Voting is Like Taking Out the Garbage

Yes, over-the-top clickbait style title. Just thinking out loud here…

Related image

In order to have civilization, you have to take out the garbage.  When people are few and far between, you can dispose of your refuse any way you want, partly because you’ll likely produce little refuse, and that refuse will be biodegradable or at least ‘natural’, partly because you don’t have many neighbors to complain about it.

But once you get civilized, the root meaning of which is ‘living in cities’, garbage disposal becomes an active concern. Your neighbors very likely will care where you dump your garbage. Your own home will become a dump by default if you don’t make the effort to get rid of that stuff.

No one mistakes taking out the garbage as the purpose of civilized life, even though proper waste disposal is essential to it. Instead, if we think about it at all, we think proper waste disposal is something we all do in order to make and keep space for doing what is more important to us. A comfortable, non-smelly home with places for meals, conversations, sleeping and so forth is the goal on a personal level; on a community level, we want similar standards applied to public places for similar reasons. Therefore, we take steps both for our personal garbage disposal and for methods and places to deal with our collected garbage.

Thus, every city, town and village has its garbage men and dumps. Public piles of trash outside of dumps are a sign that civilization is slipping away or has never completely arrived. Privately, Hoarders, cat ladies and people who never seem to clean up their own messes are a tolerable nuisance, usually, but could become a public issue if their personal garbage gets too far out of hand.

Image result for plastic straws
Oh, the huge manatee!!

Few imagine that their success or excellence in dealing with garbage is a defining characteristic of their personhood. True, out here in California, you will meet the Prius-driving composters who would never use a plastic straw nor fail to recycle a soda can and who thinks anyone who fails at these steps is Destroying the Planet and therefore probably irredeemably eeeeeevil. But even out here, people tend to be more sane than that, and take into consideration other personal factors, such as friends, family, hobbies, and achievements before marking a person for future culling once the right-thinking people achieve their peaceful, righteous totalitarian paradise.

Not so with voting! In two different senses, voting seems to be popularly considered an indispensable sign of full personhood. First, not having the right to vote makes one less than fully human in the minds of many. Second, to some, voting *wrong* makes one an unperson, as evil, stupid and suitable for extermination as people who consciously put plastic straws in the San Francisco Bay.

I contend, rather, that voting is much more like our duty to take out the garbage than it is a defining aspect of full personhood. Voting is something we do for the sake of other, much more important things. It is those important things – family, friends, possessions and the freedom to enjoy them – that give voting its meaning.

Historically, in America, we had a revolution to a large extent over the colonists chafing at the very idea that a government an entire ocean away could make and enforce rules and taxes without so much as a how do you do to the people to be ruled and taxed. Coming from Britain, the colonists had inherited a belief in a commonwealth reflected in common law – the idea that certain rights and duties had been established by centuries of precedent, and that the day to day laws were to reflect and reinforce those precedents. More simply, the English in Britain had one commonwealth, which included peculiarly English laws and traditions, royalty, parliament and so forth, while the English colonists in America had developed, over the centuries prior to the Revolution, a different commonwealth, which included, among other things, the practice of self-government. That the Crown would attempt to unilaterally impose its will with no regard to the colonists’ long-established practices shined a stark light on the fact that America was not the same naturally-constituted Nation as England.

In such an environment, the simple act of voting, of having a say in your own government, took on the sacramental quality of religious dogma. “All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” – this is a religious dogma in its very formulation. Compare this to the early English practice of having local votes on local issues, such as each man who bore arms got to vote on (local) issues of war: because it was my life I was putting on the line, I get a say. In medieval practice, a woman, or a teenager we might consider a child, might get a vote in local decisions if they were the ranking representative of their family. Voting was more or less tightly bound to personal duties and obligations the voter would be expected to be personally responsible for.

Having a farmer or miller vote on ‘national’ issues or ‘candidates’ made no sense, not the least because the modern idea of a nation or candidate are complete anachronisms when applied to the Middle Ages. Instead, I, the local farmer, owed allegiance to a local lord, who in turn vowed to protect me and mine and to honor our rights. That lord owed allegiance to a greater lord in a similar way. Such allegiances might or might not roll up to a king or emperor someplace, but even such nested loyalties were built upon local, often face to face, loyalties, duties and rights.

The English systems grew out of these medieval roots, and, at the time of the Revolution, weren’t all that far from them. Indeed, the new Republic’s voting ideas reflected those English roots to some extent: State governments selected Senators and Electoral College members however they saw fit; the President therefore worked for the States and only indirectly for the people. The federal judiciary was yet one step further removed from popular vote. Only the House of Representatives was the direct result of state-wide elections.

But this removal of most of the Federal Government from direct election by the People contradicted the dogma that government gains its legitimacy from the consent of the governed, and, even more important, the inescapable corollary that the individual is the sole sacred locus of all legitimate political power. It is clear from the Federalist Papers that insulating the bulk of the government from the whims of voters was an active goal, reflecting the republican idea that we share an inherited commonwealth that is not open to revision by vote. Such a commonwealth included the notion of individual rights, and government of, by and for the People.

The idea of the sovereign individual who reigns supreme via his consent given at the ballot box conflicts not only with the idea of an inherited commonwealth that his vote cannot overrule, but with reality in general. It seems the Founders assumed voters would be like them – men for the most part thoroughly invested in family, children and usually land. Those families, especially those children (“our posterity”) are the direct embodiment of the commonwealth. A voter could only legitimately exercise his franchise to support the commonwealth! A voter votes as a son, father, and husband, or his vote is not legitimate. Those of us who are sons, fathers and husbands get this instinctually.

This conflict between the sovereign individual and the family man produced by and protecting a commonwealth can go one of two ways:  either individual sovereignty becomes THE measure of worth in society such that not having it is being relegated to non-person standing, or voting a secondary or tertiary thing that only has value insofar as it promotes and protects the commonwealth that is the place where individual rights reside.

Further, if we go the sovereign individual route, the commonwealth itself cannot be off limits. We must be able to vote away our rights, for example, or we are not truly sovereign individuals – something completely contrary to what the Founders stated, but an inevitable result of the logic’s gravity.

