Saturday, November 13, 2010

On the Constancy of Human Nature, part 2

One of my favourite authors is under the unfortunate and deeply mistaken impression that there is something called human nature. He wrote to me:

> Human nature from the perspective of evolutionary-psychology *is* a constant. It's the society we live in and how that effects how our genetic predispositions towards certain behavior that changes.

This is fatuous, silly, foolish, stupid, empty-headed and ludicrous nonsense. It is actually worse than your proposition that fusion power is the wave of the future. Allow me to disillusion you of not one but three completely-fucking-wrong foundational ideas you hold which underpin your first sentence alone.

Myth 1: there is such a thing as "evolutionary psychology" in the sciences.

Truth: there is not. Psychology is a proto-science that does not meet the standards of rigour and formality that a real science must. Nonetheless, many of its practitioners (but not even a majority of them!) try to address objectively real phenomena of the mind. The same thing goes for biology although a greater proportion of biologists try to address objectively real phenomena - perhaps even a majority.

However, so-called "evolutionary biology" which tries to "explain" particular evolutionary pathways through pure guesswork is not a science at all nor is it in any way scientific. What it is is a bunch of handwaving nonsense and Just So storytelling. A bunch of arbitrary and irrational Bad Explanations. Neither correct nor incorrect, but simply bad - unworthy of any consideration as they are strictly pre-scientific. Evolutionary biology is not a proto-science, it is a fake science.

What do you get when you couple the massive uncertainty of a proto-science (psychology) with another proto-science (say, biology)? You get a pseudo-science. And what do you get when you couple a proto-science with a pseudo-science? You get something worthy of the death penalty. It is an INSULT to TRUTH for you to even utter the words "evolutionay psychology" thus lending that hogwash the smallest modicum of credibility by acknowledging its existence.

Myth 2: there is something like a singular "human nature" that is genetically determined

Truth: all three parts of this ridiculous notion are empirically false.

First, there is no singular "human nature" by ANY possible meaning of the term. Neither personality nor personality types nor even the basic substrate of cognition of human beings is singular. There is absolutely nothing which all human minds share in common, not at any moment in history and certainly not throughout history.

Nothing makes this more obvious than looking at a primitive neolithic human mind, a mind incapable of the simplest abstractions like counting to 3. And if that isn't enough then there's the empty minds of feral human-animals that are incapable of language or complex learned behaviour or even primitive consciousness. And as if that weren't bad enough, there is the plurality of cognitions available.

I am capable of both analysis (logic) and synthesis (spontaneous, broadband creativity). Analysis is the form of cognition encoded in artificial intelligences such as CYC. Synthesis, the capacity for multidimensional decomposition, is the form of cognition encoded in every neural network no matter how primitive. The noted natural language machine learning engines all function on the basis of multidimensional decomposition.

There exists no other forms of cognition other than analysis and synthesis. And more importantly, not all humans are capable of both forms of cognition. Being capable of both, I see the lack of either (and usually both) in human beings as a huge yawning gap in people's minds.

Consider the ridiculous claims of a singular "human nature" against the empirical fact that what people use to think isn't the same from person to person.

Second, the set of things (actions, behaviours, desires, motivations, drives, whatever) that are ingrained in human beings from birth is EMPTY. Humans have no instincts. Newborns do have a few simple reflexes such as automatically grasping whatever's in their hands and taking a big breath then holding it when put underwater. This is why infants don't automatically drown when put in water.

Let us digress for a moment on the question of what an instinct is. An instinct is a behaviour that never had to be learned. If it had to be learned then it's not an instinct! Dogs burying bones is an instinct. Dogs leaving shit in public places is an instinct. Cats buring their shit is an instinct. If you have to train a behaviour out of a puppy, then it's probably an instinct.

Humans have no instincts. But what about love, Richard? Love is not an instinct! As a matter of empirical fact, maternal love is a modern invention and so can't possibly be an instinct. And filial love grows out of the mother's nourishment and taking care of the newborn so it too isn't an instinct!

The closest thing to a hardwired instinct humans have is empathy. And empathy can't really be counted an instinct because exactly like analysis and synthesis, it is a general computing substrate. Empathy doesn't dictate any behaviours or thoughts or drives or motivations or anything else.

My empathy for instance is a tool that I use to exquisite effect in order to destroy people that disgust me. If you were thinking that empathy means "peace & loving kindness" you can forget it. Empathy is just knowing what makes others tick by automatically and subconsciously being able to simulate their minds using your own brain. Empathy is precisely limited by your own knowledge and cognitive capacity.

