Are you mental?

Atheism, secularism & freethought etc.

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Atheists: Have you ever had a psychological condition?

I'm not Atheist
6
4%
Yes, I am on the autistic spectrum (Priority over the other yes option)
6
4%
Yes, I have suffered depression/anxiety, bipolar disorder (or related), and/or schizophrenia
49
35%
Yes, I have another condition outside the psychological "norm" (specify)
6
4%
No
74
52%
 
Total votes : 141

Re: Are you mental?

#81  Postby Keep It Real » Jan 01, 2017 10:40 pm

PensivePenny wrote:
Now, we just need to help you work through that whole 'free will' thing ;) I think I may have a better idea why you feel the way you do about it.


It's not a feeling - it's a rational deduction. We're only influenced by two things; our environment and our genetics, neither of which is within our control, from the moment of conception until the day we die. Such a philosophy is counterintuitive but I've held it since the age of 8 or so - it's so tempting to blame people when they behave badly or praise them when they behave well (why not praise - it oils the wheels socially and creates incentive, as blame creates disincentive...perhaps that's the reason we do it, like punishment of criminals) but ultimately we're just leaves tossed in the wind. If you can persuade me otherwise I'll eat my hat! Such a view does have it's upsides though. It becomes easy to forgive.
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Re: Are you mental?

#82  Postby VazScep » Jan 01, 2017 11:02 pm

Keep It Real wrote:The atheist/agnostic labels aren't mutually exclusive you know. I lack belief in gods but it is hypothetically possible one/many exist so I'm an atheist and an agnostic. That leaves the door wide open for a fucked up paranoid trip of Messiah complex, visions of hell, thinking natural sounds are god's communications to you etc.
Are these really the only motifs we can come back to? Are they the most profound ideas to impact us? If so, then I have to give religion its due. They're all in our heads, but that's not such a contemptible place for them.

But I dunno. I think, as materialists, our imaginations can probe greater depths of fear, and Lovecraft and sci-fi get further into my psyche than anything I've encountered in religion. The first time I read Frank Herbert's two words "pain amplifier", a chill ran through me. For another, there's nothing in 1984 more terrifying than "Room 101". With modern surveillance apparatus, we can do far worse than Orwell could have imagined. Google's CEO has said that the mission statement is to build blind and cold machines with near perfect psychological models of their users. For now, the goal is to predict better search results, but it's no stretch at all to see that huge mass of data, siphoned from our habits and interactions, being used to identify our most unbearable horrors, horrors that are so terrible that we ourselves don't realise we have them, horrors in the depths of the subconscious that only a relentless machine can penetrate.

Don't worry. I don't believe a word of this. I'm just thinking of short stories.

Have you heard of the hell of quantum immortality? I say that's a dark idea way beyond the imaginations of the sort of people who wrote all that feeble religious crap. A friend of mine, Roko, once spelled it out for me, though I already had the implications in my head. He went on to develop a thought experiment that sufficiently scared the atheists who run the website LessWrong, that they banned all talk of it.
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Re: Are you mental?

#83  Postby PensivePenny » Jan 01, 2017 11:11 pm

It sounds like you're able to be at least moderately objective about your condition, VazScep. Thanks for sharing. I'm not some genius brain-trust by any stretch of generosity. But, I'm not stupid either. The more you know, the more you see. I don't understand how any human could see the truth about the universe, and in spite of all its beauty and wonder, not be depressed. Take life for example... to have the awareness that it is not only finite, but an insignificant blip of time, that everyone you know and love will be gone. That awareness causes (me) a great deal of pain and I have had to deal with it by various means. Cope. Adapt. My point isn't to share my life's minor struggles, but to say that I think there is a connection between madness and awareness. You, as a mathematician, exploring to the heavens, have a bird's eye view that most of us don't have. You have an awareness that perhaps borders on if not fully enveloped in genius. Is it any wonder reconciling that knowledge with human emotions can drive one to madness? It's how I always imagined it for Van Gogh and those like him.

I don't mean to wax poetic. Like I said, I'm no genius, but I have felt at times that tension between knowing a truth and not wanting to know it.
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Re: Are you mental?

#84  Postby Keep It Real » Jan 01, 2017 11:14 pm

VazScep wrote:
Keep It Real wrote:The atheist/agnostic labels aren't mutually exclusive you know. I lack belief in gods but it is hypothetically possible one/many exist so I'm an atheist and an agnostic. That leaves the door wide open for a fucked up paranoid trip of Messiah complex, visions of hell, thinking natural sounds are god's communications to you etc.
Are these really the only motifs we can come back to? Are they the most profound ideas to impact us? If so, then I have to give religion its due. They're all in our heads, but that's not such a contemptible place for them.

There were other motifs too which featured but the messiah complex/terror of hell were the strongest from what I can remember. After all, what could be worse than eternity spent in agony? Infinity.


VazScep wrote:Have you heard of the hell of quantum immortality? I say that's a dark idea way beyond the imaginations of the sort of people who wrote all that feeble religious crap. A friend of mine, Roko, once spelled it out for me, though I already had the implications in my head. He went on to develop a thought experiment that sufficiently scared the atheists who run the website LessWrong, that they banned all talk of it.

Sounds interesting, although I tend to be very skeptical of spooky quantum stuff so I doubt it would scare me much.
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Re: Are you mental?

