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This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

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In this episode, we talk about white nationalism.

Participants: Yassine, Walt Bismarck, TracingWoodgrains.

Links:

Why I'm no longer a White Nationalist (The Walt Right)

The Virulently Unapologetic Racism of "Anti-Racism" (Yassine Meskhout)

Hajnal Line (Wikipedia)

Fall In Line Parody Song (Walt Bismarck)

Richard Spencer's post-Charlottesville tirade (Twitter)

The Metapolitics of Black-White Conflict (The Walt Right)

America Has Black Nationalism, Not Balkanization (Richard Hanania)


Recorded 2024-04-13 | Uploaded 2024-04-14

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

Transnational Thursday is a thread for people to discuss international news, foreign policy or international relations history. Feel free as well to drop in with coverage of countries you’re interested in, talk about ongoing dynamics like the wars in Israel or Ukraine, or even just whatever you’re reading.

12

By rule utilitarianism, here I will mean, roughly speaking, the moral stance summarized as follows:

  1. People experience varying degrees of wellbeing as a function of their circumstances; for example, peace and prosperity engender greater wellbeing than for their participants than war and famine.
  2. As a matter of fact, some value systems yield higher levels human wellbeing than others.
  3. Moral behavior consists in advocating and conforming to value systems that engender relatively high levels of human wellbeing.

Varieties of this position are advocated in academic philosophy, for example, by Richard Brandt, Brad Hooker, and R.M. Hare -- and in popular literature, for example, by Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape and (more cogently, in my opinion) by Stephen Pinker in the final chapter of his book Enlightenment Now. I do not believe that rule utilitarianism cuts much ice as a moral stance, and this essay will explain why I hold that opinion.

1. The "Bo Diddley Question"

"All you need is love" -- John Lennon

Maybe, but the real question is,

"Who do you love?" -- Bo Diddley

In his book Enlightenment Now, psychologist Steven Pinker hedges on proposition #3 of the utilitarian platform right off the bat, writing, "Despite the word's root, humanism doesn't exclude the flourishing of animals" [p. 410]. Well, professor, it sho' 'nuff does exclude the flourishing of animals! If the ultimate moral purpose is to promote human flourishing, then non-humans are excluded from consideration in the ultimate moral purpose. To be charitable, I suppose Pinker means that it is consistent with (3) that there is a secondary moral purpose in maximizing the wellbeing of animals. But really, a Harvard professor ought not to be an intellectual charity case, and he should have said what he meant. I speculate that the reason he did not say what he meant is that it opens a can of worms that is rather uncomfortable for the humanist position. To wit, either animals count as much as humans our moral calculus, or they do not. If animals count as much as humans, then most of us (non-vegetarians) are in a lot of trouble -- or at least ought to be. On the other hand, if animals don't count as much as humans, then the reason they don't, carried to its logical conclusion, is liable to be the reason that some humans don't count as much as others. For example, do (non-human) animals count less because they are less intelligent? In that case, the utilitarian is obliged to explain why the line is drawn just where it is, and, indeed, why deep fried dumbass shouldn't be an item on the menu at Arby's.

In The Moral Landscape, and in his TED talk on the same thesis, Sam Harris spends most of his time defending propositions (1) and (2) of the utilitarian position, but he does briefly address the issue of speciesism, saying, "If we are more concerned about our fellow primates than we are about insects, as indeed we are, it's because we think they're exposed to a greater range of potential happiness and suffering." What he does not do is place the range of animal experience on the same scale as human experience to compare them, or give us any reason to think bottom of the scale for humans is meaningfully (if at all) above the top of the scale for our fellow primates-- not to mention cows, pigs, and rabbits. Moreover, he gives no reason whatsoever for why we ought to draw a big red line at some arbitrary place on that scale, and write "Not OK to trap, shoot, eat, encage, or wear the skins of anything above this line." Now, I am not saying that we should eat people whose IQ falls below a certain threshold; I am saying that if you claim to found a moral theory on objective reason then you should actually do it, and one of the firsts things your theory should account for is the uncontroversial position of "speciesism" -- that is, why cannibalism is forbidden but vegetarianism is optional. Pinker doesn't even try; Harris makes a halfhearted attempt that fails miserably. Philosopher Peter Singer pulls the thread all the way, concluding that speciesism is immoral: vegetarianism is probably not optional, and infanticide might not be so bad. Dr. Singer deserves much credit for his logical consistency -- but I don't think he deserves much credit for playing with a full deck.

