Richard Dawkins / Bret Weinstein Conversation - Chicago 23-Oct-2018
BW rubbishes mathematical models as proving an imperfect method of arriving at absolute solution so says he doesn't like the maths. But RD rightly sceptical. It's a case of advancing accuracy. You can start with people power and words, and these can cover ground in leaps and bounds, but then precision needs to advance and this moves to a make necessary the maths. The fact the maths is imperfect is an error in the variables and the functions used - human error remains - but it's no reason to suppose a reversion to human-only progress will do anything but decrease precision. This is a foolish backward step. Baby with the bathwater just cuz mathematical model has been imperfectly constructed.
BW mistakes RD saying we're rem ote from evolution when talking about the complexities of human affairs as meaning we're not affected by evolution but RD is talking in terms of evolutionary timescales and our ability to perceive the natural selection in operation - in any meaningful sense - when it comes to interpreting the details of human history (a mere 8000 years).
BW is keen to confront 'what we are programmed for' because he knows that evolution has built us but many now be the absolute opposite instincts needed for humanity to progress - in its own timescales on its own terms.
Key point here is that while our evolved mind and body will contain instincts that drive all the themes in human history, that end up defining that history, this doesn't mean we can apply an absolute judgment of what is and what isn't FIT to be respected/perpetuated based on evolutionary theory. It must always be a humanistic layer that takes into account the evolved instincts but also factors in the strata data of a plethora of anthropomorophic fields of study. "Byproducts" as RD says.
BW is wrong again equating journey into the unknown is NOT a prior step to suicide when the land mass is full - i.e. self sacrifice. The pioneers aren't sacrificing themselves. This is another temporal mistake. The pioneer is optimistic, it's closer to the 'leap jump test if I can' urge that surfaces from some high place, which presumably comes from our primate origins leaping through the trees.
RD is absolutley right to point out the complicated mixture of human level affairs as being NOT Darwininian and the domain of other subjects. BW wants to be a polymath when it comes to the complex edgecases of science but it's a Deepak Chopra approach from an actual scientist. Tempting but bullshit.
RD correctly calls these byproducts - even vastly emotive ones - relics of our genetic construction. It can be interpreted using biology, insofar as what it represents from our biological past, but that doesn't mean biology has any helpful role in further more precise deconstruction.
BW argues that genocide having been a feature of human history for 8000 years is enough reason to apply evolutionary theory to explain and ... then what? This is a case of how it's packaged rather than how it's precisely and profoundly deconstructed. If anything trying to reduce to evolutionary motives is to miss the detail that's necessary for an ACTUAL useful understanding.
Catholicism example, memes that help pass on lineage genes, it's judging based on cherry picking just cuz it matches a version of Darwinian interpretation.
54m RD worldview summary.
Genes and viruses as replicators, the difference is just the method they use to get into the next generation. Genes look after bodies cuz that's their vehicle. Cooperation is therefore inbuilt, zygotes are inevitable without them genes are dead end. Viruses have to use other methods like sneezing and poo. Memes more like viruses. The world is a replicator soup, croutons being tools of phenotype replication.
Extended phenotypes, this concept is the grey zone where evolutionary biology crosses into sociology history etc. Depending how far one extends them. This extension could be defined as the necessary conditions created by the phenotypic behaviour/activity of the gene-vehicles. No choice is involved.
Memes are synthetic a posteriori. Hard to make precise statements about their behaviour.
It's funny how large scale systems with a lot of component people make less mistakes in discernment choices where more discerning individuals are part of any process of meritocracy. Either directly or stages removed.
RD to be commended for working up the enthusiasm to stay mostly attentive to BW whose self-regard is way out of whack with his evident stature in the field of biology. I may be biased here as I've read BW's post-show tweets and even the way he refers to DAWKINS lacks respect and the impression he'd somehow given a good account of himself speaks to what must be something of an echo chamber existence. I'm no longer surprised he hasn't found a new job.
Example: BW was correctly placed at Evergreen and RD is correctly placed at Oxford, relative intellectual stature aptly reflected in the relative status of these institutions. BW has been described as the best high school science teacher in America. This statement is one of the best examples of damning with faint praise.
BW wants to tether his keen eye for sociology and psychology with the heavy weight of scientific truth. This means he's prepared to claim the big trends in human culture - the long lived meme - religion for instance. RD says religion is a mind virus and though this was obviously hyperbole to goad the religious, he stuck by the distinction when BW challenged him to think of religion as a Darwinian meme.
Presumably this clash of definition reveals how the two think of religion. RD doesn't presume to consider religion part of the human culture survival toolkit, preferring to see it as a plethora of viral strains contracted by billions and heavily resistant to being cured; though we're getting better at it in parts of the world. BW says it's cultural meme, serving a purpose that's simpatico (or even beneficial) to the survival of the human fittest. Two problems with this, the first one of perspective, second one of anthropology.
First: to use the fact religion is with the human species, in various forms, as a proof of its symbiotic role is - as BW snipes at RD, to not see the forest for the trees. Today yes, we humans are alive and religion is here. But who knows a hundred years hence? What if religious war escalated to nuclear holocaust and all humans were wiped out? An observing alien would judge religion to have been ultimately fatal to homo sapiens. No more people, no more religion, not symbiotic at all. It's not enough to say a thing is a meme just because it's present at the time of observation.
Second: BW cites religion as a good meme because he says it codified important survival rules like people doing things in life to justify an afterlife in heaven. While it's not literally true, BW says it's metaphorically true as the tenets of religion teaches moral goodness, which makes for better behaviour, which means stability and better conditions to get the gene letters into the next generation. This is bolx. Islam is a blueprint for jihad, the Bible would have us killing for minor crimes and various life choices (like homosexuality). The only way to square religion as a force for good in human survival is to invent one that inculcates a bunch of rules preselected for beneficial effect. No religion does this. None ever tried to do so. Cherry picking bolx like Irish priest in the family encouraged success for the gene letter replication for a lineage despite the priest's celibacy is a daft spin on a convenient social mix that has as many versions antithetical to continuing the lineage. Think of those suicide cults where whole families died together to satisfy religious laws. Are those religions mind viruses where Irish Catholicism isn't?
BW in the after video links evolution in meme culture to natural selection which, ironically, is a cipher for post-modernism. But why?
Two points. Firstly, let's not mistake the lateral spread of an idea at a point in time, however widely it may go viral, with the extension of an idea across successive generations. These are different axis. Secondly, natural selection, if used as the arbiter of what is 'good' or 'bad' in the grand scheme of survival of the fittest, operates on a different timescale to the blink of human history (what little we know) since the first civilisations. It's wild speculation to presume the weight of evolutionary theory applies to ANY aspect of civilised human culture - religion included. Play with the techniques by all means, use natural selection as a neat metaphor sure, but don't kid yourself the 8000 years of vaguely documented homo sapiens activity amounts to anything profound or predictive of which (if any) of our current 'big' ideas will ultimately be selected by the generations to come.
For comparison sake, I’ve included a link to the conversation between physicist Brian Greene and Richard Dawkins from around the same time, this time in New York. The content speaks for itself and Brian Greene is always enthusiastic and engaging. The calibre of the conversation is much higher than the Weinstein event. This is mostly down to Greene being a far more mature, erudite and loose. He’s able to engage Dawkins, who begins sluggish but wakes up when he realises he’s been booked to talk to someone genuinely intelligent and interesting.