Author Topic: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?  (Read 968 times)

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Offline MikeHz

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Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« on: January 03, 2017, 06:44:45 PM »
Throughout much, or maybe most, of human history, those questioning the dominant belief have been persecuted or killed. I’m wondering if this does not have the effect of selecting out for religiosity and conformity. Have most people achieved a genetic predisposition for belief in the supernatural, despite evidence that the supernatural does not exist? Has the tendency to kill off rational people genetically biased the general population to not be rational?
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Offline Enkidu Shamesh

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2017, 07:15:06 PM »
Questioning authority doesn't make you rational, it just makes you the kind of person that questions authority. I think there has undoubtedly been selective pressures created by society that have increased the tendency to conform (capital punishment is basically a multi-century long accidental project in eugenics).

We have to decide what we mean by rationality. Choosing to conform, or at least be careful about how you rock the boat, seems like a rational course of action. Loudly telling everyone you know that the king is an idiot doesn't seem too rational to me, even if the king is an idiot. Remember, Galileo didn't get locked up for saying the Earth revolved around the sun - he was locked up for publicly insulting and humiliating the Pope.

Selective pressures have likely worked (IMO) to make us more mindful of the status quo, and hesitant to upset it, regardless of rationality. This means that if you have a rational reason to oppose the status quo you are less likely to act on it; it also means that if you have a completely irrational reason to oppose the status quo you are less likely to act on it. Over all this is a socially stabilizing effect.

I suppose if there are gene variants associated with higher levels of conformity and we can show that they have been increasing in the population over time that would provide some evidence. The closest thing to that I can think of is the evidence that dogmatism is a heritable trait. Is there evidence that dogmatism is increasing over time?


Offline Andrew Clunn

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2017, 07:35:40 PM »
When MikeHZ creates a thread it's time to pay attention.  Will read later.
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Offline Ah.hell

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2017, 09:22:44 AM »
I tend to agree with Enkidu here.  There has been selective pressure to conform but that doesn't necessarily equate to irrationality.  There as also been countering selective pressure to not conform.  The adventurous have generally gambled on what lies over the next hill or across the Atlantic.  Most died but the successful get rich and get laid. 

Offline Johnny Slick

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2017, 10:28:09 AM »
In addition to what Enkidu said, even if there was a civilization-based push towards conformity and away from rationality (which is not a concession I'm willing to make), we've had civilization for somewhere around 10,000 years at the most, which is just plain not enough time for this to be ingrained in our genes.
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Offline Noisy Rhysling

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2017, 10:40:05 AM »
Throughout much, or maybe most, of human history, those questioning the dominant belief have been persecuted or killed. I’m wondering if this does not have the effect of selecting out for religiosity and conformity. Have most people achieved a genetic predisposition for belief in the supernatural, despite evidence that the supernatural does not exist? Has the tendency to kill off rational people genetically biased the general population to not be rational?
Irrational people will question authority too.
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Offline Ah.hell

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2017, 10:58:12 AM »
Throughout much, or maybe most, of human history, those questioning the dominant belief have been persecuted or killed. I’m wondering if this does not have the effect of selecting out for religiosity and conformity. Have most people achieved a genetic predisposition for belief in the supernatural, despite evidence that the supernatural does not exist? Has the tendency to kill off rational people genetically biased the general population to not be rational?
Irrational people will question authority too.
Or is that what THEY wan't you to believe?

Offline Noisy Rhysling

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2017, 11:11:22 AM »
Throughout much, or maybe most, of human history, those questioning the dominant belief have been persecuted or killed. I’m wondering if this does not have the effect of selecting out for religiosity and conformity. Have most people achieved a genetic predisposition for belief in the supernatural, despite evidence that the supernatural does not exist? Has the tendency to kill off rational people genetically biased the general population to not be rational?
Irrational people will question authority too.
Or is that what THEY wan't you to believe?
I know it's true, I read it on Loose Change.
"Sunday's horoscope is note worthy because of its strange, sudden and wholly unpredictable and inexplicable occurrences, affecting all phases of life." Your Horoscope" L.A. Evening Herald Express, Sat, 12/06/41

Offline Enkidu Shamesh

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2017, 01:33:26 PM »
In addition to what Enkidu said, even if there was a civilization-based push towards conformity and away from rationality (which is not a concession I'm willing to make), we've had civilization for somewhere around 10,000 years at the most, which is just plain not enough time for this to be ingrained in our genes.

