OPEN DISCUSSION MAY 2020

May 1, 2020

This thread has been created for discussion on themes relevant to Reason and Science for which there are not currently any dedicated threads.

Please note it is NOT for general chat, and that our Comment Policy applies as usual. There is a link to this at the foot of the page.

If you would like to refer back to previous open discussion threads, the three most recent ones can be accessed via the links below (but please continue any discussions from them here rather than on the original threads):

OPEN DISCUSSION FEBRUARY 2020

OPEN DISCUSSION MARCH 2020

OPEN DISCUSSION APRIL 2020

The Book Club thread can be found at

BOOK CLUB

 

 

104 comments on “OPEN DISCUSSION MAY 2020

  • Welcome to the May 2020 open discussion thread.

    If you wish to continue any of the discussions from earlier Open Discussion threads, please do so here rather than there.

    Thank you.

    The mods Report abuse

  • I’ve just read a delightful article in The New Yorker magazine.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/05/04/the-man-who-thought-too-fast?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=905babc439-briefing-dy-20200501&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-905babc439-43665029

    I hope this link will work out.
    ——-
    The Man Who Thought Too Fast
    Frank Ramsey—a philosopher, economist, and mathematician—was one of the greatest minds of the last century. Have we caught up with him yet?

    By Anthony Gottlieb

    April 27, 2020
    ————
    What an interesting character he must have been! His story reminds me of that of Alan Turing. Brilliant, accomplished guys who led lives with many fascinating twists and turns. Ramsey’s life appears to be less fraught than Turing’s was due to significant suffering by Turing over his homosexuality.

    Enjoy the article and for further investigation, a book on Ramsey (now on my list) is Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers, by Cheryl Misak.

  • Really excellent piece, Laurie. Many thanks.

    Wonderful timing. I’ve always been a staunch Wittgenstein II supporter. His work on language and the limits of metaphysics given the impossibility of secure definitions of any object that cannot be pointed to, is a profound endorsement of science and its ostensive demonstrations. Finding such a goad is fascinating.

    In return can I suggest Derek Jarman/Terry Eagleton’s film Wittgenstein. I thought it superb in capturing Wittgenstein, Maynard Keynes, Russell and the Cambridge zeitgeist, It put a human face to LW that made perfect sense of the aspie patrician, nearly crippled by morality. Keynes was looked up to by Russell as a superior mind, who should have been a philosopher. It made sense that Cambridge others of lesser intellect might take the humanitarian belief in socialism to heart but not to mind and end up a nest of post war spies.

    Best thing on Amazon Prime is the BFI channel if its available to you. Report abuse

  • Thanks for the film recommendation. Something about that Cambridge zeitgeist sounds perfect. I don’t get Amazon Prime but I have a nephew with a talent for finding these things. Everything is obtainable. I’ll also order that book. Having blasted through the series Ozarks on Netflix, I need to switch over to some good reading material.

      Report abuse

  • Gobbling up the Misak.

    I love Frank Ramsey. His dismantling of the Tractatus and preference for the simple and the practical, the human and the humane makes me want a Tom Stoppard play of him.

    In fact I have a plot. I have a short story “Consoling the Dead” of time travellers, we come to suspect, visiting the dying in their last hour… Sarah Faraday has just nipped up the road to Hampton Court Palace for some more laudanum for her husband Michael… The hour is a slow revelation of Michael’s life and impending death and achievement in changing the very course of history by his labours. I’ll push this into back story and put Frank in the central role of the dying. There will now be a further revelation when the process goes awry for the first time ever and finds itself caused.

    Thanks!  (But not in any final sense.) Report abuse

  • Phil

    Ok. That’s it. Bought the Misak. Can’t wait for another minute. A couple of hours in the garden and I’ll get started.

    Cool story plot. Carry on with that!

    My knowledge base on this topic is minimal. I feel on the brink of falling down a rabbit hole into a warren of many rooms that all contain heaps of unexplored curiosities.

    An autodidact’s dream come true.

    I love it when that happens!

      Report abuse

  • After listening to some *pretty harsh* comments & arguing over reopening or completely shutting down for another two weeks, someone in their right mind wrote this.

    Don’t know who wrote it, but it’s *spot on*.

     

    Perspective:

     

    WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT

     

    I heard that we are all in the same boat, *but it’s not* like that.

     

    We are in the *same storm*, but not in the same boat.

     

    Your ship could be *shipwrecked* and mine might not be, or vice versa.

     

    For *some*, quarantine is optimal – a moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee.

     

    For *others* – this is a desperate financial & family crisis.

     

    For some that *live alone* they’re facing endless loneliness.

     

    While for others it is *peace, rest & time* with their mother, father, sons & daughters.

     

    Some are bringing in *more money* to their households.

     

    Others are working more hours for *less money* due to pay cuts or loss in sales.

     

    For some, not getting on with family, *domestic abuse* is rife – we never know what goes on behind closed doors.

     

    Some were concerned about getting a certain *candy* for Easter while others were concerned *if* there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.

     

    Some want to go back to work because they *don’t qualify* for unemployment and are running out of money.

     

    Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

     

    Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.

     

    Some have experienced the *near death* of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it.

     

    Others *don’t believe* this is a big deal.

     

    Some have *faith* in God and expect miracles during this 2020.

     

    Others say the worst *is yet* to come.

     

    So, friends, we are *not* in the same boat.

     

    We are going through a time when our *perceptions and needs* are completely different.

     

    Each of us will emerge, *in our own way*, from this storm.

     

    It is very important to see *beyond* what is seen at first glance.

     

    Not just looking, actually seeing.

     

    We are all on *different ships* during this storm experiencing a very different journey.

     

    Please *Realize* that and be kind.

     

    Question is *what boat* are you in? Report abuse

  • Vicki

    Ah yes, so it did. I missed that, but should have guessed they’d be ahead of me!

    The reason you find it mind-boggling that Trump has cut research into the coronavirus is that you’re a normal human being with a fully functioning sense of empathy and decency.

    For Trump, the coronavirus is merely something that gets in the way of his plundering of US assets to the benefit of himself and his cronies, as well as – even more importantly – his chances of re-election. The last thing he wants is anyone getting more information about it or even talking about it at all. As others have repeatedly pointed out, for Trump (and in the UK: Johnson) it isn’t about government, it’s about power. The power to serve their own interests.

    This coronavirus is extremely inconvenient to ALL governments around the world, but the responsible ones try to reduce the inconvenience it causes by taking every possible step to reduce opportunities for transmission and thereby genuinely keep the problem to a minimum.

