Evolutionary status signaling

August 9, 2014 § 30 Comments

I suppose the adoption of evolutionary narratives by the neoreaction / dark enlightenment makes a kind of perverse sense.  NRx/DE is obsessed with status signaling, propaganda for power, language as a way of generating behavior rather than sharing meaning, getting everything engineered/specified formally, and ‘successful memeplexes’ – bundles of ideas that are ‘successful’ in some material way independent of whether or not they are actually, you know, true or good.

Reductionism is great, though, because all the cool kids these days are reductionists.  And adopting evolutionary narratives is a great way for modern people to signal status, despite the fact that evolutionary theory is a bunch of question-begging pseudo-metaphysical tommyrot.

§ 30 Responses to Evolutionary status signaling

  • Aethelfrith says:

    I just browsed that reddit thread. The phrase “too clever by half” almost immediately springs to mind.

    As a rule, any discussion that about religion that turns into its utility independent of its actual truth claims I tune out.

  • soapjackal says:

    “despite the fact that evolutionary theory is a bunch of question-begging pseudo-metaphysical tommyrot.”

    given the churches view on evolution I would be interested if you were to write a post on your thoughts beyond an incredibly tenous link between string theory and evolutionary theory.

    I would also recommend not basing your view of nrx on anything from reddit.

    The nick and bryce posts will give you a better understanding. As far as critiquing them based on signalling this is comparing action to theory. Yes nrx is INCREDIBLY infantile when it comes to both, however there is a distinction. The current discussions are currently around finding new tangents to explore to discover truth value. In short: yes they are deserving of critique but not for the reasons you provide.

  • Bryce Laliberte says:

    How do you share meaning?

  • Peter Blood says:

    Is Laliberte really your last name, or did you just adopt for fun the name of the Bastille tower where the Marquis de Sade was housed?

  • Zippy says:

    I consider it epistemically fundamental that it is better to have no theory at all than to have a wrong and misleading theory. That includes theories of meaning and language (and origins, for that matter). Verificationist and behaviorist theories of meaning and language are manifestly wrong.

    soapjackal:
    I’ve studied biophysics, cellular biology, and bioinformatics at the graduate level, though it has been a few years now and I am doubtless out of date. My conclusion from doing personal due diligence is that evolutionary theory is the global warming of biology. That has nothing much to do with the Church’s position on anything: evolutionary theory has never presented me with a theological problem.

  • Bryce Laliberte says:

    My theory tracks a lot of phenomena and has a lot of explanatory power. I’m not forwarding it as a “probably wrong, but better than none” theory, but as an actual theory which has many points of evidence.

    @Peter

    Yes, ‘Laliberte’ is my real last name.

  • Peter Blood says:

    I’m impressed you’re using your real name on the Internet.

  • Mark Citadel says:

    I most certainly agree with the point aethelfrith made. If you are talking about religion through the prism of utility, you have already relinquished religion’s utility, for the utility in question only manifests itself when religion is approached from a position of seeking absolute truth and the answers to philosophical questions.

    As for evolutionary theory, I think William Lane Craig made a good point in asserting that ‘evolution’ is really an accordion word that can mean something very simple to something very complex and theoretical masquerading as fact. In the end, I just don’t see it as important. What bearing does the method of our arrival as humans have in the grand scheme of things? It’s like arguing about the inner dynamics of the ancient tribes of Israel. It might be interesting, but it is ultimately irrelevant. 7 days, 7 million days, its really semantics in the eye of eternity.

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy re: “I consider it epistemically fundamental that it is better to have no theory at all than to have a wrong and misleading theory.”

    Yes indeedy. It is worst to keep going in a wrong direction, and better to stop. Best is of course to turn around and go back in the right direction.

    There is no sense in which exploring wrongness will reveal more correctness.

  • jf12 says:

    @Bryce Laliberte re: “How do you share meaning?”

    I don’t understand why you pretend it is difficult. Would you mind explaining yourself here, or do you think you have already meant something?