Regarding propositions (1)-(3) above, at the end of the day, my response to the conjunction of (1) and (2) is duh, and my response to (3) is that it leaves unanswered the central question of morality: in the words of the great moral philosopher Bo Diddley, Who do you love? Speciesism is only the thin end of the wedge: not only do I generally value the wellbeing of people more than that that of cows and rabbits, I also value the wellbeing of my people more than I value that of other people. Thus, premises (1) and (2) do not imply conclusion (3) for the following reasons:

  1. I value the wellbeing of people (and animals) in my identity group over that of people (and animals) outside my identity group, and it is only right that I should do this.
  2. As a matter of fact, the wellbeing of different groups, of which I am a member, often trade against each other in moral decisions.
  3. The purpose of moral precepts, largely if not mainly, is to manage tradeoffs between our concerns for the welfare of different groups, with different degrees of shared identity, of which we are a common member (e.g. self, family, clan, tribe, nation, humanity, the brotherhood of conscious creatures, etc.).

Now in response to (1), you might say that I am a scoundrel. In response to that, I say that's just, like, your opinion, man. Philosophers such as Peter Singer, and popular writers like Stephen Pinker, insist that I must be impartial between the wellbeing of my people on the one hand, and that of homo sapiens at large on the other. For example, Pinker writes, "There is nothing magic about the pronouns I and me that would justify privileging my interests over yours or anyone else's" [Enlightenment Now, p. 412]. To that I reply, why on Earth would I need magic, or even justification, to privilege my own interests over yours? Of course I privilege my interests over yours, and almost certainly vice versa. In fact, unless you are a friend of mine, I privilege my dog's interests over yours. For example, if my dog needed a life-saving medical procedure that costs $5000, I would pay for it, but if you need a life-saving medical procedure that cost $5000, I probably would not pay for it -- and if an orphan from East Bengal needed a life-saving medical procedure that costs $5000 (which one probably does at this very moment), I would almost certainly not pay for it, and neither would you (unless you are actually paying for it).

I believe I am not alone in being more concerned with the welfare of my dog than with that of a random homo sapien. Consider, for example, that the average lifetime cost of responsibly owning a dog in the United States is around $29,000 -- while, according to the Givewell organization, the cost of saving the life of one unfortunate fellow man at large by donating to a well chosen charity is around $4500 [source]. If those figures are correct, it means that if you own a dog, then you could have allocated the cost of owning that dog to save the lives of about six people on average (and if the figures are wrong, something like that is true anyway). Now, Steven Pinker himself once tweeted that dog ownership comes with empirically verifiable psychological benefits for the dog owner. In his excitement over those psychological benefits, I suppose, he neglected to mention that it also comes with the opportunity cost of six (or so) third world children dying in squalid privation. If Pinker really believes, as he claims to believe, that "reducing the suffering and enhance the flourishing of human beings is the ultimate moral purpose," he sure isn't selling it very hard. But then again, no one in their right mind is.

Some people become agitated if it is suggested that they care little about the welfare of human beings qua human beings. I myself am at peace with it. Indeed, if a man did let his family dog pass away, when he could have saved the dog's life for a few thousand dollars, and he spent that money instead to save the life of a foreigner whom he had never met, then, all else being equal, I would prefer not to have him as a countryman, let alone a friend. I submit that, as a matter of fact, a nation made up of such quixotic pipsqueaks would perish from the Earth in a matter of three or four generations.

