Go Back   Bloggingheads Community > Diavlog comments
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Notices

Diavlog comments Post comments about particular diavlogs here.
(Users cannot create new threads.)

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:02 AM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
BhTV staff
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 1,936
Default Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:27 AM
burger flipper burger flipper is offline
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 2
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory

Nice break from Horgan.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 12-05-2009, 04:21 AM
Ken Davis Ken Davis is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Western Appalachia
Posts: 193
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Fascinating conversation.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 12-05-2009, 04:47 AM
DisturbingClown DisturbingClown is offline
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 36
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Excellent. Razib needs a weekly show interviewing scientists.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:35 AM
Baltimoron Baltimoron is offline
Deactivated User
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Busan, South Korea (ROK)
Posts: 1,690
Send a message via Skype™ to Baltimoron
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

I'd second that! Better yet - Biology! Why should the physicists and AI geeks get all the glory!
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 12-05-2009, 05:05 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: The sylvan exurbs west of Boston Massachusetts.
Posts: 1,328
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baltimoron View Post
I'd second that! Better yet - Biology! Why should the physicists and AI geeks get all the glory!
This isn't pure biology. I'd like to hear a real biology diavlog. Something relating to genetically modified animals, perhaps.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 12-06-2009, 06:12 AM
Baltimoron Baltimoron is offline
Deactivated User
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Busan, South Korea (ROK)
Posts: 1,690
Send a message via Skype™ to Baltimoron
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Or, how about a discussion between Dawkins and Wilson? If only there were a way to get Razib as a ref in a third pane on the screen!
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 12-05-2009, 11:32 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa®ah
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Great diavlog. Thanks to both Razib and David for a really interesting conversation.

This bit bears frequent repetition.
__________________
Brendan
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 12-05-2009, 12:09 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: US Northeast
Posts: 6,784
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
This bit bears frequent repetition.
Would you care to elaborate?
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 12-05-2009, 07:52 PM
cragger cragger is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 632
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

One would expect tendencies to form beliefs (eg. "group loyalty is paramount") that have had survival value in the conditions pertaining over the majority of the timespan in which these tendencies were formed.

Consider an example from the range of cases related to my example belief (group loyalty over truth). A member of one's identified group is killed. Assigning blame to an outside group might enhance survival probability by maintaining cohesion of the group and cooperation in the face of competition for resources, regardless of the truth of the assignment. This was likely in many cases a useful reaction in a hunter-gatherer tribe. Not to suggest that exploitation of such tendencies isn't useful in contemporary society on the basis of individual, rather than group, survival. Both edges of the sword of sentience are rather sharp.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:35 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Southern California
Posts: 5,694
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
A member of one's identified group is killed. Assigning blame to an outside group might enhance survival probability by maintaining cohesion of the group and cooperation in the face of competition for resources, regardless of the truth of the assignment.
Doesn't have to be killed. Just has to get sick or die. Then sorcerers from a neighboring group can be blamed.

Quote:
This was likely in many cases a useful reaction in a hunter-gatherer tribe.
It is still a "useful" reaction in modern society and a central mechanism of interpersonal psychology. Blaming (scapegoating) always has payoffs to individuals and groups. Whether blaming can ever be rational is debatable. It seems to me that assigning blame is basically a narrative technique. Story-telling is at the core of group identity; that's where we learn who's who and what's what.
__________________
Seek Peace and Pursue it
בקש שלום ורדפהו
Busca la paz y síguela
--Psalm 34:15
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 12-05-2009, 09:46 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: eastern sierra
Posts: 5,413
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
It is still a "useful" reaction in modern society and a central mechanism of interpersonal psychology. Blaming (scapegoating) always has payoffs to individuals and groups. Whether blaming can ever be rational is debatable. It seems to me that assigning blame is basically a narrative technique. Story-telling is at the core of group identity; that's where we learn who's who and what's what.
excellent comments, all.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 12-05-2009, 10:03 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: US Northeast
Posts: 6,784
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by cragger View Post
One would expect tendencies to form beliefs (eg. "group loyalty is paramount") that have had survival value in the conditions pertaining over the majority of the timespan in which these tendencies were formed.

