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Discussion Starter #1
In a historical context humanism performed the service of removing some sort of divine entity (ie: God) as the source of ethics and value and replaced it with the individual human. As such I think credit is due, and if forced to pick between humanist secularism and the feudal system I'll go with humanism every time. However...

At it's base it's about “atomizing” value down to the “individual”. Basically in modern society the legitimacy of the society is based on its individuals. In a representative democracy the power and responsibility of the politicians are traced back to the votes of the individuals. In the corporate world, the power and responsibility of the board members is traced back to the individual stock owners. Humanism presupposes that an individual is the “atom” of society, atom meaning “indivisible”. It also presupposes that all these “individuals” are in possession of “free will”, because otherwise our judicial system would make no sense.

Boiled down to it's core humanism basically rests on two fundamental statements:
1. The individual is indivisible, and is defined by the boundaries of its skin membrane.
2. This individual has something called “free will”.

Both of those statements are currently being called into question from various parts of science, for example schizo analysis and neurology, and are also becoming harder to define. Basically “individual” seems more to be an arbitrary point of perspective, and “free will” seems both politically and neurologically hard to establish.


If we “zoom out” from the individual we can chose to see it as one node in any given social network, for example a family, team or organization. Some of these networks (such as a political committees or a companies) are legally treated as one person. So there are already exceptions.

If we zoom in we find that beneath the skin membrane there are a multitude of processes going on, sometimes in conflict with each other, and all reacting to both internal and external stimuli. It's also been discovered by neurology that “conscious decisions” are made as much as 0.5 seconds before the “person” supposedly making them actually becomes aware of them. Basically what you think of as your conscious and decision making self doesn't seem to be making the decisions at all. How can you have free will if what you think of as “you” aren't making the decisions?

The more advanced schools of psychology habitually divide individuals into “sub-atomic” parts. Freud started it with his simple Id-Ego-Super ego division but schizo analysis that is emerging from psychoanalysis takes this even further. Looking at persons more like a landscape of plateaus, lines, boundaries and machines etc.

Of course we already know that our brains are a collective of sub functions, but the products of thoughts and emotions seem to be even more complex, making it more reasonable to look at what is inside the skin membrane as a vast collective, rather than an indivisible whole. As it turns out, having multiple personalities is not an anomaly or a disease, but rather the actual state of affairs for all of us, though some collectives may be more functional than others.

With the possibility of anonymity created by urbanism, and even more so by the internet, many people chose to adopt a virtual wardrobe of identities that would at the time humanism was invented be seen as quite schizophrenic. But in reality this seems instead to be both a liberating source of personal growth as well as a successful social strategy. The more personalities you have access to, the better adapted you will be. And why would you be the same person when you're talking to your mother as when you're talking to a co-worker, boss or a stranger?

At the same time there has for decades been a successful mass media narrative of politicians being corrupt and out of touch with their voters. So if the “individual” as defined by the skin membrane is just an arbitrary perspective, and the legitimacy of the nation state is being undermined from both directions, what's the point of humanism? And what should it be replaced with? And who the hell is supposed to decide it if we don't trust our politicians and aren't even making our own decisions!? ;)
 

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To start, I think it might be helpful to adopt a different perspective when examining Humanism (capital H?). It's a "life stance" rather than a working system that you can apply to someone else - one that is useful in terms of first-person perspective only. I could make a strong case that I am not ultimately responsible for my actions because I am a product of my genetics and environment, and it would be true when observing from the outside, but there is at least something useful that comes from placing value on taking personal responsibility for my actions and happiness.

I suppose Humanism is not mutually exclusive to/with other ethical systems.
 

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1) Seems you've been watching some Michio Kaku

2) That's the very issue. Every living entity we are aware of is a mortal, subjective being. We can never fully trust anyone to be in charge. Whether it's one person, a committee, or multiple committees, the result is the same. Someone who is influenced by emotion is given authority.

3) #2 raises a big question. Why is it we're always looking for someone to lead us? As if we're completely incapable of doing things ourselves. Why can't we be "civilized" without being told to do so?"

a) Reminds me of the speech made in the movie, "the Avengers", by one of the antagonists. He spoke about how human nature is to be submissive. We long for it. Can this be true? Like you said our desicions are made before we're aware of them comsciously. Is someone else pulling the strings?

Strictly in regards to leadership. I once read about dating psychology. And in this writing, stated that women long for a male who takes charge in all aspects. Whether it's the direction of the conversation, or life decisions. Leadership is an uncomfortable burden. And if you bestow it upon women, they will lose interest in you. Being forced to actively make decisions is unwanted. Following is preferred, because it doesn't require extra cognitive effort. With the exception of a few people, do we long for a society such as "Brave New World"?


b) When we are born, "civility" isn't programmed into our genetic code. Therefore, if we aren't taught through behavioral conditioning to act a certain way, we won't do so. Like another antagonist in the Tv show, "Fringe" said, "All creatures need incetive to perform tasks". In this case, "civility" and "order" are the tasks. This makes me think we weren't meant to control anything. We as humans only follow the "rules" out fear of being punished, whether it's social outcasting, dissaproval from parents, jail, or receiving rewards such as increased pay, extra sexual partners, and obtaining additional goods. No one is free of influence.
 

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I don't think humanism was ever valid. You say it was responsible for removing God as the source of ethics and replacing it with the individual human. I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that. I do not wish to argue the existance of God, but I don't believe humans are naturally good. From my psychology class, we found that humanism teaches that everybody has an inward untouched potential and if we could just tap into that, a person can live a very fulfilling life (or something like that). I don't agree with that. I think it is true that everyone has greater potential, but I don't think it is equal. I think some people, even if they worked their hardest, their greatest potential would still be rock bottom. As far as the source of ethics, I don't believe humans are inwardly good, just that the majority of us have figured out that in order to protect our self-interest of gratification and preservation, there are certain codes of conduct that must be followed. And generally speaking, every good deed is done for some benefit to the benefactor.
i think the closest thing we might have to inward good is the mirror neurons in our brain that cause us to empathize. Unlike animals that can rip each other apart without care, our brain, just by seeing the pain others are experiencing, creates those same firing patterns so that we too feel pain. we empathize. Makes it impossible for some or most of us to want to kill or torture other people. I guess from an evolutionary psychologist's standpoint, having on average 1 child a year made such an adaptation or whatever necessary. if we were all just abandoning our young and killing our neighbors over territory (and I mean neighbors right next door like with animals), we might go extinct. lol.

