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Have human beings evolved/devolved socially? 

 
deodand
 
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deodand
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12 February 2021 08:15
 

Didn’t say it was, only that it’s become the SOP of the liberal elite. 

And, political identities based on group affiliation are hardly knew, but basing individual identity on an immutable trait shared with a group is, while not new, not traditionally the same as the former, as much as Ezra Klein would have us believe otherwise.

 
deodand
 
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deodand
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12 February 2021 08:16
 

Getting the paper now.  Thanks.

 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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12 February 2021 10:07
 
Poldano - 12 February 2021 12:03 AM

individual selection and group-level selection are at least somewhat at odds with each other. I think it is another example of group-payoff versus individual-payoff gamesmanship, or as I have called it elsewhere zero-sum or positive-sum gamesmanship. I think the threat that Brick is talking about is caused by the potential collapse of group-payoff (positive-sum) strategic agreements for individual-payoff (and usually zero-sum) self-interest maximization strategies which ostensibly require no agreements.
...

A society’s resilience and its ability to benefit the whole is tested during the ‘hard times”.  Like during a pandemic.  When in western cultures, epitomized by the U.S. (most extreme example?), there is considerable resistance to making sacrifices for the greater good, even relatively small inconveniences (e.g. mask wearing).  Individual rights taking precedence over any obligation to their fellow man.  Selfishness.  Indifference. 

The scientists/anthropologists can better describe these tendencies and behaviours, but from a lay point of view, I think it comes down to which of our species’ characteristics will win out in the end – selfishness or compassion.  If the first, then perhaps we deserve to go extinct.

 

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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12 February 2021 10:35
 
deodand - 12 February 2021 08:15 AM

Didn’t say it was, only that it’s become the SOP of the liberal elite. 

And, political identities based on group affiliation are hardly knew, but basing individual identity on an immutable trait shared with a group is, while not new, not traditionally the same as the former, as much as Ezra Klein would have us believe otherwise.

Well, the Civil War was based on identity politics (slaveholders trying to perpetuate their status).  Then of course it continued during Reconstruction.  Racial based identity politics by whites continued in the Jim Crow era.

Of course then there’s the Christian/capitalist identity politics that emerged after the Russian revolution.  Conservative politicians pushed religion into politics in order to define and protect there Christian identity.  This then evolved into the Christian politics of the 70’s and 80’s which is still influencing politics now as it has continued to grow.

Since I’ve now covered essentially decade since 1855, it seems like it is always present in US politics.  Seems pretty “traditional” to me.

 
deodand
 
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deodand
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12 February 2021 11:37
 

Um, since conservative Christians as a group included (and include) men, women, blacks, whites, greens, blues, and Hispanics, it’s hard to pin on them an individual identity based on some immutable group trait, like race or gender, but they do have the common group identity of being, by choice, “Christian.” 

And so the norm for most political groups in the US.

I think that’s enough to fix your account of our “tradition.”  No one said nothing like “race based identity” politics has ever happened, but political identities in the US have usually been more than that.

The non sequitur of “all politics is identity politics” is not worth pursuing further…

 
burt
 
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burt
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12 February 2021 13:10
 
deodand - 12 February 2021 11:37 AM

Um, since conservative Christians as a group included (and include) men, women, blacks, whites, greens, blues, and Hispanics, it’s hard to pin on them an individual identity based on some immutable group trait, like race or gender, but they do have the common group identity of being, by choice, “Christian.” 

And so the norm for most political groups in the US.

I think that’s enough to fix your account of our “tradition.”  No one said nothing like “race based identity” politics has ever happened, but political identities in the US have usually been more than that.

The non sequitur of “all politics is identity politics” is not worth pursuing further…

But being Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, etc.) is most often not a choice. The Muslim theologian Ghazali (d. 1111) claimed that all children are born innocent, then their parents make them Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc. That is, most people don’t wander far from their parents religion, assuming that religion is strongly held. And evangelical preachers have been using identity for years.

 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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12 February 2021 13:53
 
deodand - 12 February 2021 11:37 AM

Um, since conservative Christians as a group included (and include) men, women, blacks, whites, greens, blues, and Hispanics, it’s hard to pin on them an individual identity based on some immutable group trait, like race or gender, but they do have the common group identity of being, by choice, “Christian.” 

And so the norm for most political groups in the US.