  • Language as a way of generating behavior is a sci-fi conceit, among others. I haven’t read the referenced blog post. I just have semiotics textbooks and some familiarity with the concept predating blog posts about it.

  • Dystopia Max says:

    “There is no sense in which exploring wrongness will reveal more correctness.”

    There is very much the sense that exploring disease can and has greatly assisted in the understanding of how a healthy body works. When dealing with complicated and difficult things that are often taken for granted, we often do not see the structure until such time as something breaks.

    Moldbug and Laliberte are linguistic repairmen, and volunteer repairmen, too, in this regard. I consider this post as having roughly the same level of coherence as a man whose roof has collapsed in the middle of the night due to storing volatile chemical cleaners in his attic during the summer, who then starts yelling at the repairman when he comes over and starts talking about ‘joists’ and ‘struts’ and ‘insulation’ like some nerd. Possibly he may even bullyingly convince the roofer to take a pay cut on the repairs, and even more possibly he may come to regard that rhetorical victory as an axiom of life, to be lived in other contexts as well. Anger may precede investigation as well as understanding easily, and a man’s pride may continue him down the path of storing he knows not what he knows not where he knows not why.

    But not here, and not among us. (Did you have any trouble getting the meaning of the previous paragraph? Did you need more concrete examples? Are you failing to see any moral parallels? Do you believe that the previous paragraph is where I’m actively making a case for language as ways to get people to do stuff? Will you post on your blogzone about how that paragraph means that all NRx-ers are sneaky soft-sellers?)

    Linguistic thoughtstoppers and dark rhetorical shortcuts evilly exploited by a corrupt ruling class and their clients to compel ACTION exist and have existed far beyond the age of mass media, they are indeed dangerous, they have indeed been abused, and you’re damn sure not the first to discover them. Indeed, they may often come to be intuitively relied on by people with double-digit IQs, as the game of language has fairly low barriers to entry.

    Evolution is not a new theory, it’s simply one whose particular idolization and worship has led to all sorts of mischief, and naturally reduced and distorted the boring, everyday common understanding of the process itself as it actually acts. Make your gods not of wood and stone, nor of anything in the heavens above or the earth below, lest you become like them.

    In the case of evolution we may say that its main temptation for common neoreactionaries is to dream of advancing by degrees and democratic gradualism, in a way that protects one’s own career.

    Fortunately, there are always warnings in the path, even from your own side, as, for instance, Moldbug channels Behe in making an argument for fundamental design:

    “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.

    If you want an Apple II, you don’t start by shrinking a PDP-11. You have to build an Apple II. ”

    Or perhaps you prefer Moldbug the enemy of gradualism and social optimization:

    “I see this Hitler-was-a-liberal trope catching on all over the right. Of course, it is a leftist trope – in two senses. First, the tactic of tarring all political adversaries with some abstruse connection to fascism in general, and Hitler in particular, is of course a characteristic tactic of the Left. Second, the tactic of disseminating a palpable misreading of history, for political purposes – etc.

    To a Carlylean, Satan is the Lord of Chaos and the Father of Lies. When you lie – intentionally or unintentionally – you sacrifice a kitten to Satan. Satan loves you for this! And, since he is not uninfluential on this earth, he does what he can for you. Which is sometimes quite a bit.

    The Carlylean technique accepts only absolute veracity as the basis for any political strategy. The fact is: by sacrificing the occasional kitten or two, by twisting the truth a bit for the sake of this quarter’s sales, libertarians and other rightists get nowhere. Their enemies are (a) in power today, and (b) operating an assembly-line rhinoceros abattoir for the sole benefit of His Satanic Majesty. Surely, sir, you had not thought to out-scoundrel such a bunch of scoundrels.”

    Laziness and ingratitude in thought is always going to find you out.

