Friday, September 26, 2014

A fruitful encounter


 
Original Sin, by Michiel Coxie (1499-1592). Did the Christian doctrine of original sin create the guilt cultures of Northwest Europe? Or did the arrow of causality run the other way? (source: Wikicommons)

 

By definition, gene-culture co-evolution is reciprocal. Genes and culture are both in the driver's seat. This point is crucial because there is a tendency to overreact to cultural determinism and to forget that culture does matter, even to the point of influencing the makeup of our gene pool. Through culture, humans have directed their own evolution.

Take the ability to digest lactose, commonly called milk sugar. Among early humans, only babies could digest it because only they made the enzyme that breaks it down. This enzyme was lost as one grew up, with the result that milk consumption would cause indigestion, abdominal gas, and diarrhea. This is still the case in humans from much of Africa and Asia.

Then some cultures began to domesticate cattle, initially for meat. In times of famine, they turned to milk, and those who could better tolerate it had better chances of survival. So there was now natural selection for individuals who could produce the necessary enzyme not only in childhood but in adulthood as well.

The resulting evolutionary change was both genetic and cultural. With more and more adults being able to digest milk, it became possible to develop various dairy products, like cheese, and use milk as an ingredient in a wide range of foods. It also became possible to select for cattle that produce more and better milk (Beja-Pereira et al., 2003). A new way of life developed and thus brought about even more selection for this enzyme.

In sum, a genetic change can open up new paths for culture to follow and thereby create new paths for genes to follow. But that isn't all. The same situation can develop even when no genetic change has taken place, at least not initially. We see this, for instance, when a culture spreads out of one population and into another. The gene-culture interaction is new even though neither party to the interaction is new.
 

A fruitful encounter

One specific example is the encounter between Christianity and the guilt cultures of Northwest Europe, which differ from the shame cultures that prevail elsewhere. The difference is a major one. In a shame culture, your wrongdoings are punished only when witnessed by someone from your community. In a guilt culture, they are punished even when there is no witness, other than the one inside your head.

Guilt culture is commonly attributed to the Christian doctrine of original sin, and more specifically to the radicalization of this doctrine under Protestantism (see Note 1). Yet neither of these presumed causes really lines up with the presumed effect.

For one thing, it's doubtful whether this doctrine was even known to early Christians in the Middle East. True, Paul did write that humans had lost their immortality because of Adam's sin:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5.12

This belief also appears in the Talmud, but it was never understood there as meaning that people are sinful because they inherit Adam's burden of sin. The Jewish view, like the later Muslim one, has been that people are sinful because they are imperfect beings. This was probably also the view of early Christians. Even today, Eastern Christians reject the doctrine of original sin, preferring the term "ancestral sin":

In the Orthodox Christian understanding, they explicitly deny that humanity inherited guilt from anyone. Rather, they maintain that we inherit our fallen nature. While humanity does bear the consequences of the original, or first, sin, humanity does not bear the personal guilt associated with this sin. (Original sin, 2014)

It was among Western Christians—Roman Catholics and, later, Protestants—that original sin developed into a doctrine. We see this in the writings of Irenaeus (2nd century) and Augustine (354-430), who identified the original sin as concupiscence, i.e., ardent, sensual longing. Protestantism is then said to have radicalized this doctrine, as seen in the Augsburg Confession of Lutheranism:

It is also taught among us that since the fall of Adam all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin. That is, all men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers' wombs and are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God. Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to the eternal wrath of God all those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit. 

But this radicalization was already under way before Protestantism. An English Catholic, Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), was the one who first separated original sin from concupiscence and defined it as "privation of the righteousness that every man ought to possess" (Original sin, 2014). Within Western Christendom, pre-Protestant England was likewise the epicenter of an intense penitential tradition that dated back at least to Anglo-Saxon times (Frantzen 1983). This tradition can be summed up as follows: "it is better to be shamed for one's sins before one man (the confessor) in this life than to be shamed before God and before all angels and before all men and before all devils at the Last Judgement" (Godden, 1973). The English abbot Aelfric of Eynsham (955-1010) described the need to do penance for all shameful acts, even those that are witnessed solely by spirits of the dead: 

