human mind. For example: people grew up near close kin in small villages where everyone knew everyone else and strangers didn't show up very often. People got married---monogamously or polygamously---and a female typically was married by the time she was old enough to be fertile.
This much, at any rate, is a safe bet: whatever the ancestral environment was like, it wasn't much like the environment we're in now. We aren't designed to stand on crowded subway platforms, or to live in suburbs next door to people we never talk to, or to get hired or fired, or to watch the evening news. This disjunction between the contexts of our design and of our lives is probably responsible for much psychopathology, as well as much suffering of a less dramatic sort." Questions: Since adaptation depends on environment and vice versa, is there an interface between the theories of evolution and complex adaptive systems? What is the relationship between scientific/ technological evolution and biological evolution? (PD)
4 September 1999..................moral behavior as obligation and for advantage
Quoting from THE MORAL SENSE by James Q. Wilson----------------"One can attempt to solve these puzzles of affectional behavior directed toward nonkin and nonhumans while remaining within a narrow interpretation of the evolutionary perspective by advancing the notion of reciprocal altruism: we engage in altruistic acts---such as helping nonrelatives, caring for adopted children, or being affectionate toward pets---in order to impress others with our dependability and hence to increase our opportunitites to have profitable exchanges with these others. There is a great deal of truth in this; having a reputation for doing one's duty, living up to promises, and helping others will enhance one's own opportunities. Moral behavior is far more common when utility conspires with duty, and the strongest moral codes are invariably those that are supported by considerations of both advantage and obligation." Comment: Spirtual growth is the foundation of interpersonal development which is the foundation of harmonious social organization. Questions: To what extent does culture and its inclusive paradigms affect harmonious social organization? Is the social system, like the economic system, a case of everything depends on everything else i.e.spiritual growth and culture interact, interpersonal development and culture interact, and harmonious (or discordant) social organization and culture interact? (PD)
7 September 1999................capitalism, religion, the state, and social capital
The following is an interview with James Q. Wilson (author of THE MORAL SENSE) which was printed in the July/August edition of Religion & Liberty, a publication of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. Comment: For many people capitalism is a harsh method of organizing economic activity and has a negative impact on spiritual growth and interpersonal development. Here is another viewpoint. According to Wilson, capitalism tends to promote, not destroy, a moral code that is conducive to harmonious social organization.
R&L: Unlike defenders of capitalism such as Friedrich von Hayek and Philip Johnson, who view capitalism as a morally neutral system, you see a clear relationship between morality and the free market. To your way of thinking, what is the connection between capitalism and morality?
Wilson: To me, capitalism is neither immoral nor amoral but, on balance, a moralizing force. True competition gives to businesspeople an incentive to acquire a good reputation, and to clerks an incentive to treat customers fairly. These incentives, I think, produce more than mere pretense; they actually change behavior. Imagine working at McDonald's where you must say "Yes, Ma'am" or "Yes, sir" to every customer. People working for minimum wage will do this countless times a day and, in time, I suspect, will do it even when off the job. Or imagine competing for customers with Burger King, Taco Bell, and Wendy's. Each firm must work hard to please customers by serving fresh food with no harmful consequences. Successful retail competitors act as if ther are---and, I imagine, in fact, really are---more attractive people than unsuccessful ones, but some of the lattter learn to be the former.
R&L: What other examples can you offer of ways that capitalist structures act as a moralizing influence in a free society?
Wilson: Capitalism seeks ways to minimize costs, so it will find racial discrimination burdensome, thus helping put an end to it. Gary Becker, the Nobel laureate, showed how costly bigotry is. It shuts a firm off from many potential customers and from many potential workers, thus lowering sales and raising labor costs. The costs of segregation can be withstood when law and custom mandate it, but when segregation ended in the South, business firms desegregated much more quickly than government entities, such as schools.
R&L: You have noted that the free market cannot function well without certain kinds of moral and social capital---trust, diligence, and frugality, for example. Where does this capital come from and how is it preserved?