Consider an example from the range of cases related to my example belief (group loyalty over truth). A member of one's identified group is killed. Assigning blame to an outside group might enhance survival probability by maintaining cohesion of the group and cooperation in the face of competition for resources, regardless of the truth of the assignment. This was likely in many cases a useful reaction in a hunter-gatherer tribe. Not to suggest that exploitation of such tendencies isn't useful in contemporary society on the basis of individual, rather than group, survival. Both edges of the sword of sentience are rather sharp.
Thank you for your response.

I found the topic very interesting. I had assumed that group selection was more widely accepted. I read Wilson's "Truth and Reconciliation" series and it became obvious how this position has been deeply rejected for decades. It looks like there's been a comeback recently. Wilson argues how scientists hold on to their favored position at times, and ostracize dissenting voices.

I thought that his statement about beliefs are formed for their survival value and not for their "truth" value has to do with the reluctance to acknowledge ideas that may be legitimate but inconvenient, while holding beliefs that, presumably, determine a better outcome.

I liked how Wilson described the tension between within group selection and between group selection. We've had discussions regarding this in other threads recently. One aspect that I think he didn't emphasize strongly enough, is how historically, there may be times (circumstances) that favor within group selection, while there are other situations where between group selection prevails.

Very interesting, thought provoking diavlog.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 12-05-2009, 12:22 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: eastern sierra
Posts: 5,413
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

This is without any doubt the best diavlog I’ve heard since I first learned about bloggingheads. Please come back! I agree the Razib is a great interviewer and David is a great interviewee. Symmetry.

Some many interesting subjects were explored.

I loved the portion which described the difference between science and social science, describing social science as almost unscientific. In the same vein, it was said that society guides science and both made the assertion that scientists often try to square what they already believe with what science is telling them, sometimes favoring what they already believe. Ah! human nature.

I loved the discussion about liberalism and conservatism (no surprise because this is one of my main interests). David says that evolutionary theory provides a level playing field for both predilections, as I think Thomas Sowell describes in Conflict of Visions.

He also went on to say that beliefs are held because of their survival value, not because of their truth value but seems to believe that we can go beyond this paradigm and should.

He also said that just because a group functions well doesn’t mean the group functions morally.

I wonder if David is a fan of E.O.Wislon’s idea of consilience.

I love the notion of the toolkit and I agree that in the (hopefully near) future we will be considering ourselves and our problems increasingly through the evolutionary lens.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:20 PM
BornAgainDemocrat BornAgainDemocrat is offline
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: near Chattanooga
Posts: 826
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

I agree with you badhat. It was a great diavlog between two highly intelligent individuals.

As for the point that "a group functions well doesn’t mean the group functions morally," it almost seemed to me that Wilson was searching for a strategy that would "be good for the species." That is, eliminate parasitic and predatory group behavior in favor of competitive and cooperative behavior that redounds to the benefit of all individuals regardless of their group affiliation or lack thereof.

On the controversial issue of Jusaism as a "group evolutionary strategy" that is parasitic within the larger "gentile sea" of competing non-Jewish groups, I would note that Wilson failed to mention the possibility of an "anti-parasitic strategy" (for the lack of a better term). For instance, pilot fish live off the parasites that live off of sharks, and are in that sense anti-parasitic so far as the sharks are concerned.

Using that metaphor, why can't Jewish groups in liberal democracies identify their group interest with the interests of the non-elite voting majorities (working class people of all ethnicities) who otherwise are poorly represented among our political class? In this way they might solidify American popular support for the future security of the state of Israel as well as their own place among competing domestic elites, to choose two important examples.

For the past fifty years the American Jewish community has taken an opposite course -- ie, dis-identifying their own interests with those of the majority -- when it comes to issues such as immigration and free trade. This may not be "good for the Jews" in the long run.

Put another way, a truly cosmopolitan elite would be careful not to sacrifice the interests of the working class in one society to that of another (as with American workers vis-a-vis workers in China or Mexico). Instead it would search diligently for strategies that were mutually beneficial to the working-class majorities on both sides of the borders or else not interfere.

Last edited by BornAgainDemocrat; 12-05-2009 at 03:33 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 12-05-2009, 10:10 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: eastern sierra
Posts: 5,413
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by BornAgainDemocrat View Post
It almost seemed to me that Wilson was searching for a strategy that would "be good for the species." That is, eliminate parasitic and predatory group behavior in favor of competitive and cooperative behavior that redounds to the benefit of all individuals regardless of their group affiliation or lack thereof.
I'm not sure Wilson was saying that. I think he wouldn't presume that parasitic or predatory group behavior was necessarily bad (although we certainly don't like the sound of either of those terms). Also, I don't think he would think that these features of human nature could ever be entirely eliminated.

