Computer Games Aren’t Bad For You, and The Internet Is Good For You

The text’s statements on computer games are doubtful. It states that “an increasing number of studies show that playing violent games, like watching violent TV, increases hostility and aggression.” However, more than half of studies looking at the connection between media violence and violent activity failed to find any significant link (Pinker 311). The spread of video games has mirrored the fall in the violent crime rate. Nor it is clear that the greater appeal of software applications to boys than girl is a problem. Newborn boys show a greater affection for mechanical contraptions than newborn girls in their first day (Alford and Hibbing 2004), so how are similar observations later on surprising? Likewise, the the Columbine shooters played “Doom” lessens when one learns the last game they played was bowling (Moore 2002).


Following the text’s advice on the Internet can impede development. The author focuses on negative aspects of electronic communication, such as increased loneliness and exploitation. Then what to make of these quotes: “I’m from a medium-sized city, I’ve still found it hard to find good company…” (Chirol 2006) and “The Internet makes this far easier in today’s world.” (Curzon 2006)? They are statements of domain experts on how Internet communication has allowed them to experience the advantages of geographical nearness (tdaxp 2006) that is required for expertise in a talent domain (Csikszentmihalyi 1996, Gardner 1997).

A focus on negative aspects of new technology is harmful, especially when combined with an incomplete literature review or pessimism. The Internet is good for you, and video games don’t hurt. At least, that’s what scientific research tells us.

Bibliography

tdaxp. (2006). The Creativity Anarchy. Paper for Creativity, Talent, and Expertise.
Alford, J. and Hibbing, J. (2004). The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior. Perspective on Politics, Vol. 2 No. 4, 707-723.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper Perennial.
Curzon, G. (2006). Personal communication.
Chirol, I. (2006). Personal Communication.
Gardner, H. (1997). Extraordinary Minds. New York: Basic Books.
Moore, M. (2002). Bowling for Columbine. MGM Distribution Co.

The Cultural Determinists and Their Lies

(This first reaction paper combines information from Alford and Hibbing [article. notes], Pinker, [amazon. notes], Ridley [amazon. notes], and Tooby and Cosmides [article. notes]. It also amounts to a renunciation of the ideas that drove my computer science thesis.)

The criticisms thrown against biological factors in human behavior from the outside are rational — from the perspective of ideology, prestige, and power. Substantive criticisms of biological factors have come from the researchers themselves, who criticizer earlier work in the field and make better explanatory models than what previously existed.

The Standard Social Science Model is based on a “utopian vision” (Pinker 27), and this ideology led researchers to greet genetically-related findings “with fear and loathing because they were thought to threaten progressive ideals” (103) or to support racism, sexism and… “biological determinism” (Tooby and Cosmides 35). Such findings were considered closer to fascism (Ridley 3,186) instead of the more fashionable Marxism (Pinker 127, 410, Ridley 243-244). “Immoral” thoughts (269) that threaten the utopia are attacked as such, even though it is the job of researchers to think about even disquieting things (279). This bias in favor of the world as they want it has lead to embarrassing hoaxes (Ridley 204, Tooby and Cosmides 44), blinded them to short (Pinker 311) and long (307) term declines in violence, and other incorrect assessments of the field (Alford and Hibbing 718).


Prestige is an important element as well. The existence of the social sciences as they exist now is traceable to an ancient division of labor between the social and natural worlds (Tooby and Cosmides 20) and the subsequent belief that cultural effects have cultural, not physical, causes (Ridley 205, Tooby and Cosmides 22). A unification, whether of practical questions like homicide and war (Pinker 323) or entire fields such as psychology and anthropology (Tooby and Cosmides 121) leads to questions of why psychologists as we know them and their methods should even exist (21). Likewise, for the same reason that much of art criticism is merely “the upper classes denouncing the tastes of the lower classes” (Pinker 277), intellectuals have denounced those who focus on genetic factors to keep their own place secure. A realization that one’s political theories or methods of research may be genetically influenced (Alford and Hibbing 716-717) places a social scientist’s behavior into a world of limitations and frailties (Pinker 239).

The most disturbing line of attack against new knowledge is the desire for power. Pinker beings his book by writing “The belief that human tastes are reversible cultural preferences has led social planners to write off people’s enjoyment…” (Pinker x), which is perhaps why Leftism is not only a mover against genetic factors (133) but also in favor of earlier disasters like eugenics (153). More recently, social scientists have pushed an authoritarian agenda centered on “renewing” once vibrant neighborhoods (170) or making families eat in large dining halls (246). It is perhaps not surprising that totalitarianism requires the super-plasticity of environmental determinism (Ridley 185). The possibility that the scientific enterprise to understand society is under malevolent attack from certain political forces should not be doubted – especially when attack from other political elements is widely recognized (Pinker 129).

Regardless of the motive, the substance of criticism matters, and for the most part the criticism has been absurd. Life-long liberals such as E.O. Wilson (110) and entire research programs (105-106) were accused of being tools of oppression, racism, and other ills. Critics often ignored basic rules of logic, focusing on irrelevancies such as the sex-life of researchers (114). Of course, this was when criticisms were at least made in the medium of writing: death-threats (Pinker 114) and attempted (115) and successful (314) censorship have also been used. Robert Kurzban, whose work was featured in Pinker (257), mentioned last year in a lecture at UNL that movements have been made to censor his work because they “challenged” a student’s “identity.”

These attacks are doubly unfortunate because many claims are debatable. Tooby and Cosmides say that children are born with the same potential (25,33), but if traits associated with violence (Pinker 315), intelligence (Ridley 25), and even political beliefs (Alford and Hibbing 714-715) are largely heritable then some infants come equipped with more potential in a given society than others. Likewise, the seminal claim that humans have an enforced uniformity (Tooby and Cosmides 38) is questioned by computer models showing stable dimorphism (Alford and Hibbing 718). Even more so, the utility of a theory built around a universally-designed (Tooby and Cosmides 35) “incredibly intricate, contingent set of functional programs” (24) may decline to zero if the majority of the program is regulatory and not structural (Alford and Hibbing 717). Such a finding would call into question the factual validity of the mind as an information-processing machine with “invariant relationships between informational inputs and “behavioral” outputs” (Tooby and Cosmides 66). Even central questions of whether investigation into selection’s pressures should focus on genes (67) or not (Alford and Hibbing 708,712) has been left to biological researches themselves (also Tooby and Cosmides 36), and rarely their so-called critics.

