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ysabel
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May 2011
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Ys [userpic]
Politics is Personal: Foundations

Series Disclaimer

Re: my commentary about the dismal nature that is humanity.

I do believe that people have the potential to rise above that; I also believe that the people who actually do so are damned few and far between.

I believe so to. I see evidence for it (both the possibility and the rarity) on a regular basis.

I believe it's rising above our brutal natures that is the hope of humanity, long term. I just am very pessimistic about it, because it's rare and I don't see it being fostered in any culture, really.



Re: humans are territorial troop animals

More seriously, it doesn't answer the important question of, if human nature is not only unchanging but indistinct from ape nature, why you are working on a computer right now rather than sitting naked in a tree throwing dung at other apes.

First, I didn't say that human nature is unchanging, nor did it say it was indistinct from ape nature. That is not that much farther down the same path, so I can see how you got there, but it's not what I said.

That said, I'll note that other primates have demonstrated the same society-changing effects that technology can bring humans. In one experiment, a group of chimpanzees taught sign language started teaching it to their children, and the language changed in interesting ways.

In this context, I'm using "technology" to refer to knowledge that can be transferred from one being to another, and then built upon by the second being -- the same definition used by The Axemaker's Gift, which is quite the fun and interesting read. Because the second being gets the foundation "free", they can do things that no one could before. And the third being, receiving all of that, can do things that would've been inconcievable to the second being. The progression grows and gets faster and faster over time as the foundations build up and thus there's more places to build from.

Thus, the short answer to your question is just, "We got there first." We've had the time and the benefit of the multi-generational progression that technology brings for thousands of years so far. The apes mostly haven't gotten there yet (though there's some theories that suggest that modern chimps are showing signs of starting that progression even without our help). That doesn't require a fundamental change in nature, just the ability and willingness to communicate.

As for the unchanging part, I think that it's not too hard to demonstrate that cultures are built on basic nature (see the article I linked to in our last episode), rather than our natures changing somehow to match new cultures. I think that it's potentially possible for our natures to change, but I see no evidence that they have changed substantially, and lots of evidence that they haven't. Look at the widespread incidence of xenophobia for a great example of what I'm talking about.

I don't buy that humans are somehow better than the animals. Humans are animals that have learned efficient ways to communicate complex ideas, and that is an extremely powerful tool...but that doesn't make us not animals. (I don't buy any of the variants of 'humans are better than animals', by the way. See When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals for a good discussion of how entrenched the concept that animals are somehow lesser than humans is, and how necessary it seems to be to a hell of a lot of human viewpoints.)

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Comments

Very interesting and thought-provoking.

And I agree about the animals. I don't see how anyone who has had an animal in their life can believe that they are automatons, no matter how scientifically fashionable that conceit may be.

As for the unchanging part, I think that it's not too hard to demonstrate that cultures are built on basic nature (see the article I linked to in our last episode), rather than our natures changing somehow to match new cultures.

I disagree heartily. To give just one example, the massive change that happened in our societies in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when industrialisation suddenly meant the end of the traditional peasant lifestyle over most of Western Europe. You can see this going on right now today in the newly industrialising countries in East Asia. Getting off the farm and into a factory job tends to make what seemed "natural" before - superstition and subservience to tradition, for a start - not so natural any more.

It's no coincidence that Dubya scored lowest in the industrialised urban areas. If you can explain that while still maintaining that cultural changes don't occasion fundamental shifts in viewpoint and lifestyle, I'd like to hear it.

Wait, are you seriously suggesting that you believe that genetics and physiology can change significantly in the time it takes to industrialize? (i.e. decades, at most)

Or are we talking about different things?

...while still maintaining that cultural changes don't occasion fundamental shifts in viewpoint and lifestyle...

Where did I say that I believed that cultural changes don't occasion fundamental shifts in viewpoint and lifestyle?

I don't believe any such thing, so I'd like to know why you think I do. *grin*

I rather like humanity, myself. It's a wonderful and complex race, and the universe would be pretty dull without it.

I do wonder if the POW is a cultural one -- the US seems a more brutal place than scandinavia, with territory and a 'troop' in the form of family/friends being far more needful for personal wellbeing and survival than in countries with more expansive wellfare systems and/or a gentler climate.

And I've always found it entirely fascinating how intense americans in particular get about animals, both own pets and otherwise. Pet cemetaries are a very american concept. A movie like 'Free Willy' or that star trek movie with the space-travelling whales certainly couldn't have been made anywhere else :)

One theory aired on the radio the other day was that many americans are so far removed from nature that they think chicken nuggets and hamburgers are made in factories, and get genuinely upset at the thought of a 'real' animal being treated as less than human. A very puzzling concept in the more rural stretches of the world...

See, I just have no problem with killing for food. *smile*

I'll probably get into more of your cultural POV thesis later, here, too.

(Then again, we've had some of that conversation, what, ten years ago?)

Most likely =) I am somewhat fascinated with the nature/nurture debate, though that's usually more in relation to being a feminist than actually worrying much about how nationality affects things. Despite the occasional rant to the contrary. :)