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Wednesday, September 14, 2022

More new reading

apropos of so called "Deliberation Science"

Dr. Ahn's book has just been released. Kim Wehle's is fairly recent (I've read and cited her before). I'm reading these two side by side. Very illuminating. 
I'm deep into Dr. Ahn's book straight away. Chapter 2 (on "confirmation bias") alone was worth the price. She runs this outfit (below) at Yale.
This is likely to be a long post. Stay tuned. For now, among other prior posts, ponder Dr. Justin Gregg.

Also, older blog stuff, via searching "Critical Thinking."
Saw this touted on Twitter. Had to check it out. Only $4.99. Looks topically relevant.
Table of Contents

Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
I. Concept of primatology
II. Evolutionary trees
III. Power relations in animal societies
IV. Power relations in the tree of Homo sapiens
V. Comparing human and animal societies
VI. Evolution of human societies
VII. Politics within a society
VIII. Evolutionary foundations of conservatism and liberalism
IX. Evolutionary theory of politics: evidence and applications
X. Predicting politics in human societies
XI. Recap
About the Author
...Our nature will always lead us to compete for more resources. That is, to change “from primates to politicians” as part of our survival instinct. That fight is part of our day-to-day and makes us a true political animal. Not in the sense that Aristotle contemplated, but in the sense of a competition for power in which the only ethical principle that seems to be universal is the need for certainty of punishment.

Such certainty of punishment is not the responsibility of governments alone: society is called to demand justice, to pave conditions that allow fair and equitable competition.

Corrupt politicians, clientelists, despots, populists and other subgenres: these are not who betrays us. Society betrays itself, every time it allows the ascent of a leader without the right profile to provide adequate social governance. We betray ourselves as individuals and as a society every time we expect “someone else” to take control of the situation, or every time we turn a blind eye to the rants of the current heads of state…

The “evolutionary theory of politics” developed in this book explains the oscillations in leadership styles throughout history. Cycles of authoritarianism alternated with equity seem to be the natural response of the societies created by our species, in the face of the stress that our own technological advances represent.

Regarding the inevitable question of whether liberals or conservatives do a better job of governing, we could say that both ideologies are necessary, that rotation in power is good, and that the clear ideological definition of political currents enriches democracy. The balance between conservatives and liberals prevents liberals from making changes so fast that things get out of hand and end up in anarchy similar to the French revolution, just as it prevents conservatives from establishing a kind of monarchy that would return us to the obscurantism of the Middle Ages. Social progress depends on both ideologies for changes to take place gradually, at a speed that allows their assimilation by the majority in an atmosphere of social organization, without leading to chaos…

There is no doubt that our brain is complex, as is our biology. Our societies are even more complex since they are the result of the interaction between our biological characteristics and the evolution of the brain of the most intelligent animal on the planet.

But no matter how intelligent, sophisticated and complex we become, our ancestors will always be hanging around backstage in our DNA. Our politicians will always be primates, and primates will always be politicians.

[From Primate to Politicians, pp. 191-194.]
Brings to mind the question "Why do humans 'reason'?".  (Answer: To "win" the argument; the Pen is Mightier Than the Sword. —an evolutionary 'adaptive utility' riff.)

Recall my recent review of Justin Gregg's new book "If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal."
Here's a killer review by Rafia Zakaria in The Baffler.

I OWE CHICKENS AN APOLOGY. Not only have I been eating them until very recently, but I have refused to even consider the possibility of a chicken having any kind of inner life. This estimation was not made from a lack of interaction. As children, my twin brother and I purchased baby chicks from a street vendor. We did this unfazed by the fact that quite often, the chickens would die. Once, when we were nine, we had two that lived, a hen and a rooster. No one told us that we should probably get more hens. Not having any other female companions, the rooster exerted his attentions on the one chicken. She would lay an egg or two every day, much to our delight, but soon sickened and died. Then there was only an incel rooster who roamed our compound and terrorized the women. After a few ugly incidents, he was “given away” to one of the women who worked at our house. We were never told what happened to him, and I didn’t care. There is nothing worse than an incel rooster patrolling your house all day long.