Nature-v-Nurture is not Stability-v-Instability

“The Psychological Foundations of Culture,” by John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, in The Adapted Mind, Oxford University Press. [notes].

The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior,” by John Alford and John Hibbing, Perspectives on Politics, Vol 2. No. 4, December 2004, 707-723 [notes].

“Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?” by John Alford, Carolyn Funk, and John R. Hibbing, American Political Science Association, May 2005, http://www.apsanet.org/imgtest/GeneticsAPSR0505.pdf [notes].

The syllabus for Child Psychology calls for a short, interpretive paper over some aspect of the text. I will choose to comment on a paragraph in Chapter 1, under the heading “Relative Influence of Nature and Nurture?”


Berk states on page nine(references excluded)

A theory’s potential on the roles of nature and nurture affects how it explains individual differences. Some theorists emphasize stability — that children who are high or low in a characteristic (such as verbal ability, anxiety, or sociability) will remain so at later ages. These theorists typically stress the importance of heredity. If they regard environment as important they usually point to early experiences as establishing a lifelong pattern of behavior. Powerful negative events in the first few years, they argue, cannot be fully overcome by later, more positive ones. Other theorists are more optimistic. They believe that change is possible and likely if new experiences support it.

While I generally admire the author’s balanced view of the nature-nurture controversy, I believe this paragraph is confused. Prominent nature-oriented perspectives have emphasized early learning and stability. Sigmud Freud, for example, believed that psyhosexual development in early childhood can have lasting impact (Berk 17), while even Jean Piaget emphasized that an early childhood passage through the sensorimotor stage was necessary for success concrete and formal operations (21). Under either Freud or Piaget, a child’s maladaptiosn early in life will cascade into problems later on. At the same time, proponents of genetic influences attack the idea that traits must be stable throughout life. “Just as teeth or breasts are absent at birth, and yet appear through maturation,” the founders of Evolutionary Psychology write, “evolved psychological mechanisms… could develop at any point in the life cycle.” (Tooby and Cosmides 10). Likewise, a researcher working at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln discovered that the influence from socialization on many aspects of personality plummets during life (Alford and Hibbing 2004; Alford, Funk and Hibbing 2005). Under any of this “nature”-oriented research, “stability” is called into question if not attacked.

The precise role of nature and nurture is unknown, but the issue is larger than just “stability.”

Citi Dividend MasterCard to Cut Food & Gas Rebate from 5% to 2%

3 tips: Maximizing Card Rewards,” by Gerri Willis, CNN, 10 August 2006, http://money.cnn.com/2006/08/09/pf/saving/toptips/index.htm.

Credit card issuers slash rebates on use at pumps,” by Harriet Brackey, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 25 August 2006, http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/local/sfl-znoreward25aug25,0,5553635.story?coll=sfla-business-headlines.

Credit cards may become a little less good for you.

Citigroup said this week that it would slash by more than half the cash rewards it pays to holders of the Citi Dividend MasterCard on purchases at gas stations and grocery and drug stores. The 5 percent cash back will soon be 2 percent.)

American Express, too, will end double cash-back points paid on “everyday” purchases to cardholders in its Membership Rewards program starting in October.

(The second bit is especially interesting if you consider a recent CNN “correction”)

An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that 6 million credit card solicitations were sent out annually. In addition, it incorrectly indicated that American Express would eliminate double-reward points on all merchandise. CNNMoney.com regrets the errors.

This isn’t exactly a big scandal — Citibank and MasterCard are not in a league of villains with NationMaster and Ask.com — but it’s still annoying. Getting 5% has been nifty, and it will be annoying trying to find an alternative card or, failing that, using anyone-but-CitiMasterCard out of spite.

Is any 5%-on-food card company not betraying the hopes and dreams of American shoppers — and American democracy — by continuing such a rebate program?

Ransack!

Lady of tdaxp’s Toyota was ransacked last night, presumably by a hobo or student in search of cash. None was in it, so nothing was stolen, but this crime is still disappointing. I would like to think that the University of Nebraska – Lincoln is a safe school.

The gas door was open. This is only unlockable through a bizarrely placed lever near the driver’s door. The guess is that the vandal was trying to open the trunk to see what is in there, and accidentally popped the gas. (The car’s hood was open, presumably for the same reason.)

A little plastic door that swung open was torn off.

The burglar, apparently frustrated, knocked out the rear-view mirror

After eight requests (that was a fun conversation!), the CYA Resident Management finally gave us the form to fill out, documenting that this happened at her dorm. We called campus security, and a competent officer arrived and made a report.

In spite of last year’s hate speech, I generally enjoyed graduate housing last year which is why I returned. Now, between menial theft and this, that is no longer true.

Notes on "The Psychological Foundations of Culture" by John Tooby and Leda Cosmides

The final third of the first weeks’ reading assignment is the astoundingly-popular work, “The Psychological Foundations of Culture.” Available online (with different page numbers), this work propelled the husband-and-wife duo of John and Leda to academic superstardom by attacking a (partially straw-man) Standard Social Science Model and arguing for universal genetic factors as a major influence on human psychology and anthropology. Most interesting for me was the attack on “learning” throughout the article, which becomes explicit only at the end

We expect that the concept of learning will eventually disappear as cognitive psychologists and other researchers make progress in determining the actual causal sequences by which the functional business of the mind is transacted. (Tooby and Cosmides 123)

T&C also strongly support the information-processing model — a model already used by John Boyd’s OODA Loop.

The other readings for this week were Alford’s and Hibbing’s The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior (article, notes) and Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate (amazon, notes).