He who cannot because of shame confess his faults to one man, then it must shame him before the heaven-dwellers and the earth-dwellers and the hell-dwellers, and the shame for him will be endless. (Bedingfield, 2002, p. 80)


Conclusion

As evidenced by the doctrine of original sin and the penitential tradition, Northwest European guilt culture was not a product of Christianity in general or of Protestantism in particular. It seems to have its origins in pre-existing tendencies that were absorbed into the new spiritual environment, much like the Christmas tree and other formerly pagan traditions. It thus grew steadily more important as the geocenter of Christianity moved steadily west and north.

This is not to belittle Christianity’s role. The new faith created ideological, social, and physical structures that were better at enforcing moral norms than anything beforehand. These norms may have had pagan antecedents, but they were now being enforced much more thoroughly.

We see this in the Medieval Synthesis that took hold from the 11th century onward, when Church and State joined forces to defend the Christian world: externally, through military campaigns against Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula, southern Italy, and the Middle East; and internally, through vigorous efforts to pacify social relations, either by increased use of capital punishment or by the Pax Dei—a Church-led movement to limit the scope of war in feudal society (Peace and Truce of God, 2014). Finally, guilt culture was strengthened through confession of one's sins, particularly after this practice became mandatory with the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). All wrongdoings had to be atoned at least once a year, however private or personal they might be (Sacrament of Penance, 2014).

Medieval Christian culture favored the survival and reproduction of people who previously would not have survived and reproduced. Conversely, by criminalizing personal violence, particularly in cases where the offender felt no guilt or remorse, this culture was now eliminating people for behavior that had once been admired.

It is often believed that Europe took off from the 15th century onward, when it expanded into Africa, the Americas, and Asia. Actually, the takeoff began earlier, particularly during this period when Church and State teamed up to lay a new basis for social relations. It was this new moral order that enabled Europe to get ahead (Frost, 2012). As Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) wrote, no advanced society can develop where men have no "other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal." 

In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. [The Leviathan, 13]


Note

Missionaries, for example, point to the relationship between Christianity and guilt culture:

There is a lack of a sense of sin in African thinking for many reasons: (1) there is a belief that God and the ancestors are unconcerned about private and public morality. People believe more in this life than the next life; (2) there is more of a shame-culture than a guilt-culture. People are more afraid of public opinion than of God; and (3) there is a focus on communal living where people look at who caused a problem. (Tittley, 2001)

 

References

Bedingfield, M.D. (2002). The Dramatic Liturgy of Anglo-Saxon England, The Boydell Press. 

Beja-Pereira A., G. Luikart, P.R. England, et al. (2003). Gene-culture coevolution between cattle milk protein genes and human lactase genes, Nature Genetics, 35, 311-313.
http://www.bioquest.org/summer2007/sessionA/ng1263.pdf 

Carroll, J. (1981). The role of guilt in the formation of modern society: England 1350-1800, The British Journal of Sociology, 32, 459-503.
http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/590129?uid=3739448&uid=2&uid=3737720&uid=4&sid=21104745207513 

Frost, P. (2012). On global inequality, Evo and Proud, August 25
http://evoandproud.blogspot.ca/2012/08/on-global-inequality.html

Frantzen, A.J. (1983). The literature of penance in Anglo-Saxon England, New Brunswick (N.J.): Rutgers University Press.

Godden, M.R. (1973). An Old English penitential motif, Anglo-Saxon England, 2, 221-239.

Hobbes, T. (2010). The Leviathan. Peterborough: Broadview Press. 

Lebra, T.S. (1971). The social mechanism of guilt and shame: the Japanese case, Anthropological Quarterly, 44, 241-255.
http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3316971?uid=3739448&uid=2&uid=3737720&uid=4&sid=21104745207513 

Original Sin. (2014). Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_sin 

Peace and Truce of God. (2014). Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_and_Truce_of_God 

Sacrament of Penance. (2014). Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacrament_of_Penance_(Catholic_Church)  

Tittley, M. (2001). Book summary of The Primal Vision: Christian Presence amid African Religion, by John V. Taylor, SCM Press, 1963.
http://www.ymresourcer.com/Summaries.php

38 comments:

barakobama said...