  • Zippy says:

    Max:
    I have no idea how your comment is supposed to address what anyone has actually said. Just as one example, reframing jf12 like that doesn’t work. Of course understanding disease can help in understanding the body, but promoting disease doesn’t heal the body, and if you were engaged in something other than the ludicrous postmodern games you’ve trained your mind to play you would have understood your own metaphor. It is better to have no theory than to have false and misleading theories; verificationist and behaviourist theories of meaning are false and misleading.

    But that’s just one example, and pretty much everything you say follows the same pattern of misdirection, obfuscation, and failure to actually grapple with what has actually been said.

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy, re: reframing doesn’t work.

    Good call. Their “repairing” is indeed an attempt at reframing, as if they are nailing 2×4’s haphazardly to an existing frame and calling themselves being constructive.

  • jf12 says:

    Because soft stuff hasn’t interested much in my life, I had never heard of Moldbug et al until recently, but I must say almost everything they write reads like an exercise in automatic writing. The occultish aspects are as repulsively unscary and unimpressive as teen girls tittering over a Ouija board, but with the same invitation to possession by evil.

  • Zippy says:

    NRx has developed its own versions of thoughtcrime, and the main social faux-pas appears to be speaking plainly, directly, and succinctly. The tendentious falsity of evolutionary narratives is a hatefact: evolution simply must be true because HBD, capitalism is a given of Gnon because evolution, etc. etc.

  • Marissa says:

    The occultish aspects are as repulsively unscary and unimpressive as teen girls tittering over a Ouija board, but with the same invitation to possession by evil.

    Ha, that’s a good one, jf12. They’re looking for something meaningful, they’re just looking in the absolutely wrong place. I get an “anything but Christ” stench reminiscent of other white people obsessions from bygone eras: Chinese medicine, Buddhist philosophy, Kabbalah, etc.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    One of the core problems with modernity is that they don’t believe in purpose. All there is is science, matter, and the void. Nothing has a natural end.

    Contraception is okay because the telos of sex is whatever the participants want it to be, not children. Homosexual marriage is okay because the telos of marriage is whatever the participants want it to be, not family. There is no such thing as an objectively evil act; consent of the participants can make anything moral.

    In modernity’s eyes, meaning and purpose can only come from within the human. This is one of the reasons why freedom and equality is so entrenched in modern thinking; if purpose only comes from within the human, then why is this human’s purpose any better than that human’s purpose? Nothing can be intrinsically evil. All purposes are equal. The only wrong you can do is encroach on someone else’s purpose. Other than that, anything goes.

    Every single non-theistic philosophy will always inevitably fall into this pit of nihilism.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Note that ‘non-theistic philosophy’ doesn’t necessarily mean that its ascribants are atheists. It refers to any philosophy that doesn’t let religion govern morality, and there are plenty of theistic libertarians (for example) who believe that their religion should play no part in government affairs.

  • soapjackal says:

    @zippy

    thanks for the clarification. Would still be interested in why your learnings in those graduate level courses lead to your judgement.

    “NRx has developed its own versions of thoughtcrime, and the main social faux-pas appears to be speaking plainly, directly, and succinctly. The tendentious falsity of evolutionary narratives is a hatefact”

    plain, direct, and succinct. The 3 who dont do this are land (a philosopher with a track record of this), moldbug, and bryce. I dont think its a thought crime to say stuff directly and theres not alot of evidence that this is really how nrx functions. Laziness is more of the issue that has been plaguing them, with lack of critical self assessment coming in a close second. I prefer more direct communication but generally if there is more stable logical discourse. There are some interesting posts on here but sometimes it feels like you have the outline for an article that you just havent finished yet. I dont maintain a blog yet because I cant consistently set aside the time for quality work so I dont expect my feelings on the matter to be taken that seriously, its just an observation i have made.

  • King Richard says:

    Zippy,
    “NRx has developed its own versions of thoughtcrime, and the main social faux-pas appears to be speaking plainly, directly, and succinctly”
    True and charming at once.