Darwin took an equally radical step toward uniting the mental and physical worlds, by showing how the mental world — whatever it might be composed of — arguable owed its complex organization to the same process of natural selection that explained the physical organization of living things. 20

To break this seamless matrix of causation — to attempt to dismember the individual into “biological” versus “nonbiological” aspects — is to embrace and perpetuate an ancient dualism endemic to the Western cultural tradition: material/spiritual, body/mind, physical/mental, natural/human, animal/human, biological/social, biological/cultural. 21

To many scholarly communities, conceptual unification became an enemy, and the relevance of other fields a menace to their freedom to interpret human reality in any way those chose. 21

For Lowie, “the principles of psychology are as incapable of accounting for the phenomena of culture as is gravitation to account for architectural styles,” and “culture is a thing sui generis which can be explained only in terms of itself — omnis cultura ex cultura.” 22

… the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM): the consensus view of the nature of social and cultural phenomena that has served for a century as the intellectual framework for the organization of psychology and the social sciences and the intellectual justification for their claims of autonomy from the rest of science. 23

Instead, human culture and social behavior is richly variable because it is generated bya n incredibly intricate, contingent set of functional programs that use and process information from the world, including information that is provided both intentionally and unintentionally by other human beings. 24

Infants everywhere are born the same and have the same development potential, evolved psychology or biological endowment — a principle traditionally known as the psychic unity of humankind. 25

For example, it is true that infants are everywhere the same. Genetic differences are superficial. 33

For example, the fact that same aspect of adult mental organization is absent at birth has no bearing on whether it is part of our evolved architecture. 33

Thus, to support the SSSM was to oppose racism and sexism and to challenge the SSSM was, intentionally or not, to lend suport to racism, sexism and, more generally (an SSSM way of defining the problem), “biological determinism.” 35

Although the adaptionist inquiry into our universal, inherited, species-typical design is quite distinct from the behavior genetics question about which differences between individuals or sets of individuals are caused by differences in their genes, the panspecific nativism typical of adaptionist evolutionary biology and the idiotypic nativism of behavior genetics became confused with each other. 35

Selection in combination with sexual recombination tends to enforce uniformity in adaptions, whether physiological or psychological, especially in long-lived species with an open population structure such as humans. 38 (really? so no genetic polymorphism???)

At present, we are decades away from having a good model of the human mind, and this is attributable in no small measure to a misguided antinativism that has, for many, turned from being a moral stance into a tired way of defending a stagnated and sterile intellectual status quo. 40

In advance of any data, the Standard Model defined for psychology the general character of the mechanisms that it was supposed to find (general-purpose, content-independent ones), its most important focus (learning), and how it would interpret the data it found (no matter what the outcome, the origin of content was to be located externally — for example, in the knowably complex unobserved prior history of the individual — and not “internally” in the mind of the organism. 41

The single most far-reaching consequence of the Standard Social Science Model has been to intellectually divorce the social sciences form the natural sciences, with the result that they cannot speak to each other about much of substance. 48

An organism is a self-reproducing machine. 50

Consequently, one of the two outcomes usually ensues: (1) the frequency of a design will drop to zero — i.e., go extinct (a case of negative feedback): or (2) a design will outreproduce and thereby replace all alternative designs in the population (a case of positive feedback). 51 (what is “usually” in the context of genotypic polymorphism?)

But despite the fact that chance plays some role in evolution, organisms are not primarily chance agglomerations of stray properties. To the extent that a feature has a significant effect on reproduction, selection will act on it. 52

Individual organisms are best thought of as adaption-executers rather than fitness-maximizers. 54

In fact, eyes (light-receptive organs) have evolved independently over 40 times in the history of animal life from eyeless ancestral forms. 56-57

The eye and the rest of the visual system perform no mechanism or chemical service for the body: it is an information-processing adaption. 58

The explanation for any specific concomitant or spandrel is, therefore, the identification of the adaption or adaptions to which it is coupled, together with the reason why it is coupled. For example, bones are adaptions, but the fact that they are white is an incidental by-product. 63

These relationships can be described independently of their physical instantiation in any particular computer or organism, and can be described with precision. Thus, an information-processing program, whether in an organism or in a computer, is a set of invariant relationships between informational inputs and “behavioral” outputs. 66

Other things being equal, the more closely psychological mechanisms reliably produce behavior that conforms to Hamilton’s rule, the more strongly they will be selected for. 67 (compare to Hibbing and Alford‘s defense of multi-level selection)

For example, mental states, such as behavioral intentions and emotions, cannot be directly observed. But if there is a reliable correlation over evolutionary time between the movement of human facial muscles and emotional state or behavioral intentions, then specialized mehcanisms can evolve that infer a person’s mental state from the movement of that person’s facial muscles. 69-70

Ethnobiologists and cognitive anthropologists such as Atran and Berlin have shown that the principles humans spontaneously use in categorizing plants and animals reflect certain aspects of this enduring structure, and are the same cross-culturally as well. 70-71

For example, contrary to the Piagetian notion that infants must “learn” the object concept, recent research has shown that (at least) as early as 10 weeks — an age at which the visual system has only just matured — infants already have a sensorily-integrated concept of objects as entities that are continuous in space and time, solid (two objects cannot occupy the same place at the same time), rigid, bounded, cohesive, and move as a unit. 71 (but… Piaget’s constructivism assumes a “mind” which mere behaviorism or interactionism does not. The authors are unfair to Piaget later on, too)

In general, being a member of a natural kind carries more inferential weight that being perceptually similar. 71

Many statistical and structural relationships that endured across human evolution were “detected” by natural selection, which designed corresponding computational machinery that is specialized to use these regularities to generate knowledge and decisions that would have been adaptive in the EEA. 72

The following are five structured components that can be fit together [either 1,2,3,4,5 or 3,2,1,4,5] in such [an evolutionary] analysis… an adaptive target: a description of what counts as a biologically successful outcome in a given situation… background conditions: a description of the recurrent structure of the ancestral world that is relevant to the adaptive problem… a design: a description of the articulated organization of recurrent featured in the organism that together comprise the adaption or suspected adaption… a performance examination: a description of what happens when the proposed adaptions mechanistically interact with the world… a performance evaluation: a description or analysis of how well (or how poorly) the design, under circumstances paralleling ancestral conditions, managed to produce the adaptive target (the set of biologically successful outcomes). 73-74