I think that’s enough to fix your account of our “tradition.”  No one said nothing like “race based identity” politics has ever happened, but political identities in the US have usually been more than that.

The non sequitur of “all politics is identity politics” is not worth pursuing further…

Man, the truth sucks when it ruins your argument, huh?

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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12 February 2021 14:48
 

I would definitely agree with all comments that point out the asymmetry between biological evolution and culture and how that’s probably the source of many or most of our toxic behaviors. We don’t require all the fat, salt and martial virtue we once did. Being a good citizen in an age of technological wonder probably is largely devoted to re calibrating intuitions and hungers that aren’t especially compatible with a modern lifestyle.

I think my main mistake in initially posing the question has to do with conflating conscious cultural goals and genetic directive. ‘Survival Instinct’ isn’t a single thing. My wish to protect my family emerges in a sense from designs within my genes but these things are not identical. So ‘human survival instinct’ might be perfectly intact at the cellular level while also being non functional at the level of culture.

It’s probably easier to consider the case in the animal kingdom where this is relationship is probably a lot closer. The extinction events I’m familiar with seem due to external factors. Temperature or an imbalance in predator relationships. Are there good examples of species that have caused their own extinction behaviorally?

 
burt
 
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burt
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12 February 2021 15:34
 
Brick Bungalow - 12 February 2021 02:48 PM

I would definitely agree with all comments that point out the asymmetry between biological evolution and culture and how that’s probably the source of many or most of our toxic behaviors. We don’t require all the fat, salt and martial virtue we once did. Being a good citizen in an age of technological wonder probably is largely devoted to re calibrating intuitions and hungers that aren’t especially compatible with a modern lifestyle.

I think my main mistake in initially posing the question has to do with conflating conscious cultural goals and genetic directive. ‘Survival Instinct’ isn’t a single thing. My wish to protect my family emerges in a sense from designs within my genes but these things are not identical. So ‘human survival instinct’ might be perfectly intact at the cellular level while also being non functional at the level of culture.

It’s probably easier to consider the case in the animal kingdom where this is relationship is probably a lot closer. The extinction events I’m familiar with seem due to external factors. Temperature or an imbalance in predator relationships. Are there good examples of species that have caused their own extinction behaviorally?

One example of our self-defeating behavior, driven by desire for profit (which, of itself, when placed in an appropriate context isn’t a negative at all): SUGAR.

I’ve posted this before elsewhere, a tale told to me several years ago over dinner and a beer at a cultural evolution conference. We have a genetically programmed sweet tooth. From an evolutionary view, this was quite favorable for our distant ancestors. Sweetness of a plant or fruit indicated that it was ripe, ready to eat, and was a tasty concoction of lots of things that were nutritionally beneficial. (pointing to the Caribbean sugar plantations, slavery, etc.) Now sugar is refined out and all of the other nutrients are discarded. Then the sugar is used to make foods that have little or no intrinsic nutritional value not only tasty, but addictive. As a result we have overweight people who are starving.

In this, sugar is a metaphor for many other things that fit into the same pattern.

 
deodand
 
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deodand
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12 February 2021 15:42
 

It double posted…

[ Edited: 12 February 2021 15:48 by deodand]
 
deodand
 
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deodand
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12 February 2021 15:42
 

Are you serious, burt? 

Are you actually arguing that children who, as adults, follow their parents’ religious example aren’t making a choice?  That their religiosity is somehow comparable to identifying with an immutable trait, the basis of identity politics?  Here, in America, not Saudi Arabia?

Obviously I didn’t have a choice to be to my parents’ child, to be a male (an immutable trait), or to be Asian (another immutable trait).  Clearly I didn’t have a “choice,” per se, in what language I was taught, or the culture I grew up in.  But last I checked I’m an adult now and am Christian because I choose to be (I recall the moment quite well), not because my parents are too, though they are (we differ quite strongly in how we are religious).  To some parents’ dismay, their children make a different choice, and to some parent’s pride, their children find their own way.  Either way, adults choose their religious identity, their political identity, their social identities, etc., obviously with strong parental influence in some cases, obviously not in others. 

In other words, correlation is not causation, no matter what Ghazali says…

 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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12 February 2021 17:39
 

I like that you call it an identity.

 
burt
 
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burt
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12 February 2021 20:54
 
deodand - 12 February 2021 03:42 PM

Are you serious, burt? 

