Re: MEMETICS: The Triumph of Reason

Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Wed, 22 Jan 1997 13:01:51 -0600

> What fascinates me about this is that I wrote exactly the same thing
> when I was your age. I was anti-racist and anti-sexist; I was every bit
> as strident, every bit as self-righteous, as you. This behaviour has
> puzzled me ever since.

Have you ever heard of evolutionary psychology?

And again, I think that everyone here is getting confused - like the
"memetic" confusion between strong and weak and good and bad and Good
and Evil. I have made the following two statements, which are not
mutually inconsistent:

1) Our evolved emotional psychology should not be allowed to interfere
with our rational reasoning; nor should it be regarded as a logical
or even rational argument in favor of anything; that is simply the
naturalistic "is implies should" in other form.

2) Our evolved emotional psychology is highly adapted for the purpose
of arguing; there's nothing wrong with an emotional argument as long
as it would appear true to a non-emotional being. Nor is there
anything wrong with allowing yourself to experience emotion while
arguing. Otherwise, you fall apart mentally AND you lose.

So please stop trying to indict me on grounds of inconsistency every
time I reveal that I share your emotional architecture; save your breath
for when my emotions lead me into error or I raise an argument with
nothing but morality to support it.

> But I want to know. I want to Know. I want to trace this phenomenon
> back to its roots. Why are we driven to destroy ourselves?

"Destroy ourselves"? I would say that teenage males are driven to see
the current political "Establishment" as being corrupted and evil. This
can cause even more mischief if they map their fathers to "tribal
chief". But in any case, the answer to your question is that teenage
males are driven to accept Causes, because in the ancestral environment
joining (or better, promulgating) Causes was the way to rise in the
social hierarchy, thus increasing one's chances of reproductive success.

> As I read over your post, Eliezer, I see one thing: you feel threatened.


I object, I very *strongly* object, to my efforts on the SAT winding up
providing this fruitcake with ammunition for his chauvinism. I can't
write and ask him to adjust the statistics to remove me from
consideration. I am scientific data. I cannot *not* be scientific
data. But in that I did, in some small way, contribute to this person's
delusion, it is my responsibility to counter it.

> Your self-concept is at stake. The issue, to you, is not whether
> there ever has been or ever could be a female Goedel or a female Bach;
> the only issue is whether you or de Garis is the better man. Why?

Well... again going into evolutionary psychology, he holds to a
political cause that opposes mine. You might therefore say that the
nature of the conflict mapped to a political challenge. Was there a
better format? I admit that I didn't make the decision to phrase it
that way... or at least didn't *phrase* my decision that way; I had the
choice of writing a dry and rational statement, or of declaring my
opposition. I chose to declare my opposition. The facts are not
something I can alter by writing a letter; the most my letter could
acheive was an emotional (or as I would now say, a political) effect. I
admit that I didn't choose the emotional format in which that opposition
presented itself.

That having been said, thanks for the tip, Lyle - next time, I'll do it

And keep up the good work on trying to point out inconsistencies; I
doubt you'll ever catch me in a logical inconsistency - the worst case
is getting careless and not living up to my ideal of perfection, as now
- but it does clear the air.

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.