As Mayr put it, summarizing the historical record in response to accusations that adaptionist research was simply post hoc storytelling: “The adaptionist question, ‘What is the function or given structure or organ?’ has been for centuries the basis for every advance in physiology.” 77

But it is only an adaptionist analysis that predicts and explains why the impact of this variability is so often limited in its scope to micro-level biochemical variation, instead of introducing substantial individuating design differences. 79

For social scientists, of course, this recognition requires a radical change in practice: Every “environmentalist” explanation about the influence of a given part of the environment on humans will — if it is to be considered coherent — need to be accompanied by a specific ‘nativist’ hypothesis about the evolved developmental and psychological mechanisms that forge the relationship between the environmental input the hypothesized psychological output. 87

No instance of anything is intrinsically (much less exclusively) either ‘general’ or ‘particular’ — these are simply different levels at which any system of categorization encounters the same world. 88 (what about the zero/one/infinity rule in software design, cosmology, etc?)

Moreover, children typically “explain” behavior as the confluence of beliefs and desires (e.g. Why has Mary gone to the water fountain? Because she has a desire for water (i.e., she is thirsty) and she believes that water can be found at the water fountain). Such inferences appear to be generated by a domain-specific cognitive system that is sometimes called a “theory of mind” module. 90

The cognitive revolution, with its emphasis on formal analysis, made clear that theories needed to be made causally explicit to be meaningful, and it supplied psychologists with a far more precise language and set of tools for analyzing and investigating complexly contingent, information-responsive systems. 93

In fact, plasticity (e.g. variability) tends to be injurious everywhere in the architecture except where it is guided by well-designed regulatory mechanisms that improve outcomes or at least do not harm. It would be particularly damaging if these regulatory mechanisms were themselves capriciously “plastic,” instead of rigidly retaining those computational methods that produce advantageous responses to changing conditions. 101

Combinatorial explosion is the term for the fact that with each new degree of freedom added to a system, or with each new dimension of potential variation added, or with each new successive choice in chain of decisions, the total number of alternative possibilities faced by a computational system grows with devastating complexity… Which leads to the best outcome? Or, leaving aside optimality as a hopelessly Utopian luxury in an era of diminished expectations, which sequences are nonfatal? [This problem is also called the] fame problem… poverty of stimuli… referential ambiguity… need for constraints on induction… underdetermines the interpretation 102-103

Some rules for evaluation hypotheses by the evolutionary criterion are as follows. 1. Obviously, at a minimum, a candidate architecture must be able to perform all of the tasks and subtasks necessary for it to reproduce… a hypothesis should not entail an architecture that is substantially inferior at promoting its own propagation (its inclusive fitness) replace an architecture that was better designed to promote fitness under ancestral conditions… A candidate architecture should not require the world to be other than it really is. For example, models of grammar acquisition that assume that adults standardly correct their children’s grammatical errors do not meet this condition… An architecture that was architecture that was completely open to manipulation by others, without any tendency whatsoever to modify or resist exploitative or damaging social input, would be strongly selected against… a candidate theory should not invoke hypotheses that require assumptions about the coordinated actions of others (or any part of the environment) unless it explains how such coordination reliably came about during the Pleistocene hunter-gatherer life…5. A candidate model must not propose the existence of complex capacities in the human psychological architecture unless these capacities solve or solved adaptive (design-propagative) problems for the individual.

The more a system initially “knows” about the world and its persistent characteristics, and the more evolutionarily proven “skills” it starts out with, the more it can learn, the more problems it can solve, the more it can accomplish. 113

Therefore, what is special about the human mind is not that it gave up “instinct” in order to become flexible, but that it proliferated “instincts”-that is, content-specific problem-solving specializations which allowed an expanding role for psychological mechanisms that are (relatively) more function-general. 113

In contrast, the Standard Model “do what your parents did” concept of culture is not a principle that can explain much about why cultural elements change, where one new one comes from, why they spread, or why certain complex patterns (e.g. pastoralist commonalities) recur in widely separated cultures. 116 (really? or, the author thinks that memetic mutations, crossover, etc are too slow?)

Rather than calling this class of representations “transmitted” culture, we prefer terms such as reconstructed culture, adopted culture, or epidemiological culture. 118

The more widely shared an elemtn is, the more people are included to call it “cultural,” but there is no natural dividing point along a continuum of something shared between two individuals to something shared through inferential reconstruction by the entire human species… Within groups, representations occur with all kinds of different frequencies, from beliefs passed across generations by unique dyads, such as shamanistic knowledge or mother-daughter advice, to beliefs shared by most or all members of a group. 120

…it is probably more accurate to think of humanity as a single interacting population tied together by sequences of reconstructive inference than as a collection of discrete groups with separate bounded “cultures.” 121

Second, with the fall of content-independent learning, the socially constructed wall that separates psychology and anthropology (as well as other fields) will disappear. 121 (shades of Marx or Wilson? hmm…)

Jesusism-Paulism, Part IV: The Fall of Rome

On October 27, 312, the world changed.

What exactly happened is disputed. A “heavenly sign,” apparently some form of crossed disc, appeared to Gaius Constantinus outside of Rome. Constantinus read into it “By this, Conquer.” Within twelve hours the world had have turned. Christianity had a shield. More importantly, the Christians had an army.

alpha_chi_ro_omega_md
With This You Win

The Roman Legions were not the first military force fielded by the Jesusist-Paulists. The Armenian King Trdat III submitted his armies to Christ eleven years earlier, but if Christianity had stopped at Armenia the plans of Caiaphas and Diocletian (to force Christianity to morph into violent military force that could be processed as a regular insurgency) would have been victorious. When Tiridates III converted, Christianity gained a weak country. When Constantine I converted, Christianity gained the world.