Quote:
Using that metaphor, why can't Jewish groups in liberal democracies identify their group interest with the interests of the non-elite voting majorities (working class people of all ethnicities) who otherwise are poorly represented among our political class? In this way they might solidify American popular support for the future security of the state of Israel as well as their own place among competing domestic elites, to choose two important examples.
I think this in some ways describes exactly what Jews have done historically. Look at the Civil Rights movement. There were lots of Jewish kids on those buses. I'm not sure, however, that because of that blacks in substantial numbers support Isreal and don't forget Jesse Jackson's reference to hymie-town. Things don't always work out so simply.

Quote:
For the past fifty years the American Jewish community has taken an opposite course -- ie, dis-identifying their own interests with those of the majority -- when it comes to issues such as immigration and free trade. This may not be "good for the Jews" in the long run.
I'm not aware of a strong anti-immigration sentiment amongst the Jewish community. Interesting comments, though.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 12-05-2009, 02:04 PM
look look is offline
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 2,886
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Razib is one of my favorite heads. Thanks to him and Mr. Wilson for a fascinating vlog.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 12-05-2009, 02:28 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: The sylvan exurbs west of Boston Massachusetts.
Posts: 1,328
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by look View Post
Razib is one of my favorite heads. Thanks to him and Mr. Wilson for a fascinating vlog.
Wilson is a great explainer.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:14 PM
Matt E Matt E is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 6
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Excellent diavlog, thanks to the participants and organizers! Razib's question at 25:28 as to whether there is a chemical way for simple organisms to identify "who's altruistic and who's selfish" is pretty revealing as to his scientific perspective. Classical and operant conditioning explain the behavior of simple organisms and even most mammals pretty straightforwardly. The harder problem is explaining how the behavior of more complex organisms such as humans is controlled by environmental variables.

It seems that a lot of biologists interested in social behavior and evolutionary psychologists completely skip the behavioral level of analysis in trying to explain behavior. As Dr. Wilson indicates, "behaviors speak for themselves." The particular behavior of an organism in a given context is a function of both its genetics (e.g. the structure of its nervous system, sensory organs) and its learning history. That said, I can't easily see how behavioral principles might work in a multi-level selectionist framework.

On the matter of why certain theories are preferred by scientists for what appear to be aesthetic reasons, interested folks might check out David L. Hull on cultural selection of scientific theories by scientists.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:26 PM
JonIrenicus JonIrenicus is offline
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 1,606
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

They need to apply the evolutionary framework to school/class design. As was mentioned, not all kids are the same in their abilities, some need more time and others less. We need to sample many different techniques to see what works best for different populations. The "smart" kids are going to be ok for the most part in whatever system, but the rest will often need more time and focus to get similar results.

In fact it would be nice to have a detailed profile on different types of students to see how different schemes of teaching and learning effect them. It is likely the case that some profiles are inherently harder to foster learning in, but at least we can find more effective ways to make some kind of bridge.


I knew a guy in high school who was incredibly bright, barely passed his classes. Picked up things very fast, but got easily bored, encountered other kids who had the attention spans of fruit flies. And people wonder why the results are so different. The inputs matter (to be explicit, the "inputs" = the kids you are working with), and how you treat different inputs matter in terms of the results. I doubt you could get the fruit fly attention span students on the same level as those with greater concentration and time horizons, but there must be some room for improvement.


They have a crude policy of class design differences already. Honors classes, AP courses. But I think there is room for far more subtlety and improvement. Especially on the lower end of the achievement pool. On that last group, I don't expect miracles, but I think we would all be happy with having a system that was effective enough to get that group punching above their weight (like at least graduating high school for starters).

