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  #1  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:02 AM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
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Default Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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  #2  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:27 AM
burger flipper burger flipper is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory

Nice break from Horgan.
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  #3  
Old 12-05-2009, 04:21 AM
Ken Davis Ken Davis is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Fascinating conversation.
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  #4  
Old 12-05-2009, 04:47 AM
DisturbingClown DisturbingClown is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Excellent. Razib needs a weekly show interviewing scientists.
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  #5  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:35 AM
Baltimoron Baltimoron is offline
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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!
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  #6  
Old 12-05-2009, 11:32 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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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.
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  #7  
Old 12-05-2009, 12:09 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
This bit bears frequent repetition.
Would you care to elaborate?
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  #8  
Old 12-05-2009, 12:22 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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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.
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  #9  
Old 12-05-2009, 02:04 PM
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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.
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  #10  
Old 12-05-2009, 02:28 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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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.
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  #11  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:14 PM
Matt E Matt E is offline
 
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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.
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  #12  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:20 PM
BornAgainDemocrat BornAgainDemocrat is offline
 
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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..
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  #13  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:26 PM
JonIrenicus JonIrenicus is offline
 
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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..
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  #14  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:40 PM
Fsharp Fsharp is offline
 
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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.
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  #15  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:43 PM
T.G.G.P T.G.G.P is offline
 
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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..
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  #16  
Old 12-05-2009, 04:16 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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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.
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  #17  
Old 12-05-2009, 04:33 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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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.
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  #18  
Old 12-05-2009, 05:01 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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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."
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  #19  
Old 12-05-2009, 05:04 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Much food for thought..... but I think investors might want to think twice before investing in the "toolkit" of evolutionary biology, let alone in the theory of group selection, if they really want to make big profits.

Around 21.20 David Sloan Wilson says, "Evolutionists talk mostly about the evolution of traits, not species."

How true, alas. If they actually had something to say about the evolution of species they might have something interesting to say.
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  #20  
Old 12-05-2009, 05:05 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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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.
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  #21  
Old 12-05-2009, 05:19 PM
drawnasunder drawnasunder is offline
 
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Default 2 weeks into it, and nothing yet on CRU/East Anglia???

Group selection's a great topic, but... 2 weeks into one of the biggest scandals in science in the last, oh, decade or more, I'd hoped for (even expected) a little BHTV Science Saturday time thrown its way.

So far *nothing* on either of the two Science Saturdays in that time, and *nothing* on the regular daily BHTV segments? And with Copenhagen about start? That's really disappointing. How is that even possible? Bob, what's up with that? (You don't have to use the name "ClimateGate" if that's the hang up!)

(Nothing on Public Radio's "Science Friday" either btw...)

What's the topic going to be next Saturday? String theory? LHC? The fifth iteration of the bi-annual (re)discovery of ice on the moon? Online dating?

I can get my "nothing" on this topic from the MSM, but expect BHTV to be a little more on the ball.
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  #22  
Old 12-05-2009, 06:30 PM
Bobby G Bobby G is offline
 
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Default Re: 2 weeks into it, and nothing yet on CRU/East Anglia???

I think they should have a climategate episode, but if they get two honest interlocutors--say, Jim Manzi and Tim Lambert--I think they'd agree that overall it's not the biggest science scandal of the last decade, unless this decade has been relatively free of scandals.

EDIT: I should rephrase things: I don't think people who are skeptical of global warming, or think climategate disproves it, are necessarily dishonest, but I'm skeptical of their ability to interpret data. Still, having a global warming skeptic with someone like Lambert or someone from realclimate would be interesting, to say the least.
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  #23  
Old 12-05-2009, 06:40 PM
Baltimoron Baltimoron is offline
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Default Re: 2 weeks into it, and nothing yet on CRU/East Anglia???

I was disappointed last week when Horgan/Johnson didn't tackle Climategate. Online dating is fine for a segment, and it was a good topic to reac out to first-time viewers. But, don't listen to me: I'm always bitching about the 'heads and other housekeeping issues. And, look how much good that does! I've probably caused many a staffer to be promoted because I've picked on them!

From The Economist:

Quote:
Only half of man-made global warming comes from CO2. The rest comes from a variety of sources, including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), black carbon (soot), methane and nitrogen compounds. Packing them all up together gives the Kyoto protocol an elegant framework which in theory should solve the problem with a single set of numbers—the national caps that are designed to cut the whole range of greenhouse gases.

Critics point out that the Kyoto protocol has achieved a great deal less than the Montreal protocol, which was designed to prevent the use of ozone-depleting CFCs. Montreal, implemented in 1987, was originally expected to cut half of its gases in 12 years. In the event it got rid of all of them in ten years. It has had a huge global-warming side-benefit. CFCs are greenhouse, as well as ozone-depleting, gases. According to a study in 2007, the Montreal protocol prevented the emission of 189 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Kyoto has abated around 10 billion tonnes.

