I guess I don't have any pressing agenda at the moment. When last we met, we were -- just for fun -- seeing what might happen if ideological Darwinism collided head on with the anti-ideological Voegelin, using Henrich's The WEIRDest People in the World as our crash test dummy.
It reminds me of when David Letterman used to drop objects -- from watermelons to TVs -- from a high-rise, just to see what it looks like when they splatter on the ground. Same. We're going to push Henrich's naively reductive scheme off the top floor just to watch it break into pieces.
Before doing so -- or as a prelude -- why in principle is metaphysical Darwinism doomed to failure? Here's one informal way to measure the magnitude of the problem: I do a lot of highlighting when I read a book, and have evolved an array of idiosyncratic symbols, depending upon the importance of the point. This allows me to pull a book from the shelf and immediately identify everything from its One Big Idea to its granular facts and details.
When I come across a really stupid point, I put a ? in the margin. If it's really, really stupid, I might put a ?!. But if it's really, really, really stupid, I put a dismissive or contemptuous HA! Suffice it to say, there are a great many ?s, ?!s, and HA!s in the margins of this book. I cited an example the other day:
And from a scientific [?!] perspective, no "rights" have yet been detected hiding in our DNA or elsewhere. This idea sells because it appeals to a particular psychology."
Was he just trying to be ironic, or funny? Then stick to your day job and leave the gags to us!
Here's another example: do you like living in Western civilization? I do. Well, it's all just a big misunderstanding, an accident of natural selection: "there were many religious groups competing in the Mediterranean and Middle East," and "The Church was just the 'lucky one' that bumbled across an effective recombination of supernatural beliefs and practices."
Okay fine. What's good for the nous is good for the tenured: what is the principle Henrich is defending? That humans habitually confuse what is true with what has merely survived the ordeal of natural selection.
This being the case, it is equally logical to say that "there were many philosophical ideas competing in academia, and sociobiology was just the lucky one that bumbled across an effective recombination of infra-rational beliefs and practices."
Dávila: Reducing another’s thought to his supposed motives prevents us from understanding him. Reducing another's thought to the accidents of biology is just... HA!
Memo to Henrich: all beliefs are supernatural, which is to say, transcendent. Otherwise you're in the absurcular position of arguing that the theory of natural selection was naturally selected. I realize this is basic stuff, but c'mon, man! Stop conflating science and philosophy. Scientism isn't a philosophy, just a quick way to commit intellectual suicide.
Here's another beaut: "The much-heralded ideals of Western civilization, like human rights, liberty, representative democracy, and science, aren't monuments to pure reason, as so many assume."
Rather, they are ultimately traceable to "a peculiar package of incest taboos, marriage prohibitions, and family prescriptions that developed in a radical religious sect -- Western Christianity."
Where to even begin? It's like trying to debate Biden, which cannot overcome Brandolini's Law: The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.
Please don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying that it's okay to boink your sister or marry your first cousin. Rather, Henrich is conflating necessary and sufficient conditions. Yes, you shouldn't boink your sister; no, refraining from doing so doesn't automatically result in the U.S. Constitution, natural science, human rights, and the Pieta.
Here's another problem: is there such a thing as an objective human norm? NO!, says the ideological Darwinian. For how can there be an objective norm when anything we call a "norm" is just an accidental consequence of natural selection?
Recall that WEIRD is a cute acronym for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democrat. Me? I rather enjoy being an affluent and educated individual living in a liberal democracy rooted in self-evident truth. I suspect you like it too, trolls excepted.
But if you were born in China or Saudi Arabia, you would have a very different psychology, and there's no way to arbitrate between the two: one is as good or bad as the other. Natural rights? They are fundamentally no different from lactose tolerance. Some people didn't evolve the digestive ability to tolerate milk. Others can't tolerate free speech. Same difference.
No, I'm not exaggerating. For example, I have an Evangelical friend who -- unlike me, the second laziest man in LA county -- is a conspicuously ambitious and hard worker. I wonder what drives him? Well, "research suggests" that
some forms of Protestantism may have stumbled onto an ingenious way to harness men's cravings for forbidden sex to motivate them to work harder, longer, and more creatively. Protestants can boil off their guilt through productive work, by heeding their calling.
It is indeed amazing what a man accomplish by not boinking his sister.
Here in the Christian west we like the idea of an abstract and impersonal rule of law. Or at least we used to. Conservatives are still rather attached to it, while the left is at war with it. Is it because we don't boink our sisters? Pretty much: "who's to even say that two legal decisions stand in contradiction?" For
in many societies, law is about restoring harmony and maintaining the peace, not, as it is for more analytic thinkers, about defending individual rights or making sure that abstract principles of "justice" are served.
Correct: there's no justice, only "justice." And yet, try telling that to some inbred leftist!
I didn't intend this post to descend into pure insultainment. Here's one last example. Henrich, in his eagerness to attack Christianity, writes on p. 145 that the Greek and Roman gods were "upholders of public morality," and that unflattering depictions of them are merely a result of "Christian spin doctors" making them look bad.
Twenty pages later he discusses this fine Roman morality, writing, for example, that "It was within the father's power to kill his slaves or children."
Does this imply that Christian morality is somehow superior to Roman morality? Can't be. Our genes permit and perhaps even necessitate moralizing, but there is in principle no objective way to arbitrate between diverse moralities, any more than the genes permit us to distinguish between Darwinism and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
But what if 2 + 2 really is 4? In other words, what if truth exists and man may know it? That changes everything.
The natural sciences, where the process of falsification prevails, take only errors out of circulation; the social sciences, where fashion prevails, also take their achievements out of circulation. --Dávila.