Are you actually arguing that children who, as adults, follow their parents’ religious example aren’t making a choice?  That their religiosity is somehow comparable to identifying with an immutable trait, the basis of identity politics?  Here, in America, not Saudi Arabia?

Obviously I didn’t have a choice to be to my parents’ child, to be a male (an immutable trait), or to be Asian (another immutable trait).  Clearly I didn’t have a “choice,” per se, in what language I was taught, or the culture I grew up in.  But last I checked I’m an adult now and am Christian because I choose to be (I recall the moment quite well), not because my parents are too, though they are (we differ quite strongly in how we are religious).  To some parents’ dismay, their children make a different choice, and to some parent’s pride, their children find their own way.  Either way, adults choose their religious identity, their political identity, their social identities, etc., obviously with strong parental influence in some cases, obviously not in others. 

In other words, correlation is not causation, no matter what Ghazali says…

Correlation is not causation, but it remains a fact that children often follow the religion of their parents, although certainly less so today than in Ghazali’s time (I recommend reading his Confessions). And some (I’m not pointing at you) may assume that they have made a choice when they are actually following programmed indoctrination because choices are often made on unconscious factors (on the other hand, EN is quite clear about his reasons for being a Christian and what led to this as a choice).

Not relating to religion, but back in 1992 I had a sudden insight that a choice I’d made in 1970 based only on subjective feelings had been a major turning point in my life and I was depressed for a week, not because I would have wanted things to turn out differently but because I’d made such a life altering choice with no clue as to the actual factors in play. What I was thinking of was that even today, where many educated people do make such choices (as Socrates does in Plato’s Apology), there are fundamentalist sects that the term identity politics would apply to (after all, don’t Republican politicians reliably go after the evangelical vote?).

Let’s dissect the idea of identity politics. Basically, as I see it, this involves categorization of an identifiable population on the basis that, statistically, members of that group can be expected to have certain interests and issues that a politician can appeal to in order to gain votes. To the extent that is true, it can work. That’s the foundation for Nixon’s Southern strategy. So to that degree I may not like it at times, but it doesn’t have a cloud over it. Where the problems arise seems to me when a politician goes out and tries to create an identity group and then exploit it. I think that was a major part of Trump’s popularity. Here’s a post I put up on Facebook this afternoon:

Reframing Patriotism: One of the lines that Trump has used, often, is “We have just begun to fight.” Those who were raised in the US may have heard that line before, it’s essentially the famous reply that John Paul Jones gave in a revolutionary war naval battle when the British captain demanded that he surrender: “I have not yet begun to fight.” Be sure that many of his followers recognize that, at least implicitly. And of course, there are other well known patriotic lines that have become slogans: “united we stand,” “give me liberty or give me death,” “no taxation without representation,” “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country,” “don’t tread on me,” “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” And so on. I recall being introduced to all of these between the ages of about 4 and 8 as a form of patriotic indoctrination. Fortunately, I was also fed morality, critical thinking, and humanism separated from this. But it seems that for many people these have become trigger phrases for a complex of cultural ideas/beliefs/assumptions tied into a patriotic identity. (Note: all these phrases come from the revolutionary war, the phrase “damn the torpedos, full speed ahead” is from the civil war so likely not so attractive to southerners.) Trump has played on this to the point where many of his followers identify this as being patriotic rather than nationalistic, and with being a fanatical Trumpite. Without denigrating the significance of this identity complex for Americans, it seems to me that what is necessary as a corrective is a long history with equally patriotic statements tied to heroic actions carried out by many of all races and religions over the years, in line with Obama’s theme of building a “more perfect union.” We build more perfectly not by trying to imitate the past but by building a better future.

 
deodand
 
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deodand
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12 February 2021 21:59
 

I think you place too much emphasis on “programmed indoctrination.” 

Developmentally we know even young children start to learn more from their peers than their parents at a relatively early age.  This gap grows proportionately as they pass through childhood and into adolescence, and by the time they are adults, the gap is almost complete (ideally, it is complete).  At each phase commitment to parental instruction becomes moderated through commitment to peers, so the persistence of parental religion is as much a function of peer experiences being similar to parental beliefs as parental belief “programming” children through “indoctrination.” Since parental culture and childhood peer-culture correlate highly, so do parental religious beliefs and adult children’s religious beliefs.

This is why many deeply religious people want their children to attend religious schools.