1)
Why can't we be "civilized" without being told to do so?"
Because we are not naturally civilized. As I said above, we are naturally more interested in self-gratification and self-preservation. that doesn't always mean being civilized. And I think history is a testament to that. We're not ready to be like Star Trek :) And for some people who have mental... instabilities, the things that gratify them might be warped to require the hurting of others. I think this is the reason we create tribes rather than democracies. We need someone in charge, stronger than all, that can protect our self-interests from the self-interests of others when we are too weak to do so. Because there is a natural tendency in humans to take as much as they can unless giving benefits them more in some way.

But... this is just my own opinion created from my own life-experiences.
 

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@grandpa2390, those arising questions I mentioned weren't of personal bewilderment, but rather something I believe another person might ask themselves when pondering the subject.

In regards to the inward, untapped potential we all possess, I agree with you. We do not all have equal abilities. Genetics determines the range of your potential, while environment determines where you fall in that range. "Strive to be the best you can be" is a more realistic mantra than "Strive to be the best". A sobering piece of knowledge that eliminates idealistic views of the all important ever capable human being.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
First of all, I'm happy there are already long posts with intelligent reasoning resulting from this thread. My intent was to get a discussion going to explore certain concepts, not to present some sort of absolute truth. In fact, I'm more interested in generating questions than answers (otherwise I'd have posted in the INTJ section) ;)


I'll clarify some points that obviously weren't explained enough in my original post:


The definition of Humanism that I am working from here is basically the simplest form, which in essence puts the individual human as the "basic value" for the rest of society to organize itself from. When I say that it replaced God that is purely a historical observation and has no relation to religion itself or the existence of any actual divinity. I'm just pointing out that during the Feudal era, power was granted to the Monarchies and Churches by a presupposed divine entity. Nowadays power is (in democracies at least) granted to the Government by the power of the individuals through their votes.


My point is that this is becoming a bit problematic due to both advances in sciences, which undermine the idea that we are autonomous “individuals”, and that “free will” seems both scientifically hard to support and define. Basically they are fictive and dependent on an arbitrary perspective. That doesn't mean they're not useful, but once you start thinking of them as useful fictions you sooner or later start wondering if there may not be more useful fictions, or at least fictions that are easier to support scientifically.


I could make a strong case that I am not ultimately responsible for my actions because I am a product of my genetics and environment, and it would be true when observing from the outside
The way I see it you are not a “product” of your genetics and environment. In fact I'd like to question both the “you” and the “product” if I may:


Who are “you”? Most people tend to think of themselves as something behind the eyes, and between the ears, that is looking out at the world and making decisions. Is that what “you” think “you” are? That's usually where people physically locate what could be called their “consciousness” or their “thoughts”. But if the decisions that this “you” think it is making is actually being made 0.5 seconds before “you” are aware of it, that “you” can't possibly be responsible for your decisions! And if you identify yourself with your thought process, who's deciding what you're going to think in the first place?


And you can't be a “product” because a product is something that is manufactured. A product is a result of a process. But since you're constantly changing, and constantly interacting both internally and externally, I think you're a process rather than a product. A process consisting of sub processes within larger processes. And the vast majority of these processes, including decision making, seems to be outside of the control of what you think of as "you". Obviously this is not ment as a put down, the same thing of course applies to me.
 

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Absolutely yes. The one thing that unites us is our humanity. Seems like a good place to start then, especially in this hyper-pluralistic global/information age.
 
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Discussion Starter #8
I don't believe humans are naturally good.
Wouldn't that depend entirely on what you define as good? Or since all humans are natural, you'd have to define “good” itself as something un-natural. Your statement would also seem to imply that all humans are basically similar when it comes to whatever the definition of “good” might be. I really doubt that is the case seeing how we've managed to produce both mass murdering psychopaths and generous philantropists.


From my psychology class, we found that humanism teaches that everybody has an inward untouched potential and if we could just tap into that, a person can live a very fulfilling life (or something like that). I don't agree with that. I think it is true that everyone has greater potential, but I don't think it is equal.
From what I can tell the initial statement didn't say that everybody’s potential was equal, which I would agree would be absurd since we're all unique. That everybody has an “untouched” potential would seem logical though, unless there's someone out there who's really managed to reach his or her absolute maximum potential. Usain Bolt may have reached his potential for running fast, but since there is practically no limit to the different skills and capacities available to develop, even he should be considered quite undeveloped from a “true potential” perspective.


As far as the source of ethics, I don't believe humans are inwardly good, just that the majority of us have figured out that in order to protect our self-interest of gratification and preservation, there are certain codes of conduct that must be followed. And generally speaking, every good deed is done for some benefit to the benefactor.
How about we use the term “altruism” rather than “good”. The evolutionary definition of altruism when one life form sacrifices its “fitness” (as in capability for reproduction) in order to increase another life forms fitness.


In game theoretic models this actually turns out to be a dominating strategy as long as certain criterion are met. Basically two altruistic life forms that team up will get much greater results than two non-altruistic ones. The problem of course being that if an altruistic life form teams up with a non-altruistic one, the non-altruistic will benefit and the altruistic will lose. So altruism “wins” as long as the population have enough altruists and the life forms are capable of identifying who is and who isn't altruistic. Here's a link for a more in-depth explanation HERE.

Because we are not naturally civilized.
Humans are obviously natural. Humans have over the years become more and more civilized. How could that be if we are not naturally civilized?