In the hoary American tradition, we’ve mostly whistled past this issue for 200+ years while sliding with greater alacrity toward sovereign individualism. In a final twist, a large number of the latter-day recipients of the franchise – women, blacks, 18 year olds – choose to vote for various flavors of the idea that the individual is nothing, the masses everything. Inheritances such as free speech and due process are attacked daily – by popularly-elected officials. The gravitational pull of sovereign individualism toward destruction of the commonwealth is not just a theory.

Under a republican understanding, where a Republic consists of a common wealth held by all to the benefit of all, a citizen does not need to be defined as a voter. Citizens are all those who share fully in the benefits of the commonwealth. Voting becomes the means to an end: the protection and promotion of the commonwealth for the sake of family, and, particularly, our posterity. It would be absurd from this view to pit the right to vote against duty to family and Republic, since voting exists for the sake of those things. Under this view, voters should be those who are best situated to defend the Republic. The idea that voting could be allowed to drive a wedge between members of the same family would be a horror, or at least wildly counterproductive.

Rather than the ultimate expression of our full adult personhood, voting is more like taking out the trash. It needs to be done in order to have a civilization, but it is not that which defines us a full adults.

Finally, sovereign individualism flies in the face of reality in another sense: we Americans with few exception spend tiny amounts of time and effort on voting. If we really believed voting is the highest expression of our human dignity, maybe we’d hold votes more often that once every year or two? Maybe get the week before election day off to allow proper study of the issues and candidates? Perhaps have quarterly or monthly holidays on which to hold local meetings to discuss politics and try to understand our neighbors? In other words, shouldn’t we ACT a little more like voting is all-important if we claim to believe it is?

(Just realized I almost went full Starship Troopers here…)

 

 

Advertisements

Final Thoughts on Lewis’s Inner Rings & Update

The previous 2 posts are concerned with C. S. Lewis’s 1944 address “Inner Rings“, Fr. Longenecker’s commentary on it, and my commentary on both and examples from That Hideous Strength. I also added a few thoughts on some ways in which fans, both of sports and celebrities in general, can fall into the trap of enforced conformity merely by being such fans.

Politics has become largely such a fan club. The utterly irrational enthusiasm for Obama, Bernie, and to a lesser but still troubling degree, Trump(1) is exactly the sort of behavior we expect from sports fans.

Fans consider a team or celebrity or politician ‘ours’ even though fans in no way own or control or even influence those teams, celebrities or politicians. In sports, it may be more or less harmless for fans to consider a team ‘theirs’ even though they don’t own it, don’t influence coaching or management or personnel decisions, and even though the real owners can take the team to some other city, or sell it or even disband it without a second thought to what the loyal fans might want.

But in politics, here’s what happens: ‘fans’ of socialism, for example, get their hero put in charge, with the belief that, unlike previous leaders, he is going to hold their feelings close to his heart. He will take care of them! Policy details are necessarily vague to non-existent, as the fans are most definitely not fans of all the little detailed steps needed to get to the Worker’s Paradise – that why they hope to elect the Bern or that Ocasio-Cortez woman. It is much more important to the fans that their heroes’ hearts be in the right place than that they have any idea what they’re doing.

The incoherence and impatience with which these two politicians respond to practical, even slightly detailed questions reflects the attitude of their fans. Their resumes – “politician, educator, and political activist” – are completely without any objective, measurable achievements. And the fans don’t care.

Put the last two points together: political fans have no control and vanishingly little input into what their heroes will do once they have power, and they are uninterested in how these results are to be achieved, and even uninterested to an amazing degree if anything at all is achieved. Just as supporters swooned over the ACA, they will swoon over whatever the next nice-sounding power grab is. The Economic Fairness Act, if supported by the Bern or Ocasio-Cortez will garner unquestioning support from their fans, who will not investigate or even care how or if it will work. The American Dreamer Immigration Reform Act, or the Oligarchy Control Act, the Income Equalization Act – any and all of these made-up bills will receive the support of the fans provided their heroes support them. (2) No amount of pointing out how they will really work will even register. The Bern wants economic fairness! Miss Ocasio-Cortez wants to help immigrants! That’s all that will register in the typical fan’s mind.

In the extreme case, you get apologists for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Che and Chavez. Because, despite what they did in reality – purges (3), murder, mayhem, complete economic destruction, all while personally living high on the hog – because, darn it all, their hearts are in the right place! Look at the Soviet constitution! More and better guarantees of rights than even the US Constitution! Never mind that all those rights didn’t help the Kulaks much, because I’m not a Kulak. They were asking for it anyway.

But, boy, isn’t their rhetoric lovely! My failures and unhappiness are not my own, I am a victim of oppression by vast historical forces. We must defeat those forces by killing all that are under their sway! Then we will all be happy.

I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m merely stating the core beliefs in plain English.

Well before it finally goes too far, fans may start to realize that they have no say and no effective way to oppose any course of action their heroes chose to pursue, up to and including killing off the fans themselves.

I wish there were a way to help people ask, always, will that plan work? How? At what cost? But there doesn’t seem to be any.

On a lighter note:

IMG_5206

This little dwarf fig tree grew in a pot, then a barrel, for over 10 years. Two springs ago, we transplanted it in this spot by the front door.

It really likes being in the ground. Last year, we got an early and late fig crop, and the tree was trying for a third before the weather turned cold; I trimmed it back over the winter. Now, it’s twice the size and yields a few cups of figs per day, and has been for a couple weeks, and is still loaded with maturing figs:

(Don’t know if you can see them in there, but lots of little figs)

Now, I’m not a huge fig fan. I make a very lightly sweetened fig jam which a couple of the kids like. That’s about it. But I’m a huge fan of beautiful plants and trees, and this is a beautiful little tree. That biblical image of a man content beneath his own fig tree comes to mind every time I pass it.

Further, while we are following the best practice of not letting our other fruit trees bear much fruit until Year 3 – next year – in order to make sure the trees get properly rooted, my lack of thoroughness allowed a couple dozen peaches and pomegranates to grow. We let a handful of apricots come in for testing – they were good – but I failed to dig around in the lower, more hidden reaches of the very thick foliage of our dwarf peach tree and missed a bunch. They were really good, and the little tree is so vigorous I’m figuring its roots are doing fine anyway.

Pomegranates don’t ripen until November or later. This little tree I have trimmed and trimmed again – can’t let them get much over 7′ tall or our front yard orchard will be unmanageable – there’s just no stopping it! Must have pinched off hundreds of blossoms and little fruit and – well, like the dwarf peach, I’m figuring it’s so vigorous the roots must be doing OK. So, in a couple months, we’ll have a 2-3 dozen beautiful pomegranates to deal with.