    The irresponsible ones – and we all know who we’re talking about here – try to reduce the inconvenience by sweeping it under the carpet and pretending the problem’s been kept to a minimum. Because fundamentally, they just don’t give a shit about anything or anyone but themselves and their dodgy ideologies. But mostly themselves, of course. Report abuse

  • for Trump (and in the UK: Johnson) it isn’t about government, it’s about power

    Trump obviously enjoys power, and knows how to misuse it.  With Johnson I’m not so sure, he doesn’t seem much inclined to use power wrongly or even use it at all;  I think that he just wants to be Prime Minister, he likes the C18 lifestyle, Georgian and Gothic buildings, languorous, old Etonian colleagues, Oxford Union debates in the Commons, visiting the Queen…He doesn’t seem to have any commitment to anything much, it’s more like a lifestyle choice for him. Report abuse

  • Good point, eejit.

    For Trump it’s about power.
    For Johnson it’s about status. Privilege. Entitlement.

    In both cases, utterly self-serving, with not the slightest concern for or interest in the greater good. Report abuse

  • Sorry to hear that, Vicki.

    There’s nothing in either our Spam or our Pending folders, so it’s not something we can retrieve for you, unfortunately, though we’ll make a note that it’s happened.

    Not saying this must be what happened in this specific case, but it can happen if users navigate away from the page after hitting “Post comment” but before their comment has actually appeared. We’ve been caught out that way before now too. Is there any chance that could be what’s happened here? Report abuse

  • Ok, well, we’ve logged it, which is all we can do for now. Thanks for letting us know about it, though, and do please alert us if it happens again and you’re sure you haven’t navigated away too soon. In the meantime, we can only suggest copying any longer posts into memory before posting, just to be on the safe side. Sorry. Report abuse

  • Have read Robert Sapolsky. BEHAVE: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst.

    Liked it very much. It makes clear many things, it tells about people and animals, about many experiments made by scientists. Researches and conclusions I’ve never heard about. Of course real science and real evolutionary biology are always interesting.

    Liked the author and his manner of writing. I suppose that Robert Sapolsky is a very nice man, a humanist. He is an atheist, not a waging atheist, but there are many examples of what religion can do to a human. Especially Islam. So, in spite of the fact that Robert Sapolsky doesn’t write all religions are evil I had an impression that maybe he could say it about Islam if he hadn’t been so polite 🙂 Report abuse

  • Hello Milva

    Good to see you back.

    Impressive that you read the Sapolsky book. A challenging book indeed!

    He is an atheist, not a waging atheist

    This made me laugh

    😀 Report abuse

  • kayliegh mcenany – latest trump press sec
    “She is an ardent admirer of Ravi Zacharias, a preacher whose organisation included a study centre in Oxford. She wrote in 2013: “Oxford needed a Christian to respond to Richard Dawkins. Found that in Ravi, who has dismantled atheism.”

    from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/10/kayleigh-mcenany-donald-trump-white-house-press-secretary-profile

    anyone interested in tackling this?

    keeping in mind he has incurable cancer

  • who has dismantled atheism

    Trouble with the American right, they just can’t stop winning major conflicts: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, global warming, evolution,…and now the existence of God. Report abuse

  • Yes, that is the disadvantage of being deluded

    I agree Cairsley, but the trouble is, whilst we’re all waiting for the chickens to come home to roost, and the neocons to get their comeuppance, tens of thousands of Americans are dying, the virus is mutating, scientists are losing their jobs, fundamentalist, megachurch preachers are becoming richer and far more politically powerful (vide:News: Trump the Anointed),  and The Beast himself is ever more likely to be re-elected.

    It will be a pyrrhic victory for us! Report abuse

  • Hadn’t checked in for awhile and see people getting political on the open forum.  I just get so sick of politics and hearing about Donald Trump.  I feel like it’s been screamed in my ear for four years now.  Is anyone else absolutely OD’d on politics?  It’s just endless.  Like having to smell some one else’s excrement all the time.  On television, every news program, every newspaper, every magazine, it’s just Trump, Trump, Trump.  Will this be gone when he’s not President any more?  Or will it just go on and on until he’s dead?  I don’t think it will stop.  I think they’ll keep it up for years after he’s gone.  I don’t like him personally but I’m not obsessed about it like so many other people.  It’s practically pathological with many of them. Report abuse

  • Vicki #32

    That is a very worthwhile study for anyone who has been baffled by the popularity of irrational conspiracy-beliefs. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. I was also glad to discover Wiley Online Library. Report abuse

  • Dennis G. Carrier @ 33

    It seems to be a problem with US presidents that every other one is a fool and the latest a sociopathic fool who admires tyrants, wants to subvert the constitution and doesn’t care how many people die. Surely it’s understandable that some find this a cause for alarm. Report abuse

  • Dennis G. Carrier

    It’s true that we do discuss politics in general and Trump specifically but there are plenty of threads here that have nothing to do with either one. With the Trump administration gutting our science advisors and his actions to sacrifice our environment for the sake of business concerns, you can see why certain articles show up on this website.

    You have the right to ignore this problem if you want to but the consequences of the past four years of this psychopath President and his corrupt, incompetent entourage will be with us for a very long time, I despair to think of what will happen if he wins again this coming fall. Report abuse

  • I ran across an older article this morning while pondering our existence on this ball we call Earth and our prospects in the main.  It was, and generally is, refreshing to review the massive moments of enlightenment from the likes of Nicholus Copernicus and the new trajectory these moments afforded to those who possessed and open mind (it should go without saying that religious factions are not included at these junctures).

    It never hurts to strip away the window-dressing of our self projection so we might look in the mirror to access ourselves with critical observation and questioning as to who we are and were we are headed, this article acts as a simple tool to review our prospects.  The headline of the article was focused on a simple question on our possible demise but I found the additional proposition and historical content as being a condensed refresher of our leaps forward as well.   Hope you find it illuminating.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/10/06/we-have-a-pretty-good-idea-of-when-humans-will-go-extinct/ Report abuse

  • Rather than a topic I have a question (about evolution).

    Why ‘life’ started only once (i.e at about 4 billion years ago)? Or it started (at different times) but got extinct? Or the ‘initial’ conditions were specifically suitable for the life (we think we have evolved from)? Or it came from astroid (in early bombardment period) i.e earth can support life but cannot start it?