And I think history is a testament to that. We're not ready to be like Star Trek :)
To me history is a testament to the opposite. We no longer burn witches, approve of slavery or consider humans whose pigmentation differs from ours to be non-humans. Very few people have to worry about horse riders coming to pillage their village, and in a lot of countries people are staying alive for so long that it's even starting to become a problem. Are you suggesting there has been a period in history where we've been closer to “Star Trek” then we are now?

I think this is the reason we create tribes rather than democracies.
I think the human population that is living in democracies outnumber the ones that are living in tribal societies. And considering we all started out in tribes and democracy in its current form is only a couple of hundreds of years old, that's a pretty strong trend.

There is a natural tendency in humans to take as much as they can unless giving benefits them more in some way.

But... this is just my own opinion created from my own life-experiences.
Sorry to hear that, I hope you get some better life-experiences in the future, sounds like you've been unlucky. I tend to find humans in general to be nice and co-operative creatures. Maybe you should consider a change of environment?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
1) Seems you've been watching some Michio Kaku
No I haven't heard of him actually, would you recommend it?


2) That's the very issue. Every living entity we are aware of is a mortal, subjective being. We can never fully trust anyone to be in charge. Whether it's one person, a committee, or multiple committees, the result is the same. Someone who is influenced by emotion is given authority.
I'm not sure what your point is here. What do you mean by “fully trust”? And do you think being devoid of emotion is a requirement for “being in charge”?


3) #2 raises a big question. Why is it we're always looking for someone to lead us? As if we're completely incapable of doing things ourselves. Why can't we be "civilized" without being told to do so?"
Being “civilized” without being told? Isn't civilization something we create together mainly by communicating? And since the definition of what is civilized keeps changing (thankfully) as our collective capabilities grow, wouldn't a “pre-determined” civilization that was hardwired into us be much inferior? Isn't that pretty much what ants are?


a) Reminds me of the speech made in the movie, "the Avengers", by one of the antagonists. He spoke about how human nature is to be submissive. We long for it. Can this be true? Like you said our desicions are made before we're aware of them comsciously. Is someone else pulling the strings?
Well someone is pulling the strings and it obviously isn't who we usually think of as “us”, ie: our conscious thought processes. Two alternative ways of handling this information immediately comes to mind:
1. You can start thinking of yourself as a puppet trapped in a body that is being run by someone else.
2. You can expand your definition of “you” to include the whole package so to speak. I mean who are you when you're not thinking of anything?




Strictly in regards to leadership. I once read about dating psychology. And in this writing, stated that women long for a male who takes charge in all aspects. Whether it's the direction of the conversation, or life decisions. Leadership is an uncomfortable burden. And if you bestow it upon women, they will lose interest in you. Being forced to actively make decisions is unwanted. Following is preferred, because it doesn't require extra cognitive effort. With the exception of a few people, do we long for a society such as "Brave New World"?
Women are generally sexually attracted to signals of social status, while men are generally attracted to signals of fertility, which makes evolutionary sense. Men want women who can produce babies, women want men who can create a good environment for their babies. But that's just sexual attraction, and since we have a neo-cortex we can chose to ignore that in favor of more rational choices.


Also, being attracted to social status does not imply submissiveness. My little sister is a lot more dominant than I am, and is a high level executive. She's known as a bit of a hard ass, “tough but fair” very direct and a doer. Her husband is also a high level executive, but known as a listening, considerate and empathetic boss who is great at connecting with and bringing out the best in his staff and very confident. She is attracted to him because of his stability and confidence, he is attracted to her because of her drive and courage. In their relationship, he has no problem being the more submissive one since she is the more driven and energetic one. Since he is so self-confident, he has no problem letting her take charge most of the time. People who are truly confident have no problem being led, because they don't feel the need to constantly reaffirm their status.






b) When we are born, "civility" isn't programmed into our genetic code. Therefore, if we aren't taught through behavioral conditioning to act a certain way, we won't do so. Like another antagonist in the Tv show, "Fringe" said, "All creatures need incetive to perform tasks". In this case, "civility" and "order" are the tasks. This makes me think we weren't meant to control anything. We as humans only follow the "rules" out fear of being punished, whether it's social outcasting, dissaproval from parents, jail, or receiving rewards such as increased pay, extra sexual partners, and obtaining additional goods.
So the only reason you're not out raping and pillaging is that you're afraid to get caught? I think that puts you in the minority. ;)


We are “programmed” to be social, empathic and with the ability to communicate and reason. How is that not being programmed for civility? What is civilization if not a collaborative effort spanning over thousands of years, enabled by those very qualities that we are born with?


No one is free of influence.
Why would you want to be free of influence? Our ability to influence and be influenced has taken us from cave dwelling to space stations. You are constantly influencing and being influenced every second of your life. Actually, isn't that pretty much what life is?
 
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Because we are not naturally civilized. As I said above, we are naturally more interested in self-gratification and self-preservation. that doesn't always mean being civilized. And I think history is a testament to that. We're not ready to be like Star Trek :) And for some people who have mental... instabilities, the things that gratify them might be warped to require the hurting of others. I think this is the reason we create tribes rather than democracies. We need someone in charge, stronger than all, that can protect our self-interests from the self-interests of others when we are too weak to do so. Because there is a natural tendency in humans to take as much as they can unless giving benefits them more in some way.

But... this is just my own opinion created from my own life-experiences.
I don't think that being selfish has anything to do with being "uncivilized", personally. Selfishness could manifest as just not bothering others because there is no reason to, a cold logic that actually helps civilization. What is the point of me fighting in a war? A bullshit romantic sense of nationalism? I don't want to die! That selfishness contributes to peace in the world.

I know you basically said words to that effect, I'm just not sure why you concluded that it somehow made humans uncivilized.

We have forces pushing us in the direction of kindness beyond empathy, though that is a big one. People tend to feel good when being altruistic, even if it's just so they look good in front of others. Though the private sense of self-satisfaction is enough for many, our senses of social "oughts" and "looking good" in front of others also push us in a "civilized" direction.

