Confederate Symbols

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    Somebody commented to me that they thought instead of removing the confederate statues, the US should teach history in schools. (Because that really gets emotions going). I had to reply that the toppling of these statues IS teaching history in a way that schools never did, inasmuch as we are all becoming aware of the historical reasons these statues are untenable, and its a major teaching moment for history.

    “History is written by the victors.” Sometimes, probably falsely, attributed to Winston Churchill, but that is largely the truth, isn’t it? Had the Confederacy won, it would be statues of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, et al coming down, and lessons would be taught about their power grab that the Confederacy heroically stymied.



    Some things I learnt about ant, bee and termite colonies:

    Queen is truly the wrong word. Giant sex slave is probably a better one. The queen usually only makes one decision (and even then there is usually some consensus involved) when deciding whether to make another colony or not. Otherwise the queen is held hostage by the drones and carries out her duties which are having sex and babies and in some cases producing special chemicals/nutrition. When a bee colony decides to move or to separate (a group goes on their own) some of the bees will force the queen to heavily exercise to lose weight so that she can properly fly. You can watch a video of it, it looks like a bunch of bullies on the play ground taunting a child and forcing he/she to run around.

    In some species of ants, some drones are treated as organic batteries. They are fattened up and then stuck into the wall or ceiling so that they can be tapped for protein energy (which can be excreted on demand). This is a fairly extreme version of an individual animal being used entirely as an object for the good of the colony.

    Colonies have evolved to use an extremely sophisticated use of air pressure to maintain the right temperature in the colony be it in the ground, tree or hive. For bees there are drones whose job is to flap their wings at the right time to keep the proper flow of air to cool down the hive.

    The bee dance is a fantastic phenomena worth reading in-depth about.

    A queen termite is one of the more grotesque insects to look at. As quoted in Catch-22: what was God thinking when he created it?

    Murder hornets are utterly terrifying.




    Simon Paynton

    Cultural Evolution = Social Justice=Justice as fairness

    According to Stephen Pinker, societies become more humane over time.



    That is fascinating Davis. I noticed that when we get storm flooding around here, the fire ants abandon their mound and grasp each other and create a bio raft that floats. I would bet the queen is somewhere in the middle of that mass.



    Maybe Simon Payton it might go like this.

    Cooperation as a fitness for obligate cooperators in Hunter gatherer group. As a survival mechanism. From cooperation primitive fairness develops likely through instincts. Joint attention joint goals.

    Increasing numbers in those groups and competition between groups also primitive division of labour in groups. Leads need to identify who is in the group and who is not.
    Leads to development of primitive group cultures. Shared narratives, art, beliefs, norms.

    As the group culture is transmitted across generations. Being obligate cooperators, fitness now means alignment to the social norms and culture. Before it was adaptation to the physical environment, now fitness also includes adaptation to the group created culture and norms.

    Dialectical relationship between cultural evolution as in memes and biological evolution in that culture. Human brains evolve to adapt to that culture. ( Normal cooperative psychology Vs pathologic psychology)

    Development of higher culture and through transmission over generations across time and refinement through language and storage & transmission and discussion peer review.

    Example logic from primitive logic to propositional to predicate. Or primitive cooperation leading to cultural evolution through Menes to justice as fairness.



    The duality of Thomas Jefferson.



    Simon Paynton

    @karuna, I just think that norms of fairness and helping already exist throughout all cultures, and cooperation is an obligate way of thriving as you say.  I think the fact that they tend to win out over time shows their primacy as norms.

    Also, the pressure to thrive is individual, universal, and maximising, so it makes sense that “permission to thrive” is granted to more and more groups.


    Simon Paynton

    I think that out of all the norms, helping and fairness are the closest to the pressure to thrive, survive and reproduce, cooperatively.  Helping means giving thriving to someone else; fairness means to share out benefit and harm so that all can be satisfied.



    [The custom of slavery] is very patchy and it happened independently in different spheres of the world which barely (if at all) influenced one another and it generally only emerged under certain conditions.

    History’s my weakest topic, but I’m sure institutionalized slavery couldn’t exist without each “civilization’s” ability to build sufficiently large and powerful institutions. I think tribalism evolved, for better and for worse, driven culturally but possibly biologically selected for to some degree, as was probable during the beginning of our agricultural phase while domesticating animals (e.g. while evolving lactose tolerance, other dietary adjustments, and so on).

    Tribalism befits a long-term fitness scenario when nearby populations need to compete to survive, succeeding over time with it’s own, increasingly prevalent genetic component, while the cultural components–e.g. traditionalism, group ceremony, and so on–can more fluidly wax and wane.

    The teachings of Paul on the question of slavery are clear and explicit.

    And so another phase of cultural (and possibly biological selection) began, when literacy took hold, but before the printing press was invented. I admit to wildly guessing here that some of humanity’s attraction to religion could have slowly evolved neuro-biologically as an extension of social and/or alpha-male proclivities. Social and alpha-male proclivities exist even in lower mammals without a traditionalized culture to amplify them, and I see the possibility that that kind of biological foundation of behavior can be selected for even more so during periods of a civilization’s cultural amplification, driven of course by evolution of increasingly-alpha-male leadership. Leadership itself evolves short-term, culturally, and amongst competition between individuals. (That long, confusing sentence is my attempt to describe an evolutionary genetic + cultural positive feedback loop.)