This exponential increase in the size of Christianity’s 4GW militia was not entirely surprising. In spite of being under a persecution that would last until 313, the Christians were using the using the power of women to subvert masculine lines of control and communication. While the fading crypto-Maoist ideals of Greece were passed along in masculine education, Christianity focused on the conversion of women and subsequent mother-to-child indoctrination. Constantine’s mother was a Christian.

Once Christianity began what 4GW theorists call “stage 3 operations,” what traditional military men call “phase IV operations,” or what others call “Reorientation/Reharmonization,” the Christians followed a Boydian program for success. This “Constantinian Shift” was the natural and correct Christian response to winning the war. In the last slide of his epic brief, Patterns of Conflict, John Boyd wrote

Evolve and exploit insight/initiative/adaptability/harmony together with a unifying vision, via a grand ideal or an overarching theme or a noble philosophy, as basis to:
Shape or influence events so that we not only amplify our spirit and strength but also influence the uncommitted or potential adversaries so that they are drawn toward our philosophy and are empathetic toward our success…

Penetrate adversary’s moral-mental-physical being in order to isolate him from his allies, pull him apart, and collapse his will to resist.

Constantine helped unfold Christianity’s grand unifying ideal. The 325 Council of Nicea, assembled by Constantine, defined the unifying vision and noble philosopher of Christianity. The Creed of Christianity would unfold over the years, but in the 325 Declaration the nature of the Religion was promulgated

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty
Maker of all that is seen and unseen,
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, begotten from the father, only-begotten, that is, from the substance of the father,
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten not made, one in Being with the Father,
through whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth,
Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down and became incarnate,
suffered,
On the third day he rose again
he ascended to heaven
He will come again to judge the living and the dead,
And in the Holy Spirit,
But as for those who say, There was when He was not, and Before being born He was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing or who assert that the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance, or is subject to alteration or change – those the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes.

  • Constantine increased the physical connectivity of Christians. While the Church issues the 325 Manifesto (“First Nicean Creed“), Constantine’s 313 Declaration, the Edict of Milan, not only protects Christians but persecution but also gives to them the physical tools needed to spread the face

    When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I Licinius Augustus d fortunately met near Mediolanurn (Milan), and were considering everything that pertained to the public welfare and security, we thought -, among other things which we saw would be for the good of many, those regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred; whence any Divinity whatsoever in the seat of the heavens may be propitious and kindly disposed to us and all who are placed under our rule And thus by this wholesome counsel and most upright provision we thought to arrange that no one whatsoever should be denied the opportunity to give his heart to the observance of the Christian religion, of that religion which he should think best for himself, so that the Supreme Deity, to whose worship we freely yield our hearts) may show in all things His usual favor and benevolence. Therefore, your Worship should know that it has pleased us to remove all conditions whatsoever, which were in the rescripts formerly given to you officially, concerning the Christians and now any one of these who wishes to observe Christian religion may do so freely and openly, without molestation. We thought it fit to commend these things most fully to your care that you may know that we have given to those Christians free and unrestricted opportunity of religious worship. When you see that this has been granted to them by us, your Worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases ; this regulation is made we that we may not seem to detract from any dignity or any religion.

    Moreover, in the case of the Christians especially we esteemed it best to order that if it happens anyone heretofore has bought from our treasury from anyone whatsoever, those places where they were previously accustomed to assemble, concerning which a certain decree had been made and a letter sent to you officially, the same shall be restored to the Christians without payment or any claim of recompense and without any kind of fraud or deception, Those, moreover, who have obtained the same by gift, are likewise to return them at once to the Christians. Besides, both those who have purchased and those who have secured them by gift, are to appeal to the vicar if they seek any recompense from our bounty, that they may be cared for through our clemency,. All this property ought to be delivered at once to the community of the Christians through your intercession, and without delay. And since these Christians are known to have possessed not only those places in which they were accustomed to assemble, but also other property, namely the churches, belonging to them as a corporation and not as individuals, all these things which we have included under the above law, you will order to be restored, without any hesitation or controversy at all, to these Christians, that is to say to the corporations and their conventicles: providing, of course, that the above arrangements be followed so that those who return the same without payment, as we have said, may hope for an indemnity from our bounty. In all these circumstances you ought to tender your most efficacious intervention to the community of the Christians, that our command may be carried into effect as quickly as possible, whereby, moreover, through our clemency, public order may be secured. Let this be done so that, as we have said above, Divine favor towards us, which, under the most important circumstances we have already experienced, may, for all time, preserve and prosper our successes together with the good of the state. Moreover, in order that the statement of this decree of our good will may come to the notice of all, this rescript, published by your decree, shall be announced everywhere and brought to the knowledge of all, so that the decree of this, our benevolence, cannot be concealed.

    Constantine decreased the physical connectivity of non-Christians. Money was diverted from pagan temple to the Christian Church, in nearly exactly the same way later Chinese Communists would divert wealth from churches to the Communist Party. Non-Christians could not own Christian slaves, a measure designed to prevent an anti-Christian reaction by the chattel-owning class.

    The “non-Christian” tag was applied, with some calculation, to those considered semi-Christians. Self-professing Christians who refused to swear the Nicean Creed were exiled, a fate the Communist Leon Trotsky would suffer after running foul of the larger Communist Party of the Soviet Union. (Unlike Communists, however, the Christians did not send assassins after the exiles.)

    Jews, who worshiped the same God as the Christians but did not claim to worship Christ, were recognized as fellow travelers. Treated better than either Pagans or schismatic Christians, their position was superior to contemporary “fellow traveler” parties, such as the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese KMT in China today. The Christians did those both to seperate Jews from their potential pagan allies, and create a broader, generally correlated force to “influence the uncommitted or potential adversaries so that they are drawn toward our philosophy and are empathetic toward Christian] success.”

    Christianity won. The hope of a victorious 4th Generation War was successful. The old Roman Civilization was dead, and with it the ancient communitarianism of the pagans. Everyone was equal in the eyes of God. The slave. The woman. All equal. Even human-rights laws, such as

    • Improvement in the condition of slaves
    • Improvement in the condition of prisoners
    • Improvement in the condition of non-farm workers
    • Abolition of Crucifiction
    • Abolition of Gladiatorial Execution

    were promulgated. But as that philosopher of underground cults, Howard Lovecraft, wrote

    That is not dead which can eternal lie,
    And with strange aeons even death may die.