The lines are blurry too. Seeking social connections and loving others (as well as, yes, being loved in return) are two things we desire strongly, and even if you construe those as selfish acts I don't think it matters, as they push us in a more "civilized" direction. One of our "selfish" desires is to make others happy, partly because we selfishly like to feel good for doing a "good deed" (of course we hope they'll scratch our backs too, but our motivation to be kind goes beyond that).

I tend to think of human nature as possessing all different kinds of drives, many of which contradict each other. No one set out to make a being that was civilized, but no one set out to create a being that was not civilized, either. We just are what we are: a bundle of traits that exist because they help us survive. Some we label good, others bad, others ugly, others just "facts of life". (And our own biology pressures us to have these concepts of good and bad, it should be mentioned, as a way of regulating our more selfish desires - which while not evolutionary "bad" in and of themselves do become disadvantageous when they threaten the survival of the species).

In the end I don't think I can agree with this assessment of human nature just because it seeks to find out what we're "really" about, but we're not "really about" anything - we're a whole bunch of different drives, tendencies, and impulses. There is no more reason to despair of it than to romanticize it.
 

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I'm not replying to argue, you just misunderstood a few things things that I said, and if you're going to disagree, I thought you should disagree with what I actually think rather than what I don't think... or something like that. I feel like I was saying that I believe the earth is round and you thought I was saying it is a round flat circle rather than a sphere. No a perfect analogy, but you get my drift.
Humans are obviously natural. Humans have over the years become more and more civilized. How could that be if we are not naturally civilized?
I don't exactly agree with your reasoning here. If you believe in evolution, then unless you believe that all animals are naturally civil, I have to wonder when do you think human developed this naturally civility. And let me define what I meant by naturally civil. maybe that's the issue?

To me there is a difference between learning right and wrong, (to learn to be civil or altruistic from society), and being born with it programmed instinctively. to me, saying naturally civil means civil by instinct. It is saying that civility is programmed into the human brain from birth. I don't believe that to be the case. You're welcome disagree. I think altruism is something that is taught. and over human history, with the help of developments of science, and the passing on of wisdom and through development of our brain, we are becoming more and more "civil". Are we becoming more naturally civil? I don't know. And that isn't even talking about why we're being civil. I still believe that people are mostly civil because it is wise to be so. To live longer, we have to get along with each other. We have to be civil.

To me history is a testament to the opposite. We no longer burn witches, approve of slavery or consider humans whose pigmentation differs from ours to be non-humans. Very few people have to worry about horse riders coming to pillage their village, and in a lot of countries people are staying alive for so long that it's even starting to become a problem. Are you suggesting there has been a period in history where we've been closer to “Star Trek” then we are now?
right! You missed my point. We're evolving. We're becoming better people. It is something that is developing within us. We're learning to be better people. As years progress and science develops, We don't do those things anymore because we know better. We've learned that the only difference between a white man and a black man is that the white man needed to soak in as much UV as possible to produce Vitamin D, but those living near the equator where sources of vitamin D was plentiful and the sun was brighter, they needed protection from the sun because UV light is not only harmful to your skin but also depletes a chemical in the body and causes birth defects.

And I don't understand what you mean by the period of history where we've been closer to star trek. I don't understand how you got that from me saying that history has proved (to me) (history like witch trials, slavery) that we are not naturally civil and that it is something that we learn as we get rid of superstition and become wiser. We are on the road to being the civilization that Piccard describes. One that is not obsessed with material goods or resources. or land. or money. or pride. Just about learning and aiding fellow man and being.

I think the human population that is living in democracies outnumber the ones that are living in tribal societies. And considering we all started out in tribes and democracy in its current form is only a couple of hundreds of years old, that's a pretty strong trend.
Missed my point. And I apologize as it was probably my wording that confused you. I thought my sentence right after that which extrapolated what I meant would cause you to see what I meant by tribes. I don't mean that we are literally tribes. I just couldn't find a word to differentiate between true democracy and every other form of government that has leaders or representatives. By the way, Democracy is actually a pretty old type of governmental system. Didn't the Greeks have democracies. that was 550 BC. over 2.5k years ago. And despite popular belief and you probably already know and are referring to other democracies around the world, The United States is not a Democracy. It is a Federal Constitutional Republic.
The founding fathers saw the issue with democracy. Tyranny by Majority. and opted for the Federal Constitutional Republic instead.

edit: I read that the British government is a representative Democracy. I am not sure if that's true or not. I always thought of it as being like the U.S. but if majority always rules there and nobody can fight decisions unless they gain a majority then I would hate to live there. I agree with the founding fathers. The Majority isn't always right and that's why true democracies don't work. The little guy will have his rights stomped on if the majority wishes to stomp. Or really, he only has rights that the majority says he has. so he isn't really having his rights stomped on...

Sorry to hear that, I hope you get some better life-experiences in the future, sounds like you've been unlucky. I tend to find humans in general to be nice and co-operative creatures. Maybe you should consider a change of environment?
I never said that everyone in my environment is evil (or not altruistic or whatever). I just said that from what I have experienced, people are altruistic only because it is to their advantage to be so.
 

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No I haven't heard of him actually, would you recommend it?
Michio Kaku is a popular theoretical physicist who has a lot of face time on the Science Channel and other mediums. Much of what you said was mentioned in this video which I recommend.


I'm not sure what your point is here. What do you mean by “fully trust”? And do you think being devoid of emotion is a requirement for “being in charge”?
This is a good question. I believe much of our problems which leadership has failed to address properly is in part due to emotional need to be reelected and uphold identity by stubbornly sticking with a point of view. A lot of times, simple mathematics and some background information can solve problems such as the issue of alternative resources.

How the need to be reelected ties into this? Leaders want to be reelected. In order to do this, they need to win the votes of the populace. To do this, you must support their views. If their views are of ignorance, they will likely have less optimal views which the leaders will support to get their vote as opposed to sticking with an educated/informed decision that is better. The supporting of ethanol creation is a great example.