Last edited by JonIrenicus; 12-05-2009 at 03:38 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:40 PM
Fsharp Fsharp is offline
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 17
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Choosing the sure 1 million over a 50% chance of 2.1 million seems like it might actually be rational due to the diminishing returns of having more and more money.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 12-05-2009, 04:16 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Newbridge, NJ
Posts: 2,673
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fsharp View Post
Choosing the sure 1 million over a 50% chance of 2.1 million seems like it might actually be rational due to the diminishing returns of having more and more money.
Is that option transferrable? Because it shouldn't be too hard to sell that 50% chance of $2.1m for more than $1m.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:43 PM
T.G.G.P T.G.G.P is offline
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 278
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

David says that kin-altruism and reciprocal altruism assume the existence of multiple groups. That's contrary to my understanding. I guess I'll check out his posts to see if he elaborates on that.

I can say with more confidence that his claim that preferring a 100% chance of 1 million dollars to 50% chance of 2.1 million violates neoclassical assumptions is wrong. Declining marginal utility plays a big role in neoclassical economics. Most economists would be surprised if people actually did assign twice as much utility to 2 million as they did to 1 million. That's why such paradoxes MUST be framed in terms of utility rather than dollars. A better example of violation of neoclassical axioms is the effect of time. You might say you'd prefer getting $3 a week and a day from now to $1 a week from now, but a week later you might prefer $1 now to $3 tomorrow. That's inconsistent and most conceptions of rationality in economics, so as not to arbitrarily define certain preferences as irrational, are mostly based on consistency. That's why Scott Sumner, for example, thinks "rational expectations" should be called "consistence expectations".

Speaking of Herb Gintis and behavioural finance, his review of Animal Spirits is here.

I was confused when he mentioned the useful policies stemming from evolution, since humans have such a long generation time and eugenics is so unpopular these days. Now I see that he really meant the insights of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology. I didn't really see group selection make much of an appearance of policy recommendations though.

Wilson's point about benign environments reminded me of Occluded Sun on hospitalism. His point about learning from mixed-age groups is supported in Judith Harris' "The Nurture Assumption" with the minor quibble that children are trying to be functional (hopefully high status) children rather than necessarily like others older than them. It just so happens that older children tend to have higher status. Children are not trying to be like their teachers, just as prisoners are not trying to be like their guards. Robert Epstein's case against adolescence is also relevant.

Last edited by T.G.G.P; 12-05-2009 at 04:57 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 12-05-2009, 05:01 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Newbridge, NJ
Posts: 2,673
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by T.G.G.P View Post
A better example of violation of neoclassical axioms is the effect of time. You might say you'd prefer getting $3 a week and a day from now to $1 a week from now, but a week later you might prefer $1 now to $3 tomorrow. That's inconsistent and most conceptions of rationality in economics, so as not to arbitrarily define certain preferences as irrational, are mostly based on consistency. That's why Scott Sumner, for example, thinks "rational expectations" should be called "consistence expectations".
Back in college a friend of mine and I used to joke about this stuff all the time (we were both econ majors). We figured that for ourselves at least we were internalizing heuristics about a hassle factor. Part of your brain is thinking "how am I getting this $3 next week? Do I have to mail off a rebate coupon? Am I really going to make a trip to the post office for this, even in a thought experiment? There's a catch, right? Do I even trust the other side in this thought experiment? Thought experiments only last a minute. My thought experiment isn't going to pay up next week."
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 12-05-2009, 09:54 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: eastern sierra
Posts: 5,413
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by T.G.G.P View Post
I can say with more confidence that his claim that preferring a 100% chance of 1 million dollars to 50% chance of 2.1 million violates neoclassical assumptions is wrong. Declining marginal utility plays a big role in neoclassical economics. Most economists would be surprised if people actually did assign twice as much utility to 2 million as they did to 1 million. That's why such paradoxes MUST be framed in terms of utility rather than dollars. A better example of violation of neoclassical axioms is the effect of time. You might say you'd prefer getting $3 a week and a day from now to $1 a week from now, but a week later you might prefer $1 now to $3 tomorrow. That's inconsistent and most conceptions of rationality in economics, so as not to arbitrarily define certain preferences as irrational, are mostly based on consistency. That's why Scott Sumner, for example, thinks "rational expectations" should be called "consistence expectations".
I was wondering about this example too, but having no background in the subject simply took Wilson's word for it. So it seems that in addition to a rational agent, there is a consistent agent? Also, who would be considered a neoclassical economist?
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 12-05-2009, 10:58 PM
T.G.G.P T.G.G.P is offline
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 278
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

