Quote note (#129)

The circular argument to end all circular arguments from John Gray:

Social evolution is just a modern myth. No scientific theory exists about how the process is supposed to work. There’s been much empty chatter about memes — units of information or meaning that supposedly compete with one another in society. But there’s no mechanism for the selection of human concepts similar to that which Darwin believed operated among species and which later scientists showed at work among genes. Bad ideas like racism seem to hang around forever, while the silly idea of social evolution has shown an awesome power to mutate and survive.

(Gnon laughs.)

November 9, 2014admin 29 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations

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29 Responses to this entry

  • Nick B. Steves Says:

    No mechanism for selection of human concepts? The mind (oops, well, whatever that thing is that makes me think I think) boggles.

    [Reply]

    Wen Shuang Reply:

    No independent selection. The mechanism is just biology. Concepts aren’t selected for, concept makers are. This is why colonialism works where education fails.

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 9th, 2014 at 4:00 pm Reply | Quote
  • Nick B. Steves Says:

    Bad designs like monotremeism seem to hang around forever, while the silly idea of marsupialism has shown an awesome power to mutate & survive. Curse you, Evolution for not living up to my high moral standards!

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    admin Reply:

    Things can hang around just by surviving! That’s obviously preposterous.

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    Posted on November 9th, 2014 at 4:04 pm Reply | Quote
  • Wen Shuang Says:

    Funny stuff! I will say that social evolution does not rely on meme theory, which is amyway bogus. Memetics relies on the idea that ideas are specific (proper) and representational. There is no credible theory of cognition that can make that work if you are referring to any idea more complex than specific representations like “a Griffen” or “Pepsi” (which are no longer ideas but are proper names indexing things) Also, memetics is incompatible with hbd because biology mediates perception and processing. Having said that, the types of “ideas” that are important, concepts, are the result of processes that are actually subject to adaptation- biological capacities like agent detection interacting with social practices/techniques. That said, societies evolve because human cognitive capacities are more or less cultivated in specific ways in specific environs. They are affected by biological adaptation and by material ecologies. What are called memes, traits or practices, don’t exist as extricable units. Simply, no amount of memetic intervention will help social evolution, it’s a bad nrx strategy. But social evolution is a thing- it’s the result of biological evolution and environment interaction. What we call memes are just epiphenomenal so it makes no sense to wage a meme war.it makes more sense to selectively mate and build things.

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    Aeroguy Reply:

    Meme theory has its uses. I think of memes as mind viruses, some benign like lol cats and others dangerous like equalism. Memes theory breaks down for describing good ideas, since good ideas aren’t built to be mind viruses. How it becomes useful is in helping us develop mental sanitation and the building of more robust mental immune systems. I agree that memes themselves aren’t the path to any sort of social evolution we would describe as beneficial.

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    Wen Shuang Reply:

    Even so, equalism isn’t a meme by any definition given for what memes are, hence the abundant hypocracy of the left. It’s not even an idea so much as an emic justification for its actual use as a performative utterance or rhetorical technique, which is why it’s so easy to point out where the left’s own conclusions and behavior don’t derive from it conceptually, as we see in migration and marriage practices. Notice how diverse leftist enclaves are, lol.

    “Equalism” doesn’t contain any content where it’s used, when you try to assign it empirical content, it’s really a hodge podge of who/whom signaling, in group competitiveness, stuff like that. The formal content post hoc assigned to it is just cover. In other words, there’s no causal efficacy or social agency to what we label “meme”.

    To be glib, I think the only immune systems we can have are some various arrangements of Autism-spectrum antipathy to conventional sociality, sociopathy, intelligence, asynchronic/remote communication, machine agency, and alienating environs. All of which push toward forcing symbolic explicitness, I’m sort of joking but not totally. It’s almost like we have to replace distinctly human cognition, at which point meme ecology might emerge. For right now, it doesn’t.

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 9th, 2014 at 5:42 pm Reply | Quote
  • Quote note (#129) | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on November 9th, 2014 at 8:44 pm Reply | Quote
  • Wen Shuang Says:

    @Wen Shuang

    “Equality” is just an imperfect proxy for Yankee forms of sociality and has less to do with equalism than with in/out group dynamics, specific expressions of altruism, etc. Killing “equalism” as though it were a meme would do nothing to eradicate those innate proclivities cultivated by responses to environment and population density. Need new environments and new people, maybe?