A perceptive utilitarian might say that last sentence is just it: impartiality between the wellbeing of a one's ingroup and outgroup is harmful to the communities that adopt it, and that is why real utilitarianism does not require impartiality (contra. Pinker and Singer). In fact, that is getting somewhere -- but that somewhere is not one step closer to resolving the Bo Diddley question (who do you love?). One might suppose that utilitarianism could be salvaged by tailoring it to favor the wellbeing of "the ingroup", but the fly in that ointment is that there is no such thing as "the ingroup". On the contrary, human nature being what it is, groups at all levels split into factions which then try to have their way with each other -- from nuclear families, to PTA boards, to political parties, to nations, to the whole of humanity. A code of conduct that is good for my community at one level might subtract from the good of a smaller, tighter community of which I am also a member. That is a basic fact of the human condition.

Such self-interested factionalism is the elephant in the room in every negotiation, at every level of community, from international diplomacy down to an argument over who is doing the dishes after supper. Thus, it is a mistake to picture a code of conduct that benefits "the community": each person is, after all, a member of multiple overlapping communities of various sizes and levels of cohesion, whose interests are frequently in conflict with each other. Now hear this: when we are looking for a win-win solution that benefits everyone at all levels without hurting anyone at any level of "our community", this is an engineering problem, or a social engineering problem, but not an ethical problem. It is the win-lose scenarios (or the win-more-win-less scenarios), which trade the wellbeing of one level of my community against that of another, that fall into the domain of ethics. Of course we are more concerned for the welfare of those whose identities have more in common with our own -- but how steep should the drop-off be as a function of shared identity? Should it converge to zero for humanity at large? Less than zero for our enemies? How about rabbits and cows? That's the Bo Diddley question! That is a central problem, if not the central problem, of bona fide ethical discourse -- and it is a question about which utilitarianism has nothing to say, except to beg the question from the outset.

2. No Moral Verve

At the end of the day, the conversation on ethics should come to something more than chalk on a board. When the chalk dust settles, if we have done a decent job of it, we should bring away something that can inspire us to rise to the call of duty when duty gets tough. The fatal defect of utilitarianism in this regard is that practically no one -- neither you, nor I, nor Steven Pinker, nor Sam Harris, nor John Stuart Mill himself -- actually gives a leaping rat's ass about the suffering or the flourishing of homo sapiens at large. Such was eloquently voiced by Adam Smith, and his statement is worth quoting at length:

Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connection with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquility, as if no such accident had happened. [Smith (1759): The Theory of Moral Sentiments]

Here is the point. As C.S. Lewis wrote, In battle it is not syllogisms [logic] that will keep the reluctant nerves and muscles to their post in the third hour of the bombardment ["The Abolition of Man"]. Lewis was right about this -- and, while we are making a list of things that do not inspire people to rise to call of duty when duty gets tough, we can include on that list any concern they might claim to have for the welfare of human beings at large.

3. The Voodoo Factor

On top of ignoring the multilayered, competitive nature of the human condition, and on top of having no practical motivational force even for its professed adherents, another problem with rule utilitarianism is the voodoo it invokes to connect (a) performing a particular action with (b) what would happen, counterfactually, if everyone followed the salient rule that permits the action. In the simplest possible example, if I steal a tootsie roll from a convenience store, then, in the immediate material, this is good for me and bad for the store owner. In the world of mystical utilitarian counterfactuals, if everyone stole everything all the time, then everyone (including me) would clearly be worse off -- but in the actual world, me stealing a bite of candy is not going to cause everyone to steal everything all the time, or, probably, cause anyone else to steal anything else ever. Even if an individual tootsie roll pilferage did have some miniscule ripple effect on society, I would still expect the material impact on me personally to be less than the cost of the candy I stole. To put it more generally, when someone steals something and gets away with it, they do not reasonably expect to lose net income as a result. So, why on Earth should I care about what would happen in the counterfactual situation where everyone stole everything all the time? I cannot imagine an objective reason why I should.

