Saturday, February 11, 2006

Middle School Clique Behavior Amongst Academics

In my middle school, I was one of the first people to hate Green Day. I loved them at first; they were an anthem to horny teenaged boys. Then I decided to hate them--not because their music is crappy (which it is)--but because everyone else LOVED them. I quickly became an anti-trendy after that.

Now my tastes are my tastes despite what everyone else likes. However, on the Ole Miss campus, and maybe every college campus, there is a higher concentration of people who hate this or that simply because it is so popular.

When I was in high school I thought that college was going to be a place where there is a free flow of ideas, and people judge those ideas based on their merit. There is some of that yes, but especially among social science crowds, there are many people just trying to be smarter and more opinionated than eachother. I think this is the reason why Lacan and Derida are so popular. They present incomprehensible academic babble that people pretend is meaningfull so they can sound smart.

The only understandable utterance that spew from these people's mouths is that "white men are evil". But to make a claim against this is like saying you believe in Darwinian Evolution at the Southern Baptists convention.

There isn't a whole lot of difference between Post-Modernism and Christian fundamentalism. They both are extremely distrustful of Science, and they are both radicals.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Quote from the Left Hand of God

It is the search for meaning in a despiritualized world that leads many people to right-wing religious communities because these groups seem to be in touch with the sacred dimension of life. Many secularists imagine that people drawn to the Right are there solely because of some ethical or psychological malfunction. What they miss is that there are many very decent Americans who get attracted to the Religious Right because it is the only voice that they encounter that is willing to challenge the despiritualization of daily life, to call for a life that is driven by higher purpose than money, and to provide actual experiences of supportive community for those whose daily life is suffused with alienation and spiritual loneliness.

Read a longer excerpt

Passive Resistance, Basketball, and Evolution (Served with a side of ADD).

I've been watching the Civil Rights documentary Eyes on the Prize. The US Civil Rights movement was one of the best examples of Non-Violent Passive Resistance I can imagine.

One of the things someone in the documentary said was (and I'm paraphrasing here) that non-violence only works for the side of good. There's some truth to this as I see it. If an oppressed group does nothing to give excuses to their oppressors to maintain their ways, the oppressor is confronted with their own misdeads and they are forced to change themselves internally.

The only excuse for using violence against violence is a pathetically childish one: "He hit me first!". It has been my experience that fear inhibits maturation. For the people that rely on the "he hit me first argument", who are in fact the ones who were hit first, the fear of being hit again inhibits the rational, mature, response. This is part of our programming, as selected for by natural selection, and has provided fitness at a high cost. Evolution doesn't make perfect systems. In fact it tends to over-generalize.

The other day I told a behaviorist friend of mine that the day after I over-exerted myself playing basketball with him I had a severe allergy attack, and that I need to recoop a while before we could play again. He then reminded me that correlation is not causation and that this is how superstitions start. I agree with him that that's how superstitions start, but in this instance I wasn't willing to test what caused my allergy attack having still not recovered from it. This is exactly the kind of overgeneralization that natural selection selects for. What struck me was his attitude towards superstition. It was almost one of "pfff.... superstitious ignoramous!" only much more mildly. This is just my interpretation of it, I know that's not exactly how he meant it, but my internal reaction to his statement caused me to interpret his it that way.

But he had a point. As a species, we need to take more risks. We need to risk letting go of violence. Nevertheless, there is a snootiness(sp?) to his remark. There is also a snootiness to some of the terms that psychologists use to describe some behaviors. For instance, there is a study that results suggested that "women conform more than men". What this means is that if there are two ATM machines side by side, and there is a line behind one, and not the other, a woman are more likely to assume that the ATM with no line behind it is broken without trying it for herself. I don't see this as conformity, I see it as prudence.

It has been demonstrated with resonable certainty by biologists and evolutionary psychologists that the maxim "eggs are expensive, sperm is cheap" is a truism. It makes sense that women would be more protective of themselves than men. This "conformist" behavior appearently provided more fitness to one sex than the other. In my experience, which may not count for much, women do tend to be more conservative and more religious than men. If this is offensive, I'm sorry, but give me some hard data to disprove it. That's what science is all about.