Really looking forward to next season!

Finally, Tool Time! I’ve never had a workshop or even adequately large garage to work in, so my tool collection, though not insubstantial, is not very big for somebody as into home improvement projects as I am. Things I really wish I had, but have no place to keep: planer, drill press, good size workbench with some bench clamps, masonry saw,  welding equipment, cutting torch and probably a bunch more I’m not thinking of at the moment.

I’m always happy when I find some small tool or gadget that does exactly what I need but doesn’t take up much space. Previous additions include little angle grinder – how did I ever do without one? – a hammer drill and various router bits. The latest add: a step drill bit. Little tiny thing that is making putting in the wrought iron style fence and gate I’m working on much easier. I need to cut all these 1/2″ holes through some fairly soft iron, but I was chewing up drill bits and time doing it. Now? Cordless drill in one hand, can of WD-40 in the other, and I’m a hole-drillin’ fool!

It’s the little things….

For both my readers who care, I’ll have pics of the Endless Brick and Faux Wrought Iron Fence Front Yard Project of Death soon. It’s coming along.

  1. I make this distinction because, in general, fans of Trump express their love based on stuff Trump actually did, e.g., reducing regulation & stimulating economic growth, or is measurably making some progress on, e.g., reducing illegal immigration and building the wall, while fans of Bernie and Barry base their fandom entirely on what they believe their heroes stand for. Bernie and Barry share a track record of having done very, very little except for grand symbolic gestures. Consider: Obama’s greatest achievement is considered getting the Affordable Care Act passed. Note that getting this law passed did not in practice provide affordable care, it merely shifted burdens around, compelled people who might not have wanted insurance to get it anyway, and created a vast, unworkable bureaucratic structure all while providing no workable cost control. But – it’s called the Affordable Care Act, so he’s credited as if affordable care was actually provided. And he’s a positive Edison compared to the Bern.
  2. Again, I’m not a Trump lover, but his support seems fundamentally different (which is why his opponents can’t begin to understand it) – if he somehow tried to get bills passed which restricted gun ownership or opened the boarders or increased taxes, a large section of his base would rebel, no matter how charming the name such bills were given. Compare & contrast Clinton getting NAFTA passed over the objections of the unions – which unions continued to support him.
  3. Fans never think they’ll get purged, because they are True Believers. Wake-up call: fans are often at the top of the culling list.

Follow Up: C. S. Lewis’s Inner Rings and Fans

In yesterday’s post, we discussed C. S. Lewis’s 1944 address The Inner Ring. Fr. Dwight Longenecker mentions this essay in an article of his own, in which he points out the obvious relationship between the concepts in Lewis’s address and his wonderful novel/grown up fairy tale That Hideous Strength.

That Hideous Strength is my second favorite work by Lewis, after Til We Have Faces, and as it is full of memorable scenes and I’ve read it a number of times, it was not difficult to recall passages to illustrate the points in his address. The reality of what Lewis is discussing is patent.

In his address, Lewis goes out of his way to say that Inner Rings are not always a bad thing:

I must now make a distinction. I am not going to say that the existence of Inner Rings is an Evil. It is certainly unavoidable. There must be confidential discussions: and it is not only a bad thing (1), it is (in itself) a good thing, that personal friendship should grow up between those who work together. And it is perhaps impossible that the official hierarchy of any organisation should coincide with its actual workings. If the wisest and most energetic people held the highest spots, it might coincide; since they often do not, there must be people in high positions who are really deadweights and people in lower positions who are more important than their rank and seniority would lead you to suppose. It is necessary: and perhaps it is not a necessary evil. But the desire which draws us into Inner Rings is another matter. A thing may be morally neutral and yet the desire for that thing may be dangerous.

So rings are everywhere, sometimes serve a purpose, and are something almost everyone, it seems, is attracted to. But there are exceptions. In That Hideous Strength, Lewis provides the example of Hingest, the renowned chemist, who is a man of actual achievement. He has no interest in the N.I.C.E. and its circles within circles, tries to leave, and is murdered.

Through no merit of my own, I seem to be largely immune to the allure of Inner Rings.  I’m happiest, generally, working on some project on my own, although team activities can be satisfying, too, I’m just more likely to enjoy working solo.

Even back at high school, I do not recall ever wanting to hang with the cool kids. Of course, as the weird loner kid who did both sports (basketball) and drama club and sang in the school choir, there was no Inner Circle that would have me. Nope, it’s another temptation that attracts me, one that is both very much like an Inner Circle while at the same time its polar opposite: the allure of fandom.

Sports is the obvious example. It’s very exciting when your team competes, never mind that they are in no real sense ‘your’ anything. ‘Your’ city doesn’t own them, you have no say over who is on the team, team strategy, long term goals, or any other aspect of team operation. Team owners can and do move their teams away, as the nearby Oakland Raiders fans know too well. This idea that any professional sports team is ‘our’ team, is the fan’s team, is preposterous.

I’ve known all this since I was a kid. Yet, it took me almost 60 years before I shook off my emotional attachment to several professional teams. (2)

Being a sports fan is like being in an inner circle in this respect: there are insiders and outsiders. There are other teams (and their fans) that you despise as a function of your being a fan of your team. Your identity is tied up with being a fan of your team.

Now, few sports fans would admit to this. They’d claim it’s just a game, just for fun. Yet, on an emotional, and even functional level, it’s all true. Sure, those crazy Raiders fans in the Black Hole know it’s a game, that they are playacting according to rules almost as specific as those followed in the game on the field.

Related image

But then again, it’s not. It becomes a chief, sometimes defining, aspect of personality.

Being a fan is nearly opposite to being part of an Inner Ring in three respects: it’s as easy as buying a hat or t-shirt to become a fan, membership is open to everyone, and loyalty is valued. Yet there are definite insides and outsides, and rules. You can criticize the team, the players, the coaches, the front office and the owners, but only so far. People who criticize structural issues, such as how players are compensated or the absence of reasonable safety measures, run the risk of being called out as not real fans – unless they make the proper noises about how much they love the team.