I'm not sure what you mean by "ingrained in our genes." We know that we've been going through changes - evolution didn't stop 10,000 years ago, and there is evidence that it has actually accelerated (we keep inventing new selective pressures). For example, gene variants associated with higher I.Q. have been shown to be increasing in frequency just over the past 1000 years. I'd be surprised if the percentage of people who are lactose intolerant hasn't also gone down somewhat over time, among other adaptations to our agricultural diets - nothing perfect or final, but a definite shift.

We have invented ways to allow us to reproduce more, expanding our population, while simultaneously inventing new ways to die. Evolution is happening faster than ever.

Offline Johnny Slick

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2017, 01:40:18 PM »
Okay, point taken, but even so, 10,000 years is an extraordinarily short period of time to see the effects of something that isn't specifically being rooted out of a population.
Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.

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Offline Enkidu Shamesh

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2017, 01:51:31 PM »
How about 10,000 years of capital punishment for people caught breaking tribal taboos? It doesn't have to be perfectly enforced to have an effect. Even today people are stoned to death for violating taboos. I can't see how that won't have an effect over time. Just like adaptation to diet it isn't going to be total - just a shift in the genes in the direction of not rocking the boat, "going along to get along."

Offline amysrevenge

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2017, 01:57:26 PM »
How about 10,000 years of capital punishment for people caught breaking tribal taboos? It doesn't have to be perfectly enforced to have an effect. Even today people are stoned to death for violating taboos. I can't see how that won't have an effect over time. Just like adaptation to diet it isn't going to be total - just a shift in the genes in the direction of not rocking the boat, "going along to get along."

Unless it is capital punishment for pre-childbearing age youths, it will still have some effect but not as much as you'd think.  You can die as horribly as you like, but if it's after you've had kids the impact on selection will be greatly reduced.
Big Mike
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Offline Enkidu Shamesh

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2017, 02:17:37 PM »
Why pre-child bearing age? Even executing someone after they've had a child or two (who have a low chance of surviving to adulthood anyway) stops them from having more kids. Historically people have had many children - executing anyone before they have become infertile will have an effect. Not to mention that if your parents die when you are 8 your survival chances drop considerably.

People don't pop out all of their kids at once when they hit puberty. We aren't talking about completely removing genes or gene variants from the gene pool; we're talking about reducing their prevalence. You don't have to prevent people with gene X from having any kids to have an effect; you just need to prevent them from having as many as people who have gene Not-X.

It's the same as lactose intolerance. You don't have to kill everyone in the population with lactose intolerance. The gene variants become less prevalent over time because those who can't digest milk as adults have a lower survival rate. They don't have zero children, they have fewer children. That is all it takes to have an effect over time.

I'm not even arguing that capital punishment is the strongest artificial selector we've introduced. Prior to modern sanitation most cities were death machines, possibly the primary driver in increasing IQs. What I am arguing is that capital punishment for breaking the law (regardless of what that law was) has likely had some effect on our propensity to break laws/taboos/social norms. I have no idea how strong that effect is, so I'm not sure how you can say it's "not as much as you'd think." You have no idea what I think - I haven't exactly put a number to it.

Offline amysrevenge

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2017, 02:22:18 PM »
Hence "reduced" and not "eliminated".  If you killed off children, you'd have a 100% success rate at eliminating their genes from the pool.  The longer you wait past child-bearing age, the lower that success rate gets.
Big Mike
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Offline Enkidu Shamesh

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Re: Has history artificially selected for irrationality?
« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2017, 02:24:18 PM »
so . . . you're agreeing with me? I never said "eliminated." I don't think anyone said "eliminated."

 

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