    The old Maoism of Greek civilization would not lie dead dreaming for long. It spoke to men in strange dreams. It would teach the Romans new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves. All the Christian world would flame. A New Rome would be born.


    Jesusism-Paulism, a tdaxp series in six parts
    1. Love Your Enemy As You Would Have Him Love You
    2. Caiaphas and Diocletian Did Know Better
    3. Every Man a Panzer, Every Woman a Soldat
    4. The Fall of Rome
    5. The People of the Book
    6. Embrace and Extend

  • A New Middle East, Part IV: Islam is the Answer

    The day is won. Israel has succeeded in its generational struggle with Arab National-Secularism.

    Yet now the medium-term interests of the United States and the Jewish State diverge. The United States, the world’s leader, desires a “rule-set reset” across the Middle East, replacing the divded and confused Arab regimes with something sustainable. Yet such division and confusion is precisely in Israel’s interests, because weak and disoriented enemies cannot threaten her. In particularly, the map of Israel’s near-abroad that America must strive for will naturally spook our allies in Jerusalem.


    A Levant Worth Creating: Blue = Globalized States, Yellow = Traditional States, Purple = Muslim Brotherhood States

    American actions not in Israel’s preferred direction occurred soon after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and can be seen by comparing the recommendations of the seminal 1996 paper, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm

    King Hussein may have ideas for Israel in bringing its Lebanon problem under control. The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf, Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet’s family, the direct descendants of which — and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows — is King Hussein.

    with what actually happened

    • Attempted implementation of an indigenous, secular, Shia government
    • Actual implementation of an indigenous, religious, Shia government

    Israel desired a restored Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq to calm the Middle East, as soon as possible. The United States desired a Shia Iraq to explode the Middle East, as soon as possible.

    Such a disagreement extends beyond the failing state of Iraq to Israel’s immediate neighborhood. With the internal remnants of Arab National-Secularism, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Fatah patronage machine, in shambles, Israel’s best medium-term future was a globalized Lebanon and weak (and easily blackmailed) Egyptian and Syrian regimes. Yet America’s goal is continuing the 3/20 Revolution wish must include replacing the Arab National-Secularist governments of Egypt and Syria with the Muslim Brothers. The Global War on Terrorism requires replacing dysfunctional worldly rule with Islamic Law.

    Sharia’s modernizing track record in the Middle East is positive, National-Secularism’s is negative. Don’t believe it? Compare the religiosity of Egyptians and Iranians. Compare the strength of Egypt and Iranians.

    In a recent post, Tom Barnett wrote:

    And yes, forcing us all to live together in connectedness (known today by the moniker of globalization) will force a tremendous amount of change on both those who welcome it (by all indications, the bulk of the populations throughout the Gap) and those who revile it (a small minority who will fight these changes to the very end, and yes, for them, the conflict will be “genocidal” in that they will not survive it).

    In that conflict process, which I believe is both inevitable and good, it will be harder before it gets easier, but putting off the hard part only ensures greater conflict and death totals down the line, because if integration isn’t achieved, colonial mercantlist-style economic transaction patterns will predominate, as will local authoritarianism and failed states, and the death totals associated with those pathways will (as they do today) dwarf the death totals of integrating conflicts (and if you don’t believe that, then you are woefully ignorant of what’s happening every day in Africa right now).

    The challenge before us is not one of deciding “yes” or “no” to this historical process. That train left the station a generation ago when the East decided to join the global economy.

    The only question that remains is how we rise to this challenge. How we get smarter about how we wage both war and peace.

    To pretend that the choice lies between war and peace is self-delusional, just like pretending we must choose between globalization-the-integration-process and globalization-the-disintegrating/reformatting-process. Life is simply not that binary.

    Israel, being only a state, is too weak to influence systems and instead must play for time, merely surviving into her surroundings are magically improved. But America is a system-level power, and America has the power to change the nature of Israel’s surroundings.

    It is by bringing 3/20 to Cairo and Damascus that we can truly prevent another 9/11. Redirect the violent feedback of the National-Secularists to the National-Secularists. Bring the rage of crooked Arab economies to crooked Arab states. Shrink the Gap by destroying-in-detail the National-Secularism that helped expand it.


    A New Middle East, a tdaxp series
    A New Middle East 1: Our Vanquished Enemies
    A New Middle East 2: Iran
    A New Middle East 3: Israel
    A New Middle East 4: Islam is the Answer

    On Teaching (and Maps of Fantasty Lands)

    A number of articles (listed below the fold) with notes that ranged form brilliant to Marxist clap-trap. So-so. I want to highlight one because I know it will be of special interest to Catholicgauze

    I asked him if he worked with maps in geography. He did. So I suggested that he do his paper on maps and fantasy, and I brainstormed ideas with him. Maps, like fantasy, are neither objective nor value-free. They are someone’s vision of reality, a combination of the imagination and the intellect. I had read a fascinating book on maps by Peter Whitfield (1994). He argued that the act of representing reality in maps was not too different form the act of representing it in art or literature. It was the same impulse to crystallize, comprehend, and therefore to control aspects of reality.

    A number of fantasy texts in the course had maps or theories voyaging — for example, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the film Casablanca, and a discussion of Galileo. The geography student’s essay included Gulliver’s Travels. He argued that maps mirror the minds of the society or the individual from which they spring. The visual space of maps reflects a navigational, scientific, religious, political, national, or colonizing cosmology. He connected the rationality and irrationality of maps to central themes in the novel and the fantasy course. He analyzed the ways in which the implication of voyaging in maps related to the transformation of character, whether individual, scientific, or national, Gulliver, the Royal Society, or England. ” (Cooper-Clark 172)

    The rest are, of course, below the fold.


    Cooper-Clark, D.(1996). A story waiting to be told: Narratives of teaching, scholarship, and theory. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 166-175).