Emotion often times prevents us from making the best logical decision, one who is "devoid" of such, could make a better decision. Read the book, "You're Not So Smart". Science has shown it is impossible to make a decision without an emotion for it, but it is best to attempt the journey to objectivity for an optimal result.

What about identity? This aspect is harder to describe in words. I won't continue to use it in my argument anymore since I can't elaborate on it.


Being “civilized” without being told? Isn't civilization something we create together mainly by communicating? And since the definition of what is civilized keeps changing (thankfully) as our collective capabilities grow, wouldn't a “pre-determined” civilization that was hardwired into us be much inferior? Isn't that pretty much what ants are?
Actually, this is a very convincing argument. I like it.





But that's just sexual attraction, and since we have a neo-cortex we can chose to ignore that in favor of more rational choices.
JUST sexual attraction? One of the primary motivations of action in the human species that dictates much of our every day behavior and routines that can never be completely ignored? Yes, we have to capability to reject impulses with rationality, but sexual attraction is completely subconscious, you cannot reject what you cannot detect with immediate awareness. You'd be surprised how much subconscious effort is placed into the attraction of potential mates.


People who are truly confident have no problem being led, because they don't feel the need to constantly reaffirm their status.
I tried my best not to have this conversation to go down the path of Sexual Attraction Psychology and the subconscious explanations of dating by restricting the domain of focus to leadership, but we're here anyway...

The point in bold is good. To keep the discussion on topic, I'm not responding to the rest of it. What I meant was a men's visual display (evidence) that he is capable of leading, not the constant reaffirmation of the ability to lead (take charge). My main point is that leading relieves the burden of choice to the followers. Using sexual attraction as an example probably wasn't a good idea and didn't really illustrate my point in the way I was trying to convey it.


So the only reason you're not out raping and pillaging is that you're afraid to get caught? I think that puts you in the minority. ;)
That's a loaded question, strawman, and over-simplistic summary of what I said. And to answer your question, yes, but partly,let me elaborate. I believe we have the genetic capability to show empathy, care about others, and get along. However, if our environment does not encourage this (caregivers, parents, peers) and especially when resources (mates, food, water, shelter, etc) to satisfy human needs are scarce, producing competition, then no. Without the constant teachings of my parents from birth that certain things are right and wrong through punishment and reward, lectures, and commentary, I would be inclined to in this specific case to rape and pillage.

Rape: Think about it, if I was never taught and encouraged to care for people, in this case women, if was never taught about the legal consequences of this crime, if was never told to empathize for others going through struggle (rape often, but not always, scars the victims emotionally is some way), then why would I go through the whole cat and mouse game of dating, spend time and resources, wait for signs of permission in the attempt to attract a mate? A shortcut would be tempting. but this is not the case, i was taught prinicples that allow us humans to live in harmony, I do empathize, and care. I treat others how I want to be treated.

Resources: This and the rape topic is gone through in great detail in the book, "Sex at Dawn" by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. Highly recommend the book and goes over much of this conversation's details.


We are “programmed” to be social, empathetic and with the ability to communicate and reason. How is that not being programmed for civility? What is civilization if not a collaborative effort spanning over thousands of years, enabled by those very qualities that we are born with?
I re-read my "we aren't programmed to..." section of my response. Even though that is what I wrote, that is not what I meant.

As stated earlier, I believe, as you said, "we are programmed to be social, empathetic, and with the ability to communicate", but only upon encouragement and peaceful circumstance. We have these abilities, but only are displayed (applied) when called upon and your physical and emotional needs are met. Again, read "Sex at Dawn".





Why would you want to be free of influence? Our ability to influence and be influenced has taken us from cave dwelling to space stations. You are constantly influencing and being influenced every second of your life. Actually, isn't that pretty much what life is?
I re-read my response that you quoted from and can't figure out why I placed that in the last sentence. Discard it, it doesn't make sense. And the answer to your response to it is that it doesn't matter if you want to be free of influence, it is impossible. We are the environment, we are made from the composition of stars created by their decaying process. Thus making it impossible to not be influenced by it.
 

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It's been long established that most our personalities consist of parts, shards and pieces rather than a complete unit. Still, fostering each individually isn't necessarily healthy dependent on the discrepancy between them - at least when dealing with almost polar opposites while leaving everything inbetween 'underdeveloped' in comparison.

It's also been discovered by neurology that “conscious decisions” are made as much as 0.5 seconds before the “person” supposedly making them actually becomes aware of them.
That is because the unconscious is faster and more potent than our conscious. It's only natural that everything results from the unconscious. The collective unconscious may be predetermined even, thus making a possible case against 'free will' but our individual unconscious is probably as different from one another as our conscious attitudes are - If that wasn't the case chances are out conscious attitudes wouldn't drift as far apart as they do.

As a society and culture we've fostered the wrong ideas and values for far too long to make Humanism a viable option without purging majority of the world's population first - The idea of money and wealth with greed and a self-centered attitude has put humility to the back-seat. Economy (Capitalism) is perhaps the most de-humanizing thing humans ever came up with.

People don't want to unlearn, unthink, rethink or relearn. Life is comfortable as is for most, not even seeing any of the issues this world is plagued by. Not seeing themselves as part of the problem and thus don't even think about becoming a possible solution.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
I don't exactly agree with your reasoning here. If you believe in evolution, then unless you believe that all animals are naturally civil, I have to wonder when do you think human developed this naturally civility.
That is some strange reasoning and I'm wondering if it came out wrong. Yes I 'believe' in evolution, or rather, I understand how it works since I've studied it. And it works whether people 'believe' in it or not. And your reasoning does not make sense from any perspective that I am able to adapt. Why would I in order to think that species X has a trait also have to assume that all other species have the same trait, that's not how it works at all.


And let me define what I meant by naturally civil. maybe that's the issue?
Yes I am starting to suspect that is the issue...