As to those correlations, specifically, they usually refer to broad categories like “Christian,” “Protestant” and “Hindu.”  They fall in between .7-.8.  Specify those categories into sub-categories like “Christian denomination,” “type of Protestant” or “type of Hindu,” and the correlation falls to about .6-.7.  Separate parental beliefs into two different religions, or one religious and one non-religious, and that correlation falls to about chance.  At least here in the US.  I don’t know of data elsewhere.

A better model than “programmed indoctrination” to explain these correlations is “choice within constraint.”  People’s choices are constrained by the possibilities they’re exposed to, and as a rule people don’t creatively expand those constraints, if their choices are satisfying.  But this doesn’t mean people aren’t making choices.  It just means that, as a rule, people choose the most satisfying path of least resistance.  If as an adult they find the religiosity they learned as a child satisfies, they will continue it.  If they don’t, they will choose otherwise.  Add to this that most people find their religion very satisfying and that people are prone to stick with what they find satisfying, and the correlation between parental and child religion is almost entirely explained.

As I see it, what you describe as “identity politics” is the standard idea of political identities: an identifiable population in which, statistically, individuals share beliefs.  These identities, political or otherwise, are mutable.  People switch between them, many people have more than one, and in any case they represent facets of a person that are relatively, at least, flexible.  One can be, for instance, both a Democrat and a Christian, as well as a member of the NAACP (though white), and a physician (I am describing the identifications of a friend).  Any person is free to change these identifications, though, of course, most are reluctant to do so.

What Ezra Klein et al mean by “identity politics” is different.  Here the individual’s identity is based on an immutable trait shared by a group, usually race or gender, and they participate in that group by virtue of sharing that trait.  These identities are not mutable, though they can overlap (a white male, a black woman).  Members of this group share a set of beliefs around their race and gender, first and foremost, and they see issues through that lens, as they affect them as a black, a white, a man, or as a woman.  These identities, to them are all political, and all politics is about them.  Hence the phrases: “All politics is identity politics,” and the corollary, “All identities are political.”

My take on the latter follows.  Since it’s you, I wrote it up. I’ll pick up “patriotism” if the conversation turns that way.

 
deodand
 
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deodand
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12 February 2021 22:25
 

The persuasive force of “All politics is identity politics,” such as it is, stems from an ambiguity exploited by a logical error.

First, the ambiguity.

One the one hand, “All politics is identity politics” refers to a banal triviality: politics involves people, people have identities, and their political beliefs reflect those identities.  This is unassailably true, but that just rephrases the tautology that everyone in politics has an identity.  This is what weird buffalo is so excited about.

One the other hand, “identity” in “identity politics” properly speaking states that people form identities based on an immutable trait they share with a group, usually race or gender.  To a large extent this is also true, in so far as most people can’t help but identifying with being male or female, black or white.  But this too is trivially true.

Now the logical error.

“All politics is identity politics” exploits this dual triviality by cloaking it in a logical error, so the fact both are true makes it seem like the logical equivalence must be true as well.

Specifically the phrase equates the mutable identities people have (like Republican, Democrat, Christian, atheist, teacher, scientist, doctor, mechanic, etc.) with the immutable identities they also have (like black, white, male and female), and on the grounds that people with both engage in politics, all politics becomes “identity politics,” in the specific sense that politics is about political identification based on immutable traits.

But obviously this is nonsense, first because mutable and immutable identities are separable, almost entirely so, otherwise black or white people couldn’t be doctors or Republicans or Black Lives Matter activists and still be “black” or “white”, and second because people engage in politics as much, or more, as Republicans or Democrats than as “white” or “black,” or “male” or “female,” as is unequivocally evident in the fact that people with different immutable traits identify with either party, and these people make their decisions, in common, by identifying as Republican or Democrat, not by these traits.  And likewise for most other political identities.  One can identify with the NACCP, for instance, and be white, and identity with them more than with being “white” (like I said, a friend of mine does this).  Another can identify with legal immigrants and be against illegal immigrants (my parents, for instance), without or without invoking their ethnicity.  And so on.  In all cases this is possible because mutable and immutable identities are separable, and only by illogically conflating them with the fact the people have both and are also political do you get “All politics is identity politics” in the Ezra Klein sense.

So “All politics is identity politics” is a slogan for people who aren’t thinking clearly.  It’s either so trivially true as to be uninteresting, or it is illogically constructed, and therefore not worth considering. 

[ Edited: 12 February 2021 22:40 by deodand]
 
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