    Dawson, J.D. (1996) Relations of mutual trust and objects of common interest. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 44-53).

    Halonen, J.S. (2002). Classroom presence. In S. Davis & W.Buskist (Eds.). The teaching of psychology: Essays in honor of William J. McKeachie and Charles Brewer. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. (pp. 41-55).

    Halpern, D.F. (1994). Rethinking college instruction for a changing world. In D. Halpern (Ed.) Changing College Classrooms. San Francisco, CA.: Jossey-Bass. (pp. 1-10).

    Roth, J.K. (1996). What teaching teaches me: How the Holocaust informs my philosophy of education. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 199-210).

    Royse, D. (2001). The mental groundwork. In D. Royse (Ed.). Teaching Tips for College and University Instructors: A Practical Guide. Needham Heights, MA.: Allyn & Bacon. (pp. 1-24).

    Ruiz, T.F.(1996). Teaching as subversion. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc.(pp. 158-165).

    “Creating a Sense of Community: Students have a more enjoyable and more profitable learning experience when they feel connected to each other and to the faculty member. To build a community of learners, students need to know something about each other.” (Royse 6)

    “d. Use role-playing, simulations, or hands-on experiments.” (Royse 11)

    “In a very real sense, teaching must be subversive; that is, it must include a willingness to question and criticize, and at times even undermine, established orthodoxies.” (Ruiz 159)

    “This approach to learning reflects the values of a capitalist economy, of the market place: How well can I do by working and learning as little as possible?” (Ruiz 160)

    “True, good teaching depends on the spoken words, but inspiring teaching also depends on silence, on sensing when not to speak, on recognizing that in some times and places keeping silence is the best one can do.” (Roth 203)

    “Students need to write in different ways, but my teaching introduces students to the discipline of writing short, reflective essays. In a less-is-more-style, these essays encourage students to gain mastery and perspective on the substantial reading we always do, to explore their own angles of vision, and to see that every answer leads to other questions, which is a discovery that can teach us, among other things, to take nothing for granted.” (Roth 207)

    “Teacher and learner help one another actualize their potentialities in their relationship with one another. All teaching is collaborative learning; all learning is collaborative teaching.” (Dawson 47)

    “Intense scrutiny by the members of the class is not disturbing to extroverts. These teachers see a class as a perfect vehicle by which they can relax and connect with their students. For them, there is a seamless connection between the self that they experience in the classroom and the self in other contexts; class is simply a comfort zone.” (Holonen 45)

    “Students also expressed appreciation for teachers who make a point to appeal to a broad range of learning styles. The liberal use of visual aids, the incorporation of learning strategies that encourage participation and reflection, and other learner-centered practices (cf. McKeachie, 1999) can help students stay connected to the important ideas offered by teachers.” (Holonen 49)

    “Of the many obstacles to moving teaching ahead, the antiteaching prejudice that pervades higher education is the most pernicious. This prejudice is particularly deleterious because it confers second-class citizenship on professors who work ‘too hard’ on their teaching. University professors are rewarded for visible and easily quantifiable activities such as publishing, making presentations at scholarly conferences and societies, receiving grants, consulting with private industry, or engaging in other activities that bring money into our cash-strapped universities.” (Halpern 5)

    Boydian Orientation as a Political Science Paradigm

    The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior,” by John Alford and John Hibbing, Perspectives on Politics, Vol 2. No. 4, December 2004, 707-723, http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=266160.

    Today’s notes are from the John R. Alford and John R. Hibbing piece that preceded their piece “Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?,” which was featured on the tdaxp post “The DNA of Politics.” In this earlier work they tie together wary cooperation and multilevel selection” to propose a new paradigm for political science. It’s so good, it’s dangerous.

    As with the other work, a finding is that political beliefs are more genetically-based than personal attitudes.” As Alford and Hibbing write:

    A 1986 study by Martin and colleagues of over 3,800 Australian and British twin pairs reported the following estimates of heritability (on a scale of 0 to 1.0) for the following items: death penalty, 0.51; white superiority, 0.40; royalty, 0.44; apartheid, 0.43; disarmament, 0.38; censorship, 0.41. The heritability estimate for pajama parties, on the other hand, was a mere 0.08. The comparable estimates for the influence of shared environment were: death penalty, 0.00; white superiority, 0.09; royalty, 0.14; apartheid, 0.05; disarmament, 0.00; censorship, 0.03 (but pajama parties, 0.44). (Alford and Hibbing 715)

    These can be mapped onto the Orientation stage of John Boyd’s OODA Loop


    Description

    like so:

    The three categories allowed by the analysis of twin studies are genetic factors, which are very high for political issues but lower for moral issues and tastes

    Social factors, which are very low for political issues (especially hot buttons like the death penalty and the then-issue of South African ) Apartheid but a significant factors in the appropriateness of pajama parties

    If there is an uplifting, ennobling finding here, it is the important of non-shared environmental factors, what Boyd would have termed new information, previous experiences, and analyses/synthesis.

    The rest of the notes are mad cool, dealing with group selection, problems a SysAdmin force may face, some cool simulations, and other amazing nifty things. They’re below the fold.