I don't want to come off confrontational but I've been meaning to say this. You have a clearly biased agenda. You're obsessed with the idea that everything "north European-like", western-like, Christian-like etc. is young, weak, created by an establishment who only wanted selfish gains but is treated as moral and Godly by their "dominions", etc.

You're well known for your theories about the origins of specifically north-European pigmentation. That fact alone is evidence you have some special interest in learning the origins(whatever type of origin) of westernism.

Your posts in the last year about the ancient DNA finds about the pigmentation of European's stone age and bronze age ancestors reveals your agenda.

"Did Europeans become white in historical times."

http://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2014/03/did-europeans-become-white-in-historic.html

That title alone is border line raciest. Your first sentence in that article clearly shows your agenda and interests.

"A new study shows that Europeans underwent strong selection for white skin, non-brown eyes, and non-black hair … during historic times!"

Your explanation mark shows that you expect people to be like "Ah ah, no way!" as if your proving Europeanism is young, etc. and people should be excited about that. You're about agenda and emotion not logic.

BTW, most of Europe entered pure historic times in the middle ages, the copper-bronze age is thousands of years deep in prehistory especially for eastern Europe.

You keep pushing your ideas of "white woman and dark man" and everything unique about Europeans physically is female and or from female-selection. That's extremely offensive, and not purely logical. After the find that Mesolithic Europeans were mainly light eyed you still insisted their light eyes could have come from early farmers in south-east Europe, despite the fact they showed no signs of farmer admixture. That shows your assumption that everything European-like has to come from people who were non-native, advanced but weak, and or effeminate.

I've noticed most of your posts are about philosophy and or western social issues. In everyone of your posts you show the same agenda as with posts about ancient history.

You constantly try to find a way to contradict western moral norms and expect people to be amazed and enlightened while reading your writings. You're interiged by the idea that logic is cruel and heartless, that sympathy and morals were invented by some evil man with a big beard thousands of years ago(or maybe that's to old) to control people or have some other unjustifiable origin completely completely contrary to common believe.

You're not totally unique in the way you think. You obviously learned many of these ideas from others. Just saying.

Reality usually doesn't go by the rules of our agendas.


Anonymous said...

An English Catholic, Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Note he was, in fact, a Southern Frenchman at most and an Italian at least -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anselm_of_Canterbury - "called Anselm of Aosta for his birthplace"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aosta - "Aosta is the principal city of Aosta Valley, a bilingual region in the Italian Alps"

Beyond Anon said...

I find this a very interesting idea.

I have been recently musing that certain parties are manipulating this guilt trait among Northern European derived people to push things like Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Anonymous said...

Peter,

we can expect that the actual cultural paraphernalia that take hold in any human gene pool to be dependent on their mental landscape and the subsequent gene-culture coeval path taken.

This then suggests that there were/are genetically mediated mental traits governing social outlooks and modes of behavior between these gene pools and that there were differences in these gene pools at the boundaries of many religions. Of course, they have probably been obscured now because of, say, the conquest of much of Arab Christian lands.

I also suspect that the mental makeup of Arab Christians is closer to that of Northern Europeans than, say, that of the Persians/Iranians who seem to have birthed several very different religions, including Islam if Emmet Scott is correct.

Anonymous said...

Phantom Time Hypothesis is a provoking idea but it really can't be true because of the astronomical events that are known to have happened in history. Halley's comet etc.

Besides there are too many documents at least in Europe for those centuries that "didn't exist."

Anonymous said...

As evidenced by the doctrine of original sin and the penitential tradition, Northwest European guilt culture was not a product of Christianity in general or of Protestantism in particular.

The doctrine of original sin didn't originate from Northwest Europeans as you yourself point out by citing Irenaeus and Augustine, who were both Mediterraneans, Greek and North African, respectively.

Perhaps you might want to look into pre-Christian, Northern European paganism since that isn't going to be tainted by Mediterranean influences.

Anonymous said...