    (Thankfully, Reg (above) transitioned us in time from ancient philosophy, scriptures and some politics to encyclopedias in one post! I’ll skip lecturing on the power of the printing press to influence human cultures.)

    […] Not certain but think the practice of scalping was taught by the French to the natives.

    Unquestionably there was a viciousness/callousness that was attendant to pious Christian belief. Just imagine how any of us would recoil at the sight of slavery. And yet it was ho hum this is our life and we will guard it zealously. Slavery is a way of life for us. There was a dehumanization that was apparently not evident or present to the same degree as it was in Christian culture.

    Funny, a prideful song came to mind, “Tradition” from 1971’s Fiddler on the Roof (and at the end of the clip an example of how culture/commercialism has evolved to maintain and amplify a new, traditional way of consuming entertainment; a new, commodified, widely appreciated and occasionally gone-viral culturism):

    I think our Founding Fathers, by and large, would have aligned with the Confederacy.

    Yeah me too. Cotton was king.

    Ah, the Industrial Age was arriving.

    Let’s suppose our nation’s Founding Fathers had been alive at the time of the Civil War, would George Washington have been a Confederate general? Would Thomas Jefferson have given up his slaves and joined the North?

    I think that dealing with racism was simply still in the back seat of the white man’s freedom wagon. Privilege maintained its own tradition, during expansionary times. We also have the privilege of looking back on history, with renewed perspective, and (imo) in light of an inner penchant for racism that has been coming back out of hiding, shamelessly during our Trump era. (Trump obviously knew his “when the looting begins the shooting begins” would energize of his most ardent fans.)

    A quick aside, taken from a different topic:

    I don’t believe that this is all there is – I believe in an afterlife.

    Another possible extension (and over-extension) of neurobiological circuitry that deals with planning for the future and visualizing one’s existence in the future, which, of course makes belief in one’s eternal transcendence (and societal legacy) more likely; and a belief that eternality–or at least one or more characters playing a role in it–must have existed since the beginning of time.

    My question is only looking for the basis beyond my gut for the definition of decency.  Maybe there is none, and that’s good enough.  We are simply here as a species and for some reason, we just shouldn’t keep killing and hurting each other (but we do).  My question is not meant to frustrate. […] I would like a STRONG position – other than my Christian faith – to argue the point, that’s all.  Again, maybe all we have is our own, individual feelings and sense of the evils of chattel slavery.

    (At the risk of repeating something in this thread that I haven’t read, yet…)

    In my opinion, one word can mostly answer your question: Empathy. Obviously it’s not a strongly absolute answer, but on the other hand, why should the validity of any god constructed by members of humanity be presumed stronger than a mere “gut feel”? It is highly typical for people to grow up to believe in the same god and scripture as did their ancestors for generations before. This is true around the world, for different religions (albeit) for differently evolved versions of those religions. Just presuming that scripture is based on absolute truth or absolute morality doesn’t make it so.

    Fortunately and unfortunately, one member of society’s empathy is largely learned from that society, whether or not it’s packaged in religion. The yearning for a source of absolute truth (for most of us) drives each of us to choose how to find truth we can believe in, with gut feel and/or cognition, from one or more “sources”.

    I choose science–not to worship, by the way–but to inform me tentatively and help me learn intellectually/cognitively/logically which truths feel most important. (Intellect/cognition/logic vs gut feel seem incompatible, and we usually tend more toward one than the other.) I do not worship one science or kind of science, or one scientist, because no matter how correct they seem, I always presume they are still fallIble, or at least not able to provide 100%/absolute depth of knowledge. This is largely unlike the faith people choose to have in (say) an imam or other religious figure assigned with a rather permanent authority and/or infallibility.

    Since science cannot and (good science) does not claim to have sole ownership of absolute truth or depth of knowledge, I have to constantly fall back on gut feelings that 1) human beings can be very wrong and unreasonable in their beliefs; 2) beliefs of human beings are too often based solely on the cultural traditions and social circles they happen to grow up with; 3) scientists are often wrong, but science as a means to deduce and test reality tends towards weeding out tentative “truths” that get disproven while religion tends toward putting tradition and faith above proof and disproof.

    So back to empathy as my answer, it is not infallible, and it evolves, most recently culturally. It doesn’t always evolve in the direction that I or most people prefer, but in a direction such as Trump’s, or the opposing direction we’re seeing among whites which has even taken off somewhat beyond the USA… well, as has the authoritarian slash traditionalist movement that confines empathy toward self and national pride. I use the word tribalism a lot, not derogatorily toward (say) blacks in Africa, but as akin to the unfortunate human nature at times of in-group vs out-group tendencies of behavior, reliance on people’s surface-level appearances for forming and sharing prejudices and alliances. While even the most “absolute” truths presumed to exist in God and/or scripture are still subject to corruptive interpretations by anointed “authorities”.

    (I need to cut this loooong post short right here, even while only reading the first half of posts!)

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