So why even bring this up? The social usefulness of the compelled conformity of fans has not escaped those in love with the idea of compelled conformity.  In this sense, fandom can be made to be an extension of the will of some Inner Circle or other. I think this use of team worship as a method of control has been in play for a long time now. Consider:

Athletes, actors & other entertainers take political stands as an exercise in herd management. Team loyalty is invoked to usurp thought in political affiliation; athletes and actors tell ‘fans’ what politics to root for.  In a sane world, who would care what a 25 yr old jock has to say about anything, let alone politics? Or an actor? The hot dog vendor at the stadium is more likely to have interesting views, since he’s not spent 10,000+ hrs on his jump shot or learning to fake emotions. He may not be compelled in his positions by the need to conform to the group.

In my lifetime, the first famous athlete to take political stands during his career was Ali. He helped reverse public opinion on Vietnam. The press loved him. He was a bit of an outlier, since at the time sports figures could not be counted on to express the ‘correct’ views.

Now? Imagine if someone on the NBA Champion Warriors, who have twice turned down invitations to the Trump White House after a heavily-publicized love fest with Obama, were to be seen wearing a MAGA hat? It would be as shocking as if they started passing the ball to the other team in games.

Now imagine you’re a 20 year old 1st round draft pick, and you wander in to that environment – you going to buck the trend? The coach and stars have made it publicly clear they despise as idiots, evil or both EVERYBODY who holds opposing political views. So you, the 20 year old rookie, conform. Fans continue to be presented with a 100% consistent team political position. Fans may be under less pressure than rookies, but I’d be shocked if anyone at a Warriors game were to wear that MAGA hat. They’d get verbally abused, at least.

That facade of 100% consistent team politics must be maintained. Thus, some of the greatest hatred today is reserved for athletes and entertainers who fail to conform. Traitor to the team! Eeeeevil! Stupid! They must be destroyed! When the NFL tried to get these infants to dial it back for business reasons, all the knives come out.

We cannot let anyone start thinking that freedom of thought trumps group cohesion. All those years of training in school, all the conformity & mindless loyalty, would be undone in a minute if it were shown that teammates could disagree about politics and still be – teammates.

There’s roughly a 50/50 chance an American chosen at random will not be some flavor of committed liberal/progressive/socialist/communist. Yet we are presented with the image of 99% conformity among professional athletes and entertainers, and the complete vilification of that remaining 1%.

This facade of cohesion is one of the last remaining bastions against having to face the true variety of political positions that exist in any functioning democracy. The point of democracy, after all, is to allow people to honorably disagree and still live together in peace.

That’s why, while sane people just role their eyes at the posturing of these prima donnas and get on with their lives, the left cannot tolerate the very idea of professional athletes and other pampered celebrities rejecting any part of their politics. The edifice of group think – the herd – so painstakingly built, would fall.

  1. I think there was a typo here, as context and sense demand it should read “it is not only not a bad thing…” Or?
  2. Lakers, then Warriors, if you must know. I’ve watched a lot of sports, but only gotten really involved in these 2 teams. Now? Meh.

Inner Rings: Lewis & That Hideous Strength

Lack of discipline paid off once again, as clicking from here to there lead me to this article at The Imaginative Conservative by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, which lead me to The Inner Ring, an address by C. S. Lewis.

Good stuff, go read them. I here expand a little on Fr. Longenecker’s themes by illustrating them with passages from That Hideous Strength.

Longenecker starts by quoting Lewis quoting Tolstoy. (1).

Image result for tolstoy
Can I be forgiven for thinking: ZZ Top? No?

When Boris entered the room, Prince Andrey was listening to an old general, wearing his decorations, who was reporting something to Prince Andrey, with an expression of soldierly servility on his purple face. “Alright. Please wait!” he said to the general, speaking in Russian with the French accent which he used when he spoke with contempt. The moment he noticed Boris he stopped listening to the general who trotted imploringly after him and begged to be heard, while Prince Andrey turned to Boris with a cheerful smile and a nod of the head. Boris now clearly understood—what he had already guessed—that side by side with the system of discipline and subordination which were laid down in the Army Regulations, there existed a different and more real system—the system which compelled a tightly laced general with a purple face to wait respectfully for his turn while a mere captain like Prince Andrey chatted with a mere second lieutenant like Boris. Boris decided at once that he would be guided not by the official system but by this other unwritten system.

Lewis makes the general points that this situation – the existence of both a more or less official structure to an organization and an unofficial Cool Kid’s Club that mans the gates to acceptance and advancement – is ubiquitous and is almost always soul-destroying evil.  Sure, once in a while, when a leader might gather a few good men to his side to get something urgent done, this Inner Circle might even work towards good.  That would be a rare exception to the rule, however.

Longenecker mentions That Hideous Strength, appropriate as the finale of Lewis’s space trilogy is largely a novelization of the concepts presented in Lewis’s address. Here the protagonist is called upon to write propaganda for the newspapers libeling opponents and disguising the true purpose of the N.I.C.E., of which he is a junior member. He is faced with needing to sell, bit by bit, the soul he doesn’t really think he has and in any event has remained nearly completely un- or ill-formed up to now, in order to move into an even tighter Inner Circle:

It was, after all, not so long ago that he had been excited by admission to the Progressive Element at Bracton. But what was the Progressive Element to this? It wasn’t as if he were taken in by the articles himself.He was writing with his tongue in his cheek — a phrase that somehow comforted him by making the whole thing appear like a practical joke. And anyway, if he didn’t do it, someone else would. And all the while the child inside him whispered how splendid and how triumphantly grown up it was to be sitting like this, so full of alcohol and yet not drunk, writing (with his tongue in his cheek) articles for great newspapers, against time, “with the printer’s devil at the door” and all the inner ring of the N.I.C.E. depending on him, and nobody ever again having the least right to consider him a nonentity or cipher.

Simple, normal, healthy relationships put the lie to the allure of Inner Rings. Studdock wants into the Inner Circle so badly that this desire is allowed to kill his normal relationships, even his relationship with his wife.  The N.I.C.E. leadership wants him to bring her to their headquarters at Belbury:

Until the D.D had said this Mark had not realised that there was nothing he would dislike so much as having Jane at Belbury. There were so many things that Jane would not understand: not only the pretty heavy drinking which was becoming his habit but — oh, everything from morning to night. For it is only justice both to Mark and to Jane to record that he would have found it impossible to conduct in her hearing any one of the hundred conversations which his life at Belbury involved. Her mere presence would have made all the laughter of the Inner Ring sound metallic, unreal; and what he now regarded as common prudence would seem to her, and through her to himself, mere flattery, back-biting and toad-eating. Jane in the middle of Belbury would turn the whole of Belbury into a vast vulgarity, flashy and yet furtive. His mind sickened at the thought of trying to teach Jane that she must help to keep Wither in a good temper and must play up to Fairy Hardcastle. He excused himself vaguely to the D.D., with profuse thanks, and got away as quickly as he could.