It's a moot point because any feelings of guilt appear able to be overridden by powerful memes. The Rotherham rapes are an example.

"Those running the apparatus of the state think they are our masters, not our servants. Too often they attack the very people they are paid to protect. We’re in the sorry state where we cannot rely on them, or indeed trust them half the time.

People can see the instigators of the political correctness that has cost, and is costing, misery to thousands of people – in the case of those girls rape, abuse, pregnancies, abortions, suicides and attempted suicides – have expressed no remorse and no intention to take responsibility."


There is no guilt, no shame, no conscience. If guilt is an evolved trait, why is it not apparent?

Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle (1839), Chapter II

"I was crossing a ferry with a negro, who was uncommonly stupid. In endeavouring to make him understand, I talked loud, and made signs, in doing which I passed my hand near his face. He, I suppose, thought I was in a passion, and was going to strike him; for instantly, with a frightened look and half-shut eyes, he dropped his hands. I shall never forget my feelings of surprise, disgust, and shame, at seeing a great powerful man afraid even to ward off a blow, directed, as he thought, at his face. This man had been trained to a degradation lower than the slavery of the most helpless animal."

Anonymous said...

Phantom Time Hypothesis is a provoking idea but it really can't be true because of the astronomical events that are known to have happened in history. Halley's comet etc.

Hah. Given its period Halley's Comet is not the best phenomenon to rule out 297-300 years inserted.

There are interesting problems, however, with Lunar eclipses. See, for example: PHANTOM TIMES? IS THE LOWERMOST CRONOLOGY OF BABYLON MORE PROBABLE THAN THE EXCISION OF CHARLEMAGNE?

Anonymous said...

St. Anselm was not English. He was of Lombard stock. The Lombards were a Germanic tribe that had settled in Italy. By Anselm's time, the Lombards had been in Italy for 500 years and thus had been exposed to Mediterranean influences for a long time.

St. Patrick as well wasn't native Irish but was of a Romanized-Briton background.

Anonymous said...

"It's a moot point because any feelings of guilt appear able to be overridden by powerful memes. The Rotherham rapes are an example.

...

There is no guilt, no shame, no conscience. If guilt is an evolved trait, why is it not apparent?"

The guilt wasn't over-ridden. Racism was turned into the ultimate sin and so the guilt trait followed.

Anonymous said...

The guilt wasn't over-ridden. Racism was turned into the ultimate sin and so the guilt trait followed.

So is the "guilt trait" just a content-less mechanism? Like a computer chip brain implant that makes the person with the implant reflexively follow the moral programming of the wider society or authority figures?

Sean said...

Guilt is felt at not subjecting our actions to an independent principle and doing one's duty; what Europeans have felt guilty about depends on how the principles applied in the the era they lived in. Charles Darwin's grandfather was, in addition to being an extremely successful businessman, a prominent abolitionist. Read about how popular his anti-slavery medallion was in 18th century English society here. Obviously the mores were changing.

There is plenty about guilt in Kierkegaard. More recent European thought too, Heidegger for example.

Anonymous said...

Heidegger rejected not only the alleged independence of principles or duties, but the very nature of such principles themselves. Existential anxiety for Heidegger is not feeling guilty for failing to do one's duty and adhere to "independent" "principles". It's the exact opposite. It comes from the fact according to the Heidegger that we are simply Dasein or being-in-the-world, not subjects with consciousness that relate to an independent external world of objects and independent principles.

You can't really just casually shoehorn him in. He's not really compatible with traditional philosophical and ethical thinking or with more deterministic, evolutionary, scientific thinking.

Sean said...

Kierkegaard was immersed in Lutheranism, and Kant (who certainly was all about constraining oneself for principles).
"PERHAPS the most central theme in Soren Kierkegaard’s religious thought is the doctrine of original sin: the idea that we share in some essential human guilt simply by being born. But guilt is an important concept also in Kierkegaard’s secular writings. He thought that the modern era was defined by its concept of guilt."