    Thank you. As I don’t have any ‘acess’ to experts or scientists, this platform atleast helped me to ask some questions. Report abuse

  • Rushi says:

    Why ‘life’ started only once (i.e at about 4 billion years ago)? Or it started (at different times) but got extinct? Or the ‘initial’ conditions were specifically suitable for the life (we think we have evolved from)?

    Research is still being done on the transitional processes of abiogenesis from the chemicals of early (anoxic) Earth’s seas, to self replicating cells.
    Life probably started in various forms, before one very successful species of organism (LUCA),  out-competed  and out lived all the other simple forms and became the ancestor of all modern life on Earth.
    The more complex multicellular modern organisms appear to have arisen from some simpler form living together as co-operating as partners with their DNA eventually combining within their cells.
    Other branches remained as single cells.

    There are more details and links, here:

    https://www.quora.com/Does-all-life-on-Earth-have-a-single-common-ancestor-or-do-different-life-forms-come-from-different-ancestors-that-evolved-to-co-exist-with-others/answer/Alan-Appleby-4

    There is a further link in the comments to the website of Harvard University’s  Nobel prize winning geneticist Jack Szoztak’s work on abiogenesis,  – and some posturing science denials from some “god-did-it”, know-it-all “know-nothings”!
    Report abuse

  • BOINC is a distributed computing project that lets anyone help with scientific research. There is a Team Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science associated with almost every BOINC project. My top priority are the life sciences followed by physics. Right now the best BOINC project ever has recently begun at IBM’s World Community Grid called OpenPandemics in conjunction with the Forli Lab at Scripp’s Institute. We’re looking for a variety of targets but the one I expect to be the best drug targeting approach is to find small molecules that form covalent bonds with SARS-CoV-2 proteins especially Spike (S) and the protease. Once identified biochemists can modify the molecule so that after having covalently bonded with S it cannot complete the reaction chain that would release. These are suicide inhibitors and can potentially cure Covid-19. The number of calculations possible in this pursuit are infinite. Hopefully we find an efficacious treatment before reaching infinity 🙂 We get work units (WU) from the WCG server, crunch them using the Scripps Reactive Docking program that’s downloaded as well. Today May 20th we should surpass one million completed WUs submitted per day after the OPN launched on May 14th. Please come help find a cure by lending your computing resources:

    https://join.worldcommunitygrid.org?recruiterId=1057590&teamId=Q3JQLRNHWR1

  • Working from home I currently have 3 i7 PCs on my table all working at the same time. My broadband is dawdling at 11mS, 216Mps down 38Mps up but frequently does 9 250 and 70. There is capacity to spare even whilst streaming 4k content and sending huge CAD files.

    BOINC makes perfect sense for me and I guess many others now possibly upgrading their at home ability to work. For background here is an overview of all its areas of working.

     

    https://boinc.berkeley.edu/projects.php

     

    Thanks to Aurum Rabosa for finding the perfect application to make me join in.

  • phil rimmer #42:

    “huge CAD files”

    I find CAD files are generally pretty small, for the amount of detail & complexity they contain… It’s only when I do strange things like generate a .sat file or save an entire assembly as a single part that the sizes get annoyingly large.

    Out of interest, what CAD software are you using? Report abuse

  • Hello everyone!

    I just joined RDFRS as a registered member, because recently I decided to become an atheist and wanted to get in touch with people who love science and reason, just like I do.

    I also don’t believe in the concept of marriage anymore and would like to seek your opinion about it. I think marriage is outdated in this day and age, and it also propagates religious mindset, at least here in India. I was wondering if my disinterest in marriage has something to do with my decision of becoming an atheist. Have any of you had a similar experience? If yes, I’d like to hear about it. Because I am sure in the near future I’ll have to break this news to my relatives and well-wishers and convince them to support me for my decision. Report abuse

  • Aseem Chaphalkar #44:  First of all, welcome to atheism.  The world is a bright and wonderful place when it’s not encumbered with gods and demons. And you are correct this is a good place to engage with many knowledgeable people, most with much more expertise than I have. Perhaps you’ll share more of your experiences transitioning from theism to atheism.  Have you checked out the Convert’s Corner under the Community tab at the top of this page? I’m curious if there are any atheist organizations where you live, and if so, in what sort of educational/political activities do you and your comrades engage. 
     
    Many people live full lives as single individuals, and I hope they do not feel societal pressure to get married simply for social convention.  For those who want to live together in a partnership, however, marriage is a civil contract between two people.  The unfortunate reality is that many marriages disintegrate.  When that happens, I think it’s important that both parties be protected so that they share equally in the assets obtained during the marriage.  Without such a civil institution, how is a court to decide what is fair to the parties and to the children that have been born or have been adopted during the marriage.  I don’t know about India, but in the US, it is possible to have the marriage witnessed by civil authorities without any religious involvement. Report abuse

  • Laurie B

    Hi

    Sorry, I couldn’t come here for 15 days. I can say that I’m a “waging atheist”, even “anti-theist”, because I see religion as one of the main tools of oppressing women. Especially Islam I’ve considered a true religion for so long.

    I’m going to read one more book by Sapolsky. Now I’m in the process of reading the book on evolutionary biology by Alexander Markov.

    I’ve also read “What do the plants think about” by Stefano Mankuzo and Alessandra Viola. A very interesting book. I really didn’t think that plants are that complex. And since I’ve read it I found it very funny that Muslims have a permission to paint plants. They are alive, guys! 🙂 So you are forbidden to paint “living creatures”! Report abuse

  • Hi Milva

    Glad you’re back.

     I see religion as one of the main tools of oppressing women.

    I agree with you and that’s exactly what caused me to leave my religion too. I have no idea why women of all religions put up with these patriarchal control freaks who use the tool of religion to keep us down.

    They are alive, guys! So you are forbidden to paint “living creatures”!

    You know, I realize that I don’t know much about this idea about not painting living creatures. I know that creating a representation of the prophet is forbidden and that Muslims criticize Christians for creating representations of Jesus and other religious characters but is the prohibition for all living creatures? That’s much more extreme than I realized.

    I’d like to read the source of this for future reference. Is it from Koran or Hadith? Where can I find the information? I find that whole topic to be so annoying on both sides of it. Religious art does bore me to death but I also can’t stand these rules that prohibit it either. ~eye roll~

    Very good reading. I read a book about trees a while back and was shocked at how much I didn’t know about trees. Masterpieces of the natural world. Now I can’t stand to see one cut down.