Montreal worked better than Kyoto largely because the problem was a manageable size and the gases similar in nature and origin. Some people therefore argue that the greenhouse-gas problem should be unpacked and dealt with under different agreements.
But, please, more Razib!
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  #24  
Old 12-05-2009, 07:52 PM
cragger cragger is offline
 
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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.
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  #25  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:30 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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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.
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  #26  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:34 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: 2 weeks into it, and nothing yet on CRU/East Anglia???

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Originally Posted by Bobby G View Post
I think they should have a climategate episode, but if they get two honest interlocutors--say, Jim Manzi and Tim Lambert--I think they'd agree that overall it's not the biggest science scandal of the last decade, unless this decade has been relatively free of scandals.

EDIT: I should rephrase things: I don't think people who are skeptical of global warming, or think climategate disproves it, are necessarily dishonest, but I'm skeptical of their ability to interpret data. Still, having a global warming skeptic with someone like Lambert or someone from realclimate would be interesting, to say the least.
I agree with this.
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  #27  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:35 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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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.
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  #28  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:35 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: 2 weeks into it, and nothing yet on CRU/East Anglia???

Ugh. This is going to be in every thread from now until forever.
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  #29  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:38 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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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.
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:43 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: 2 weeks into it, and nothing yet on CRU/East Anglia???

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Originally Posted by claymisher View Post
Ugh. This is going to be in every thread from now until forever.
I really hope not. But, I'd rather see what Bobby suggested than the current flood of uninformed and lazy triumphalism that has characterized most of what I have seen on this from some segments of the right.
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Last edited by AemJeff; 12-05-2009 at 08:48 PM.. Reason: urgh, bad edit!
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  #31  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:57 PM
claymisher claymisher is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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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!)
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  #32  
Old 12-05-2009, 09:05 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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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.
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  #33  
Old 12-05-2009, 09:18 PM
Ray Ray is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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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.
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  #34  
Old 12-05-2009, 09:46 PM
T.G.G.P T.G.G.P is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

Francoamerican, why do you find the evolution of traits so uninteresting? As Wilson noted, a species is just a bundle of traits.

claymisher: I don't think the MacDonald:jews::Sailer:blacks analogy quite fits. Sailer has said some rather politically incorrect things about jews, and while he talks more about blacks it's not a huge difference in treatment. As Razib implied, there are white nationalists who have no problems with jews (Ian Jobling and some others associated with American Renaissance, for example) and even Jews who are white nationalists. Sailer has explicitly promoted something he calls "citizenism" instead of white nationalism. To that end Sailer often boosts the integrative powers of the military, sports and religion (I'm sure it's just a coincidence that all three are more popular with conservatives than liberals). Integrating Jews and gentiles is not a big concern for anti-semites like MacDonald. If anything, Sailer might be more concerned with Hispanics than blacks nowadays due to their larger numbers and growth, which is why he has proposed shoring up affirmative action benefits for blacks in exchange for denying them to everyone else. Sailer has proposed a similar grand compromise for Jews, so if it was simply a matter of which ox is getting gored Razib would have to reject him on that basis as well.

The point of bringing up MacDonald is to illustrate a particular political association with group selection, just as others have considered it a basis for socialism or fascism. Since the point of the Evolution Institute is to point out what public policy insights we can glean from evolution, it shouldn't be surprising that comes up. And Wilson's answer that there is good, bad and indifferent in group selection is a worthwhile response. Eliezer Yudkowsky's Tragedy of Group Selection focuses heavily on the overly sunny theorists of the old naive group selection.

Last edited by T.G.G.P; 12-05-2009 at 09:51 PM..
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  #35  
Old 12-05-2009, 09:46 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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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.
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  #36  
Old 12-05-2009, 09:54 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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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?
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Old 12-05-2009, 10:03 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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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.
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  #38  
Old 12-05-2009, 10:10 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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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.

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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.

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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.
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  #39  
Old 12-05-2009, 10:30 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

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Originally Posted by T.G.G.P View Post
Eliezer Yudkowsky's Tragedy of Group Selection focuses heavily on the overly sunny theorists of the old naive group selection.
I wonder whether Eliezer has become familiar with Wilson's work. He was harshly critical of (naive) group selection in his writings in 2007.
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  #40  
Old 12-05-2009, 10:43 PM
razibkhan razibkhan is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Multi-Level Selection Theory (Razib Khan & David Sloan Wilson)

i mooted the issue of group selection with e.y. in early 2008 face to face. he didn't seem too familiar with newer theories, but i could be misjudging him.
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