Third, genes don't code for shit in human neuroanatomy. Our species' genome has about 25000 genes of which about 6% are unique to chimps and humans. That's only 1500 genes of which most are going to be chimp genes. Meanwhile, we have about 100 billion neurons. What genes code for is a general computing substrate as Henry Markram explains in Supercomputing The Brain's Secrets.

Myth 3: human biology and human psychology can be cleanly differentiated and do not straddle each other.

Truth: the multiple feedback cycles going both ways between human biology and human psychology as well as the blurred regions between the two make any kind of categorization of "culture vs nature" a ridiculous exercise for pseudo-scientific nitwits touring the talk show circuits.

In fact, this is ridiculous on its face as even a cursory glance at height charts over historical periods will reveal. Why height charts? Because humans a few centuries ago were shrimps. And this hasn't changed due to evolution but due to better nutrition and hygiene. Both things which cause the development of stronger immune systems and greater cranial capacity.

The Flynn Effect, a sustained increase in the average IQ scores of populations by 3 points every decade for the last 120 years, ever since records began ... proves our ancestors were dim-witted fucking idiots. Our parents are on average 6 IQ points stupider than we are. In fact, we have detailed records showing how people in generations past were much less accustomed to abstraction than we are. Even simple abstractions like 'mammal' would be unfamiliar to them, things they do not use in everyday life.

It is a meaningless and anti-scientific exercise to try to categorize nutrition OR hygiene in the ridiculous "nature vs culture" obsolete fake-debate which stupider generations than ours were obsessed with. Square pegs round holes, people!

Myth 4: human psychology must be explained in terms of other things such as biology and culture.

Truth: human psychology is axiomatic. There is no explanation for human psychology other than more human psychology. There CANNOT BE any explanation for human psychology other than itself for the very simple reason that psychology as a field of science is the only possible root and basis of EVERY social science.

Every science dealing with human beings that lacks a rigorous basis in psychology is a proto-science at best. Every social "science" that CLAIMS a basis other than psychology ... is a lying pseudo-science. So-called "mainstream" economics (also known as market, analytic, Austrian, Chicago, and financial) is pure pseudo-scientific gibberish and hogwash. Neither industrial nor developmental economics claim any rigorous basis in anything. And behavioural economics looks for a basis in psychology, although it's hardly rigorous yet.

If you need another example of the social sciences' dependence on psychology, I need only point to deMause's work on the history of childrearing. In his work, he explains many social artifacts by tracing them back to childrearing styles, the psychology of the parents that used them and the psychology of the children that evolved from it. The ultimate explanation for all social phenomena is psychology, and the only explanations for psychological phenomena are ... more psychology.

Just as it is ridiculous to try to find an "explanation" for mathematics in the exact sciences since the latter uses and depends on the former. So too it is ridiculous to try to find a "cultural" or "environmental" or any other "explanation" for psychology in the social sciences. The social sciences all use and depend on psychology. Perhaps there is an explanation for psychology in mathematics. More likely there isn't. Psychology simply is. Either get used to it or shut the fuck up.


Stephen R. Diamond said...

How do you avoid concluding from deMauses's psycho-history that human nature exists? DeMause's theory posits that humans react in predictable ways to their manner of rearing. This seems to imply a consistent substrate for the environment to act on: a "human nature." The progression (or not( through a fixed series of psychosexual stages seems to hypothesize that it's man's "nature" to be the subject.

Stephen R. Diamond said...

On the Flynn Effect—one problem with your claims is that it is absent for tests of abstraction. The effect applies predominantly to spatial visualization and spatial reasoning.

Richard Kulisz said...

Absent for tests of abstraction? That's odd and incomprehensible. I would check the tests to see whether they actually measure abstraction.

You know, H2O goes from ice to water to steam to plasma in an unavoidable progression. Perhaps this means there's something about H2O that hardcodes those transitions? Oh wait no, ALL MATTER goes through these phases.

The progression in childrearing modes says nothing about human beings since for all we know they apply to every conceivable intelligent social being. And now that I've considered that possibility, I find it overwhelmingly likely.

As if that weren't bad enough, deMause's theory posits that humans *as a statistical aggregate* react *more or less* predictably. deMause is mostly talking about numbnut magical thinkers incapable of logic or creativity.

Just who do you think is responsible for childrearing evolution anyways? Or did you forget that part of deMause's theory? Because the obvious candidates are highly empathetic and highly creative people.

As proof consider that I was abused in mode 4 in a 5 country and I would raise my own children in mode 7. And if I had access to neurocybernetic implants then you can bet your ass I would use mode 8.