HEIDEGGER is crystal clear: like Cordelia in King Lear, nothing is said. The call of conscience is silent. It contains no instructions or advice. In order to understand this, it is important to grasp that, for Heidegger, inauthentic life is characterised by chatter – for example, the ever-ambiguous hubbub of the blogosphere. Conscience calls Dasein back from this chatter silently. It has the character of what Heidegger calls “reticence” (Verschwiegenheit), which is the privileged mode of language in Heidegger. So, the call of conscience is a silent call that silences the chatter of the world and brings me back to myself. But what does this uncanny call of conscience give one to understand? Conscience’s call can be reduced to one word: Guilty!”

The theologian Rudolph Bultmann said Heidegger was the Luther expert, and said Heidegger ‘knew Luther’s works better than many a professional theologian’ (see here).

If NW Europe has a guilt culture and ‘guilt is effective with or without a witness’ then Germans should be building great cars! And be incredibly efficient in their environmentalism.

Anonymous said...

Heidegger was also raised in a conservative Catholic environment and even entered a Catholic seminary. He carefully studied and was well acquianted with Catholic philosophy. Afterwards he explicitly broke from the Catholic faith and religion in general.

Heidegger is not an ethical thinker and existentialist guilt and conscience don't consist of feeling bad for failing to do one's duty or for failing to adhere to "independent principles" or for breaking rules or something. They consist of the awareness of the finite nature of Dasein and the anticipation of death.

Anonymous said...

I don't really see how car manufacturing fits into this. Japan builds good cars as well despite having the opposite culture.

Also German cars have a reputation for unreliability. They're less reliable than Japanese and even American cars, and America hasn't even cared about making cars for almost 4 decades.

Anonymous said...

Also German cars have a reputation for unreliability.

In what reality???

"Made in Germany" in a car is synonymous to extreme reliability.

And I'm not German just a truth-lover.

Anonymous said...

Yes, German cars have a reputation for unreliability in the US. They have to be taken to the mechanic a lot and they're expensive to maintain. But people in the US don't buy German cars for reliability. They buy them for luxury and prestige.

Anonymous said...

Darwin, Descent of Man page 113,114

The above case of the swallow affords an illustration, though of a reversed nature, of a temporary though for the time strongly persistent instinct conquering another instinct, which is usually dominant over all others. At the proper season these birds seem all day long to be impressed with the desire to migrate; their habits change; they become restless, are noisy, and congregate in flocks. Whilst the mother-bird is feeding, or brooding over her nestlings, the maternal instinct is probably stronger than the migratory; but the instinct which is the more persistent gains the victory, and at last, at a moment when her young ones are not in sight, she takes flight and deserts them. When arrived at the end of her long journey, and the migratory instinct has ceased to act, what an agony of remorse the bird would feel, if, from being endowed with great mental activity, she could not prevent the image constantly passing through her mind, of her young ones perishing in the bleak north from cold and hunger.

At the moment of action, man will no doubt be apt to follow the stronger impulse; and though this may occasionally prompt him to the noblest deeds, it will more commonly lead him to gratify his own desires at the expense of other men. But after their gratification, when past and weaker impressions are judged by the ever-enduring social instinct, and by his deep regard for the good opinion of his fellows, retribution will surely come. He will then feel remorse, repentance, regret, or shame; this latter feeling, however, relates almost exclusively to the judgment of others.


So that the sparrow the instincts in man will compete for dominance with remorse/guilt only becoming prevalent if he is judged to be morally debased.

Anonymous said...

Guilt is felt at not subjecting our actions to an independent principle and doing one's duty; what Europeans have felt guilty about depends on how the principles applied in the the era they lived in.

In other words, the content is historically and socially contingent.

So is guilt just a content-less mechanism? Would it be analogous to a computer chip brain implant that makes a person follow social rules by making him feel discomfort for not adhering to the rules?

Anonymous said...

"So is the "guilt trait" just a content-less mechanism? Like a computer chip brain implant that makes the person with the implant reflexively follow the moral programming of the wider society or authority figures?"


I think it operates like a kind of computer program which reacts to the data it's fed.

For example if the media is always full of tales of white racism while completely censoring news of non-white racism then that will distort the behavior of people who are like this.