To me there is a difference between learning right and wrong, (to learn to be civil or altruistic from society), and being born with it programmed instinctively. to me, saying naturally civil means civil by instinct. It is saying that civility is programmed into the human brain from birth. I don't believe that to be the case. You're welcome disagree.
By that line of reasoning, it isn't natural for lions to hunt zebras, since that is something the lion cubs have to learn from their mothers. I think you need to change your definition of natural, because it produces some strange results.


I think altruism is something that is taught. and over human history, with the help of developments of science, and the passing on of wisdom and through development of our brain, we are becoming more and more "civil". Are we becoming more naturally civil? I don't know. And that isn't even talking about why we're being civil. I still believe that people are mostly civil because it is wise to be so. To live longer, we have to get along with each other. We have to be civil.
Here again you seem to make the assumption that something that is “taught” is not “natural”. You seem to have substituted natural for something like “coming from instinct only and with no external influence”.


I mean would babies have to pop out of their mothers wearing top hats and apologizing for causing a mess for you to consider human civilization to be natural?


right! You missed my point. We're evolving. We're becoming better people. It is something that is developing within us. We're learning to be better people. As years progress and science develops, We don't do those things anymore because we know better. We've learned that the only difference between a white man and a black man is that the white man needed to soak in as much UV as possible to produce Vitamin D, but those living near the equator where sources of vitamin D was plentiful and the sun was brighter, they needed protection from the sun because UV light is not only harmful to your skin but also depletes a chemical in the body and causes birth defects.
It seems like we are in agreement, and that the only difference is that I see this development as natural and supported (indeed depending on) our natural abilities.




And I don't understand what you mean by the period of history where we've been closer to star trek. I don't understand how you got that from me saying that history has proved (to me) (history like witch trials, slavery) that we are not naturally civil and that it is something that we learn as we get rid of superstition and become wiser. We are on the road to being the civilization that Piccard describes. One that is not obsessed with material goods or resources. or land. or money. or pride. Just about learning and aiding fellow man and being.
If you look at witch trials and conclude that they are evidence of humans not being “naturally civil”, you're taking one specific sort of occurrence within a specific cultural context and using it as evidence for damning an entire species. And you're basically setting the bar at an impossible level. Because if there can be shown to be any trace of uncivil behavior, that is evidence that we are NOT civil. But what about the reverse? Do you really think that we'd have gotten to this point if witch burning was the norm rather than the deviation? Are there psychopaths and narcissists, yes. Are they the majority? Hell no.


I think you're holding an unnecessarily pessimistic view based on your definition of “natural” and so called “reporting bias”. Ie: all the witches that weren't burnt, but rather were treated as venerable healers, respected and led long and healthy lives while producing a bunch of cute babies didn't make the headlines. We only get the bad news, and fit them into the narrative that humans are “naturally” bad, selfish, egotistical or whatnot, and have only by some unspecified miracle been able to create civilization despite everyone really being a psychopathic murdering rapist (well, except you and me of course, but the OTHER people... if they really are “people”, you know what I mean...).


I think someone is selling fear, and a lot of people seem to be buying it.


Missed my point. And I apologize as it was probably my wording that confused you. I thought my sentence right after that which extrapolated what I meant would cause you to see what I meant by tribes. I don't mean that we are literally tribes. I just couldn't find a word to differentiate between true democracy and every other form of government that has leaders or representatives. By the way, Democracy is actually a pretty old type of governmental system. Didn't the Greeks have democracies. that was 550 BC. over 2.5k years ago. And despite popular belief and you probably already know and are referring to other democracies around the world, The United States is not a Democracy. It is a Federal Constitutional Republic.
The founding fathers saw the issue with democracy. Tyranny by Majority. and opted for the Federal Constitutional Republic instead.
Actually I think you have a point regarding tribes, a lot of studies seem to indicate that we're adapted to having a social network of about 150 people, it's apparently called “Dunbar's number”. So our “natural” social group seems to be tribe sized.


Often I find when talking to Americans that they assume there's an incompatibility between a Federal Constitutional Republic and a democracy, that's not the case. The US is both. For some reason it seems very common for Americans to substitute “democracy” for “direct democracy”, which is one (very rare) form of government.


And although Greece (or rather Athens) is often pointed out as the first democracy, but what I said was “democracy in its current form is only a couple of hundreds of years old “. Only free land-owning males above 20 years of age were allowed to vote in Athens, which came to about 10-15% of the population, so that would not be recognized as a democracy by today’s standards. There was


The Majority isn't always right and that's why true democracies don't work. The little guy will have his rights stomped on if the majority wishes to stomp. Or really, he only has rights that the majority says he has. so he isn't really having his rights stomped on...
I assume that by “true” democracy you mean “direct democracy”? If so, I agree. I'm not a huge fan of democracy at all, it just seems slightly less bad than what we've had before, hopefully we'll come up with something better once we get rid of humanism ;)


I never said that everyone in my environment is evil (or not altruistic or whatever). I just said that from what I have experienced, people are altruistic only because it is to their advantage to be so.
So people are only unselfish for selfish reasons? You seem very determined to find the most negative perspective possible. What about people sacrificing their life to save others, what was their advantage?
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Michio Kaku is a popular theoretical physicist who has a lot of face time on the Science Channel and other mediums. Much of what you said was mentioned in this video which I recommend.
Thanks, I will check it out.


This is a good question. I believe much of our problems which leadership has failed to address properly is in part due to emotional need to be reelected and uphold identity by stubbornly sticking with a point of view. A lot of times, simple mathematics and some background information can solve problems such as the issue of alternative resources.


How the need to be reelected ties into this? Leaders want to be reelected. In order to do this, they need to win the votes of the populace. To do this, you must support their views. If their views are of ignorance, they will likely have less optimal views which the leaders will support to get their vote as opposed to sticking with an educated/informed decision that is better. The supporting of ethanol creation is a great example.
I'd like to raise the level of abstraction here and make the claim that the idea that you or anyone else is separate from your leader(s) is only a comfortable illusion. You've no doubt heard the expression that you get the politicians you deserve. It's 100% true. And the “you” is both the “individual” and the “collective” you. It's all one big process and you're part of it, and thus responsible for it.