badhatharry:
I was trying to say that "rational agent" mostly boils down to "consistent agent". Economists don't want to say that any particular goal is good or bad, so their standard is mostly to consistently pursue whichever goals you have without making errors. Even that can be acceptable in the case of rational ignorance, because there are costs to gathering information and having correct beliefs. And then Bryan Caplan has a notion of "rational irrationality" which includes having irrational beliefs that make you feel good but don't cost much (being a creationist car mechanic is less costly than being a flat-earther sea captain). Another example: it can be rational to be "risk-loving" or "risk-avoiding", but behavioral economists argue that people flip between one or the other depending on how questions are phrased which indicates inconsistency and vulnerability to irrelevant changes ("priming" effects are another example).

The term "neoclassical" was originally used to distinguish the pre-marginal economists (such as Smith and Ricardo) from their successors. Ironically, one of the founders of marginalism, Menger, was also the founder of the Austrian school which is often contrasted with neo-classical economics. The Austrians are considered "right-wing" heterodox economists, but most of them tend to be left-wing: Post Keynesians, Marxists (though the Analytical Marxists are comfortable with neoclassical tools), Institutionalists/Historicists (I don't know if they even exist anymore) and others. There is a group promoting "Post Autistic Economics" (which I instantly disliked from the name) that constrasts itself with neoclassicalism. Neo-classical economics is often associated with neo-liberalism, particularly the not-so-popular-nowadays "Washington consensus" and lots of mathematical formalism. It would be wrong to assume that means being right wing, since the modal economist is a moderate Democrat and some of the most important architects of the calculus-heavy synthesis of Keynes and classical economists are liberals like Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow. That synthesis is sometimes called neo-Keynesianism, which is the name the Post Keynesians (who call the other viewpoint "bastardized Keynesianism") wanted to use for themselves. The modern "Chicago school" of Milton Friedman's monetarism and Bob Lucas' rational expectations was a backlash against the Keynesian influence and so was dubbed "New Classical". It was found at other schools by the Great Lakes like Rochester, Minnesota & Carnegie Mellon. Together they are called "sweetwater" in contrast to the "saltwater" schools of MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton and really the majority of programs. After the 70s the two viewpoints came to a synthesis where Keynesian macro effects could result from classical micro foundations, and this was dubbed "New Keynesian", which in terms of water would be "brackish". There are lefty freshwater and righty saltwater economists, but I will still use the standard left-right spectrum for the following, where the neoclassicals are within the parentheses:
Marxists < Post-Keynesians (Neo-Keynesians < New Keynesians < New Classicals) < Austrians
The behavioral economists are not actually economists for the most part but psychiatrists. Other fields like sociology also criticize economics, mostly cause they're jealous that people attention to economists. Another irony is that neoclassical economists are often accused of "physics envy", but there is a discipline called "econophysics" that attempts to apply insights about dynamic systems from physics to the economy and is generally considered heterodox.

I should add a disclaimer that I never actually took any econ courses in college, this is just the impression of a layman.

Regarding Eliezer Yudkowsky, he seemed annoyed in the linked thread when a commenter implied he wasn't familiar with modern versions of multilevel selection.

Last edited by T.G.G.P; 12-05-2009 at 11:01 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 12-05-2009, 11:57 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: eastern sierra
Posts: 5,413
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by T.G.G.P View Post
badhatharry:
I was trying to say that "rational agent" mostly boils down to "consistent agent"........
Wow, thanks for such an in-depth response. I recognize a few names. Smith, Keynes and Friedman.

Interesting about behavioral economists. They sound like evolutionary psychologists and game theorists. I like the idea of Caplan’s rational irrationality and the examples which accompanied it. I guess in some ways that’s the way I feel about not buying into AWG. It doesn’t really matter what I believe about it, so I go with what makes sense to me, however limited my scientific knowledge is. Besides, Al Gore makes my skin crawl.

Not sure why you warn not to equate Washington Consensus with right wing. To me anything which contains Washington in the name means left wing.

Interesting that the sweetwater schools were grouped primarily in the Midwest. What is it about the Great Lakes???

Interesting that sociology criticizes economics. Philosophers don’t have much use for evo-psychology as though there was some stepping on toes going on.

And lastly, pretty amazing impressions for a layman. You must just love this stuff.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 12-06-2009, 02:09 AM
Ray Ray is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 408
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
To me anything which contains Washington in the name means left wing.