Wilson: Free-market systems require, obviously, certain personal qualities, including trust in those who borrow from you, a willingness to invest (that is, to defer present enjoyments for future benefits), and a readiness to take the demands of customers seriously. This social capital arises from long-sustained competition, from a culture that assigns a high value to making human character decent, and from a political system that refrains from rewarding people for their power rather than for their performance. Capitalism alone cannot produce sufficient social capital. Culture and government must add their share by giving people incentives to be civil, by rewarding savings, and by encouraging trust. Because culture and government are so important, successfully capitalistic nations tend to be democratic states with a strong culture. This is why democracy and capitalism together make some nations so much richer than others.
R&L: What role does religion have in the formation of social capital?
Wilson: All important religions require you to do to others as you would have them do to you. In this way religion expands the range of human obligation from self and family to neighbors, visitors, and strangers. Without this wider sense of obligation, society can never expand beyond the boundaries of a family, a village, or an ethnic group. Since ethnic rivalries are the chief cause of human discord today, it is obvious how difficult it is for the Golden Rule to make headway. In addition, religion must coexist with human freedom, and this relationship, of necessity, requires religious freedom. With such freedom, many sects will prosper, and none will be the sole state church. But religious freedom does not mean religious weakness, since virtually every church---Christian, Jewish, or Islamic---teaches the same fundamental moral lessons.
R&L: Some have argued---Joseph Schumpter, most notably---that capitalism contains the seeds of its destruction within its successes; in other words, that it tends to destroy the very social capital it needs to survive. How do you respond to this claim?
Wilson: Joseph Schumpeter's claim that capitalism would be destroyed by its successes rests in part on his unusual definition of capitalism. To him, capitalism was not simply a system of people who own private property and who engage in voluntary transactions; it was that, plus a reliance on credit to finance innovations. I think he was wrong. Credit creation has not had the effects he suspected of killing technological innovation and rewarding only the largest and most powerful firms. Because he was wrong about this, he was wrong to predict that socialism would, in time, replace capitalism.
R&L: Do the changes that capitalism precipitates in the social and cultural orders, though, create certain challenges for capitalism?
Wilson: Capitalism, narrowly defined, has, in fact, created its own opponents. It requires the maintenance of universities and the free exchange of expertise, and these, in turn, give rise to an intellectual class that to a great degree is hostile to capitalism. This is the New Class that lives off of ideas more than practical affairs and that sees bourgeois society---the great social creation of capitalism---as hopelessly flawed. There are, of course, intellectuals who favor capitalism and bourgeois society, but they are usually a minority.
R&L: You have written, "If we wish prosperity, we must embrace freedom, and freedom means religious heterodoxy, not religious orthodoxy, a secular rather than a religious state, and a somewhat self-indulgent popular culture." This statement seems to indicate that you hold a rather pessimistic perspective of the role of religion in the free society, Is this so?
Wilson: I do not at all hold a pessimistic view of religion in society, only a pessimistic view of a society that embraces one church---I should say, one sect---as its preferred one. By "religious orthodoxy" I mean a single, state-sponsored church. This inevitably erodes human freedom, and reduced freedom will, in turn, harm religion.
R&L: What would you offer as an example of a more optimistic view of religion's role in the free society?
Wilson: I am struck by the extent to which profound cultural problems in the United States have summoned forth a religious response. In 1999 we already hear the two most likely contenders for the presidency talking about faith-based approaches to crime, drug abuse, and illegitimacy. That pattern is much less evident in European democracies. Abroad, faith in government solutions to cultural problems remains strong. But that faith is greatly exaggerated. Not only do nations such as England have higher property crime rates than does the United Sates, the rate of out-of-wedlock births is about as high in Europe as in America, even though their populations lack the problem of the experience of slavery, which left African Americans with weakened family systems. Moreover, the welfare state abroad has harmed the ability of those nations to compete in a world market, thus leaving their citizens worse off financially than Americans.
R&L: How, than, do you envision the role of religious faith in a free society?
Wilson: Most societies find that without a universalizing religion, human attachments remain focused on clan and village concerns. It was organized religion, combined with enlighted capitalism, that led Quaker merchants in England in the early part of the nineteenth century to become such staunch---and ultimately successful---foes of slavery. Much the same religious basis for the attack on slavery could be found in the United States. It is difficult to imagine that voluntary as opposed to clan-arranged marriages could have been created without the Roman Catholic Church's insistence on voluntarism. The control of clans over marriages was a powerful force that not only inhibited free choice but also impeded the growth of capitalism by making all agricultural workers subordinate to a controlling clan or family. I should say, however, that religious faith is not always essential for the creation of a decent society.
