Re: Are Beliefs Like Clothes?

Steve Witham (
Sat, 16 Aug 1997 22:07:54 -0400

I said-

>>What I'm saying is that there are other purposes for non-practical
>>conversation besides value and belief advertisement.

Robin Hanson said-

>I was looking for explanations which could plausibly be given
>evolutionary foundations. I don't see the evolutionary function of
>just wanting to argue for argument's sake.

I reread my posts, and if I had much of an idea along those lines,
I don't see it. Argument for argument's sake is like play: a kind of
practice, the advantage of which would just be that it keeps you in
shape for real thinking. There's a potential arms-race effect (a
setting for faster learning) in argument.

Another function could be to occupy your mind and keep out
presumably dangerous thoughts. To argue
that you'd have to pull in some complicated Freud-like stuff.

Another might be that you get hooked on continuing arguments and
that glues you to certain people, and *that* has advantages.

I don't know if you were looking for specifically *interesting*
functions. Sometimes life is boring and ad-hoc, though.

I can see arguments for the phenomenon's *own* evolutionary interest,
*against* those of its hosts, but that's not what you're asking. In
fact you'd want to ask why we don't have defenses *against* parlor
conversation, if it were a truly parasitic waste of time and energy.

I certainly don't!! Nyak nyak har har! What do YOU think, Robin!?


--           Steve Witham          web page under deconstruction
"These blues ain't nothin' like the blues I had
 before I paid a little debt I owed.
 When I get these blues I just look back down that road."
   --Jimmy Dale Gilmore