Sides are splitting all over Wasilla!


P.S. 'that', not 'which' here.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 12-08-2009, 01:19 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: eastern sierra
Posts: 5,413
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray View Post
Sides are splitting all over Wasilla!


P.S. 'that', not 'which' here.

From Jack Lynch

"I must confess that I do not myself observe the distinction between “that” and “which.” Furthermore, there is little evidence that this distinction is or has ever been regularly made in past centuries by careful writers of English. However, a small but impassioned group of authorities has urged the distinction; so here is the information you will need to pacify them.

If you are defining something by distinguishing it from a larger class of which it is a member, use “that”: “I chose the lettuce that had the fewest wilted leaves.” When the general class is not being limited or defined in some way, then “which” is appropriate: “He made an iceberg Caesar salad, which didn’t taste quite right.” Note that “which” is normally preceded by a comma, but “that” is not."
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 12-06-2009, 01:45 AM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Newbridge, NJ
Posts: 2,673
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by T.G.G.P View Post
badhatharry:
I was trying to say that "rational agent" mostly boils down to "consistent agent". Economists don't want to say that any particular goal is good or bad, so their standard is mostly to consistently pursue whichever goals you have without making errors. Even that can be acceptable in the case of rational ignorance, because there are costs to gathering information and having correct beliefs. And then Bryan Caplan has a notion of "rational irrationality" which includes having irrational beliefs that make you feel good but don't cost much (being a creationist car mechanic is less costly than being a flat-earther sea captain). Another example: it can be rational to be "risk-loving" or "risk-avoiding", but behavioral economists argue that people flip between one or the other depending on how questions are phrased which indicates inconsistency and vulnerability to irrelevant changes ("priming" effects are another example).

The term "neoclassical" was originally used to distinguish the pre-marginal economists (such as Smith and Ricardo) from their successors. Ironically, one of the founders of marginalism, Menger, was also the founder of the Austrian school which is often contrasted with neo-classical economics. The Austrians are considered "right-wing" heterodox economists, but most of them tend to be left-wing: Post Keynesians, Marxists (though the Analytical Marxists are comfortable with neoclassical tools), Institutionalists/Historicists (I don't know if they even exist anymore) and others. There is a group promoting "Post Autistic Economics" (which I instantly disliked from the name) that constrasts itself with neoclassicalism. Neo-classical economics is often associated with neo-liberalism, particularly the not-so-popular-nowadays "Washington consensus" and lots of mathematical formalism. It would be wrong to assume that means being right wing, since the modal economist is a moderate Democrat and some of the most important architects of the calculus-heavy synthesis of Keynes and classical economists are liberals like Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow. That synthesis is sometimes called neo-Keynesianism, which is the name the Post Keynesians (who call the other viewpoint "bastardized Keynesianism") wanted to use for themselves. The modern "Chicago school" of Milton Friedman's monetarism and Bob Lucas' rational expectations was a backlash against the Keynesian influence and so was dubbed "New Classical". It was found at other schools by the Great Lakes like Rochester, Minnesota & Carnegie Mellon. Together they are called "sweetwater" in contrast to the "saltwater" schools of MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton and really the majority of programs. After the 70s the two viewpoints came to a synthesis where Keynesian macro effects could result from classical micro foundations, and this was dubbed "New Keynesian", which in terms of water would be "brackish". There are lefty freshwater and righty saltwater economists, but I will still use the standard left-right spectrum for the following, where the neoclassicals are within the parentheses:
Marxists < Post-Keynesians (Neo-Keynesians < New Keynesians < New Classicals) < Austrians
The behavioral economists are not actually economists for the most part but psychiatrists. Other fields like sociology also criticize economics, mostly cause they're jealous that people attention to economists. Another irony is that neoclassical economists are often accused of "physics envy", but there is a discipline called "econophysics" that attempts to apply insights about dynamic systems from physics to the economy and is generally considered heterodox.

I should add a disclaimer that I never actually took any econ courses in college, this is just the impression of a layman.

Regarding Eliezer Yudkowsky, he seemed annoyed in the linked thread when a commenter implied he wasn't familiar with modern versions of multilevel selection.
That's an excellent summary. I actually majored in econ, not that I learned any of the heterodox stuff in school. A quibble: only some of the behaviorial economists are psychologists (a lot of the famous ones are), and none are psychiatrists. Also, the post-autistics had the good sense to rename it real-world economics.