    Soapjackal,
    I am not trying to speak for Zippy, but please indulge me as I present my stance one evolution.
    “Things change” is both a brute fact and trivial.

  • Zippy says:

    KR:
    Yes exactly. The evolutionary narrative says lots of trivial things, and wherever it makes claims about ‘hard’ problems it is invariably question begging and wrong. We have no naturalistic explanation of the actual origins of brand new proteins, cell types, tissues, organs, or species. Sure transposons and viruses can bounce bits of code around, and that nicely obfuscates the fact that the ‘random mutation plus selection’ narrative utterly fails empirical test; but that doesn’t tell us how nature built the first liver.

    Evolutionists are like a child who sees that when you type on the keyboard characters appear on the screen, infers that that ‘explains’ computers, and concludes that therefore there was no Steve Jobs.

    Soapjackal:
    I don’t really ‘do’ evolution anymore, but you might find this post or this one of interest. Also as I just mentioned in another thread I am sure my blogging style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s OK.

  • King Richard says:

    Zippy,
    “Evolutionists are like a child who sees that when you type on the keyboard characters appear on the screen, infers that that ‘explains’ computers, and concludes that therefore there was no Steve Jobs”
    Also stealing this

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy, I guess you know the crude protein calculation results in
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levinthal%27s_paradox

    There are any number of good protein folding software systems, however, that rely on various assumptions and heuristics as to which conformations to bother with.

    The evo idea is that the translational systems of our cells use various assumptions and heuristics about which sequences to bother constructing.

    A lot of expressed “wrong” sequences do get constructed, partially, Iguess you know. In some sense “most” proteins are partly constructed, the cell realizes it messed up, usually in the endoplasmic reticulum, and the junk is deconstructed and mostly recycled.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    Yes I am aware that there has to be some thermodynamic constraint on folding that isn’t understood in order for any protein to fold in less time than the age of the universe. But the point in my “translation” post is different: that random polypeptide chains don’t fold into a specific repeatable native state at all.

  • jf12 says:

    re: random polypeptide chains don’t fold into a specific repeatable native state at all.

    True, but they do have an associated DNA sequence and can be expressed and produced (with caveats about starting and stopping) via the usual ribosomal processes. This junky stuff that is going to wind up as naturally denatured, so to speak, tends to be recognized early in the process, and tossed in the recycling bin.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    but they do have an associated DNA sequence

    Of course every random polypeptide chain has a corresponding random DNA chain (where ‘has’ means ‘exists mathematically’, not ‘is actually present in this here genome’). That’s the mathematical nature of encoding: each input has a corresponding output.

    But so what?

    And of course the body has various ways of dealing with (some, various) toxic materials.

    Again, so what?

    None of that demonstrates or explains how nature actually, historically produced the first liver. Scientists should just admit ignorance where they are ignorant, and the thing that goes by the label ‘evolution’ is mostly a large body of untestable pseudo-historical stories putatively explaining events in natural history about which we are almost entirely ignorant.

    But by Heaven we can’t let the public know how ignorant we are. We just need to wow them with iPhones and helicopters (mostly designed by non-scientist craftsmen who, because they are reasonably competent craftsmen, also frequently think they hold the keys to the secrets of the universe); and then the public will treat scientists as the high priests of all knowledge instead of as nerds who don’t really know much of anything about anything important beyond how to get Linux to boot and run some computer games, I mean, ‘simulations’.

  • Marissa says:

    In modernity’s eyes, meaning and purpose can only come from within the human. This is one of the reasons why freedom and equality is so entrenched in modern thinking; if purpose only comes from within the human, then why is this human’s purpose any better than that human’s purpose? Nothing can be intrinsically evil. All purposes are equal. The only wrong you can do is encroach on someone else’s purpose. Other than that, anything goes.

    I’m reading a book that uses the phrase “triumph of the will” — that seems to be the right phrase to describe this paragraph.

  • soapjackal says:

    @zippy

    appreciate it.

    No reason to try to please everyone. I can respect that.

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