Perhaps there is some deep metaphysical argument that establishes, on an objective basis, that one ought to behave the way they wish others in "their community" to behave (if, again counterfactually, there were such a thing as "their community") -- or perhaps there is some kind of cosmic karma stipulating that what goes around invariably comes around on this Earth, but (1) I cannot imagine what that metaphysical argument would be, (2) the world doesn't look to me like it works that way, and (3) neither Pinker, nor Harriss, nor Singer, nor Benthem, nor Mill actually give such metaphysical arguments, nor attempt to show that the world does work that way.

Conclusion

When I say that utilitarianism has nothing useful to say about real world ethical problems, I mean it. Of course one might give evidence about the impacts of some rule or policy, which might then inform whether we want to adopt that rule or policy-- but I doubt the following words have ever been uttered in a real debate over policy or ethics: I conceded that your policy/rule/value-premise, if adopted, would benefit every segment of the community more than mine does, but to Hell with that. The fact is that everyone prefers policies that benefit their communities when they are a win/win at every level -- whether or not they have read one fancy word of John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, Peter Singer, Sam Harris, or Steven Pinker. Thus, to the degree that utilitarianism has any force in the real world, it adds nothing to the conversation that wasn't already embedded in common sense. On the other hand, to the degree that utilitarianism is not redundant with common sense, it has no motivational force, even for its professed adherents -- especially if they own a dog.

I submit that the position of utilitarianism is not only weak, but so evidently preposterous that its firm embrace requires an act of intellectual dishonesty. I can say this without contempt, because less than ten years ago I myself espoused utilitarianism. I knew then and I know now that I was not being intellectually honest in espousing this view. To my credit, I could not bring myself to write a defense of utilitarianism, even though I tried -- because I could not come up with an argument for it that I found convincing. Yet, I presumed that I would eventually be able to produce such an argument, and I did state utilitarianism as my position, without confessing that I could not defend the position to my own satisfaction.

I further submit that programs like utilitarianism are not only mistaken but harmful -- and not just a little bit harmful, but disastrously harmful, and that the engendered disaster is unfolding before our eyes. The problem is not that utilitarians are necessarily bad people; it is that, if they are good people, they are good people in some sense by accident: reflexively mimicking the virtues and values of their inherited traditions, while at the same time denigrating tradition, and mistaking their moral heritage for something they have discovered on their own. As John Selden wrote,

Custom quite often wears the mask of nature, and we are taken in [by this] to the point that the practices adopted by nations, based solely on custom, frequently come to seem like natural and universal laws of mankind. [Natural and National Law, Book 1, Chapter 6]

The problem with subverting the actual source of our moral conventions and replacing it with a feeble rationalization is this: each generation naturally (and rightly) pushes back against their inherited traditions, and pokes to see what is underneath them. If the actual source of those traditions has been forgotten, and they are presented instead as being founded on hollow arguments, the pushback will blow the house down. Sons will live out the virtues of their fathers less with each passing generation, progressively supplanting those virtues with the unrestrained will of their own flesh. That is where we are now -- and shallow, impotent secular theories of morality are part of the problem.

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

There has been a lot of CW discussion on climate change. This is an article written by someone that used to strongly believe in anthropogenic global warming and then looked at all the evidence before arriving at a different conclusion. The articles goes through what they did.

I thought a top-level submission would be more interesting as climate change is such a hot button topic and it would be good to have a top-level spot to discuss it for now. I have informed the author of this submission; they said they will drop by and engage with the comments here!

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

Transnational Thursday is a thread for people to discuss international news, foreign policy or international relations history. Feel free as well to drop in with coverage of countries you’re interested in, talk about ongoing dynamics like the wars in Israel or Ukraine, or even just whatever you’re reading.

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

4Chan's First Feature film is also the first Feature length AI Film.

The Conceit? Aside from a few Joke stills, none of the visual film is AI. It is a "Nature Documentary" Narrated by David Attenborough... It is also maybe the most disturbing film ever made, and possibly the most important/impactful film of the decades so far.

Reality is more terrifying than fiction.