R&L: How so?
Wilson: Japan, for example, is conspicuous for having a decent culture but little in the way of a real religion. Japan is an interesting exception to all of these generalizations, apparently because it has a culture, unlike any found in the West, that uses shame and group pressure to achieve what freedom and religion have produced here. But this is one product the Japanese cannot export.
R&L: How does a free society prevent liberty from degenerating into mere license? And can it be prevented without a strong religious culture?
Wilson: Every mass culture faces a powerful temptation to degenerate into self-indulgence, but there are two barriers to this descent: First, human moral intuitions naturally resist social license, the destruction of the family, and an unabashed creed of "doing your own thing." Second, religion offers a transforming experience to people who have resisted these moral intuitions and so have descended into pathology.
R&L: Let's look at these two barriers each in turn. First, what do you mean when you say that human moral intuitions resist license?
Wilson: Americans are optimistic about their nation but pessimistic about its culture. That pessimism reflects the belief that the United States is less moral than it ought to be. That this view persists in the face of an entertainment media that so widely and persistently endorses self-indulgence is remarkable--apt testimony, I think, to the value that the great majority of people attach to caring for their children, protecting their property, honoring their promises, and living a good life.
R&L: As for the second barrier, can you unpack for us what you mean by the transformative experience of religion?
Wilson: The greatest success story in American society is the power of Alcoholics Anonymous to reclaim the lives of addicts by suggesting to them the power of God and placing them in a human environment in which members reinforce one another's abstinence. On a less grand scale, countless people report on having overcome adversity by faith.
R&L: You have written extensively on the nature of the human moral sense. Is there any connection between your vision of the moral sense and the classical or medieval understanding of the natural law?
Wilson: I certainly hope that my view reflects the natural law. My argument if that what serious people have defined as the natural law reflects in large measure the results of human evolution and human sociability. We must live with other people, and so we must understand what the rules of that engagement will be. Over time, human evolution has rewarded---with survival---people who are naturally sociable and so are well-equipped to value and understand human sociability. Aristotle first made this argument. Saint Thomas Aquinas fleshed it out.
R&L: Finally, in your mind, what is the connection between the moral sense and the free society?
Wilson: A free society requires a moral sense, something that it occasionally pretends it does not need. It needs it because freedom implies that important human relationships will be created out of spontaneous human contact and not decreed by some state authority. But since, for some people, freedom implies license, the state must set some limits on how much self-indulgence is acceptable. We have laws against drug abuse; we worry when people wish to sleep on the streets; we think that pornography should be restrained. People who love freedom alone object to many or all of these restrictions; people who wish to remake human nature object to much or all of this freedom. The contrast between the intellectual culture of some parts of the New Class and the ordinary culture of everyday people can be found in how they react to drug abuse, the homeless, and pornography. The delicate and never-ending task of any society is to strike the right balance between enforcing morality and expanding freedom.
Questions: Do you agree with Wilson that capitalism alone cannot produce sufficient social capital and that culture and government must add their share? Do you agree with his statement that the task of any society is to strike the right balance between enforcing morality and expanding freedom? Is the "enforcement" of morality immoral in itself? Can persuasion and consequence replace "enforcement"? Should it? (PD)
10 September 1999.....................nice, retaliatory, forgiving and clear
Quoting from THE ORIGINS OF VIRTUE by Matt Ridley-------------------------"Maynard Smith's games were ignored by economists, because they were in the world of biology. But in the late 1970s something rather disturbing began to happen. Computers started using their cold, hard, rational brains to play the prisoner's dilemma, and they began to do exactly the same thing as those foolish, naive human beings---to be irrationally keen to cooperate. Alarm bells rang throughout mathematics. In 1979, a young political scientist, Robert Axelrod, set up a tournament to explore the logic of cooperation. He asked people to submit a computer program to play the game 200 times against each other program submitted, against itself and against a random program. At the end of this vast contest, each program would have scored a number of points.