    Milva, where ever you are, how is it going with the virus? Report abuse

  • Laurie B

    Glad to come back, too 🙂

    I’m still in Karachaevo-Cherkessiya, Russia. We have virus here and there are people who are infected but we don’t know how many are they. It’s a little town and some people simply hide the fact that they are infected. I suppose most of us will be infected, and the situation on the whole is bad but we’re just waiting and can’t do anything. I’m not afraid for myself, but I have quite an old mother and father and aunt.

    As for art it’s an official opinion in Sunnah. Just look at the link:

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/islamqa.info/amp/en/answers/39806

    They tell it even to little children. You see, they use the words “inanimate objects”, but it’s ridiculous.

    What’s the book about the trees? Maybe I’ll read it too 🙂

  • Milva

    Thanks for that link. Check out this section from that link:

    “Every image maker will be in the Fire.” And he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The most severely punished of people on the Day of Resurrection will be the image-makers, those who tried to imitate the creation of Allaah.” And he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The makers of these images will be punished on the Day of Resurrection, and they will be told, ‘Give life to that which you have created.’” 

    So artists will be “the most severely punished”? You’re right. Completely ridiculous. Why waste energy punishing artists?!  Like they’re worse than rapists and murderers? What a pain in the ass these people are.

    I hope your family stays well or if they get sick then I hope it’s a mild case. I’m afraid for the old people in my family too. Do the best you can to keep them safe.

    The book on trees that I read is The Overstory by Richard Powers. It is a fiction book but loaded with facts and information about trees. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Report abuse

  • laurie

    nearly finished reading the overstory

    my being a treehugger     it promised to be a great read

    it started off so well but am finding it a bit tiresome

    all the characters confusingly jumbled together Report abuse

  • q

    I think they should’ve lopped off the final few chapters. I hesitate to criticize fiction (especially a Pulitzer winner!) because I’m mainly a nonfiction reader but I was interested to see that you agree. Report abuse

  • Hi Shadow Mind,

    The software is Solidworks  and TurboCad for inputting ideas. The files get huge on types used for sharing with others on other platforms.

    These aren’t HD video movie size but are getting to 100-200MB even when broken up into modules. The problem is that 10 or more iterations of one part are shared and these aren’t simple email attachments. Microsoft Teams, still pants, needs to up its game from 50MB. Report abuse

  • Thank you Michael 100 for the warm welcome! I’ll check out the Converter’s Corner thoroughly. I’ll also try to look for local groups or organizations of atheists that I’d like to engage with.

    As far as marriage is concerned, I am in complete agreement with your argument about it being a social and legal contract between two individuals who love each other and want to spend their life together. But here in India, it is widely used to kill an individual’s freedom to love, which is the exact opposite of the whole concept. People often use excuses like caste, religion, tradition, culture, etc. to justify the violence against individuals who demand freedom of choice in love and marriage, women being prime victims of it. This leads to an increase in social problems like failed marriages, marital rapes, and infidelity, just to name a few.

    Maybe my disliking of the concept of marriage came from all the unfortunate incidents happening in my country, where ‘religion’ is still the most predominant factor to decide the fate of an individual’s relationship. I think we are still a long way from treating the choice of life partner similar to the choice of a career path. Also, we need to understand that getting married isn’t necessary for a person to ‘settled down’.

    Sorry, I am getting carried away. I just can’t stand the hypocrisy of my ‘modern’ fellow Indians, religiously worshiping female deities on one hand and curbing women’s freedom of choice on the other hand, in the name of the same religion! Report abuse

  • Aseem Chaphalkar #53. Being carried away by frustration with the hypocrisy of religion, of whatever stripe, is understandable.  Religion claims to be the font of morality, but it always draws on the ideas of ancient people.  What’s worse is that religion is most often used as an excuse to justify the worst prejudices people have.  I recently read John Stuart Mill’s autobiography.  Mill wrote that his father was of the opinion that religious people created gods of increasing evilness until the Christian god was invented as the epitome of evil. Although I know that India retains many backward ideas, I also understand that Indians value education — which I hope is a counter force to superstition.  So, I hope that little by little, the old ways will fall away, throughout the planet. Report abuse

  • For me, one of the most compelling ideas from The Overstory was taking an annual picture of the chestnut tree from the same point over many decades.

    I would love to see those pictures! Report abuse

  • Vicki

    That was definitely a cool idea. Although I thought the book dragged a bit in the end it did have much to offer.  I now think of trees as a community with strategies to stay alive and thrive instead of just random life forms.

    I once lived in a place where there were very few trees to be seen. The upside was that one could see far and wide, all the way to the distant horizon. Sunsets were dramatic displays, but I could never think that the terrain was what I’d call beautiful. Lush forests and a variety of trees in a landscape are part of my personal description of landscape beauty. I understand that others may disagree. Report abuse

  • Aseem Chaphalkar

    I acknowledge your frustration with the state of matrimony in your culture. Based on my observations made in a certain other location with similar values, I think you are really in a serious challenge if you seek a relationship based on common interests, shared values, and mutual sexual attraction.

    In tribal cultures these are not recognized as valid requirements for marriage. They are considered to be silly and irrelevant and even of suspicious Western colonial influence.

    But Western influence can’t be ignored anymore. Satellites beam modern ideas straight to the televisions and cell phones of young people everywhere now. They see how Western young people live and what they value in relationships. It’s not all about Western influence. Other cultures have their own promotion of love relationships in poetry, drama and music.

    What made me sad was that young people outside of the West are aware of the idea of a marriage relationship based on love and sexual attraction but had no way to enter into it because of the practice of arranged marriages and like you said, strong opposition and blocking young people from making a free choice of who they will marry. I see no way for young people to stand up against the family and insist on marrying a person who is outside of their religion or from different economic class or from a different race. There is even opposition to marrying someone who is of a dark complexion in some places!

    I found this system to be quite cruel. To hold a gorgeous romantic possibility in front of a young adult and then to stuff them into an old stifling box based on tribal alliance and economic gain just can’t be sustained anymore.

    How can we be surprised when given a “choice” of a few candidates that are approved by the older members of the family based on their own motivations, that relationship ends in the divorce court?

    Young people do desire a happy satisfying marriages but they’re caught in a no win situation. The old traditional ways don’t work anymore but the new ideas have no way to exist along side of the old ones.

    I really feel bad for you trying to get what you desire in an environment that is hostile to your intentions. You may need to think outside the box here. Others are doing the same thing. That does depend on what resources you can bring to bear on this. I know that you are not alone in your frustration. There are many all around you who feel the same thing. I  think that social media can work wonders here and a personal resilience to deal with the the forces that defend your lack of choice in important life choices. Just…be careful not to ignite their desire for revenge and a display of public “justice” against you and the people you interact with.