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

Transnational Thursday is a thread for people to discuss international news, foreign policy or international relations history. Feel free as well to drop in with coverage of countries you’re interested in, talk about ongoing dynamics like the wars in Israel or Ukraine, or even just whatever you’re reading.

Alternative Title: Where would you live if you had only minimal constraints?

While I am very much soliciting genuine requests and hope to follow through on the post title, I hope this prompt will also be a fun one.

Many of us fantasize about living abroad or starting over. But there is always an excuse. Some factor tying us down or preventing us from making the lunge: a job, a partner, a sick relative. I have found myself with these excuses recently plucked away.

Since any (good) recommendation should be tailored to the recipient, here are the aforementioned minimal constraints:

  1. American citizen. Native English speaker.
    • Not restricted to English speaking locations, but the difficulties of learning a language and assimilating should be considered
    • For simplicity and op-sec, assume fluency in other languages can be rounded down to 0
  2. Long Term, Stable Couple
    • All preferences are shared between both of us
    • Do not need to consider relationship prospects of destination
    • Monogamous
    • Straight
  3. Young (~30) years old
  4. No children yet. Will have first (of several) children within next 3 years.
    • No adult dependents (such as sick family members that need to be cared for)
  5. $250k household income
    • Assume standard income growth for competitive tech field: +5-10% real growth per year.
  6. Fully Remote Work
    • This is the big one that opens up the world
    • Assume remote work will remain viable (fair assumption given our fields)

I'm a believer in the idea that constraints can paradoxically increase creativity, but if you have a dream destination that is incompatible with these constraints don't let me stop you from sharing.

The Motte has an eclectic mix of users and I specifically want to know YOUR ideal destination, NOT what you think someone like us would want. The standard lists and rankings of "best places to live" are either bizarre (they overweight metrics that don't matter to most) or end up just being too blank - effectively just a list of major cities.

I'm hoping to discover some unusual preferences. Maybe your dream is a few hundred acres of farmland in a rural spot. Maybe it's something incredibly niche like needing to be walking distance from the Louvre or being able to view the Khumbu at sunrise from your porch. Now is the time to sell me the rest of us on your dream :).

We will be visiting a number of options this summer and would love to add some additional locations to either this trip or the next. The goal is to move to this location early 2025.

Will include some of the options I've been toying with as a comment.

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

Inspired by some of the conversations we had here about the experiences of previous generations (especially with /u/the_nybbler, and yes, I know you're not a boomer), I wrote up a post that challenges a common narrative of how good the boomers had, and how screwed the millennials are. Main point is that the houses were not that much cheaper relative to now, and the interests rates were murderous. Enjoy!

(I'm a regular poster here, but I wanted to separate the identities for opsec purposes).

6

Millions of people connect with his media persona, he was/is a cultural phenomenon. There is a picture of him that is treated like a shrine at my cousin's very good restaurant. Why did a man who seemingly had everything to live for take his own life? Not through an OD or other excess, but by hanging himself from a doorknob? The guy could score drugs in a second, why not ride it out in a heroin haze?

This whole thing is a puzzle to me and it seems wrapped up in his romantic life somehow? I remember seeing a picture of his girlfriend who was obviously cheating on him while "training" MMA etc...

I lose a lot of respect for people that "trade up" after they get famous and ditch their long time spouse that supported them when they were just a normal person, turnabout is fair play? Was it really that he could dish it out but couldn't take it?

Is this someone that people should look up to because he could be a charming bad boy for the cameras? I almost feel like it was too many 3rd world trips, I could actually see the pain he experienced while getting an "authentic" experience over and over again from people that wouldn't make in a lifetime what he made in a day. One or 2 fixers/guides even angled for some wealth or a chance to move to the US and pointed out the extreems, and that is just what they showed us on camera.

Anyhow, I'm a few glasses of wine in. Nowhere in my rambling, incoherent response did I come close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. We are all dumber for having read it. I award myself no points and may God have mercy on my soul.

13

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Contributions to the Main Motte

@Kinoite:

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Contributions for the week of February 26, 2024

Health Scare

@self_made_human:

@ControlsFreak:

Affirmative Faction

@CrispyFriedBarnacles:

@Stefferi:

Why Not Both?