#

I also wonder if widening the circles of sympathy may also make the level of sympathy shallower so you go from a population that cares a great deal about their close kin and not at all about outsiders (if not actively hostile) to a population that is mildly concerned about everyone but not strongly concerned about anyone.

This may make them more malleable.

Personally I think there's likely to be an optimal point and NW Euros may have reached that point in the past but gone past it since.

Anonymous said...

"Would it be analogous to a computer chip brain implant that makes a person follow social rules by making him feel discomfort for not adhering to the rules?"

I think it's similar but not exactly like that because they are *self* judging. The discomfort can't be an external pressure. Manipulating them requires distorting the data they are using to judge but after that then yes the programming follows automatically based on the data.

(imo)

Anonymous said...

I think it's similar but not exactly like that because they are *self* judging. The discomfort can't be an external pressure. Manipulating them requires distorting the data they are using to judge but after that then yes the programming follows automatically based on the data.

Right, but remember that we are thinking in terms of reductionist, materialist, evolutionary philosophy and biology here. So "self" in this context is simply the physical material encased in the skull. Whether the physical material is organic, inorganic, or some combination thereof wouldn't be relevant in terms of the functional and mechanical essence of the trait, and in terms of materialist, orthodox philosophy of science, that's the only kind of essence there is.

I bring up this analogy not because I necessarily think it's accurate, in fact I'm a bit skeptical. I bring it up because it seems to be the kind of mechanism being asserted here.

Sean said...

In pagan Germany, and to some extent in Anglo Saxon England, killing a man was only considered murder if it was the secret killing of an unknown person. Guilt was supposed to do the heavy lifting.

After medieval Christianity came a number of philosophers to whom guilt was was still central. Kierkegaard was Christian. Subsequent non Christian philosophers like Heidegger were still talking about guilt, as was Sartre with his" bad faith". Levinas with the individual "summoned" by an ethical duty to "the Other," is another one. Why do these ideas strike a chord with Europeans ?

Nietzsche: "God is dead, that the belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable". Our moral notions are not based on anything, they are like the taboos of Polynesia which King Kamehameha II simply abolished.

As Alasdair MacIntyre asked: "Why should we think of our modern uses of good, right and obligatory in any different way from that from that in which we think about late eighteenth century uses of taboo . And why should we not think of Nietzsche as the Kamehameha II of the European tradition."

The European feeling of guilt has a genetic basis, that is why the European moral order is not vulnerable to disappearance of it's Christian cultural underpinning.

Anonymous said...

Heidegger didn't talk about guilt as you understand it.

Levinas was Jewish

I think most would agree that the European moral order did change in the 20th century with the decline of Christianity.

Sean said...

Anonymous, you are Kevin

Anonymous said...

"Right, but remember that we are thinking in terms of reductionist, materialist, evolutionary philosophy and biology here. So "self" in this context is simply the physical material encased in the skull."

Yes, I'm quibbling over how I think this reductionist biological mechanism works (as I know a lot of people like this).

Anonymous said...

Nietzsche: "God is dead, that the belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable". Our moral notions are not based on anything, they are like the taboos of Polynesia which King Kamehameha II simply abolished.

So is the computer chip brain implant analogy applicable?

Anonymous said...

"So is the computer chip brain implant analogy applicable?"

I think so personally - a moral computer program that reacts according to a fixed set of rules and the *data* it receives.

Panda@War said...

"The European feeling of guilt has a genetic basis, that is why the European moral order is not vulnerable to disappearance of it's Christian cultural underpinning." (Sean)


Both evidences (genetics basis) and the conclusion (not vulnerable) are troublesome.

More importantly, it contradicts to gene-culture co-evolution theory. If culture is somehow forcefully removed, the genetics will be forcefully affected; and vice versus, if the genes are there, the culture can not be easily removed even with force, but kept on a long leash. In light of this, if one doesn't feel vulnarable even though the culture is certifiablely removed (not due to a sizable natural disaster), the another more likely possibility is also present that there is no such underpinning genes in the very first place.

Panda@War said...