    Best of luck to you. Report abuse

  • vicki  and laurie

    agreed –  the photos of tree idea was most interesting

    i was talking to another tree hugger about it yesterday

    under the oak tree in my posting image!

    and yes it’s the first fiction i’ve read in at least two years

    i’d rather read the ancestor’s tale  any day Report abuse

  • Laurie, q

    Don’t give up on fiction. There’s an awful lot of tosh out there, it’s true, but a good work of fiction can be a powerful life-enhancing experience and a real education:

    “…Because a book is a little empathy machine. It puts you inside somebody else’s head. You see out of the world through somebody else’s eyes. It’s very hard to hate people of a certain kind when you’ve just read a book by one of those people.”
    ― Neil Gaiman

    Report abuse

  • LaurieB says:

    To: Aseem Chaphalkar

    I acknowledge your frustration with the state of matrimony in your culture.

    Two of my adult children have their own homes where they are in partnerships and have their own children.

    Neither of them is interested in having the churches or state becoming involved in their relationships.

      Report abuse

  • laurie   vicki marco

    the only fiction worth reading is in poetic form

    poetic naturalism as sean carrol uses that term

    but with the emphasis on poetic

    from shelley  to   heaney

    r d himself is an admirer of poetry

    and it shows

    in his prose

  • My narrative non-fiction and popular science books may be my personal brain candy but I don’t hesitate to acknowledge the profound effect that fiction books have had on our culture. To explain it better than I ever could, here is Steven Pinker in his masterpiece; The Better Angels of Our Nature, Why Violence Has Declined.

    The ordering of these events is in the right direction: technological advances in publishing, the mass production of books, the expansion of literacy, and the popularity of the novel all preceded the major humanitarian reforms of the 18th century. And in some cases a bestselling novel or memoir demonstrably exposed a wide range of readers to the suffering of a forgotten class of victims and led to a change in policy. Around the same time that Uncle Tom’s Cabin mobilized abolitionist sentiment in the United States, Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist (1838) and Nicholas Nickleby (1839) opened people’s eyes to the mistreatment of children in British workhouses and orphanages, and Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Lift at Sea (1840) and Herman Melville’s White Jacket helped end flogging of sailors. In the past century Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, George Orwell’s 1984, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Elie Wiesel’s Night, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, Alex Haley’s Roots, Anchee Min’s Red Azalea, Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, and Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy (a novel that features female genital mutilation) all raised public awareness of the suffering of people who might otherwise have been ignored. Cinema and television reached even larger audiences and offered experiences that were even more immediate.

    …Whether or not novels in general, or epistolary novels in particular, were the critical genre in expanding empathy, the explosion of reading may have contributed to the Humanitarian Revolution by getting people into the habit of straying from their parochial vantage points. And it may have contributed in a second way: by creating a hothouse for new ideas about moral values and the social order.

    Pinker, S. (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature, Why Violence Has Declined. Page 177. Report abuse

  • In the U.S., for those who want to live together as families, there are some financial advantages to being married.   In each of the examples below, there are also provisions for the protection of divorced spouses.
     
    Health insurance is frequently supplied by the employer for the worker and family.  While both spouses may be employed, it is likely that one or the other insurances is more advantageous, i.e. it may cost less to have a family plan rather than two individual policies. In such a case, the right to participate as a family in the insurance must be established either with marriage or some sort of legal domestic partnership.  In countries with sensible national health plans, this is probably not an issue,

    Social Security benefits (disability as well as old age & survivor benefits) are calculated on the basis of earnings.  More likely than not, one spouse will earn more over their work life than the other and thus be entitled to a higher benefit.  At retirement, while both are alive, the spouse with the lesser earnings can receive either his/her own benefits or half of the other’s, whichever is higher.  Upon death, the surviving spouse receives the full amount of the highest benefit.  Without a valid marriage, the spouse with the lower earnings is stuck with his/her own benefit, if any.

    Likewise, private pension plans also base dependent/survivor benefits on evidence of marriage.  My mother lived ten years after my father died, and got a pension check from my father’s labor union each month until she died.

    These things can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, so they should not be rejected without a lot of consideration. Report abuse

  • Michael 100 says:

    In the U.S., for those who want to live together as families, there are some financial advantages to being married.

    There are some reforms needed in many countries. It is only in relatively recent history that civil marriages cut out the church monopolies of marriage, and schemes to get their hands on any children.

    In each of the examples below, there are also provisions for the protection of divorced spouses.

    This needs to be balanced with the expensive legal entanglements which can be associated with the terms of contracts in some  (repressive) countries.

    Health insurance is frequently supplied by the employer for the worker and family.

    In the UK with its National health Service, that is not an issue.

    My family are perhaps better placed than many.

    My son is a director, and key worker in the company he works for, and my daughter is a lawyer who is streetwise on contracts.

      Report abuse

  • Michael 100

    there are some financial advantages to being married

    Access to health insurance, access to pension, access to social security benefits, are some of the very reasons that women were held in unhappy marriages. The divorce law in US has improved in the recent past to help women stay afloat financially if they need to exit an unhappy marriage and civil law has established some equal sharing of benefits in the event of death or divorce.

    It was a goal of the second wave feminists that women should establish their own solid income, pension, health insurance, investments, bank accounts, etc., so they could enter into marriage and other relationships on equal ground and not have to engage with men from a position of weakness.

    I believe that men are entitled to the same security and need parental rights protections as well. For men, the old evolutionary fear that they might be supporting a child that isn’t their own biological offspring is addressed by DNA paternity tests which must go far in damping down the bad old mate guarding (domestic violence). We don’t need the overblown religious tribal ceremony to sanctify marriages. We don’t need permission from tribal and family elders to enter into a relationship with another person. The old cruelty of the label “bastard” and “illegitimate” are now seen to be a relic of a time when children were made to suffer for their own parents “sins”. We’ve made great progress on these issues.

    It’s no surprise that the old religions are feeling their irrelevance. It must be very obvious that they are being kicked to the curb by young people who want to enter into relationships of their own choosing. If things go wrong, they want to make a graceful exit without being cast into an abyss of bankruptcy. They want their children to maintain good relationships with both of their parents and both extended families and avoid psychological instability as much as that is possible.