@RandomRanger:

Contributions for the week of March 4, 2024

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@ArmedTooHeavily:

@MaximumCuddles:

@07mk:

@ArjinFerman:

@popocatepetl:

Let's Talk About Us

@FCfromSSC:

@WestphalianPeace:

Contributions for the week of March 11, 2024

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@Capital_Room:

@RandomRanger:

@hydroacetylene:

What is a Man?

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@100ProofTollBooth:

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@blooblyblobl:

@urquan:

@FiveHourMarathon:

@PyotrVerkhovensky:

Free as in Software

@Walterodim:

@WhiningCoil:

@ControlsFreak:

Contributions for the week of March 25, 2024

@Walterodim:

@07mk:

@PierreMenard:

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-16

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake.

Our modern society is in love with Darwin. Our ideas about nature, evolution, society and ourselves have been shaped by this man. It seems like every reasonable person in the world agrees that Darwin’s theory is correct and useful. Darwin’s theory aims at explaining how species evolve and become new species through the means of what he called “Natural Selection”, which was defined by him as follows: “This preservation of favourable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called Natural Selection”. In other words, traits that benefit the individual tend to be preserved over time, while injurious traits tend to disappear. Traits that are not beneficial or detrimental are not affected by Natural Selection.

The accusation that this definition is tautological is nothing new and is well known, but it is generally ignored. A tautology is a statement that is true in every possible case. For instance, a statement like “The car is red because it’s not green” can’t be false because everything that is red is, by definition, not green. This statement is true but it’s useless as an explanation because it doesn’t give any information other than what is implied by its terms. Darwin’s critics accuse him of crafting a tautological statement because in his definition “favourable” or “beneficial” traits are defined as those that are preserved, and traits that are preserved are of course those that are favourable or beneficial. In other words, what Darwin says is that traits that are preserved are preserved. For instance: A Darwinist would say that human thumbs exist because they provide an advantage for the survivability of the species, so humans with thumbs have always been more successful at being alive and passing on their genes than human species without them. But if humans had no thumbs we could make the exact same argument, mutatis mutandis. Because of course what already exists has a higher chance of continuing to exist than things that no longer exist or that have never existed. Another example: Individuals who are born with healthy reproductive organs are more likely to pass on their genes than individuals who are born infertile. In both cases we can see “natural selection” in action. Both “explanations” are obviously true, but they are tautological, they don’t add any new information.

So the theory of Natural Selection explains nothing, and while scientists and biologists may admire Darwin and “believe” in Natural Selection, especially in opposition to creationist explanations, the truth is that Darwin’s book On The Origin of Species is an artifact of the past and university curriculums hardly devote any time to it. If people were to suddenly forget all about Darwin our understanding of evolution would remain roughly the same - although we would lose his contributions in other fields. Nowadays people seem to think that “evolution” and “natural selection” are synonyms but that’s not true at all. Evolution wasn’t a new concept to educated people back in the XIXth century, and everyone grasped the concept of heritability. So why was it so important, or why was it considered important, and why did it cause such a revolution in our understanding of nature? The answer is: Because of the concept of struggle for existence. People have always known that animals and humans change throughout the generations, but Darwin’s theory asserted that everything in nature, both animal and human, is determined by a struggle for scarce resources, that is, by an economic problem. Again, this is something that everyone who has felt hunger or desire to reproduce has understood to some degree, but before Darwin nature was much more than simply being alive and reproducing yourself. It was a divine creation, it had meaning, it had truth, it spoke in a rich language understandable to humans. Darwin’s theory made this language unintelligible, because it showed that an economic mindset was enough to understand nature for the purpose of fulfilling our needs. If a car is red, we don’t need to know the owner’s preferences or the manufacturer’s motivations in order to know that it is not green, and this knowledge is enough to use it. The fact that humankind descends from apes was polemic only because it showed that humans and apes have the same needs and aspirations, even if they had different evolutionary strategies to acquire them. But this is the conscious part, the part that everyone acknowledges. There’s also an unconscious consequence of the theory of natural selection: That nothing exists outside the struggle for existence.