Economists love to mock sociologists but I think sociologists know a lot more about reality than economists do.

You should definitely check out Gintis's "Five Principles for the Unification of the Behavioral Sciences": http://videolectures.net/cvss08_gintis_fpubs/
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 12-06-2009, 09:12 PM
T.G.G.P T.G.G.P is offline
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 278
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

"Psychiatrists" was a typo, I meant to write "psychologist". The former, of course, is snake-oil while the latter is a real field of knowledge!

I'll try and check out the Gintis lecture later. Have you read E. O. Wilson's "Consilience"? He notes that economic imperialism is due to economists being more reductionists and viewing reality as a whole to be analyzed with the same set of tools, while sociology was founded as a more anti-reductionist discipline.

Washington is considered liberal by American standards, but other people use other yardsticks. The Democratic party is often noted as holding positions that would be center-right in Europe.

claymisher: If someone gave a straight answer, would that grant immunity to charges of bigotry? For my own part, as an emotivist/non-cognitivist, I don't believe that anything is objective just/unjust or good/bad. Taking into account that other people have different views my preferred frame for how these different people are to interact is a sort of contractarianism, but with real contracts rather than an imaginary social contract hypothetical persons would ideally agree to. I don't think non-human animals have any rights (not that I think humans do either, which is why I wrote the foreword to this book), and their status is due to genetic differences, so yes genetics can cause us to treat people differently. I think Peter Singer says autistics should not be granted full human rights; I'm not a utilitarian so I broaden his take to children generally.


Francoamerican, macromutations and micromutations are the same thing viewed through different lenses. Species itself is a fuzzy concept (as fuzzy as race, according to Ernst Mayr, who came up with the standard definition of species).

Height is an interesting analogy to intelligence because it seems to be about 50% heritable (not the same as saying "50% genetic) with much of the remainder "non-shared environment" meaning "we have no idea why people raised together are different". There is no known "height gene", it is a normally distributed trait that is likely the result of many, many additive genetic + environmental inputs. Height is indeed more concrete than "intelligence", the many tests for which are all aiming for an underlying "g-factor", but skull-volume and gray/white matter are more concrete facts which happen to be correlated with measured IQ (except that there are male-female differences in white matter but not IQ). IQ is also correlated with reaction time, and together with those other correlations indicates something physiological is having an effect rather than something purely cultural like education.

claymisher: Saying that a theory is anywhere and everywhere bullshit would seem to require more than the maximum-entropy position of admitting one doesn't know shit about anything. To know something is shit is indeed to know shit. We're all pseudonyms on the internet here, I don't think courage enters into it. I'm skeptical of the claim that our knowledge about height has been upended, and it should be noted that "the Flynn effect" was actually named by Charles Murray! James Flynn himself disagrees with Murray but seriously respects him as an honest researcher, you can watch them debate here. Flynn also thinks that the effect is not on "g" but represents the adoption of a "scientific mindset". I'm also not aware of any science in 1969 saying women were dumber than men. I think Arthur Jensen was working back then and I've never heard that he held that position (recently Prof. Lynn, not to be confused with Flynn, has promoted that view but as far as I know his position is still that of a small minority in psychometrics).

People are pretty close to being equal in intelligence if our standard of comparison is other species. Restricting things to humanity, I would say that intelligence varies like height (though there is a sex-difference in height but not IQ). Of course, if you thought everyone was identical in height nobody could be a moron including those who engage in half-assed racial speculation!

I think the issue of where Razib draws the line is more one of the magnitude of the vector rather than the direction. There are plenty of sites which are anti-black that he won't allow links to (including Majority Rights).

Bobby G, the argument that asians were more clever than whites was used by immigration restrictionists who claimed that if they were let in they would outcompete whites. Some anti-semitism is also due to that (though the Nazis actually banned IQ testing to prevent Jews from showing up Aryans).