    We do need some protections granted by civil law and the law is changing to acknowledge that relationships won’t always be composed of a man and a woman,  but I can’t hide my delight at the atrophy of the role of religion in matters of our relationships. Report abuse

  • laurie #63

    overwhelming evidence from pinker for sure

    but poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world

    as shelley said (perhaps grandiosely)

    they begin the process of civilizing

    by inspiring the more popular fiction writers who get all the credit

    pinker may be right about the better angels winning

    but he seems to underestimate the massive potential for violence/chaos

    that the modern globalized world has enabled

      Report abuse

  • q

    I am prepared to be educated on the poetry thing. You will find me to be an eager but ignorant student.

    by inspiring the more popular fiction writers who get all the credit

    Example? (not a challenge. just curious)

    Pinker’s point is not that annihilation is impossible, just more and more unlikely based on a gazillion data points.

    I do get all choked up reading Shakespeare’s sonnets and sections of plays but I thought it might be his gift of using words as variables inserted into an equation.

    Ok! ok! please don’t slump over in utter disappointment q!!!

    Steady on!

    I also get all choked up in the presence of Pinker’s mountain of data points, as you may have predicted. Report abuse

  • Pinker is thumpingly right. His data hugely important.

    I tend to disagree with him increasingly on neural and cultural processes, but it doesn’t stop coming to the same conclusion.

    Pinker is right about novels and those were goodies. But so too plays. Ibsen A Doll’s House, an astonishing insight into the cultural dis-empowering of women. So too film’s. We shouldn’t get precious about our cultural products. “High art” had shot itself in the foot  by the 1950s in the UK by becoming snobbish.

     

    With Dan R I argued Dickens was Soap Opera, but I rated the medium particularly highly as a powerful and unusually wide window opened onto British society through Coronation Street and the Archers etc. and quite in the tradition of Dickens. Currently, Gogglebox, having ordinary folk watch, respond to and comment on TV programs works hugely well in establishing a public moral discussion about new issues.

    Great art spots new harms first, sometimes decades even centuries ahead of the curve but it is the job of more prosaic forms to finish the broadcast and foment the discussion. Netflix, being far too often producer rather than artist led, sucks increasingly.

    The greats are great, but its the quality of the next rank that does the job in sufficient time ….or not.

    I think given the phenomenal growth in our powers in the twentieth century we should be amazed at how quickly we are learning, not actually having blown ourselves up yet. It might be insufficiently fast if the psychopath/con artists win, but those powers simply emerged from Pandora’s Box of Science.

    Pivotal Book, The Iron Giant. Childlike robot unaware of his potential lethality, stumbling into things and killing them. He must grow up in time if we are to be spared. We must stop thinking we are old and set in our ways, made like thus and so. Ah, human nature, they say! We are astonishingly young and unaware of our potential powers. We are far from made and must realise we can grow up.

      Report abuse

  • Laurie B

    Thank you for the recommendation. I didn’t find this book in Russian, that’s sad. But I hope there will be a translation later. It would be hard to read in English, honestly. Though I used to read fiction in English I can’t say the same about non-fiction. So I’d prefer a good translation.

    Have read Markov and gonna read another book by Sapolsky in the future 🙂 Report abuse

  • laurie and phil
    a challenge indeed
    just trying to be provocative
    since i now find novels like the overstory so artificial?
    they just don’t ring true any more with a few exceptions

    some thoughts …
    in the ancient celtic world the bard/poet was the chief’s conscience and was usually held in high regard
    in plato’s republic poets would have been banned
    but what he meant by poetry is up for grabs
    in the romantic era atheist/deist shelley was the main advocate of poets as legislators
    his masque/mask of anarchy might be his own best example
    of attempting to de-legitimize despotic rulers
    and the religions that they used as justification
    it is perhaps “the first modern statement of the principle of nonviolent resistance” before any novel dealt with that

    all this has changed of course
    and poets are now much more ironic about their role
    https://arts.mit.edu/poetry-survive-end-civilization/
    but i’m still hanging in there with the idea
    that the spark for change comes from poets first
    and i like the wisdom’s vade mecum   phil

    especially if vade means ‘walk’

    poetry is all about feet

  • @Alan4discussion
    “Neither of them is interested in having the churches or state becoming involved in their relationships.”

    It’s all difficult to fight the cultural rules and country rules. Depends where you are born.

    I had a tough time in India. Culture and religion forbids live in relationship or partnership. It was very recently the court in India ruled that  live in relationships are not illegal. No matter what, inter caste/religion marriage needs to be done through special marriage act with weird rules that actually does not promote it. So some people convert religion on paper to get married under normal rules and register to get certificate.

    We had to register our marriage via special marriage act coz legally I’m hindu and she is Christain. Atheism isn’t considered in India legally. State needs to be involved because of legal complications. And to change countries, which we did, needs Embassy proof for marriage. Otherwise visa cannot be processed for family visa or dependant visa. Report abuse

  • Hi q.

    Can I recommend Richard Holmes’ hefty biography Shelley: The Pursuit? Professor Holmes really is richly knowledgeable about the Romantics and this whole era. His two parter on Coleridge is also impressive. Finally, I think Laurie may join me in recommending Age of Wonder where he sets the Romantics in an Age of transformational Wonders of exploration and science.

    A vade mecum usually referred to a little book you could slip into your pocket as a travelling companion, literally a “walk with me”.

     

    I actually meant to refer to the Brad Bird movie not the Ted Hughes original. But perhaps an example of the next rank broadcasting even outperforming the original in effect?

    Let me shout out for Children’s Literature here as profoundly civilising. Paddington Bear, the Moomins. Gooder Books than the “Good” Book, in every way. Nor is is just about moralising but about living also. Dickens in reviewing some appalling temperance re-telling of Cinderella observed, “…A nation without fancy, without some romance, never did, never can, never will hold a great place under the sun.” Report abuse

  • phil and laurie

    thanks

    i did read the pursuit by holmes but not the age of wonder

    will be rereading the first and just ordered second from library

    both a bit hefty for a vade mecum!

    fascinated by all the romantics

    even the radical mad   bad and dangerous one

    ‘children’s lit’ wind in the willows is ever fresh

    especially in the age of trump/toad

    have a fairly large format copy with michael hague illustrations

    always found ratty and mole ever so civilizing Report abuse

  • An all time favourite from as early as I can remember, q.

    The Wind in the Willows, and the Call of the South upon bucolic England. Surely from Arcady? Glimpsed and summoned at dawn and forgot by lunch. A wonderful Epicurean collection of tales. A pagan correction to pious pap.