Of course it's comfortable to lean back in the couch and complain about those incompetent or corrupt leaders that the news keep telling us about. Illusions are great like that. Especially when they give us an “other” that we can put blame on so we don't have to do or think about things ourselves.


Or you can take this perspective (one of my favorites):


Whiner: Omg Obama/Bush/Whoever is such an idiot, it's all his fault that (whatever he thinks is wrong at the moment)
Me: Why don't you run for President if you think you can do a better job?
Whiner: What? Uh... because I don't have the... (whatever excuse comes to mind)
Me: Well shut the fuck up then. He did run for President. And he won. You didn't even try you whiny little pussy.


;)


Emotion often times prevents us from making the best logical decision, one who is "devoid" of such, could make a better decision. Read the book, "You're Not So Smart". Science has shown it is impossible to make a decision without an emotion for it, but it is best to attempt the journey to objectivity for an optimal result.
Thanks for the tip. I'm actually studying behavioral economics, psychology and decision making and hadn't heard about that particular book. I'll get it next time I'm book shopping. :)


What about identity? This aspect is harder to describe in words. I won't continue to use it in my argument anymore since I can't elaborate on it.
Yeah identity is a crazy hard subject, quite fascinating. And that's one of the main points I was trying to make, that many of our ideas on who “we” are and what a “person” or “individual” is are quite arbitrary. And they've never been constant, although (almost) everyone always thinks that the definitions they've got are universal and timeless. I'm not separate from you, neither physically, emotionally or intellectually. We're both still part of the same process that started 13.8 billions years ago.


I tried my best not to have this conversation to go down the path of Sexual Attraction Psychology... <snip>
I will help you out by not continuing on that path then :)


We are the environment, we are made from the composition of stars created by their decaying process. Thus making it impossible to not be influenced by it.
Beautifully put. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
As a society and culture we've fostered the wrong ideas and values for far too long to make Humanism a viable option without purging majority of the world's population first - The idea of money and wealth with greed and a self-centered attitude has put humility to the back-seat. Economy (Capitalism) is perhaps the most de-humanizing thing humans ever came up with.
I mostly agree, but I also think there has been benefits along with the obvious problems. And if by “purge” you mean purge the unhealthy and twisted ideas (memes) rather than the organisms (genes) I agree completely.


People don't want to unlearn, unthink, rethink or relearn. Life is comfortable as is for most, not even seeing any of the issues this world is plagued by. Not seeing themselves as part of the problem and thus don't even think about becoming a possible solution.
Unless you consider yourself and me not-people, you're not correct. I agree that a big majority fits the profile, but that's different. I also think (or rather know) that a lot of other people share the more constructive and aware viewpoints. And one reason that number isn't bigger is simply that a lot of people don't have access to the information and the cognitive tools they need. I mean... why do you think I am here? ;)
 

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That is some strange reasoning and I'm wondering if it came out wrong. Yes I 'believe' in evolution, or rather, I understand how it works since I've studied it. And it works whether people 'believe' in it or not. And your reasoning does not make sense from any perspective that I am able to adapt. Why would I in order to think that species X has a trait also have to assume that all other species have the same trait, that's not how it works at all.
You said in order to develop a trait, we have to have it naturally already. so the question is: when did we become naturally civil.

By that line of reasoning, it isn't natural for lions to hunt zebras, since that is something the lion cubs have to learn from their mothers. I think you need to change your definition of natural, because it produces some strange results.
well if that is true, then it isn't natural for lions to hunt zebras. It is natural for them to be carnivores, maybe. It is natural for them to be aggressive, but not hunt zebras. What happens if you were to raise a lion cub and a zebra baby together away from their mothers. Will they be friends. I read the danger of raising certain kinds wolves is not that they will harm you deliberately, so to speak. if you raise them from a pup they will be friendly, but the problem is that they don't control temper or something like that. one moment they're nice and the next they can get really nasty. more over they have the muscle and natural predisposition in aggression and what-not to make that nastiness, even nastier.

Here again you seem to make the assumption that something that is “taught” is not “natural”. You seem to have substituted natural for something like “coming from instinct only and with no external influence”.

I mean would babies have to pop out of their mothers wearing top hats and apologizing for causing a mess for you to consider human civilization to be natural?
that is what I was talking about. When I think of whether humans are naturally civil, or predisposed to be civil, are basically good, I'm thinking of instinct. Maybe, as I admitted before, that is the wrong definition of naturally and that is why we are disagreeing.

Yes, babies would have to be born with "top hats" in the figurative sense. Now naturally civil is an attitude, not really a behavior. Just like the lion is born aggressive but has to be taught how to direct it towards zebras or antelope. When I think naturally civil, I'm thinking a baby is born with the attitude of civility. the child won't know the words to use, or the clothes to wear. But it would be naturally passive, naturally sharing. The child wouldn't have to be taught right from wrong in the most basic sense (wrong to steal, lie, cheat) but he would have to learn societal rules (it is proper to take your hat off when saying the pledge of allegiance). The child would already know what's right. attitude wise. the child would have to learn societies rules and codes. but that isn't how it is. Children come into this world, and I know from experience, they have to be taught attitudes of civility. with carrots and sticks.

It seems like we are in agreement, and that the only difference is that I see this development as natural and supported (indeed depending on) our natural abilities.
I am not sure what you mean here. I believe we have the capacity to learn the attitudes of civility, even if we can't learn them at an instinctive level, the neocortex can learn to override the lower limbic and brainstem regions of the brain and change what would be our natural conduct. and we are learning what our natural conduct should be changed to as generations pass, science and wise elders educates our neocortex, etc.