Fourteen people submitted programs of varying complexity, and to general astonishment, the 'nice' programs did well. None of the eight best programs would initiate defection. Moreover, it was the nicest of all---and the simplest of all---that won. Anatol Rapoport, a Canadian political scientist with an interest in nuclear confrontation who was once a concert pianist and probably knew more about the prisoner's dilemma than anybody alive, submitted a program called Tit-for-tat, which simply began by cooperating and then did whatever the other guy did last time. Tit-for-tat is in practice another name for Maynard Smith's Retaliator.
Axelrod held another tournament, asking people to try to beat Tit-for-tat. Sixty-two programs tried, and yet the one that succeeded was....Tit-for-tat itself! It again came out on top.
As Axelrod explained in his book on the subject: ' What accounts for Tit-for-tat's robust success is its combination of being nice, retaliatory, forgiving and clear. Its niceness prevents it from getting into unnecessary trouble. Its retaliation discourages the other side from persisting whenever defection is tried. Its forgiveness helps restore mutual cooperation. And its clarity makes it intelligible to the other player, thereby eliciting long-term cooperation ' .
Axelrod's next tournament pitted strategies against each other in a sort of survival-of-the-fittest war, one of the first examples of what has since become known as 'artificial life' . Natural selection, the driving force of evolution, is easily simulated on a computer: software creatures compete for space on the computer's screen in just the way that real creatures breed and compete for space in the real world. In Axelrod's version, the unsuccessful strategies gradually went to the wall, leaving the most robust program in charge of the field. This produced a fascinating series of events. First, the nasty strategies thrived at the expense of nice, naive ones. Only retaliators like Tit-for-tat kept pace with them. But then, gradually, the nasty strategies ran out of easy victims and instead kept meeting each other; they too began to dwindle in numbers. Tit-for-tat now came to the fore and eventually once again, it stood in sole command of the battlefield." Questions: Is politics a "nasty strategy"? Is Tit-for-tat a blueprint for a legal system that will contribute to harmonious social organization? Will this form of legal system eventually "command the battlefield"? (PD)
12 September 1999................regarding the 7 September 1999 input
You ask in your Questions: "Do you agree with Wilson that capitalism alone cannot produce sufficient social capital and that culture and government must add their share?"
I do not! But I concede the answer to your question depends on what you mean by culture and capitalism. What's this "share" business? I think the idea of "social capital" needs clarification to answer the important questions you raise to the provocative assertions of Wilson. Eric Szuter's human ethology studies utilizing Richard Dawkins "memes" (vis a vis genes) concept is the most pregnant approach I know of. Szuter points out ("Meme of Ownership," unpublished manuscript, 9/20/99): "Ownership," for example, is a complex meme. A meme is a concept Richard Dawkins introduced in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene." Szuter explains memes in terms of the constantly changing arrangement of neurons in peoples brains in response to learning from living in a cultural setting. The neurons themselves are formed according to the genetic inheritance of the person, pretty much fixed at the time of his conception. Ideas are said to consist of a certain pattern of neurons which are somewhat more readily rearranged and added to. The replication of ideas in the heads of others as they swim along in a cultural soup loaded with ideas explains the propagation of ideas under the physical limitation (as far as we know) that ideas are not actually transferred as by osmosis or injection. They are not so much transmitted as replicated, imitated, mimic-ed. Dawkins was looking for a term that conveys the idea of cultural transmission and he found he needed a unit of imitation. "Mimeme," from a suitable Greek root, was accurate but he wanted a monosyllable noun that sounded a bit like its biological antecedent "gene." Thus he sheepishly chose to abbreviate mimeme to "meme."
Now back to Wilson. Perhaps he and I disagree on the meaning and scope of "capitalism." Replication of ideas is inexact even when we have the same teachers. We all add and subtract nuances befitting our own view of experience. But as long as the "government" is a coercive instution, I can't see how conceivably "it" could discover, develop and teach "social capital," that body of ideas which constitute the positive and creative methods and means applicable to humans living with each other on earth productively and in peace.
