[FoRK] reas. conv. 11/7: Against Theocracy

Dr. Ernie Prabhakar < drernie at radicalcentrism.org > on > Tue Nov 7 15:43:44 PST 2006

Hi Jeff,

On Nov 7, 2006, at 3:05 PM, Jeff Bone wrote:
> On Nov 7, 2006, at 3:18 PM, Dr. Ernie Prabhakar wrote:
>
>> I'. Every viable society needs some Shared, Transcendent, Unifying  
>> Beliefs (a "STUB" :-).
>>
>> Note that this can just as easily be tribalism, nationalism,  
>> Confucian morality, or dialectical materialism as any sort of  
>> theism.  Absent such, I honestly don't see how you can sustain a  
>> bridge partnership[4], much less any sort of modern society.
>
> Cooperation is clearly possible without more than a minimum, if  
> any, "shared, transcendent, unifying beliefs."  Game theory.  Cf.  
> Axelrod, cooperation --- evolution and complexity thereof, etc.   
> (One might ask if computer PD players have beliefs at all;  I think  
> we can dodge that by simply assuming that hard-coded axioms and  
> game logic == beliefs.  The word "transcendent" is, however,  
> extremely troublesome.)

Actually, I think it makes perfect sense in the context of game  
theory.  We typically have explicit beliefs about what's happening  
*in* the game, as well as tacit beliefs about the nature of the game  
itself.  Those rules themselves exist outside the game per se, which  
is why I think transcendent is a fair term.  Though, if you prefer  
"tacit" or "implicit" I can live with that.

> That may all be fast and loose, but the general idea is there:  I  
> believe there's a rational basis for cooperative behavior in almost  
> all interactions between reasonable participants that does not rely  
> on anything other than a minimal shared set of axioms (game  
> theory / basic economics.)

I partly agree with you.  The challenge is that "full calculation" is  
impossible in any but the most trivial situations, and that -- in  
practice -- we rely on tradition, habit, and cultural conditioning as  
shortcut heuristics.  This can be seen most clearly in those  
circumstances where the cultural conventions we rely upon break down,  
e.g., culture shock, civil disorder, etc.  I would argue, in fact,  
that it is precisely those _unquestioned_ assumptions about  
reciprocity and fairness that make human society possible (for better  
or worse).

>> III'.  When adherents to a STUB perceive a threat to their  
>> collective identity, they tend to respond violently, often leading  
>> to great evil.
>
> The very notion of "collective identity" is a problem, IMHO.  A  
> primitive meme deeply rooted in our evolutionary past.

Yeah, it is a terrible thing for people to love their mothers.

Oh, sorry, do you have a transcendent rule for determining *which*  
innate human behaviors are problematic and should eliminated?

:-)

-- Ernie P.


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