If you look at witch trials and conclude that they are evidence of humans not being “naturally civil”, you're taking one specific sort of occurrence within a specific cultural context and using it as evidence for damning an entire species. And you're basically setting the bar at an impossible level. Because if there can be shown to be any trace of uncivil behavior, that is evidence that we are NOT civil. But what about the reverse? Do you really think that we'd have gotten to this point if witch burning was the norm rather than the deviation? Are there psychopaths and narcissists, yes. Are they the majority? Hell no.
Actually I think the psychopaths and narcissists are a deviation. it is an extreme.

otherwise, the difference is in our understanding. Our natural tendency is to fear that which we don't understand. and fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Even today we have such reactions to those things we don't understand. However, With all of the scientific acheivement, the difference may be that we understand the possibility that there is more to understand, and so rather than destroying that which we fear, we have become more likely to approach and study it with caution. Wisdom Learned.

I think you're holding an unnecessarily pessimistic view based on your definition of “natural” and so called “reporting bias”. Ie: all the witches that weren't burnt, but rather were treated as venerable healers, respected and led long and healthy lives while producing a bunch of cute babies didn't make the headlines. We only get the bad news, and fit them into the narrative that humans are “naturally” bad, selfish, egotistical or whatnot, and have only by some unspecified miracle been able to create civilization despite everyone really being a psychopathic murdering rapist (well, except you and me of course, but the OTHER people... if they really are “people”, you know what I mean...).
you brought up the witch trials, I was just using your example. history is splattered with the blood of wars, murders, etc.

Actually I think you have a point regarding tribes, a lot of studies seem to indicate that we're adapted to having a social network of about 150 people, it's apparently called “Dunbar's number”. So our “natural” social group seems to be tribe sized.


Often I find when talking to Americans that they assume there's an incompatibility between a Federal Constitutional Republic and a democracy, that's not the case. The US is both. For some reason it seems very common for Americans to substitute “democracy” for “direct democracy”, which is one (very rare) form of government.


And although Greece (or rather Athens) is often pointed out as the first democracy, but what I said was “democracy in its current form is only a couple of hundreds of years old “. Only free land-owning males above 20 years of age were allowed to vote in Athens, which came to about 10-15% of the population, so that would not be recognized as a democracy by today’s standards. There was
yeah I realized that, that's why i edited and added in that bit about britain

I assume that by “true” democracy you mean “direct democracy”? If so, I agree. I'm not a huge fan of democracy at all, it just seems slightly less bad than what we've had before, hopefully we'll come up with something better once we get rid of humanism ;)
I guess in a sense there isn't much difference, but the the small difference makes all the difference. in a Constitutional Republic the minority can legally fight the votes of the majority. you can't do that in a democracy.

So people are only unselfish for selfish reasons? You seem very determined to find the most negative perspective possible. What about people sacrificing their life to save others, what was their advantage?
People sacrifice their own life for a variety of reasons, but whatever the reason, it all comes down because "I wanted" Why that person wanted... Perhaps they would be hated or they feel they would be hated if they didn't sacrafice their life. perhaps they couldn't live with themselves if they didn't. The guilt of surviving an accident drives many people to suicide.



I want to conclude. I'm not as pessimistic as I may sound. I guess I do think we have some degree of natural civility. We aren't complete murderers and psychopaths. but we aren't born with the attitudes of civility. we are born hanging somewhere in the middle. But closer to the uncivil than civil. Because we can always become a murderer in a psychopathic way. murdering just for the fun of it. But we can always learn to be civil.
Perhaps a good image is that of unrefined metal ore. is what we are when we are born. If we were refined metal, we would have equal potential to become a productive tool or piece of art, or deadly weapon or something ugly. But we are not equally hovering between the two, so I say we are unrefined. we are born more ugly than beautiful. but that is just the raw material and can be refined to become beautiful.
This selfishness within us drives us to learn civility. If that makes sense. For the most common people in this age, without any external life-altering event that would mess with the neocortexes ability to function properly and override the lower regions of the brain, it is in everyone's best interest to be civil and so we strive to be so. but to me that doesn't negate the fact that our natural tendency has to be overridden. I am not very cynical. I just look at my fellow man and recognize that he is being nice because it is in his best interest. And as long as I reinforce that (which is in my best-interest) he will continue to be civil. unless something crazy happens. I mean I'm not paranoid. I am actually a very trusting person, some would say too trusting. but I am trusting that people will do the right thing, which implies in and of itself that they have a tendency (in general) to do the wrong thing, but I am trusting that they will override that tendency and do the right thing. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I think I've identified a few differences on a higher and more abstract plane that might make sense to explore, regarding how we reach our conclusions. This will mean me basically putting words in your mouth, but only in an attempt to see if I've understood you correctly. So I invite you to correct me.


You seem to have a more “mechanical” or “clockwork” worldview. And that humans are a sort of biological machines in this material world.


My perspective is that everything is one process, all of it, and that it is in constant flux. And that you and I are something that the bigger processes (like the Earth or the Cosmos) are in fact doing. Like your stomach is a sub-process in the “you”-process, you are a sub-process of your larger environmental process.


You seem to draw a line between natural and unnatural, for example that “rational” thoughts stemming from the neo-cortex would be unnatural while “emotions” or “instincts” stemming from other parts of the brain are natural.


My perspective is that all of it is natural. I don't see why the products of one part of the brain should be considered more or less natural than the products of another part of the brain.




My observation is that people will in general tend to do the right thing, and that the only reason this is not obvious to everyone is the very fact that they are not exceptions, and we are trained to look for exceptions. When someone does something “bad” we notice it because it is a deviation from the normal (and because it might be a threat to us). All the good things happening go unnoticed because they are considered normal.


For example I've been witness to several accidents. At every single one of them more people than me have rushed to help complete strangers. And if someone close to me stumbles, I will instinctively reach out and try to steady them without having time to make a “rational choice”. This seems to me evidence that we are both capable of altruism by rational choice AND by instinct.


Of course that would go against some political ideologies and the “free market” idea that everyone is only out to maximize their own gains at everyone else expense, which is basically assuming that everyone is a psychopath and not a very healthy outlook on life or view of other people. Not to mention it simply seems to be factually wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I suggest we disagree to agree instead.
 
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