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    Posted on November 9th, 2014 at 10:10 pm Reply | Quote
  • Karl F. Boetel Says:

    john gray you have disappointed me

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    Posted on November 9th, 2014 at 11:18 pm Reply | Quote
  • SanguineEmpiricist Says:

    Well, even though he said this he’s still the main anti-enlightenment individual in town and he’s not going away. He’s probably an ally. The fact that he will not accept a straight-forward theory of meta-ethics/meta-morality is somewhat disappointing, but he has good reason.

    His book on Isaiah Berlin is incredible. People dismissing him out of hand are making a mistake.

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    Posted on November 10th, 2014 at 3:02 am Reply | Quote
  • WowJustWow Says:

    I think many of you are misreading this. Key quote:

    “In fact there’s nothing Darwinian about the idea of social evolution. The key feature of Darwin’s theory is that evolution has no overall direction.”

    So by “social evolution” he mostly means the sort of secular eschatology we’re all familiar with – that glorious end of history in which we will all live in a communist/libertarian/democratic/singularitarian [u/dys]topia. This is the primary subject of his book Black Mass, which, looking back on it, was my gateway drug into NRX. So don’t knock Gray too badly. We need him to gain progressive defectors.

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    SanguineEmpiricist Reply:

    Precisely.

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    admin Reply:

    My derision is restricted entirely to the passage cited (which is among the most ludicrous pieces of self-annihilating ‘reason’ I have ever seen). I don’t know Gray’s work well enough to have any more general opinion about it.

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    Posted on November 10th, 2014 at 6:32 am Reply | Quote
  • Rasputin Says:

    Straw Dogs was an important book for me back when it first came out. I still think it contains some pearls of Dark Enlightenment. His tracts against Logical Positivism are also very compelling.

    Although Moldbug’s withering assessment of his thinking is priceless: “even a blind pig sometimes finds a truffle”.

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    Posted on November 10th, 2014 at 9:05 am Reply | Quote
  • E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Says:

    I addressed the ‘equalist’ urge. It needs to be ruthlessly suppressed as a universal. Peers are the closest thing to ‘equality’. Discounting the selection and propagation of memes, and the impact of ideas (‘it’s just biology!’) misses the long-term effect of cultural differences (culture drives biology drives culture drives biology etc etc) – if it were no so, why, there’d be no such thing as neoreaction at all. It’s just using one of the elements of causation as the only element of causation… how… simian.

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    wenshuang Reply:

    @E Antony Gray

    Of course this is true, but no one is arguing against culture as involved in causality, Nor about the impact of ideas. The argument is that meme theory misrepresents what culture is, what ideas are, how they are made, and how they are transmitted, that’s what is meant by biology environment interaction. It’s just a bad theory unsupported by empirical evidence. To be clear, the idea of “equality” does not exhaust the set of phenomena responsible for “equalism”, I’d argue that they are evidently hardly related in practice. (You mention the origin of neoreaction, have you noticed anything else in common besides ideas?) The irony is meme theory relies on cognitive equivalence to work, presumably if it were true, we just need to educate (dispense the right memes to) Africa and it will flourish.Culture isn’t a set of semantic content.

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    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    this is wishful thinking, re: culture. Culture is a set of semantic contents, though they involve also tacit semantics (rituals.) Biology predisposes, but does not determine. If culture is real magic, you will not find proofs for it in natural philosophy.

    [Reply]

    wenshuang Reply:

    @E Antony Gray

    You are mistaken re: culture as a set of semantic information (and rituals are not necessarily semantic), though that was a prevailing theory among ethnoscientists through the 60’s and symbolic interactionists. Semantics do play a significant role, but not all culture is semantic. we agree that biology predisposes, my claim was in reference to the structure of processing, mediation, and the mechanism of selection. You might enjoy reading Pascal Boyer, Scott Atran, Michael Tomasello, and Maurice Bloch on this. Admittedly “just biology” over simplifies, the point should be obvious that ideas are inextricable from the process that creates them.