As far as culture is concerned, how many times must a culture suffer anticapitalistic regimes (political governments) and orgies (government programs including war) before it is learnt that the culture acquires social capital, if it does, as a result of its individual members learning to get along with each other as moral equals. In other words, social capital develops and evolves as a reciprocal effect of a culture adapting to a laissez faire capitalistic mode of living which the culture is capable of manifesting but doesn't always manifest. Without laissez faire (live and let live, to each his own), there is no learning, only indoctrination. Just because a culture is inclined in a certain direction doesn't guarantee its members will come to know something anytime if ever. Cultures don't just "add" creatively to the cultural soup willy nilly some kind of saved-up social capital from inventory kept in a warehouse somewhere out of reach of government. And government doesn't just order one of its national laboratories to synthesize some social capital and ration it out to deserving clients and friendly nations. Hell, government wouldn't know social capital from a hole in the ground. What does a disease know about health?
"Do you agree with his statement that the task of any society is to strike the right balance between enforcing morality and expanding freedom?"
No again! How can tasks like duties be attributed to society? Is society some kind of higher organism that has a mind, uses technology, makes choices, has responsibilities and somehow promulgates a moral code? Who speaks for the "conscience" of society, if any, with such overarching authority that a "right" balance can be defined let alone struck between "morality enforcement" and "freedom expansion." Who indeed! This raises the question whether morality is applicable or meaningful to anything other than a single solitary individual human being acting under his own recognizance. (If I'm beginning to sound like a rabbi, its probably because this is the old Hebraic notion of morality and justice.) Does it make sense that an individual fashions his own morality and enforces it on himself? If not, how can there be anything analogous to this for something so anomolous as society? That society is some kind of "entity" for which we must synthesize, conjure up and contrive a spokesman with the power to control is an utter fiction. It probably comes out of the human tendency to believe humans are in control, not nature. Here is the source of all the mischief of the ages--arrogance.
"Is the ' enforcement ' of morality immoral in itself? Can persuasion and consequence replace ' enforcement '? Should it?" (PD)
If morality defines the kind of behavior that individual humans must use to fulfill their lives at no expense to anyone else's, where does enforcement come into the picture? Seems to me that if something alleged to be moral had to be enforced (inflicted by force by somebody on somebody else), the enforcer would have conceded ipso facto his particular moral precept was unworthy of practice inasmuch as it would not have been adopted by anyone unless forced to accept it. Only by persuasion and circumstance can any social or moral proposition be tested. And if it cannot be tested autonomously, it is not of the natural order of things and must therefore be contrived or imaginary, i.e. unreal.
It seems to me that Mr. Wilson has some more thinking to do to sort out his scholarship from his philosophy. He seems a sympathetic soul but is plainly inconsistent and misleading as I read his interview answers. Do you suppose he was pandering a bit to the interviewer? What more of Wilson's work would help us understand him correctly? (AL)
15 September 1999.......................alpha males and sacred cows
Quoting from TRUST by Francis Fukuyama---------------------"Cultural anthropologists and sociologists distinquish between culture and what they term social structure. Culture in this sense is restricted to meanings, symbols, values, and ideas and encompasses phenomena like religion and ideology. Geertz's own definition of culture is ' an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.' Social structure, by contrast, concerns concrete social organizations such as the family, clan, legal system, or nation. In this sense, Confucian doctrines about the relationship between fathers and sons belong to culture; the actual patrilineal Chinese family is social structure.
In this book, I will not make use of this distinction between culture and social structure because it is often difficult to distinquish between the two; values and ideas shape concrete social relationships, and vice versa. The Chinese family has a patrilineal structure in large measure because Confucian ideology gives preference to males and teaches children to honor their fathers. Conversely, Confucian ideology seems reasonable to those who have grown up in Chinese families.
The definition I will use draws on both culture and social structure, strictly defined, and comes closer to the popularly understood meaning of culture: culture is INHERITED ETHICAL HABIT. An ethical habit can consist of an idea or a value, such as the view that pork is unclean or that cows are sacred, or it can consist on an actual social relationship, such as the tendency of the eldest son in traditional Japanese society to inherit the whole of his father's estate.
Culture in this sense can perhaps be most easily understood in terms of what it is not. It is not rational choice as used by economists in their basic model of human beings as rational utility maximizers. By ' rational choice, ' I am speaking here in the first instance of rational means rather than rational ends---that is, the consideration of alternative ways of achieving a particular end and the selection of the optimal one based on available information. Choices influenced by culture arise out of habit. A Chinese person eats with chopsticks not because he or she has compared chopsticks to Western knives and forks, and finds the former better suited to manipulating Chinese food, but simply because those are the implements that all Chinese typically use. There is little rational choice involved in the Hindu worship of cows, which protects an economically unproductive bovine pooulation half as large as India's human population. Hindus nonetheless continue to worship cows.