Regarding responsibility, two favorite papers of mine are Greene & Cohen's For the law, neuroscience changes nothing and everything and Stephan Kinsella's Causation and Aggression, the latter mostly because it features midgets & murder-by-lightning.
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 12-06-2009, 09:32 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: US Northeast
Posts: 6,784
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by T.G.G.P View Post
"Psychiatrists" was a typo, I meant to write "psychologist". The former, of course, is snake-oil while the latter is a real field of knowledge!
Ahem... Is there a need to insult a noble profession?
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 12-06-2009, 11:00 PM
T.G.G.P T.G.G.P is offline
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 278
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
Ahem... Is there a need to insult a noble profession?
It struck me that the discussion of racism just wasn't offensive enough. More seriously, the more "noble" a profession is perceived to be the less criticism we should expect to hear and presumably the greater marginal benefit from hearing criticism. In that respect medical doctors are actually more in need of metaphorical feces flung their way than psychiatrists. Something that should be said in psychiatrists defense is that they are much less likely to kill their patients than doctors; it is a poor snake-oil salesman who includes too much active ingredient and if the snake oil gives mere placebo benefit than to some extent we can even consider it a legitimately noble lie (honestly told by a believer, even). On the other hand, psychiatrists have some responsibility for involuntary commitment resulting from a questionable diagnostic procedure.
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 12-06-2009, 11:20 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: US Northeast
Posts: 6,784
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by T.G.G.P View Post
... Something that should be said in psychiatrists defense is that they are much less likely to kill their patients than doctors;...
Oh, I feel so much better now. How flattering!
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 12-05-2009, 04:33 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Southern California
Posts: 5,694
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Just want to concur that this was a fascinating interview. Razib is always really well-prepared with the right questions and establishes a respectful rapport with the guests.

I also thought he Razib did a good job at not getting stuck on fringe anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald; and whoever kicked his name off the topics list this morning also acted intelligently. That was a magnet for loons.
__________________
Seek Peace and Pursue it
בקש שלום ורדפהו
Busca la paz y síguela
--Psalm 34:15
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:30 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Newbridge, NJ
Posts: 2,673
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
Just want to concur that this was a fascinating interview. Razib is always really well-prepared with the right questions and establishes a respectful rapport with the guests.

I also thought he Razib did a good job at not getting stuck on fringe anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald; and whoever kicked his name off the topics list this morning also acted intelligently. That was a magnet for loons.
Now we know where Razib Khan draws the line: anti-jew is too much, anti-black is just right.
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:38 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 7,750
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by claymisher View Post
Now we know where Razib Khan draws the line: anti-jew is too much, anti-black is just right.
clay, I think you're one of the best, most insightful posters here; but I've never seen Razib take a stand that I'd be willing to characterize that way.
__________________
-A. E. M. Jeff (Eponym)
Magnets - We know how they work!
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:57 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Newbridge, NJ
Posts: 2,673
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
clay, I think you're one of the best, most insightful posters here; but I've never seen Razib take a stand that I'd be willing to characterize that way.
Khan's not cool with MacDonald (anti-jew) but he's pals with Sailer (anti-black). That's all.

(And thanks for the compliment!)
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 12-05-2009, 09:05 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Southern California
Posts: 5,694
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Khan's not cool with MacDonald (anti-jew) but he's pals with Sailer (anti-black). That's all.
I am unaware of any Khan-Sailer connection, which, of course is not to say it doesn't exist.

Just for the record, Sailer is not just an anti-black racist; he is also an anti-Mexican racist.

In any case, Khan was right to bring up the dark side of group selection theories; it's interesting (and highly toxic) stuff.
__________________
Seek Peace and Pursue it
בקש שלום ורדפהו
Busca la paz y síguela
--Psalm 34:15
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 12-05-2009, 09:18 PM
Ray Ray is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 408
Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
I am unaware of any Khan-Sailer connection, which, of course is not to say it doesn't exist.

Just for the record, Sailer is not just an anti-black racist; he is also an anti-Mexican racist.

In any case, Khan was right to bring up the dark side of group selection theories; it's interesting (and highly toxic) stuff.
He was right to bring it up, but wrong to be so tentative about it.

I didn't know anything about MacDonald before this conversation. Now, I know hardly anything about him.

Frankly, this is the thing that irritates me about Khan: he's a well-informed guy, but deferential to the point of making 80% of his statements in the tone of an interrogative. The whole point of the MacDonald exercise seemed to be nothing more than to determine whether Wilson was okay talking about MacDonald. Result: he wasn't, really.
Reply With Quote
 


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 10:52 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.