Now, so many years later, I’ve found my way to animal behaviorist Justin Gregg’s brilliant new book If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity. Gregg’s chicken coop is “a huge enclosed area” with high rafters, because as an animal scientist, he knows them to be jungle birds who need perches on which to sleep at night. But it is not only the magisterial heights of Gregg’s discussion of chickens that stayed with me. I was struck also by Gregg’s description of his chickens’ varied personalities, one anxious, another friendly, and so on; he tells us that these chickens do have inner lives and thus a consciousness of themselves as distinct from others. Instead of the feckless creatures I (and most people) assume them to be, chickens have just the sort of intelligence that is necessary for their own survival. They don’t think like humans, Gregg tells us, because they do not need to.

Intelligence, in Gregg’s explanation, does not exist in the way SATs or other IQ tests would have you believe. Those tests quantify a certain kind of ability to process information. People who do not do well on such tests may have other kinds of abilities that simply are not being measured. Intelligence is not one easily definable thing; engineers working on artificial intelligence cannot agree on a definition of it. But what humans have is a tendency to ask why things operate in a certain way. In Gregg’s terminology, humans are “why specialists,” a proclivity that in natural selection terms is no advantage and perhaps even a liability. A narwhal swimming around in the sea, for instance, would never have the kind of mental breakdown that the German philosopher pondering nihilism suffered toward the end of his life. Animal intelligence is practical and does not get caught up in abstract thought. By and large, animals make calculations based on what they can observe; ideas such as “causality,” which lie at the crux of human intelligence, are outside their capacity for thought…
Read all of it. Excellent. Majorly. I was not aware of Rafia Zakaria. I am remiss.


Finished both Dr. Ahn's book and Kim Wehle's book. I was reminded of a number of others in my stash.

I think I'll continue this topic in a subsequent post. I'll leave you with this for now.

When we believe something to be true, we tend also to see the very process of arriving at it as clear and objective, and therefore the kind of thing we can achieve on our own; when we hold that a given notion is false, we ascribe belief in it to some unfortunate wrong turning, usually taken because an inquirer was led astray, like Hansel and Gretel being tempted into the oven by a wicked witch. And yet even the briefest reflection would demonstrate to us that nothing of the sort is the case: there is no connection between independence and correctness, or social thinking and wrongness...

Jacobs, Alan. How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (p. 38). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Also (noted in a prior post):
WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT the individual genetic and developmental differences that impact the sensory portions of our nervous systems, it’s remarkable that we can agree on a shared reality at all…

…Each of us operates from a different perception of the world and a different perception of ourselves.

A portion of the individual variation in sensory systems is innate. But those innate effects are elaborated and magnified with time as we accumulate experiences, expectations, and memories, filtered through and in turn modifying those very same sensory systems. In this way, the interacting forces of heredity, experience, plasticity, and development resonate to make us unique.

Linden, David. Unique (pp. 253-254). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
…If you’ve ever doubted the significance of brain plasticity, rest assured that its tendrils reach from the individual to the society.

Because of livewiring, we are each a vessel of space and time. We drop into a particular spot on the world and vacuum in the details of that spot. We become, in essence, a recording device for our moment in the world.

When you meet an older person and feel shocked by the opinions or worldview she holds, you can try to empathize with her as a recording device for her window of time and her set of experiences. Someday your brain will be that time-ossified snapshot that frustrates the next generation.

Here’s a nugget from my vessel: I remember a song produced in 1985 called “We Are the World.” Dozens of superstar musicians performed it to raise money for impoverished children in Africa. The theme was that each of us shares responsibility for the well-being of everyone. Looking back on the song now, I can’t help but see another interpretation through my lens as a neuroscientist. We generally go through life thinking there’s me and there’s the world. But as we’ve seen in this book, who you are emerges from everything you’ve interacted with: your environment, all of your experiences, your friends, your enemies, your culture, your belief system, your era—all of it. Although we value statements such as “he’s his own man” or “she’s an independent thinker,” there is in fact no way to separate yourself from the rich context in which you’re embedded. There is no you without the external. Your beliefs and dogmas and aspirations are shaped by it, inside and out, like a sculpture from a block of marble. Thanks to livewiring, each of us is the world.

Eagleman, David. Livewired (pp. 244-245). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
How does all this stuff go to so-called "Deliberation Science?"

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