Richard Kulisz said...

Oh right, perhaps it's not obvious. All social beings need love to function adequately. It follows from 'needing to be touched [gently] to signal the presence of others of its own kind who will protect it from sudden violent death' which is hardwired into all social beings (except perhaps insects) and is more important than food and water. And I wouldn't be too surprised if this were hardwired even in non-social animals.

Richard Kulisz said...

There is indeed a "consistent substrate for the environment to act on", the problem is that it is a blank substrate. And I find I cannot wrap my head around why people would desire it to be otherwise. Is it a desire for commonality and union with others of one's species? Or a means of excluding outsiders like fictional aliens and AI? Both of those are essentialist thinking.

Stephen R. Diamond said...

On tests of abstraction, of course they measure abstraction; can't conceive of cognition that doesn't. But this makes it all the stronger evidence for limited improvement of abstract abilities because tests of verbal abstraction, which were your original subject, fail to rise, despite these tests being better tests of abstraction. For example,a on verbal analogies, one of the best tests of abstraction, there is no Flynn Effect. Improvement takes place for tests like Block Design and Objective Assembly, which, despite involving abstraction, are classified as tests of perceptual organization, that is , are less weighted with abstraction ability.

On the substrate for environmental action, your theory is that human nature would be shared by any intelligent being. That's hardly denying human nature. On the statistical nature of psychological prediction, who says human nature must be crystallized, as opposed to consisting of propensities. It's still a nature, i.e. more than a tabula rosa, which really is incoherent when so applied. (You may disagree, since you think physical laws, and presumably laws governing matter under various different descriptions, as in the "special sciences, are necessarily deterministic, as I understand you.)

[One thing I'm curious about. With your combined analytic and synthetic abilities, do you never have to change your mind?]

Richard Kulisz said...

> of course they measure abstraction; can't conceive of cognition that doesn't

There is no of course about it. Members of the amazonian Piraha tribe are utterly incapable of abstraction. Even a simple abstraction like the number '3' is beyond them. But they're still able to function in their limited way. Enough so that a magical thinker would hardly be able to tell the difference between a Piraha's mind and their own.

The question then is whether what magical thinkers do which involves very little reasoning (thinking about abstractions) and a hell of a lot of memorization & recall counts as cognition.

I will remind you that both doctors and lawyers are magical-thinker professions, which is why the law is overly complex, inconsistent and its foundations rest on magical concepts like "history" (eg, copyright & patents). And why doctors are so eager to butcher their patients without a single care about their continued existence, let alone quality of life.

On the subject of abstraction, you should remember that in reality, the capacity of human beings to synthesize abstractions varies by greater than 3 orders of magnitude. And the capacity of human beings to reason about (walk chains of) abstractions varies by *so many* orders of magnitude that the people at the low-end of the scale have *no measurable capacity* on any test that's capable of discriminating people at the high end.

I also want to remind you that intelligence means only rote memorization capacity. That's all any intelligence test measures, including the Raven's progressive matrices.

So here we have an effect, the Flynn effect, which over a period of a century has increased the average by less than a factor of 2. Considering that capacity for abstraction varies by MORE THAN a factor of 1000, a factor of 2 increase is miniscule.

Intelligence tests don't measure abstraction in any meaningful way. NONE of the subtests do, no matter what names are given to them by cognitively crippled psychologists. And given the difference in outcome on an IQ test is a mere factor of 4 (50-200) with the bulk of that variability taken up by intelligence (memorization) it follows that IQ tests *cannot possibly* be at all sensitive to abstraction.

What I mean by all that is that while I accept your point that the standard interpretation of the Flynn effect has no evidence supporting it whatsoever, it doesn't follow that it's wrong in any way. Because IQ tests just don't measure anything interesting or even overly important in the human mind. If it weren't for the Flynn effect, IQ tests would be completely uninteresting.

Richard Kulisz said...

We impute motives on doctors like "covering their ass" and "greedy assholes" but the truth is they're too mentally deprived to have motives. They function by rote actions, by indoctrination, by mimicking what others do, and by punishment & reward training. Dogs are capable of this.

Dogs, well wolves, are also capable of banding together against an external enemy. Come to think of it, ants are capable of this.

The only motivation common to doctors which requires cognition is their god complex. Which is not merely the fact or the feeling of having someone's life and death in your hands, but the conscious appreciation of that fact.

Makes you all warm and fuzzy when you think of putting your life in one of their hands, doesn't it? To know that there's practically nothing by way of higher mentality going on in their brains. And that what little of it there is you would fear and despise.

