Re: Risk vs. Payoff

From: Neal Blaikie (
Date: Thu May 10 2001 - 23:44:04 MDT

Francois-Rene Rideau wrote:

> There is no opposition between egoism and altruism.

Gee, thanks. I wasn't making trying to make that point.

> Don't believe pseudo-philosophers (particularly collectivist ones)
> who will have you think so.
> See for instance Henry Hazlitt's "Foundations of Morality"

I'm not really prone to belief. Thanks for the link, though.

> > --not from any altruistic sense, but from a practical one.
> What does "altruistic sense" mean? How does it oppose practicality?

I was speaking metaphorically here, but I guess I was simply trying to make it
clear that my perspective was based on practical considerations, not altruism. I
wasn't attempting to place them in opposition.

> You're resorting to false dilemmas between choices that are not even
> mutually exclusive.

See above.

> > Well put! It's long been my contention that where natural selection ends,
> > artifical selection begins
> Yet another false dilemma.

Again, see above. This is metaphorical language, not an assertion of scientific
fact (and you seem to have conveniently left off my parenthetical statement that
this is an oversimplification). The terms "natural selection" and "artificial
selection" have generally agreed upon meanings that have nothing to do with my
personal philosophy, and I was simply using them in a conversational way.

> Man is part of nature.
> Any artificial choice is also ipso facto a natural choice.
> If you're going to oppose "natural" to "artificial",
> then you must establish a believable assessment of what this
> "natural choice" would be in absence of humans.
> Which is of course _completely_ meaningless in any case
> were human behavior is considered.

Well, if one is calm while reading what I said, it's pretty clear I agree with
this. Again, I wasn't attempting to place anything in opposition to anything
else. This is a misreading on your part.

> > Intelligent agents (ourselves, for instance)
> So you think you're intelligent? prove it! I don't believe you, so far.

In intelligent discussion (as opposed to unprovoked attacks), I think (damn,
there's that word again) this response would be referred to as ad hominem. It's a
weak strategy, is uncalled for in this case, and totally destroys your
credibility. Perhaps in the future you might consider taking a deep breath before

> > then become responsible for their own evolution,
> Here's a shameful hysteron-proteron.
> There is no way in which intelligence makes responsibility possible.
> Quite on the contrary, responsibility is the very principle behind
> natural selection that made evolution possible, and that caused
> intelligence (or at least, any trace thereof that can be found)
> to appear, to begin with.

Okay. However, I wasn't making the point you seem to think I was. Perhaps you
misunderstood my use of the word responsible. There's a difference between
"responsible for" (in charge of, which is what I meant) and "responsible to" (an

> > I don't see how it could be anything but
> > "natural" for us to do so.
> Remove your quotes, and consider how "do so" is generic in your sentence.
> Then you'll have reached the tautology. Now, move on.

This makes no sense to me. Again, I think you're arguing against something that
isn't there.

> > "plain vanilla natural selection"
> Most of the natural selection ain't vanilla.
> Although vanilla is indeed the product of natural selection.

I quoted this phrase from the original post I was responding to, and was using it
in a conversational manner. I wasn't trying to make any particular point.

> > A similar perspective is presented much more eloquently in the last chapter
> > of Wyn Wachhorst's The Dream of Spaceflight: Essays on the Near Edge of
> > Infinity, a book I would highly recommend.
> If your post was coherent with the ideas of this book, then I'd definitely
> disrecommend it. But I prefer to think that your recommendation is worthless
> in itself, and does not taint a book that might otherwise be admirable.

Well, now. This is way over the top and entirely unwarranted, especially since I
wasn't being argumentative or combative, and I was responding to someone else's
post, not yours. Just because the emails arrive in your mailbox, it doesn't mean
they're personal attacks on you. Relax a little. Take a walk.

Personally, I don't give a damn what you think. If you don't want to read the
book I recommended, it's your loss.

Neal Blaikie

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 10:00:04 MDT