Studdock, like all well-schooled Moderns, lacks any ground to stand on from which to judge his own actions. There is always a ground of being, of simple, directly-experienced emotions, but without formation by parable and myth, such inclinations or natural reactions can easily be silenced or twisted to almost any abomination.

It must be remembered that in Mark’s mind hardly one rag of noble thought, either Christian or Pagan, had a secure lodging. His education had been neither scientific nor classical — merely “Modern.” The severities both of abstraction and of high human tradition had passed him by: and he had neither peasant shrewdness nor aristocratic honour to help him. He was a man of straw, a glib examinee in subjects that require no exact knowledge (he had always done well on Essays and General Papers) and the first hint of a real threat to his bodily life knocked him sprawling. And his head ached so terribly and he felt so sick. Luckily he now kept a bottle of whisky in his room. A stiff one enabled him to shave and dress.

The whiskey here is a stand in for whatever lies we tell ourselves to allow us to deny that we’re cowards and traitors. While all this is going on, Jane, his wife, is being confronted by the mirror image of Mark’s trials: good people eager to be true friends are trying to help her be true to herself. In both cases, the success of what might be called corporate plans depends on the free surrender of the will of those involves – N.I.C.E. requires surrender to the devil, while the company around Ransom requires submission to the will of God.

In her own way, Jane fights for her membership in another Inner Ring, a vague and largely mythical one comprised of enlightened young women who, as G. K. Chesterton quipped, would not be dictated to and so became stenographers. Jane is a slave to her idea of freedom, one that separates her from husband and friends. and from the commitments that make one free and fulfilled.

Since That Hideous Strength is a fairy-tale, both Mark and Jane win their battles and find happiness. They each take the small, feeble steps of which they are capable, away from evil and toward the Good – then miracles happen.

Towards the conclusion of Lewis’s The Inner Ring, he explains the antidote:

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.

And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.

In The Inner Ring and That Hideous Strength, Lewis describes how we can personally avoid or mitigate the ill effects of the Inner Rings with which we will inevitably be confronted. But what about the evil such rings can wreck upon institutions and individuals? He is silent on that issue in The Inner Ring, except by the inference that, by staying out of it ourselves, we weaken and oppose it. In That Hideous Strength, those who are invited into the Ring and decline are murdered. It takes divine intervention to defeat the Inner Circle.

Longenecker makes a point Lewis doesn’t emphasize, yet is clearly of the nature of Inner Rings:

Whenever an inner ring is exposed it evaporates. Proof is demanded, but there isn’t any because it was all secret handshakes, winks, and nods all along. It was never a formal organization to start with, so the members simply deny, shift their position, and slide away like the serpents they really are.

I would add that Inner Rings reform the instant the light is shined elsewhere. Thus, the calls to Drain the Swamp and reform the Catholic hierarchy, two cases of Inner Rings gone completely rogue, can only make progress when members are removed from positions of authority, prevented access to others in positions of authority, and publicly named and shamed. Prison would be good, where appropriate. Otherwise, people will be shocked, shocked to find out what was going on – and then pick up right where they left off the moment the lights are turned off.

Warning: not to get too hysterical quite yet, but history shows some members of such rings will murder before they let that happen. There will be enough sociopaths (Inner Rings are ideal playgrounds for those with no moral compass) that starting a war or revolution is completely on the table. Blackmail, character assassination and back-stabbing of all kinds is standard operating procedure for Inner Rings, whether it’s the FBI, a papal dicastery or your local parent co-op preschool. (2) We kid ourselves if we think it will stop there.

Then, there’s always divine intervention. Let us pray that God can find a way to be merciful, and that we can bear whatever part of His justice that we have earned for our sins of commission and omission.

  1. Reminds me of the alternative music scene where you wear the next cooler band’s t-shirt to whatever band’s show you’re attending. So, here, you quote a cooler author. You’d next need to find Tolstoy quoting Dante quoting Homer…  No? Never mind.
  2. The key reason I was appalled at Obama even running for President, let alone winning, is the history of Chicago politics: 100 years of mafia control, Roti takes one for the team in the early ’90’s, BUT EVERYONE ELSE GOT A PASS. Whatever Inner Circles enabled mob control STAYED PUT. That the Anointed One staffed his campaign and cabinet with career Chicago politicians and ‘public servants,’ many of whom got their careers started under Roti, should have been seen as a nightmare come true; the current mishegas should not be a surprise.

AI-yai-yai.

Henry Kissinger (yes, he’s still alive – 95 yrs old. His dad made it to 95 and his mom to 98, I think, so he may be with us even longer.) has opined that we’ve got to do something about AI:

Henry Kissinger: Will artificial intelligence mean the end of the Enlightenment?

Two thoughts: Like Hank himself, it seems the Enlightenment is, surprisingly, still kicking. Also: End the Enlightenment? Where’s the parade and party being held? Oh wait – Hank thinks that would be a bad thing. Hmmm.

Onward: Dr. K opines:

“What would be the impact on history of self-learning machines —machines that acquired knowledge by processes particular to themselves, and applied that knowledge to ends for which there may be no category of human understanding? Would these machines learn to communicate with one another? [quick hint: apparently, they do] How would choices be made among emerging options? Was it possible that human history might go the way of the Incas, faced with a Spanish culture incomprehensible and even awe-inspiring to them?”

Note: this moment of introspection was brought about by the development of a program that can play Go way better than people. Little background: Anybody can write a program to play tic-tac-toe, as the rules are clear, simple and very, very limiting: there are only 9 squares, so there will never be more than 9 options for any one move, and no more than 9+8+7+6+5+4+3+2+1 possible moves. A simple program can exhaust all possible moves, dictate the next move in all possible scenarios, and thus guarantee whatever outcome the game allows and the programmer wants – win or draw, in practice.

