Liberal Education, Part IV: The Mitochondrial Peace

“Don’t let the forest grow over that path you came there by.
But you will, so…

So hurry up and run to the one that you love. “

Bright Eyes, “Make War

“The devoted were wearing bracelets
to remind them why they came:
some concrete motivation
when the abstract could not do the same.
But if all that’s left is duty, I’m falling on my sword;
at least then i would not serve an unseen distant Lord.”

Pedro the Lion, “Secret of the Easy Yoke

“Stay the way I am today and serve to more disaster…
He could tell a fairy tale that’s happy ever after…
Just relax and green of grass will grow here for a change.
Maybe then we’ll last a million years or more.. or more.. or more..”

Guster, “All The Way Up To Heaven

“Have you ever tried to neck with an earwig?
Oh, your body is a home to your friends.
You’ve a tick for each nipple and a leech for each finger
And a parasitic love that never ends.

Do you have any love left for me?
I’m small, but that’s a start.
Eat me up with your love.
Burrow your way to my heart.”

Darkest of Hillside Thickets, “Burrow Your Way To My Heart”

Liberal education is a fertile land for ideologies. The Sahara was once fertile, too.

Ideas evolve. Some evolutionary analysis of ideas looks at memes,” which is just a term for anything that is imitated. The ideas, which compete through a form of natural selection, have the same goal of any other evolutionary organism: thrive.

Specifically, evolution is a battle for niches. The full range of environments where a species might exist is its fundamental niche. It actually exists in a realized niche. The realized niche is almost always smaller than the fundamental niche, because of enemy species — “natural enemies” — that are impeding the thriving of a meme.

So from this we can derive another evolutionary requirement of species: to destroy and preempt enemy species to increase the size of its realized niche to include the entire size of its fundamental niche.

Human ideologies were allowed to thrive when the rise of learned rulesets caused by liberal education weakened the human cognitive immune system. The human mind went from thinking concretely about issues like folk, kin, and trade:


to thinking abstractly, one open for any number of rulesets:


The golden age of liberal education was a boom-time of memes and ideologies, when the focus is on reproduction and not competition. Like a virgin land, the soil of the human mind in a society beginning to liberally educate seems to give enough for everybody.

But that ends. Liberal education will cease being a revolutionary force as it becomes a status quo. Ideologies will focus more on fighting each other for valuable resources and less on cultivating new lands, just as business gets more brutal as a product evolves from the growth state to the maturity stage.

The natural goal of an ideology is to rebuild a cognitive immune system, with it on the inside and everything else on the outside.


In physical things, mitochondria achieved the same feat. They needed some sort of weakened cells in order to invade and subvert the living thing. But later, after they had infested themselves, they became symbiotic to the larger cells and needed strong cells to protect against future invaders.

A Cell with Mitochondria
The Cell is so subverted that it ca no longer exist without them

From an evolutionary standpoint, the fate of liberal education is clear. It will be subverted by an ideology that will cover up the path it came in by. The new ideology will allow critical thinking only so long as it does not threaten the ideology itself. Ultimately, it will fashioning a form of “liberal” education that would fall apart without the ideology.

In a post commenting on this series, Mark Safranski wrote:

there has been, at all levels of education, a retreat from that ideal in the public sphere. There we see movement toward required indoctrination of multicultural-leftist attitudes or rote mastery of facts without a concomitant critical analysis ( in some schools, both at once).

From an evolutionary perspective, the reply is “of course!” Just as one sympathetic to a return to pre-mitochondrial cells might have said two billion years ago

“There has been, at all levels of energy allocation, a retreat from that ideal in the cellular sphere. There we see movement toward required supply of the mitichonria’s needs or rote endocytosis of all foreign organisms (in some cells, both at once)”

The most logical future would be a universalist — “catholic” — system of ideologies that are closely related but specialized for different sub-niches. Just as cousins may compete against each others but against strangers, the ideological future is one that will have debate within one narrow family of ideologies.

Because a more successful species is one with less mutation — because mutation threatens it by future near-kin competition — this future ideology should attempt to minimize liberal education to just what is necessary to spread to the people. This means that the ideology will be relatively uncomplicated (less memetic code to mutate) and be tuned to subvert the natural human mind (specialized for its niche).


The ideology will be a learned ruleset, so it will be powerful for the first decades of life, but it will naturally be complementary to the biological human desires which unfold as one lives.

We already see evolutionary attempts at this. Human identity is based of folk, kin, and trade, and we already see ideological belief rulesets that try to latch on to some of these:

Ruleset + Folk: neoconism-theoconism
Ruleset + Kin: Christian Right, Iraqi Sunnis
Ruleset + Trade: khemer rouge, anarcho-syndicalism

Because this ultimate ideology is a symbiotic to humans, it will be evolved to help humanity thrive. As Curtis noted:

Most of us don’t weave our own cloth or forge our own tools, thus we don’t need to know how to do those things. With cheap products, we don’t need to know how to repair our own possessions as long as we can buy replacements without too much effort. (We don’t rebuild cars but buy new cars, or repair televisions but buy new televisions, etc.) There are creators of these things; but the ratios are different now, since fewer creators can supply for more consumers.

The ultimate ideology will be largely one spread through mostly illiberal education, since the truly symbolic thought that allows much of the creativity of capitalism can be reserved for a very small fraction of the population. The rest will be taken care of by a subspecies of the larger ideology — a cousin to the mass ideology.

This does not have to be good or bad. Just inevitable.

Liberal Education, a tdaxp series

Liberal Education 1: The Petty Troika
Liberal Education 2: Liberation and Rulesets
Liberal Education 3: Infection
Liberal Education 4: The Mitochondrial Peace