This last idea is what makes Darwin’s theory so apt for the modern world. Science can overcome Darwin, modern society seemingly cannot. And even though biologists don’t pay much attention to him, Darwin is still quite popular in politics, philosophy, and social sciences. Because if there’s something at which modern society is particularly good, it’s at providing the means for existence and reproduction. So a theory of nature that asserts that this is all there is to it it’s bound to be popular, because it justifies the current state of affairs and exalts it as the best possible outcome of a long evolution towards an efficient society. All other possible alternatives are overcomed, and any possible development can only follow its example. Politically, liberals love it because it justifies and naturalizes their belief in the free market, and marxists love it because it promises future and exciting developments when men conquer the course of the evolution of their species with their own hands. Philosophically it solves the problem of how living creatures were created out of lifeless things, and it solves it in such a way that is comprehensible for human cognition. But the most peculiar development comes from the social sciences. First, came the social Darwinists who tried to apply the principle of survival of the fittest quite literally, but after WWII this became impossible for political reasons. We now have evolutionary psychology, a field that instead of trying to control human behavior creates a mythology around it, providing panglossian theories for human behavior that explain nothing and are therefore impossible to prove or disprove, but that provide a common ground between the general public and solicitors, drivelers, quacks, pickup artists - in a world, charlatans of all kinds. Everybody wants the secret to “hack” human behavior. There’s a particular internet subculture of men who are frustrated with modern society and with the changes in gender roles, and who look in evolutionary psychology for mating strategies to end their loneliness, believing that the atavistic caves where man supposedly learned to be man are like the rooms in which they spend most of their lives, without realizing that it is the selfishness of modern society that created this idea of the primitive caveman and that erodes human connections by reducing them to a mere survival strategy.

But it is clear that man became man not by surviving or by conquering the means to preserve and reproduce himself, but by the conquest of the unnecessary. As Gaston Bachelard(1) puts it: “Man is a creation of desire, not a creation of necessity”. Furthermore, there’s no evidence for the existence of a “survival instinct” anywhere in nature. We believe ourselves to be smarter than animals because they risk their lives in pointless endeavors, they are mostly unable to plan ahead and to cooperate for their survival as we do. But who said they needed to? If everything life needed is to survive, then asexual organisms would be the pinnacle of evolution, everything that has come after it is useless and inferior by this standard. While it is true that a struggle is necessary to exist, if existence were its only goal, if one could not risk even existence itself in exchange of something else, this struggle would be meaningless. Sexual reproduction is an example of a struggle where individual existence is put into question, because it bridges the gap between two individuals and creates something new. It is luxurious and exuberant, as life itself. This is something that has always been quite clear for humans since the dawn of time, but that seems incomprehensible now. Biology can progress through Darwinism but only by obscuring the mystery of life, turning it into something miserable and petty, like human economy. This progress is nothing but a change of perspective, focusing one thing and ignoring another. But as all perspectives are, in principle, equally valid, it’s only desire what moves us towards something else and something better than our trivial everyday existence and its meaningless struggles. Is it not, as Georges Bataille puts it, the tiger’s fruitlessness what makes it the king of the jungle? By predating on other animals, that eat other animals, that eat plants, and so on, the tiger splurges a huge amount of the jungle’s resources. Some would say that it serves the purpose of maintaining the balance of the ecosystem, but couldn’t this balance be imposed by the tiger itself? Its existence would then be more than a struggle for existence, it would be a struggle to impose its own norm, its own will, its right to splurge. This struggle would be unintelligible without the base of mere existence, because individual existence imposes a period of activity and silence, a discrete grammar for the tiger’s individuality to express itself, but the meaning of the tiger’s behavior can only be confused with its grammar by a fool. The tiger itself is but an echo of something infinite.

(1)Gaston Bachelard, The Psychoanalysis of Fire.

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