Chess, on the other hand, is much harder game, with an effectively inexhaustible number of possible moves and configurations. People have been writing chess playing programs for decades, and, a few decades ago, managed to come up with programs sophisticated enough to beat any human chess player. Grossly put, they work by a combination of heuristics used to whittle choices down to more plausible moves (any chess game contains the possibility of any number of seemingly nonsensical moves), simply brute-force playing out of possible good choices for some number of moves ahead, and refinement of algorithms based on outcomes to improve the heuristics. Since you can set two machines to play each other, or one machine to play itself, for as long or as many games as you like, the possibility arises – and seems to have taken place – that, by playing millions more games than any human could ever play, measuring the outcomes, and refining their rules for picking ‘good’ moves, computers can program themselves – can learn, as enthusiasts enthusiastically anthropomorphize – to become better chess players than any human being.

Go presents yet another level of difficulty, and it was theorized not too many years ago to not be susceptible to such brute-force solutions. A Go master can study a board mid-game, and tell you which side has the stronger position, but, legendarily, cannot provide any sort of coherent reason why that side holds an advantage. The next master, examining the same board, would, it was said, reach the same conclusion, but be able to offer no better reasons why.

At least, that was the story. Because of the even greater number of possible moves and the difficulty mid-game of assessing which side held the stronger position, it was thought that Go would not fall to machines any time soon, at least, if they used the same sort of logic used to create the chess playing programs.

Evidently, this was incorrect. So now Go has suffered the same fate as chess: the best players are not players, but machines with programs that have run through millions and millions of possible games, measured the results, programmed themselves to follow paths that generate the desired results, and so now cannot be defeated by mere mortals. (1)

But of course, the claim isn’t that AI is mastering games where the rules clearly define both all possible moves and outcomes, but rather is being applied to other fields as well.

After hearing this speech, Mr. Kissinger started to study the subject more thoroughly and learned that artificial intelligence goes far beyond automation. AI programs don’t deal only with the rationalization and improvement of means, they are also capable of establishing their own objectives, making judgments about the future and of improving themselves on the basis of their analysis of the data they acquire. This realization only caused Mr. Kissinger’s concerns to grow:

“How is consciousness to be defined in a world of machines that reduce human experience to mathematical data, interpreted by their own memories? Who is responsible for the actions of AI? How should liability be determined for their mistakes? Can a legal system designed by humans keep pace with activities produced by an AI capable of outthinking and potentially outmaneuvering them?”

“Capable of establishing their own objectives” Um, what? They are programs, run on computers, according to the rules of computers. It happens all the time that following the rule set, which is understood to be necessarily imperfect in accordance with Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, computer programs will do unexpected things (although I’d bet user error, especially on the part of the people who wrote the programming languages involved, is a much bigger player in such unexpected results than Godel).

I can easily imagine that a sophisticated (read: too large to be understood by anyone and thus likely to be full of errors invisible to anyone) program might, following one set of instructions, create another set of instructions to comply with some pre existing limitation or goal that may or may not be completely defined in itself. But I’d like to see the case where a manufacturing analysis AI, for example, sets an objective such as ‘become a tulip farmer’ and starts ordering overalls and gardening spades off Amazon. Which is exactly the kind of thing a person would do, but not the kind of thing one would expect a machine to do.

On to the Enlightenment, and Hank’s concerns:

“The Enlightenment started with essentially philosophical insights spread by a new technology. Our period is moving in the opposite direction. It has generated a potentially dominating technology in search of a guiding philosophy. AI developers, as inexperienced in politics and philosophy as I am in technology, should ask themselves some of the questions I have raised here in order to build answers into their engineering efforts. This much is certain: If we do not start this effort soon, before long we shall discover that we started too late.”

Anyway, go watch the videos at the bottom of the article linked above. What you see are exactly the problem Dr. K is worried about – “AI developers, as inexperienced in politics and philosophy as I am in technology” – although in a more basic and relevant context. The engineer in the videos keeps saying that they wrote a program that, without any human intervention and without any priming of the pump using existing human-played games of Go, *programmed itself* from this tabla rasa point to become the (machine) Master of (human) Masters!

When, philosophically and logically, that’s not what happened at all! The rules of the game, made up by humans and vetted over centuries by humans, contain within themselves everything which could be called the game of Go in its logical form. Thus, by playing out games under those rules, the machine is not learning something new and even less creating ex nihilo – it is much more like a clock keeping time than a human exploring the possibilities of a game.

The key point is that the rules are something, and something essential. They are the formal cause of the game. The game does not exist without them. No physical manifestation of the game is the game without being a manifestation of the rules. This is exactly the kind of sophomore-level philosophy the developers behind this program can almost be guaranteed to be lacking.

(Aside: this is also what is lacking in the supposed ‘universe simply arose from nothing at the Big Bang’ argument made by New Atheists. The marvelous and vast array of rules governing even the most basic particles and their interactions must be considered ‘nothing’ for this argument to make sense. The further difficulty arises from mistaking cause for temporal cause rather than logical cause, where the lack of a ‘before’ is claimed to invalidate all claims of causality – but that’s another topic.)

The starry-eyes developers now hope to apply the algorithms written for their Go program to other areas, since they are not dependent on Go, but were written as a general solution. A general solution, I hasten (and they do not hasten) to add: with rules, procedures and outcomes as clearly and completely defined as those governing the game of Go.

Unlike Dr. Kissinger, I am not one bit sorry to see the Enlightenment, a vicious and destructive myth with a high body count and even higher level of propaganda to this day, die ASAP. I also differ in what I fear, and I think my reality-based fears are in fact connected with why I’d be happy to see the Enlightenment in the dustbin of History (hey, that’s catchy!): What’s more likely to happen is that men, enamoured of their new toy, will proceed to insist that life really is whatever they can reduce to a set of rules a machine can follow. That’s the dystopian nightmare, in which the machines merely act out the delusions of the likes of Zuckerberg.  It’s the delusions we should fear, more than the tools this generation of rootless, self-righteous zealots dream of using to enforce them.

  1. There was a period, in the 1980s if I’m remembering correctly, where the best chess playing programs could be defeated if the human opponent merely pursued a strategy of irrational but nonfatal moves: the programs, presented repeatedly with moves that defied the programs’ heuristics, would break. But that was a brief Star Trek moment in the otherwise inexorable march forward of machines conquering all tasks that can be fully defined by rules, or at least getting better at them than any human can.