Make this space:

At the end of the day, it will be Protestant strict guilt-based doctrine (not neccesarily interiorly enforced) VS. Confucius strict shame-based ideal (not neccesarily exteriorly enforced) allover again.

Both are the moral compass in its own circle. Both are enforced by a combination of interior and exterior factors.

Sean said...

Well, they run computer simulations in which various strategies compete. The implacably mean strategy (always defect) will get off to a flying start and quickly dominate, but a population of always defect 'players' will take each other out, and a surviving 'tit for tat' dominates. But the problem with a population all using tit for tat is that, when done with micro chip accuracy, it does not allow for mistakes or what is called 'noise'; and in the real world there are mistakes. So (in the real world) you identify someone as having done something to offend you, and you tit for tat retaliate, but so will he. So you can end up taking each other out. Yet what gets it started might be a mistake, he may have done it by accident or you may have got it wrong. This is the problem with acting a certain way in every case like a microprocessor-like. When they factor the aforementioned random errors into simulations, a forgiving version of tit for a few tats will win. And at that point the population starts edging toward being nicer and nicer. 'There is always an incentive to forgive quicker and quicker'. At this point any always defect holdout or newcomer can go through the nicey-nicey population like a blowtorch through butter. One could speculate that guilt is an adaptation to ensure a generous strategy and it has turned Western society uniformly nicey-nicey

In 1970 Alexandr Solzhenitsyn said " Western society is approaching that point beyond which the system becomes metastable and must fall."

Anonymous said...

@Sean

"Well, they run computer simulations in which various strategies compete..."

Yes interesting stuff. I wonder how those simulations would go if they included the baility of nicey people to advertise they were prepared to play by a set of nicey rules to others who were prepared to reciprocate.

I think this is another key element in the relevance of religion in all this - not so much religion itself but the formation of congregations with a set of behavior rules in exchange for cooperation - effectively a congregation as an artificial clan.

Anonymous said...

Sean,

Those simulations are interesting, but they don't address the internal mechanism of the guilt function being discussed here.

Sean said...

"The study seemed to confirm the stereotypes that the British have a sense of fair play, while the Greeks thirst for revenge. Players in Athens and Muscat had the highest level of revenge punishments, retaliating against the enforcers..."

"A version of the ultimatum game is called the dictator game, in which the Proposer simply dictates whether or not to give money and how much. ... German children's most frequent offer was an equal split".

Sean said...

"Experiments conducted in villages in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (American Economic Review, vol 98, p 494). In these tests, two players started out with 50 rupees each. The first could choose to give his to the second, in which case the experimenters added a further 100 rupees, giving the second player 200 rupees in total. The second player could decide to keep the money for himself, or share it equally with the first player. A third player then entered the game, who could punish the second player – for each 2 rupees he was willing to spend, the second player was docked 10 rupees.

The results were startling. Even when the second player shared the money fairly, two-thirds of the time the newcomer decided to punish him anyway – a spiteful act with seemingly no altruistic payoff. “We asked one guy why, he said he thought it was fun.”"

Anonymous said...

Sean,

Like the simulations, those studies would model the external effects and interactions of certain behavioral patterns, rather than the internal mechanism of the behavioral pattern.

Do you suppose the computer chip brain implant analogy effectively models the internal mechanism of the guilt trait?

Anonymous said...

“We asked one guy why, he said he thought it was fun.”"

Yes, i think one aspect of this is a spectrum where at one end people feel bad for doing something mean and at the other end they feel good about it like there are two separate chemicals that get pumped out but different people get them in different proportions.

Like a demon gene and an angel gene.

(Gangsta types are often high as a kite after stabbing someone while "normal" (?) people are the opposite.)

(The first kind should be needled into boasting about doing it the second kind guilt-tripped.)

~

"Do you suppose the computer chip brain implant analogy effectively models the internal mechanism of the guilt trait?"

It would be interesting to see what would model it.

My guess is it's related to a kind of calculus of least harm i.e. each action is weighed against the total harm with the aim of minimizing harm.

(As opposed to a utilitarian model.)

I think this is because minimum harm leads to minimum injections of the feel bad chemical from the angel gene.