    Lastly, can you clarify what you mean by real magic?

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 10th, 2014 at 12:45 pm Reply | Quote
  • pythias returns Says:

    Gray seems very confused about evolution. He says, ‘it’s far from clear that any kind of evolutionary process is at work in society’. Since he cannot pinpoint a ‘mechanism’, it cannot exist. The mechanism is simply natural selection at the most abstract level of equivalence with any form of life, organic or non-organic. He wrongly states that ‘The key feature of Darwin’s theory is that evolution has no overall direction’. That was not Darwin’s key contention. Instead it was simply natural selection. Simply put, genetic mutations that occur during the process of generational reproduction generate novelty in living beings, and this generates differences in the comparable advantages they have over others in the competition for resources – and thus the power to self-generate – in specific environments, which change. These advantages are carried over to successive generations, though are dependent on the environment they evolved within. Capitalism is superior to other forms of social organisation (it is not just an ‘economic system’ as Gray has it) since it performs better at generating resources and these include tradable (i.e. self-generating) wealth, ideas that can prosper, science and technology, both of which can evolve due to their inherent competitiveness. The fact that Capitalism may be obstructed with an attempted ‘return’ to socialism or something equally oppressive doesn’t affect the evolutionary principle at the heart of social and economic existence. Gray seems to think that because Capitalism can be ‘halted’ or ‘reversed’ – highly dubious except in patches perhaps – that it can’t be evolutionary. This is nonsense. He’s right that evolution is not teleological but this is no argument for the alleged non-evolutionary nature of society, either at the global or the local level. He also seems to overlook the notion that evolution itself is evolving as life cascades upwards from the biological through the social-technological to whatever is next, the Singularity? I read Straw Dogs too and wasn’t impressed at all.

    [Reply]

    Rasputin Reply:

    Perhaps I read it when I was younger and more impressionable. But I still think that the attack on humanism in Straw Dogs could be seen as a much less fully realised precursor to aspects of the DE attack on progressivism, particuarly the sections in which he attacks contemporary notions of moral progress. Grey was one of Dawkins better mainstream critics around the time of the God Delusion, even if he failed to systemise his objections into anything like Moldbugs brilliance. I agree that his understanding of evolution focuses far to heavily on the adaptive and misses out on the generative implications almost entirely. His conception of history as a cycle of gain and loss, rather than something with the potential for a telos, probably makes him resistant to such lines of thought.

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    SanguineEmpiricist Reply:

    You’re right, they’re just not well read. Taleb respects him the most out of any thinker and his post-liberalism/book on Isiah Berlin is relatively good. He is aware of Haidt’s moral methodology as well.

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    Posted on November 10th, 2014 at 1:13 pm Reply | Quote
  • Scharlach Says:

    Unless he is working with a very precise, legit definition of racism, the fact that he thinks racism is an “idea” tells me all I need to know about this guy.

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    wenshuang Reply:

    Exactly

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    SanguineEmpiricist Reply:

    He probably is. He’s greater than every “neoreactionary’ save maybe two/three. Give it another shot.

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    Scharlach Reply:

    I look forward to giving you a black eye some day.

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    Posted on November 10th, 2014 at 1:39 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hanfeizi Says:

    If an idea keeps hanging around, it’s probably adaptable in one way or another. The common cold is annoying, but highly robust. That doesn’t mean we need to “like” getting the cold… but the fact that it persists in existing does nothing to disprove Darwin.

    My head hurts trying to follow his reasoning.

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    Posted on November 10th, 2014 at 10:37 pm Reply | Quote
  • Why Cultural Evolution Is Real (And What It Is) | The View from Hell Says:

    […] mutate and survive. John Gray, Why capitalism hasn’t triumphed, November 8, 2014. Thanks to xenosystems for highlighting this […]

    Posted on November 22nd, 2014 at 9:55 am Reply | Quote
  • Why Cultural Evolution Is Real (And What It Is) | Carcinisation Says:

    […] mutate and survive. John Gray, Why capitalism hasn’t triumphed, November 8, 2014. Thanks to xenosystems for highlighting this […]

    Posted on November 22nd, 2014 at 11:09 am Reply | Quote

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