Teacher’s Pets and Geniuses

Over on the esteemed William Briggs’ blog, a guest poster is discussing the glee with which certain people react to an analysis of Trump’s use of language based on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale and other similar tests. Seems our president speaks with a fourth grade level vocabulary, by far the lowest grade level of any president. This, of course, cannot mean he’s trying to reach as broad a population as possible – it can only mean he’s stupid. (1)

This brings to mind when I first heard of Obama and saw him speaking. The first thought I had: teacher’s pet. (2) As a kid from a blue collar family, in the first generation to go to college, I am perhaps better attuned than some to seeing that weird phenomenon most especially present in the children of academics: people whose identities are strongly tied to thinking they are smarter than the peons, and yet so insecure that any challenge is seen as a personal attack.

Such folks seem especially prone to becoming teacher’s pets: they don’t have non-academic achievements to be proud of, so they assign great importance to pleasing Teacher. Patted on the head, told how smart they are, admired and envied by their peers, they move through school and eventually life always looking for and leaning on that approval and self-image. They do great in highly-structured careers where there few if any objective measures of success: academics, educators, lawyers, judges, journalists. They are by nature courtesans: their success depends entirely on how well they can ingratiate themselves to Power, and thus their contempt for those who do not care to court power, and viciousness toward those who would undermine it.

Thus, perhaps the most dangerous divide in America is between those who take pride in their own objective achievements, and those for whom the only achievement that counts is how close to power you can get. I’d guess at most 10% of the population is courtesans – I don’t think a population could support more than that. The courtesan and the objectively productive people are mutually unintelligible: the courtesan simple does not believe that the objectively productive person wants to be left alone; the productive person can’t believe anyone could possibly count what amounts to professional ass-kissing as ‘achievement’ worthy of anything but contempt. Yet they both see the result or at least the threat: the Power comes from somewhere. Increase centralized power, and you improve opportunity for courtesans and decrease the world in which productive people can operate, and visa versa.

From the productive’s point of view, he is being dragged into a political fight he’d rather not be in and will abandon as soon as possible. He is Cincinnatus longing to get back to his plow. From the courtesan’s perspective, the political fight is all there is, he would cease to live if it ever stopped.

For a Marxist, everything is political. They are courtesans, ultimately, with the goal of becoming Tyrant. (see: Lenin, Vladimir; Stalin, Josef; and a host of others). This drive is clothed in the sheep’s clothing of Justice, Fairness, History, and other Orwellian euphemisms, but the drive is Power. The useful idiots and whoever loses out when power is gained might as well line up for their personal Night of the Long Knives: the winners cannot allow anyone they may not be able to control in any positions of power, especially if they have the skill set needed to run a successful revolution. (I try not to enjoy the image of all those Antifa soyboys facing blunt reality if they ‘win’, but it amuses me that they think they will have any power or even won’t be culled. Because, you know, they beat the snot out of unarmed people and newspaper vending boxes. I suppose they might make serviceable gulag guards, but – nah.)

The bad news: the fight isn’t going to go away. The insanity and derangement on the Left is understandable in this context: they didn’t just lose an election, their entire reality is under threat! An objectively productive person would shrug, as we all did when Obama won, and look for a chance to win the next election. The courtesan cannot endure any threat to the Power from which and towards which their lives flow. They will fight, and fight dirty and desperately and, even though grossly outnumbered, have shown that they can win. Our main hope is that more and more people are seeing the insanity, and will simply refuse to swallow the rhetoric of the power hungry.

Back to this whole intelligence thing. I have always been baffled by the ‘Obama is a genius’ claim. THAT’s a genius? People need to get out more, especially out of academia, if that’s the idea of genius they hold. I suspect rather that O is a particularly flattering mirror: I am like that man, I think and believe like him. His success is my success, the victory of his ideas validates everything I hold dear!

This whole professor to community organizer to adoption by the Chicago Outfit doesn’t really scream ‘achievement’ or even ‘intelligence’. The Chicago Outfit and the Democratic Party found a man they could use, and did so. The fact remains that the people who owed their jobs to Fred Roti, who owed his job to Bruno The Bomber Roti, chose Obama as their front man. He then brought that team to the White House. The main characteristic of any politician in that environment is that he can be controlled. Intelligence is probably a liability.

I think Obama is a bit over average intelligence. He speaks like someone who has a difficult time structuring even slightly complicated thoughts into words. In any event, you can bet we’d know all about it if he were a 4.0+ student with a 150 IQ, the tribal indicators of smarts in lieu of any actual achievement. But we don’t, which tells you what you want to know.

As I’ve said before, I neither like nor trust Trump. I like few and trust no politicians. I do admire his evident cunning, his shocking interest in keeping his promises and his charming ability to make his enemies heads explode. More often than not, his enemies are my enemies. That doesn’t make him my friend, however. As it stands, if the choice comes down to Trump or those who hate me and wish me dead, well, the choice is pretty clear.

Ultimately, who cares how smart our leaders are, above a certain minimal level? You want to be governed by Samwise Gamgee, not the smartest Hobbit in town, because he doesn’t think he’s got it all figured out and is way smarter than you. He knows he doesn’t know, and embraces his duty to do the right thing to the best of his ability. When you believe the little people need to be lead by the nose by the smart people, of course your head explodes when you lose, and of course you have to believe whoever you lost to is stupid – because ALL THE SMART PEOPLE agree with you. Or, if smart, EEEEEEVIL! Because there are simply no other options. This is called being open minded.

These are interesting times.

  1. I am reminded in this context of the gaming of the SAT tests once they added a writing section. The test-taking strategists quickly figured out you’d score better the more you wrote regardless of quality. Thus, the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale and other such test reward verbose, 10-dollar-word laden gibberish and have no way of accounting for how rational or even clear you are.
  2. I eventually concluded that he was the ideal Fabian Trojan Horse. But I had no opinion on that at the time.

Wednesday Update & r/K Strategy

Been a crazy busy/stressful last several days. Here’s where we stand:

A. Beta readers: Got feedback already from several of you – thanks! Just send the same story to a couple more people. Right now, I’ve got 6 beta readers! Wow! You guys are generous.