The most important habits that make up cultures have little to do with how one eats one's food or combs one's hair but with the ethical codes by which societies regulate behavior---what the philosopher Nietzche called a people's ' language of good and evil. ' Despite their variety, all cultures seek to constrain the raw selfishness of human nature in some fashion through the establishment of unwritten moral rules. Although it is possible to affirm an ethical code as a matter of carefully considered rational choice, comparing one's own ethical code against available alternatives, the vast majority of the world's people do not do so. Rather, they are educated to follow their society's moral rules by simple habituation---in family life, from their friends and neighbors, or in school." Questions: If culture shapes our values and ideas and these in turn shape our social structure which in turn shapes our culture, is there any possibility of rational analysis of alternative systems resulting in the implementation of the one that is most reasonable relative to our goals? Or are we simply caught up in the evolution of this complex adaptive system and unable to change its course in any predictable way? Will the American revolution ultimately be seen as just another futile attempt to change the course of human social evolution in the same vein as the Russian revolution? Is rulership indigenous to homo sapiens and the rest just a question of who is the alpha male and who isn't? (PD)
20 September 1999....................between instinct and reason
Quoting from THE FATAL CONCEIT by F.A. Hayek------------------"We have mentioned the capacity to learn by imitation as one of the prime benefits conferred during our long instinctual development. Indeed, perhaps the most important capacity with which the human individual is genetically endowed, beyond innate responses, is his ability to acquire skills by largely imitative learning. In view of this, it is important to avoid, right from the start, a notion that stems from what I call the ' fatal conceit ' the idea that the ability to acquire skills stems from reason. For it is the other way around: our reason is as much the result of an evolutionary selection process as is our morality. It stems however from a somewhat separate development, so that one should never suppose that our reason is in the higher critical position and that only those moral rules are valid that reason endorses.
I shall examine these matters in subsequent chapters, but a foretaste of my conclusion may be in place here. The title of the present chapter,' Between Instinct and Reason ', is meant literally. I want to call attention to what does indeed lie BETWEEN instinct and reason, and which on that account is often overlooked just because it is assumed that there is nothing between the two. That is, I am chiefly concerned with cultural and moral evolution, evolution of the extended order, which is, on the one hand (as we have just seen), beyond instinct and often opposed to it, and which is, on the other hand (as we shall see later), incapable of being created or designed by reason.
My views, some of which have been sketched earlier (1952/79, 1973, 1976,1979), can be summarised simply. Learning how to behave is more the SOURCE than the RESULT of insight, reason, and understanding. Man is not born wise, rational and good, but has to be taught to become so. It is not our intellect that created our morals; rather, human interactions governed by our morals make possible the growth of reason and those capabilities associated with it. Man became intelligent because there was TRADITION - that which lies between instinct and reason - for him to learn. This tradition, in turn, originated not from a capacity rationally to interpret observed facts but from habits of responding. It told man primarily what he ought or ought not to do under certain conditions rather than what he must expect to happen.
Thus I confess that I always have to smile when books on evolution, even ones written by great scientists, end, as they often do, with exhortations which, while conceding that everything has hitherto developed by a process of spontaneous order, call on human reason - now that things have become so complex - to seize the reins and control future development." Comment: Kuhn called it a paradigm. Dawkins called it a meme. Culture transmits ways of thinking about right and wrong which seem impervious to argument by reasoned analysis. Questions: How can one explain sacrificing virgins, binding children's feet, and mutilation of women's sexual organs other than as a culturally transmitted mind set? If the next logical step beyond democracy is a system of anarcho-capitalism based on the Rothbardian concept of natural rights (The Ethics of Liberty), will the transition be a function of the path dependency of complex adaptive systems and therefore a question of probability based on cultural evolution patterns or is the process inevitable and just a matter of seeing how long it will take? Can we use the transition in thinking from the divine right of kings to majority rule as an analogy? (PD)