Re: The biological basis of the beauty meme

From: John Marlow (
Date: Thu May 24 2001 - 19:09:00 MDT


On 24 May 2001, at 11:53, J. R. Molloy wrote:

...In short, one does not admire people because they are
> beautiful; people are beautiful because one is genetically predisposed to
> admire them.

#Gotta take issue with this. Let us drop the "people" part and
concentrate on "beautiful." works of art with no humans in them, no
representation of anything with any survival value, no relationship
to anything any gene has ever come across--can move the person
beholding it to tears. Beauty is indeed in the eye (or, more
correctly, the perceptions) of the beholder--not the genes. The same
principle applies to appreciation of personal beauty.

> "I have never seen such an ugly woman," says the Bushman, commenting on
> stereotypical beautiful blonde in The Gods Must Be Crazy.

#There is no stereotype for beauty, or it would not be exceptional.

>In real life people are attracted to what their genes determine,

#See above.

>Some people (Marx and
> Freud for instance) have constructed elaborate belief systems to transcend
> what they consider biological determinism. IMO, a more practical approach
> would transcend biology by genetic engineering (rather than by denying the
> biological basis of moral and aesthetic preferences).

#Your own philosophy argues the impossibility of this--as we would,
of course, choose to make only those changes which our biologically
determinate genes would prefer we choose to make. Unless you favor
computer-generated random mutations...

> Mundane humans may find the borg repulsive not because of cultural training,
> but because the borg has modified its genetic structure and content.

#Oops, sorry; I thought the Borg Queen, at least, was kinda sexy, in
a disturbingly bizarre way...

> It's not a question that yields to reason, because people believe what they
> want to believe, which is what they're genetically predisposed to believe.

#But how can you be genetically predispositioned to believe that what
you want to believe is genetically predispositioned--and me be
genetically predispositioned to believe the opposite? Can we both be

> IOW, some of us are biologically programmed to want to transcend biology. Or
> as Edward O. Wilson put it in Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge, "Homo
> sapiens, the first truly free species, is about to decommission natural
> selection, the force that made us.... Soon we must look deep within ourselves
> and decide what we wish to become."

#But only as deep as our genes would have us look, eh? Or only in
some cases?

> Building on the convergence of human biology with its artifacts, Ray Kurzweil
> points out, "An evolutionary process accelerates because it builds on its own
> means for further evolution. Humans have beaten evolution. We are creating
> intelligent entities in considerably less time than it took the evolutionary
> process that created us. Human intelligence--a product of evolution--has
> transcended it. So, too, the intelligence that we are now creating in
> computers will soon exceed the intelligence of its creators."

#This may be an unwarranted assumption.

> Emlyn <> uplifted the signal by summarizing:
> "There's the intelligence augmentation approach, where we add things to our
> heads to make ourselves smarter, and those things allow us to conceive more
> mods to make which will make us smarter still, loop. Note that this could be
> biotech/nanotech enhancements, resulting in a purely biological being,
> rather than the traditional cyborg concept."
> To which I'd add that the traditional cyborg concept doesn't remain
> traditional for long when biotech accelerates biological evolution. I'm not
> the first to envision a future in which nanobots (or suitable gene modifying
> carriers) injected into a chimpanzee alter the 3% genetic material which
> separates the hairy ape from the naked one, so that Mr. Hyde (the chimp)
> morphs into Dr. Jekyll (the homo sap). Similarly, a super sapient cyborg could
> evolve *overnight* from an ordinary human.

#Hooboy; ethics. We've no business doing this to chimps. We wanna do
it to ourselves on an individual basis, have at it.

> What's the difference whether posthumans emerge from biologically transformed
> humans or from Kurzweillian machine intelligence?

#The first is posthuman, the second is nonhuman. BIIIIG difference.

 Either approach affords
> ample opportunity to reinstate the heritage of genealogical memories and
> social identities that some of us would like to preserve (and some of us would
> like to discard).

#Seems to be some confusion here. A nonhuman, machine-evolved
intelligence will have no such heritage, and may not desire them. IT
is, after all, nonhuman--and these are human attributes.

 It seems to me those who'd like to jettison the cultural
> baggage of the past have a slight advantage due to their willingness to try
> something entirely new and physically different. But first we need to
> understand in minute detail how our genes got us where we are. Otherwise we
> may go from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, causing irreparable damage along the way.
> Furthermore, we have no evidence that the AI path leads anywhere that we can
> follow.

#or to anything truly "intelligent" at all.


 Hyper-accelerated bio-evolution, in contrast, simply takes a proven
> methodology and speeds it up so that we remain incarnate, although out of
> control (in the Kevin Kelly sense of "out of control" -- meaning that our
> future selves will decide how we will evolve in the future). Or as one wag has
> written, "Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the
> hell happened."
> τΏτ
> Stay hungry,
> --J. R.
> Useless hypotheses:
> consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
> analog computing, cultural relativism
> Everything that can happen has already happened, not just once,
> but an infinite number of times, and will continue to do so forever.
> (Everything that can happen = more than anyone can imagine.)

John Marlow

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