You might be saying at this point:"ATM's are new, how could we ever have evolved behavior to deal with them?" or "Isn't there no harm in testing whether an ATM is busted or not?" Here is an example of how organisms are subjected to new environments which they are not adapted to. Our brains/minds adapted in an environment where every one of our behaviors mattered. When confronted with a new situation, it is safer to do what everyone else is doing. This is not something to be judged in a negative light. Who knows how many times in the past has this prudence saved our ancestors?

But now we are confronted with a new environment, where the consequences of making the wrong decision could mean the annihilation of the human race. To quote a friend "the destructiveness of our weapons grows in orders of magnitudes". I believe now we must find ways of reducing fear, though we more reason now than ever to be fearful, so that reason may prevail.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Let's piss some more people off!!

These are the cartoons that are causing all the riots.

I believe in the right to free press, and free speech. I'm sorry these things are offensive to some people, but those people need to understand that those rights protect them as well.

ps-thanks Anna for giving me this URL!!

People Everywhere are Pissed!

I don't know how many people have noticed this, I'd like to think I'm not the only one who has, but everyone feels that their values and beliefs are under attack. Muslims, Christians, Evolutionists, Republicans, Democrats, EVERYONE!!!

I blame the radicals* among ALL these groups, but especially conservative Christians. They have been attacking and attacking and attacking in increasingly organized ways. But unfortunately, the response to them hasn't been much better. When the conservatives call the non-them "evil" and "tools of the devil" and just plain "satan", how do the radicals on the other side respond? "Conservatives are just too stupid to see things our way." I don't know about you, but I think Carl Rove is a pretty smart guy, though he is working for really bad people.

As a part of the Reconcilience part of this blog I would like to state this:
As a progressive, I disagree with much of what conservatives are trying to do in this world. But I do believe that they are doing it because they feel that it is the right thing to do. The average conservative is just trying to be a good Christian, or Muslim. I understand and respect that. I am trying to live up to my beliefs and to do what my conscience tells me to do. We are just trying to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and be proud of what we see.

*the definition of radical I use in this entry is the same as in the previous post.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A new definition of "radical"


n. One who feels threatened by the very existence of opinions or beliefs not their own.

I'm a little slow...

I'm just now reading Guns, Germs and Steel. I knew it has been out for a while now, but I was completely unaware that there's a PBS documentary made from it. It amazes me that I didn't know that because PBS is the ONLY channel I get with my rabbit ears!!

I find the book incredibly liberating. As a white male, I feel incredibly guilty that I'm living on land that was acquired through genocide. What Jared Diamond's book shows me is that the circumstances that lead to the European colonialism, and subsequently much of the state of the world today is all the result of historical coincidence. This does not excuse the immoral behavior of colonialists, but it seems to be arbitrary that these people were white men. I refuse to jump on the white men are evil bandwagon. Diamond illustrates that if Australian Aborigines were in the same environment as white men, we would be talking about the oppressive Yir Yoront hegemony. We would complain about the "black male" bias in our society.

In a way, it's almost unfortunate that the circumstances that lead to European hegemony only happened once. Were it to happen in 2 locations at the same time we might not be so quick to point the finger at some grossly overgeneralized group of people. We would be forced to look deeper into the Ultimate reasons for human history.

In all cases that I can think of in history, attrocities happen when the powerful members of a society seek to exploit the weak of any society, including their own. This is not unique to Europe. I think the genocide of the East Timorese by Singapore proves this point quite well. I think what is missing from the consciousness of many people is that most individuals, white, black, male, female, for 99.9% of human history have merely been trying to keep their families and themselves alive. My family arrived to the United States too late to start the pandemic that killed so many natives. They also arrived to late to take part in the genocidal conquest of the land I know live in. My ancestors were poor farmers who battled cold winters and broken backs. I think this is the story for most people in the world, including most white men.

This is actually something my father tried to tell me along time ago, but like I said, I'm a little slow. White liberal guilt is a hard thing to overcome. It's the product of being empathetic, which is at the core of my system of values. I felt guilty because I care. That's something I will never be ashamed of.

I realize this post doesn't begin to touch the problems of male hegemony. I will save that for another post. But I will say this: chauvanism is also not unique to Europe.

Explorer Destroyer