I want to give each of your comments proper consideration, which, given both time constraints and focus distracted by Real Life, I have yet to do. Thought a three-day weekend would give me an opportunity, but didn’t happen. Now looking at school camping trip this weekend (supposed to be 93F – oh, joy.) followed by the year end/graduation party next weekend, with Mrs Yardsale flying to SoCal to be with Elder Daughter for her graduation from an acting conservatory in L.A.. Meanwhile, 80 yr old mother in law lives with us, which is overall a beautiful thing for which I am grateful, but it does eat time and cramp any spontaneity. And all this is on top of Other Stuff that’s taking a toll on time, concentration, sleep – the usual.

Sooo – please be patient. I really do appreciate all your comments, and will make revisions as appropriate.

Rabbit
Don’t let those floppy ears and timid facade fool you. They all dream of being the Beast of Caerbannog

B. What’s up with this r/K theory of political alignment? Ran into it a few times over the last few months, even found a free book expounding it (by some anonymous author who says it’s his idea). Count me unimpressed.

Here’s how it goes:

In biology, r = rate of procreation; K = an environment’s carrying capacity for a particular creature. These variables became associated with two reproductive strategies, called r and K.

So: in an environment of relative abundance, an r strategy is proposed as best from a Darwinian/gene survival point of view: produce as many offspring as possible as fast as possible. Animals pursuing (in that weird sense in which animals are said to pursue gene-survival strategies ) an r-strategy exhibit 5 behaviors:

  1. Conflict avoidance. Avoid competing;
  2. Reproduce young and often;
  3. Breed indiscriminately – lots of mating with whoever is handy;
  4. Provide minimal or no care in raising the offspring;
  5. Show no group loyalty – no concern for other members of your tribe.

The r-strategy is said to occur in prey animals, where predation keeps their numbers down to a point where survival is never a question of competition for scarce resources. The population is always below the environment’s carrying capacity. The reasoning is thus: if there is plenty of food and water, don’t fight over it; if predators are likely to pick you off sooner rather than later, breed early and often; since survival is a numbers game, don’t waste time finding an optimal mate or raising your young; everybody gets eaten sooner or later, so no point worrying about who is getting eaten today.

The K-strategy is said to occur among predators, whose numbers tend to be constrained by the availability of prey. Thus, they live at or near the carrying capacity K of their environment. The optimal strategy is said to include:

  1. Competition is natural and unavoidable, so you’d better compete agressively;
  2. Only the most fit offspring survive, so delay and limit breeding to produce fewer but very fit offspring;
  3. Mates are chosen carefully and competed over, as the most fit mate produces the most fit offspring
  4. Large investment in raising the young, with both parents and the herd/pack taking care;
  5. Show loyalty and interest in the group you belong to, because that’s the group your mating prospects and survival depend upon.

You can see where this is going. Rabbits are the example typically given of an r-strategy species. It’s an appealing generalization – I recall seeing a video of a stoat hunting rabbits in a field full of rabbits. The stoat picked his target, and began to harass and exhaust it while the other rabbits continued to nibble away at the abundant grass. The stoat eventually killed it. (The stoat leapt on the rabbit’s back, bit through the rabbit’s spine at the neck, and then dragged the much larger prey away. Nasty little devils.)

Rabbit of Caerbannog | Villains Wiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia
You thought they were kidding about the Beast of Caerbannog? 

The other rabbits hardly looked up during the whole ordeal. Presumably, they went back to the warren and bred like, well, rabbits immediately after being sated with grass.

Wolves are given as the K-strategy poster-creatures. They compete with each other yet also hunt as a team, they spend comparatively large amounts of time and effort raising comparatively fewer young to be as fit as possible. Only mature, fit individuals get to breed. Wolves are loyal to their pack. They compete for the best mates.

Humans, it is proposed, are genetically disposed toward one or the other of these strategies, because our environments run to both extremes. When we’re settled and competing for resources with each other, K is successful and r would be out competed. But when we migrate to new places where there are no people, such as we hominids have done repeatedly for the last million years, then an r strategy wins. We’d just be wasting time with a K strategy, competing with each other when we could be out hunting the abundant game or gathering the abundant edibles – and breeding up a bunch of offspring.

Accordingly, r-strategy Americans end up Democrats or Socialists. while K-strategy Americans gravitate toward being Republicans or Libertarians.

There is more to read, which the author claims gives all the boring scientific evidence and reasoning for all this, but I think we’ve already arrived at a point where a boatload of prudent skepticism is called for. First off, like all sociobiological theories, there’s large dollop of Just So story here. The inquiring mind wants to know: how, exactly, would one even construct an experiment or field study to demonstrate any of this in the animal kingdom? Not saying it can’t be done, but it’s not obvious. How does one measure, for example, identify breeding preferences in wild populations, let alone group cohesion or how much a parent morns? While it’s easy to say an elephant mourns when its baby dies, and that a rat does not, how are we to measure this? How do we filter out the anthropomorphizing and confirmation biases?

Then, you’d need to replicate it across a bunch of species and environments to prove it out. Then you’d need the usual double-blind non-WEIRD study of people across a wide population – you know, like is almost never done – before applying any of this to human beings in general.

For starters. Then there’s the claim that there are genetic markers for behaviors as generally ill-defined as being liberal or conservative – or something, haven’t gotten to that part yet. I’m doubtful.

What I’m not doubtful of is the appeal of sociobiological explanations for complex human behavior. We’re into our second century of explaining what makes people tick based on some understanding of Darwin or other. Such explanations reveal much more about what the explainer is interested in than what’s going on in the world.

As a footnote, here’s my pet sociobiological theory: some people will only eat food with which they are familiar, others look forward to trying new dishes. (confession: heading off to a Peruvian restaurant tonight to celebrate our 31st anniversary. Why? Because I’ve never been to a Peruvian restaurant before. So you know where I fall.)

Here’s why, according to the theory which is mine: farms have been part of the environment of evolutionary adaptation for many thousands of years now. Settled people tend toward a set menu – what available on the farm and nearby. So natural selection has inclined them to be ‘eat what I know’ types. Meanwhile, other people migrate, such as across the Bering land bridge or on boats to Hawaii. They arrive at places full of edible stuff they’ve never seen before. For such people, the willingness to try new stuff is a must. Natural selection inclines them to go, say, to a Peruvian restaurant.

Of course, a spectrum of behaviors will exist here, as the fuddy-duddies and adventurous insist on marrying each other occasionally, mixing up all those genes. But the extremes prove the point.

Well? You convinced? How is this argument weak in a way other sociobiological arguments are not?