I want to see the day when AI doctors are licensed to to write prescriptions and recommend treatments.

Richard Kulisz said...

I do accept the existence of statistical laws in physics (eg, thermodynamics, condensed matter physics) but they can never be the sum of knowledge. For a proto-science like psychology, having only statistical laws wouldn't be crippling.

What's crippling is that deMause's laws of childrearing apply to ONLY magical thinkers. Each cognitive type (an-syn, an, syn, null) is sufficiently different that it requires completely different sets of psychological laws. The laws that govern an-syns are Kazimierz Dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration, not deMause's theory of childrearing modes at all.

There are at least 5 radically different choices for laws that govern each human being, providing 32 different combinations. That's an awful lot of different human natures.

A good analogue is the phases of matter in physics. They each obey entirely different mathematical laws. To see the commonality between them, you have to drill down to a level where you no longer see bulk properties of matter. The analogue of that is drilling down to the level of individual thoughts so that all aspects of personality (and everything people might mean by "human nature") are no longer visible.

> do you never have to change your mind?

I change my mind all the time. But only rarely at the behest of others, because I usually see my own mistakes before anyone else does. And almost never in ways that they desire, because they can't predict me well-enough.

Richard Kulisz said...

My theory of consciousness is vastly more comprehensive than deMause's triumph of consciousness umm evolution of childrearing modes.

On a macro scale, by taking into account Julian Jaynes' pre-1 (pre-conscious) modes, I predict post-6 (post-conscious) modes.

And on a micro scale, I posit that magical thinkers are incapable of any kind of evolution of their consciousness outside of the mode they're born into. That analytics are only capable of evolution within a mode and neutral amplification of their psychosocial environment (ie, acting AS IF they're in a mode forward when surrounded by such people). That synthetics are responsible for the transitions forward. And that analytic-synthetics are entirely outside the theory and can jump modes at will.

This theory doesn't explain the rapid transition around 1968 in western and northern Europe.

Anonymous said...

Forgive the personal question, but what do you use your analytic-synthetic mind to do? Do you have hobbies outside of being extremely well-read? What sort of work are you in? You've mentioned on here that you're Canadian (as am I), is there any work you're doing here under a pseudonym that I should be aware of?

Richard Kulisz said...

It is either ironic, hypocritical or deeply stupid how people solicit answers to personal questions from me while choosing to remain anonymous themselves.

I don't seek celebrity, why would I when I despise the general population? And I don't seek followers, anyone who tries to make me their leader will be verbally abused in the most brutal way I can imagine until they stop.

So on what possible basis would I ever answer personal questions to someone I don't know?

Also, being an anarchist means being sensitive to power imbalances. And deeply hostile to them. Can you guess what this situation most resembles?

Yeah, I might have answered your question *before* you asked since it bears on two different topics (the relationship between cognition and profession, and my own future plans) that are broadly important, but you've just delivered to me an enormous incentive not to.

Richard Kulisz said...

Or it could have been an oversight. Is that you stephen?

Anonymous said...

I apologize. I'm just a fan of your writing and I figured it was a long shot, but I'm curious.

I'm an old redditor that found your comments insightful (and unlike most, your facts all seemed to check out). When you left I found this blog and have been checking up on it and reading the links.

I'm sure you knew that at least some of your readership is curious about this. If not, I'm sorry for making you think twice about writing on any subject.

I'm beginning to understand the anarchist reaction to any sort of power imbalance, though I'm not sure I'm thinking about the same situation.

Richard Kulisz said...

Well, I think I answered your question in my 2 most recent blog posts.

The short answer is that my hobby, my work, my vocation and my avocation are all simplifying complexity.

Stephen R. Diamond said...

"Or it could have been an oversight. Is that you stephen?"


names said...

However, so-called "evolutionary biology" which tries to "explain" particular evolutionary pathways through pure guesswork is not a science at all nor is it in any way scientific. What it is is a bunch of handwaving nonsense and Just So storytelling. A bunch of arbitrary and irrational Bad Explanations.


Neither correct nor incorrect, but simply bad - unworthy of any consideration as they are strictly pre-scientific.

but I don't see how that makes it unworthy of consideration. History is the same thing--X government fell because A, B, and C, all of which the historian just makes up as an explanation and he can hardly be proved wrong or right. And yet, explanations of history are worth considering, not necessarily when it comes out of an academic's mouth, but you'd be lying if you said you didn't care for them.

there is no singular "human nature" by ANY possible meaning of the term.

Absolutely nothing is singular. This is the same as the old "That stereotype isn't true because I know someone who doesn't fit it." Well, of course, but it shows up statistically, it's persistent, and it's useful.

