Re: Darwin run amok

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Mon Jan 03 2000 - 09:10:29 MST

On 1/2/2000, Kathryn A. wrote:
> >Similarly, the fact that culturescan change rapidly doesn't
> >say that we can do much by deliberately trying to change our
> >culture. The size of the deliberate influence may be small
> >compared to the other processes involved.
>Much of the rapid change that we have experienced, just in
>America, over the past 100 years has been the result of the
>work of humans committed to change and progress--scientists,
>activists, political leaders, authors, the founders of the Internet.

If you march up the beach with the tide, did you move the water?
What if you float down a river? It is very hard to tell how much
"humans committed to change" have actually changed things. At any
given time various people advocate all sorts of changes, and the
people who advocated the changes that actually happened often try
to take credit for them. But how much credit do they deserve?

Powerful demographic, economic, and other forces induce all sorts
of social changes, and there is a big demand for spokespersons
to explain and justify these changes. Even if you could say that
these changes wouldn't have happened unless certain arguments were
made to a wide audience, it is still not clear how much credit to
give those who made the arguments. If there were a large pool of
spokesperson-wannabes out there, seeking arguments which could make
them famous, then the arguments might just regularly get made when
the audience is ready to hear them.

>...influence of genetics on sex roles. Lorber's book is a 302-page
>(plus 100 pages of citations) exercise in sociological skepticism,
>delineating the parts of it for which there is strong evidence
>that they are are culturally-invented and not genetically encoded.
>Judy Mann also recently wrote a book on how to raise a child
>without using some of these cultural constructions.
>This represents the contribution that gender theory can make
>to transhumanist endeavor--helping to educate and empower
>humans to resist some of these cultural control mechanisms so
>that they can truly pursue their potential. Can we agree on
>that much?

I haven't yet read these books, and so I can't yet agree whether
they do these things.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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