    Most important, the theory should not be dismissed because of an unscientific aversion to its implications. (Alford and Hibbing 707)

    Multilevel selection begins by recognizing the ubiquity of selection pressure. … The genes themselves are, after all, merely survival machines for the complex proteins that make up genetic material. At this deeper level, it is the complex proteins that are selfish, and their survival machines—the genes—may behave in ways that seem highly inconsistent with selfishness.11 In terms of human behavior, if we think of groups as survival machines for collections of individuals, then selection pressures that lead individuals to behave selfishly may well be in conflict with selection pressures that favor groups of individuals that behave in concert. (Alford and Hibbing 708)

    In that spirit we offer our own theory of “wary cooperation” drawn from the work of leading scholars in evolutionary psychology and experimental economics. The theory may be summarized as follows. Humans are cooperative, but not altruistic; competitive, but not exclusively so. We have an innate inclination to cooperate, particularly within defined group boundaries, but we are also highly sensitive to selfish actions on the part of other group members. This sensitivity leads us to cease cooperating when that cooperation is not reciprocated, to avoid future interaction with noncooperators, and even to engage in personally costly punishment of individuals who fail to cooperate. (Alford and Hibbing 709)

    Our genetic composition is to some extent the product of conditions faced by our hunter-gatherer predecessors of perhaps 100,000 years ago. One of the keys to an individual’s survival was being a respected part of a viable group. The central insight of a behavioral theory built on evolutionary biology is that the desire for group life is a fundamental human preference. What kinds of behaviors optimally promote belonging to a viable group? (Alford and Hibbing 709)

    To sustain group membership, individuals must
    1. cooperate with others in their in-group;
    2. dislike those in out-groups;
    3. punish or banish uncooperative in-group members;
    4. encourage others through norms, institutions, or moral
    codes to (1), (2), and (3);
    5. be ever sensitive to status, payoffs, and reputation relative
    to other in-group members;
    6. cease cooperating if the noncooperation of other members
    goes unpunished. (Alford and Hibbing 710)

    In addition to expecting cooperative behavior in some circumstances, our theory also expects—and empirical studies have proven it to be the case—that people mindlessly conform, passively obey authority figures, are competitive to the point of taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others, initiate hostilities toward those people in outgroups, construct out-groups for the sake of having them, and are disconcertingly enthusiastic about punishing those not perceived as living up to the group’s behavioral standards, especially when personally victimized. (Alford and Hibbing 710)

    For example, it is now thought that children learn languages more quickly than adults in part due to their limited memories. Limitations constrain solution space, allow a scaffolding to guide learning, and suggest patterns. Neural networks designed to simulate language learning actually learn more quickly with less memory—more is not always better. (Alford and Hibbing 710)

    As stated by Cosmides and Tooby, “ ‘[R]ational’ decision-making methods . . . are computationally very weak; incapable of solving the natural adaptive problems our ancestors had to solve reliably in order to reproduce.” They conclude that, from an evolutionary point of view, human mental capacities, far from preventing rational thought, actually allow us to be “better than rational.” (Alford and Hibbing 710)

    For example, when experimental subjects are shown pictures of individuals and told their names along with a single fact about them, subjects are better at remembering the names of those who had been connected with a social fact (Sally helped a neighbor paint his house) than a nonsocial fact (Tom has an old refrigerator), and they are best at remembering those who had been connected to a negative social fact (Harry did not return a CD he borrowed from his friend). (Alford and Hibbing 711)

    People are initially helpful and cooperative, even at some personal expense, but they are hypersensitive to the possibility that someone might take advantage of their generosity. (Alford and Hibbing 711) (SysAdmin implications?)

    Since in this view, the conflict of war is a group-level phenomenon, group-level factors become particularly salient. Markers of in-group–out-group boundaries, for example (e.g., borders, language, ethnicity, race, religion, citizenship) should assume exaggerated importance in both the development and prosecution of war. (Alford and Hibbing 712)

    Americans’ primary source of dissatisfaction with government is not that it makes bad decisions, but rather that it makes decisions for self-serving rather than common-good reasons. (Alford and Hibbing 712-713)

    Reformers would do well to realize that people do not wish to be in control of the political system; they only want those who are in control to be unable to take advantage of their positions. If people were confident that existing constraints prohibited such self-interested actions, they would pay even less attention to the political arena than they do now. For most people, involvement in politics is driven not by a desire to be heard but by a desire to limit the power of others. Current American foreign policy might be improved, for example, if decision makers realized that, like Americans, people in Afghanistan and Iraq do not crave democratic procedures. Kurds simply do not want to be dominated by Sunnis; Sunnis do not want to be dominated by Shiites; Uzbekis by Tajiks; and Tajiks by Pashtuns. People often express a desire for participatory democracy when they really just want to avoid being victimized by a more powerful group. (Alford and Hibbing 713)

    Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace worked out the details of natural selection at roughly the same time and were in remarkable agreement—with one vital exception. Darwin was completely consistent and contended that natural selection applied to behavioral as well as physical traits. Wallace, on the other hand, drew a bold line between the two, positing that the mental realm was immune to evolution and was instead the purview of ethereal religious uncertainties. (Alford and Hibbing 713)

    The most developed examples come from studies of the heritability of traits such as conservatism and altruism. These behaviors have been studied in different twin populations in different countries by different researchers over the last twenty years. All of the studies reach the same conclusion: a predisposition to conservatism is genetically heritable. (Alford and Hibbing 714)

    This is not incompatible, and in fact substantially supports Elazar’s basic thesis; moreover, it could help account for the fact that, unlike purely learned orientations, these deeply rooted attitudes might prove surprisingly resistant to the rise of a generic national culture in an era of mass communication and rapid travel. (Alford and Hibbing 716)

    If these two individuals happen to be political scientists, we would not be surprised if we found that because they viewed and explained human behavior in starkly different terms, they would largely be talking past each other—as has all too frequently been the case for behavioralists and rational choicers. This suggests that differences in methodology within and across disciplines may derive at least in part from heritable differences in brain physiology. (Alford and Hibbing 716-717)

    The most interesting and numerous genes in human beings are not structural (blue eyes or brown), but regulatory. Regulator genes allow an organism to respond to its environment; they are the genes that turn on and off the transcription of other genes (or themselves). (Alford and Hibbing 717)

    Interestingly, the computer simulations that we discussed above have demonstrated that (under reasonable assumptions) a population consisting of two types roughly compatible with mildly autistic individuals and wary cooperators, respectively, can reach a stable equilibrium with the larger part of the final population composed of wary cooperators and the smaller remainder behaving more like the mildly autistic. (Alford and Hibbing 717-718)

    Part of the problem may be that the last time biology came to the attention of political scientists (in the 1970s, after the publication of E. O. Wilson’s Sociobiology), they believed that advocates were saying that behavior was determined by biology. If that was ever the position of biology proponents, it is no longer. (Alford and Hibbing 718)