As for the nature/nurture debate, I think John Tooby covered it well in The Adapted Mind

Let me offer some candidates as universal human nature:
1) care what others think--others being some crowd, be it whatever is mostly socially respectable and proper to believe, what your tribesmen believe, or some other bullshit
2) moral concerns
3)care about ethnic horse-shit
4) the reasons why simple conditioning can't produce a society of New Soviet Men
5) a million other things

You've got to be kidding. All you've done is attacked the naive folk conception of nature.

Richard Kulisz said...

> but you'd be lying if you said you didn't care for them.

You shouldn't make such assumptions about people. I really DON'T care about historical explanations because I've found scientific explanations of history.

Alice Miller did an excellent hit job destroying every single historian's "explanation" of the holocaust. And then proceeded to provide a psychological explanation based on deMause's theory of childrearing.

Jared Diamond's theories of geography and disease, of pre-agriculture nutrition, and geographical fractioning in Europe vs China, also make a lot of sense. You'll note they have rigorous scientific forms. They're not narratives about the assassination of the ArchDuke Ferdinand or whatever.

So no, I really don't care about the historian's traditional explanations. I ceased caring when I read Ancient Engineers where it was pointed out that at EVERY point in history, even the Dark Ages, engineering progressed. That is the one universal constant of history.

And that's assuming I ever cared about historical narratives, which is stretching things a lot. I am an introvert and I've never cared about people per se. I've also never cared for wars. So what does that leave? I suppose communist revolutions.

Richard Kulisz said...

> Well, of course, but it shows up statistically, it's persistent, and it's useful.

That maybe USED to be true back when society was stagnant technologically and psychologically, but it isn't any longer.

We now have vast technological changes occurring MULTIPLE TIMES within our own lifetimes. And we also have vast psychological changes as well.

The (5th) Socializing mode of childrearing emerged at the beginning of the 20th century with Doctor Spock. The advanced countries of Scandinavia were on the (6th) Helping mode of childrearing before the end of that same century.

Also, how many long did it take for adolescence to emerge in centuries past? Now a new stage of development, 'emerging adulthood' is again emerging.

How many centuries did it take for education to realign from 'classical' post-oriented educations to 'modern' present-oriented educations? It is now realigning itself again to future-oriented education.

Every stage comes along more swiftly than the last. Our evolution is accelerating. And the previous stages are retained! Classical education still exists for many. So not only do we go through stages faster than in the past, but society as a whole becomes more complex as it sits in multiple stages simultaneously.

And who is driving all of that advance? Creative, logical people, who make up only a few percent of the general population. When an utterly abnormal fraction of the population is driving the entire population, you can no longer speak of any kind of stereotype. Stereotypes PLURAL, not singular. The exceptions can no longer be dismissed as exceptions.

Richard Kulisz said...

This is exactly what I'm talking about.

> Let me offer some candidates as universal human nature:
> 1) care what others think--others being some crowd, be it whatever is mostly socially respectable and proper to believe, what your tribesmen believe, or some other bullshit

I don't care what anyone else thinks. I am an exception and my kind of people, who DON'T care, are what are driving all the technological and social change. You can't dismiss me as an exception because even though we are small in number, we are MASSIVE in effect.

In my post Most Science Is Fraudulent, I point out how the Stanford Prison Experiment is entirely fraudulent because it weeded out iconoclasts and dissenters from the participants. And I point out how IT WOULD ONLY HAVE TAKEN ONE to shut down the entire experiment.

> 2) moral concerns

Except for the 2% of the American population that are psychopaths, totally lacking in empathy. Except for the fact that corporations are psychopathic by nature. Except for the fact that British are psychopathic *as national identity*. Or that Americans are narcissistic, with narcissism being 'reduced empathy' hence reduced morality. As shown by the notorious American allergy to the word 'morality'.

> 3)care about ethnic horse-shit

I don't care. And this emerging NOT CARING is gaining. In fact, the not-caring about ethnic horse-shit is a signature of the 6th and even the 5th modes of childrearing. The only reason the USA and China still care is because the USA is half stuck and China is entirely stuck in the 4th mode. So anyways, you can't claim something is a universal human constant when it is disappearing before your eyes.

> 4) the reasons why simple conditioning can't produce a society of New Soviet Men

And that has absolutely fuck-all to do with anything in humans and everything to do with ALL conscious beings. Even artificial intelligences. Even Vulcans. Even sapient cats. Even fictional beings like elves.

> 5) a million other things

Considering you've succeeded in naming exactly ZERO so far ...