    Grahame’s previous piece, The Golden Age frames the experience of Childhood in classical mythic terms, with grown ups as gods, careless of mortal children, above their travails and adventures…

     

    Maybe we need to revert to the Book thread for an accumulating list of liberating books? Report abuse

  • Hi Guys,

     

    Groups selection has reared its head again in a discussion with a mate.  We’ve been arguing about it.  I remember reading about it some time ago and being convinced by Dawkins and Coyne about their position.

    However a paper written about it by EO Wilson The Social Conquest of Earth. It apparently raised a spat when Dawkins gave it a I thought fair but firm review.  Anyone more knowledgeable about it than I have anything to say?  Why does it keep coming up?

      Report abuse

  • Hi Reckless,

    Its not easy to disentangle but Professor Samir Okasha makes a good stab at pointing up the possible reason for the group/individual punch up.

    https://blog.oup.com/2015/01/kin-group-selection-controversy/

    Kin selection does a lot of service in pushing back to individual selection. But, for me, once you allow as-if-kin selection to be a typical mistake due to the poor quality of evolved detection mechanisms you really do have a detection mechanism that may become itself selectable in statistically viable sub-species based on cognitive skews, say. (I happen to think this is exactly what has happened in human society and is intimately linked to the astonishing phenotype feature of culture and its own evolution.)

     

    I’ll post a second link that takes a step back to look at multi-level selection which gets messy but I think more realistically acknowledges the various mechanisms in play. Make no mistake I think Neo-Darwinian theory (Darwin plus Mendel) then extended to include kin selection is the Biiiiiiggggg evolutionary mechanism, but epigenetics, horizontal gene transfer, symbiotic gut flora, culture itself, affecting selection pressures can make real contributions to outcomes.

  • So here is the second discussion piece.

    https://www.nature.com/news/2008/080917/full/455281a.html

    Don’t be put off by the tease of the “p” word (postmodernism) which is only ever a political judgement call.

    I think what we are seeing is the evolution of evolution, its steady sophistication to encompass all its auxiliary process. The fight seems to be for “Who’s the Mommy?” and Darwin plus Mendel plus kin selection is the mommy, but in some ways these supplementary processes may be akin to the prokaryote to eukaryote transition of mega horizontal gene transfer at a greedy gulp.

  • I admit that I’m in over my head here, and maybe I don’t understand what’s meant by “group selection”.  Recently, I’ve been reading a couple of Ernst Mayr’s many books.  I saw Mayr cited frequently in Professor Dawkins’ books and Mayr was cited by Prof. Jerry Coyne in Why Evolution Is True.  On page 8 of What Evolution Is, Mayr writes that evolution is change in the properties of populations of organisms over time, “In other words, the population is the so-called unit of evolution.  Genes, individuals, and species also play a role, but it is the change in population that characterizes organic evolution.”  Right now, I’m reading Animal Species and Evolution and it seems to me that the emphasis in this work is on populations as well.  This seems to me to be consistent with what I understood Prof. Dawkins to mean when he explained, in a YouTube appearance, that there was never a first human, or the first of any species, that evolution takes place over periods of time in large populations, such that when one species become another is like trying to determine when a child becomes an adult, or when a young person become an old person.  Am I mixing apples (groups) and oranges (populations)? Report abuse

  • Michael 100 says:

    What Evolution Is, Mayr writes that evolution is change in the properties of populations of organisms over time, “In other words, the population is the so-called unit of evolution.

    A species is a population, not an individual organism.

    Genes, individuals, and species also play a role, but it is the change in population that characterizes organic evolution.”

    The diversity and number of genes in the gene-pool of a species is greater than the number of genes in an individual.

    That is why in-breeding between close relatives, which excludes bringing in genes from the wider population can be damaging.

    I don’t understand what’s meant by “group selection”.

    “Group Selection” has been largely superseded by “Kin Selection”, which makes more evolutionary sense.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kin_selection

      Report abuse

  • Thanks Alan.  Your answers, and the wikipedia link, help.  I’ve reluctantly concluded that reading any more of Mayr’s books now is counterproductive given my level of education.  I think I’m going to reread some, if not all, of Prof. Dawkins’ work which I anticipate will be much more helpful to me. I’m thinking I’ll get more from them the second time around. I also know there are other books, some of which I’ve read and others waiting on my reading list. Report abuse

  • Michael, sorry to not get back sooner, though you are always in safe hands with Alan.

    Rather than pile in with my musings on the issue which might lead me to promote a few pet theories of my own on how group selection might (and does) emerge under certain conditions, let me point you again at Professor Okasha who I think speaks with great clarity and fairness.

    This video, despite its few hits, is excellent in teasing apart the many positions in the debate.

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1f2uvSQ3ls

     

    FWIW I’ll link to his important book ($33 I’m afraid second hand) and a tech review, really just to give you a flavour of the broadening debate. Report abuse

  • Read “The End Of Faith” by Sam Harris. Such a pity I didn’t read this book in 2006, when some processes in my brain made me believe in god. But now there’s no use from crying over it.

     

    Now I’m in the process of reading “The Trouble with Testosterone: And Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament” by Robert Sapolsky. A lot of interesting things except for those I’d already read in “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst”.

     

    As I’m close to the end of the book, it’s time to think about a new one 🙂 And I think about “Gendered Brain” by Gina Rippon. Report abuse

  • Thanks Phil and Alan for the clarrifications.

    Phil,  I believe Dakwins had already conceeded the point to some extent with ants and bees but argued that as they are clones protecting the queen at the cost of their own lives is protecting 100% of their genes.

    I’d also agree that genetics etc may have an impact but would argue that you must first have to have the unique gene mutations in the individual with which to turn on an off.  Thus surely we need to see that the ultimate unit of evolution is individual mutations which become spread or not through the population.  The spread may be influenced by the frequency of this gene in the group but ultimately this is still individual genes in individuals fighting for their individual survival.  I don’t see how we get around this, this is why I find the debate baffling or at least the intensity in it baffling.  However I can be thick at times so it may be this is a case of me blocking out better ideas or my brain simply not being on top of it enough to get it.

    There was an interesting debate between a number of scientists including Lynn Margulis and Dawkin.  Lynn debated a higher level of importance for sideways gene transfer.  Dawkins conceded the point in microorganisms like bacteria and some multicellular organisms but she insisted that there was multicellular organism chauvinism on display (which perhaps there was but she failed I thought to make her case).

    Tried to find it but alas the link seems broken now.  Interesting.

    Regards Report abuse

  • Reckless Monkey says:

    Thus surely we need to see that the ultimate unit of evolution is individual mutations which become spread or not through the population.

    We should remember that mutations may be widely spread through many generations of populations as neutral/recessive mutations, before becoming active, or acted on by selection when there is a shift in selection pressure.

    There was an interesting debate between a number of scientists including Lynn Margulis and Dawkins.  Lynn debated a higher level of importance for sideways gene transfer.

    While the simple model of genetics in sexual reproduction is widely understood, the other features added to the modern synthesis are important features .
    Horizontal gene transfer is the prime force in bacteria (which reproduce by simple cell division), and in features such as the spread of antibiotic resistance.

    Dawkins conceded the point in microorganisms like bacteria and some multicellular organisms but she insisted that there was multicellular organism chauvinism on display (which perhaps there was but she failed I thought to make her case).

    There can also be horizontal transfer of genetic material as viruses pick up material from cells they infect, and can have bits of virus DNA incorporated in the DNA strands of other multicellular sexually reproducing organisms which thy infect.

    The other major addition to early evolutionary theory is endosymbiosis which gave rise to mitochondria and chloroplasts.

    These links may be helpful.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_universal_common_ancestor#/media/File:Tree_Of_Life_(with_horizontal_gene_transfer).svg

    Tree of life showing vertical and horizontal gene transfers

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_microorganisms

    In July 2016, scientists reported identifying a set of 355 genes from the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of all life on the planet, including the marine microorganisms.

  • Hi Reckless,

    Here is Richard’s concluding summary of that debate with Margulis and Dennis Noble.

    Well, obviously, I mean, prokaryotes are hugely important, and you know, most organisms are prokaryotes, we’re mostly prokaryotes, and so much of what I know about biology is irrelevant to the majority of biology. [Laughter] But on the other hand, claims have been made about eukaryotes, which seem to me to be a kind of imperialistic generalization from prokaryotes. So just to reiterate that point, within, eukaryotes are almost entirely prokaryotic in their own cells, that‘s undoubted.

    The only point I was disputing after dinner was the suggestion that speciation events are themselves initiated by new symbiotic incursions. I’m pretty sure they’re not. While fully admitting that eukaryotes are, themselves, massively symbiotically invaded. But it’s all in the past. So, I reiterate that symbiotic invasions are relatively rare, but very important when they happen. On the pre-dinner discussion [Parts 1 and 2], I would reiterate the point that what really matters–the difference between Dennis and me– is that no matter how important non-genetic elements are in life, and of course they’re important, as far as natural selection is concerned, and only as far as natural selection is concerned, what matters is what makes the difference between individual entities that are selected versus individuals that are not. Those differences have to be hereditary differences, and they have to go on for many, many generations. So it doesn’t matter how complicated the relationship of genes to their embryonic environment is, it doesn’t matter how intricate the feedback loops are, if the differences between individuals can be dissected out by geneticists, natural selection is just like a geneticist. Natural selection simply cares about individual difference, who survives, who doesn’t survive, and the consequence of who survives and who doesn’t survive is ultimately only a genetic consequence, where genetic is defined generally to include anything that is potentially eternally heritable. That’s my point.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    http://www.musicoflife.website/pdfs/HOMAGE_COMMENTARY_Music%20of%20Life.pdf

     

    This may ultimately come down to semantics. An entire species’ worth of DNA (or large parts thereof) get deselected by ecological change, oxygenation, volcanism, meteor strikes. And now that we have cultures (evolutionary in an RNA World manner, I would claim; so not like Dawkin’s claim of effectual immortality for DNA based lipid-pouched genes) that are able to turn on a dime, ecosystems can even more often turn on a dime. Epigenetic quasi Lamarckian effects can sustain (across a species), for instance, impoverished neural development for several generations at times of nutritional scarcity helping establish a cultural precedent. (Grandparents and newly sophisticated language may be the powerful new cultural vector in the Upper Neolithic requiring a few generation stimulus only before cultural traction.)

    As an example, I would argue that cultural evolution has genetically impacted us in the breeding out of extreme alpha male tendencies. A sufficient nutritional up tick may have allowed for and sustained both the development of sophisticated language  and grandparents. The language  and the growing ability to co-ordinate pack hunting could allow conspiracy against an overly oppressive alpha male by a confederacy of lesser men and possibly women. (Macbeths and Lysistratae). Early death and reduced breeding opportunity, bred out the extremes of the psychopathic.

    This indeed is in part the basis of Richard Wrangham’s “The Goodness Paradox” to account for the paradoxical peacefulness of a murderously capable species in pre-history.

    A gene-centered only account may miss the species-wide contingent dynamics of selection.

  • Reckless 2

     

    It also needs pointing out that it is a genetic cloud associated with a specific behaviour like a cognitive skew, for instance, rather than a single gene. This greatly magnifies the opportunity for accumulating small effects in a population (or sub-population) characterised by this behavioural or cognitive attribute.

    I suspect that the common cognitive skews in human culture are sufficiently stable as sub-species, that aspies put up with aspies, the anxious with the anxious, the creative schizotypal with the creatives, etc. etc.

    The huge success of mathematical modelling of Neo-Darwinian plus kin selection may have led to that desire to search for lost keys only under the street lamp, where you can both look and see. Modelling of multi-level selection, multigene systems will be daunting. Report abuse

  • Reckless 3

    OK, the missing summary. (This is why I shouldn’t start. I am too inclined to promote my own hypotheses…)

    If multiple genes all additively contribute to a single behavioural phenotypical attribute of an organism and the phenotypical extension of this is a nurturing culture for that behaviour, then potentially any mutation, delivering any of these genes, supports every other such gene and gets selected for.

    Getting started on such behavioural traits from individual genes is a complex and interesting list of possibilities, but I mustn’t overload this. Report abuse

  • Michael 100 #54
    LaurieB #56
    Alan4discussion #61
    Michael 100 #64
    Alan4discussion #65
    LaurieB #66
    Rajesh Kumar #76

    Thank you guys so much for the rich discussion on the topic of marriage and religion! I really appreciate it.

    The overall direction in which the discussion went is how it is important to protect the rights of those who want to get married against their social norms. I think this will slowly bring the necessary changes in the society, about accepting the non-conventional couples in general. Because ultimately, love and compassion are the most important requirements for a successful relationship, neither religion nor race nor money, this is the truth. And no religion or tradition or culture will be able to stop two loving and compassionate individuals from getting together.

    To quote Sam Harris- “Whatever is true, ultimately transcends culture and tradition.”

    Report abuse

  • Thank you, Aseem, for sparking the discussion.  As usual, I feel like the winner because I learn more than I contribute — a net gain for me!  Hope to hear from you again soon. Report abuse

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