#85  Postby VazScep » Jan 02, 2017 12:12 am

PensivePenny wrote:It sounds like you're able to be at least moderately objective about your condition, VazScep. Thanks for sharing. I'm not some genius brain-trust by any stretch of generosity. But, I'm not stupid either. The more you know, the more you see. I don't understand how any human could see the truth about the universe, and in spite of all its beauty and wonder, not be depressed. Take life for example... to have the awareness that it is not only finite, but an insignificant blip of time, that everyone you know and love will be gone. That awareness causes (me) a great deal of pain and I have had to deal with it by various means. Cope. Adapt. My point isn't to share my life's minor struggles, but to say that I think there is a connection between madness and awareness. You, as a mathematician, exploring to the heavens, have a bird's eye view that most of us don't have. You have an awareness that perhaps borders on if not fully enveloped in genius. Is it any wonder reconciling that knowledge with human emotions can drive one to madness? It's how I always imagined it for Van Gogh and those like him.
No matter what it learns, I think the human race will be stubbornly optimistic by majority. The species deals with it by whatever means. Cope. Adapt. That it doesn't give up in reflection of the trauma of its own existence is something that only anti-natalists will complain about.

For example, I don't get Richard Dawkins. He wrote this amazing book called the "Selfish Gene" that states, in the most dehumanising terms, that each individual is nothing but a temporary vehicle built for a temporary and wary coalition of genes that only exist because they do it so well. Isn't that one of the most nihilist accounts of existence ever published? Yet Dawkins is anything but a nihilist.

Or take Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot". He turns the image of this pathetic planet alone in the void into a positive message about values and humility. Wtf?

No matter their vantage, I think humans seek optimism, and us scant few pessimists will have to work twice as hard to remind them that "no: this isn't all right". I'm happy to do this because, for me, pessimism isn't a source of depression, but a way to satisfy a twisted sense of humour. I admit that might be a defence mechanism.

I don't mean to wax poetic. Like I said, I'm no genius, but I have felt at times that tension between knowing a truth and not wanting to know it.
It's an utterly delicious idea to me that the truth is the last thing we want. Forbidden knowledge, for our own sakes. I was just watching "Grizzly Man". The most powerful part of that film is when Herzog is sitting with a close friend of a couple who were killed in a bear attack. The friend allows Herzog to listen to an audio recording of the deaths, which she has kept but never listened to herself. Herzog, normally unphased by horror, becomes visibly upset, and says "Jewel, you must never listen to this."

Lovecraft was of a new order of pessimism, who simultaneously insisted that we stay true to a scientific, materalistic and thoroughly atheist outlook, but also realised that it contained an impending disintegration of human dignity that rendered us utterly useless. His opening to "Call of Cthulhu" nails it:

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in their own direction, have hitherto harmed us little. But, some day, the piecing together of disassociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation, or flee from the deadly light, into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
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Re: Are you mental?

#86  Postby PensivePenny » Jan 02, 2017 3:28 pm

VazScep wrote:No matter what it learns, I think the human race will be stubbornly optimistic by majority. The species deals with it by whatever means. Cope. Adapt. That it doesn't give up in reflection of the trauma of its own existence is something that only anti-natalists will complain about.

lol... I'm inclined to agree with you. I don't consider myself one of them. Sometimes coping and adapting mean acceptance of hard truths, not necessarily finding the "silver lining."

For example, I don't get Richard Dawkins. He wrote this amazing book called the "Selfish Gene" that states, in the most dehumanising terms, that each individual is nothing but a temporary vehicle built for a temporary and wary coalition of genes that only exist because they do it so well. Isn't that one of the most nihilist accounts of existence ever published? Yet Dawkins is anything but a nihilist.

Or take Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot". He turns the image of this pathetic planet alone in the void into a positive message about values and humility. Wtf?

I'm not sure what to make of this. On one hand, saying "Or take Sagan's..." sounds like you're equating Dawkins' and Sagan's optimism, but I don't see the optimism in your comment about Dawkins. I agree that your Dawkins comments are nihilistic, in the existential sense. I share that view with him. I've read the Selfish Gene, but I don't recall specific moments of optimism where some arbitrary value is seen as good or desired. Maybe I just chose not to accept those? Nevertheless, Dawkins does paint a kind of rosy picture of the universe, it's beauty and grandeur awe inspiring. Is that optimism? Or is it just an appreciation of what is?

Your Sagan comment, stands in contrast, I should think. Perhaps it was a different time, when the nihilistic, dehumanizing approach wouldn't have been consistent with the knowledge-averse audience he spoke to. I think of Dawkins in the same way... sometimes he speaks of Christmas for example, in a loving embrace of tradition to be honored. But, is he sentimental? Or is he simply trying to broaden his appeal? Make his message more palatable to center of the bell curve?

No matter their vantage, I think humans seek optimism, and us scant few pessimists will have to work twice as hard to remind them that "no: this isn't all right". I'm happy to do this because, for me, pessimism isn't a source of depression, but a way to satisfy a twisted sense of humour. I admit that might be a defence mechanism.

Are you a pessimist? Or are you a realist? By realist, I should say, in the colloquial sense as I'm beginning to think philosophical realism may involve elements that I'm not suggesting here. You may have noticed, I'm not a studied philosopher, so I don't mean 'realist' from any pedantic philosophy perspective. Rather, that you accept there is a reality, a true and factual universe, whether or not we perceive it correctly, but strive to do so. For me, pessimism is a tool that sometimes counters the optimism that surrounds us, the human practice so many engage in, to help us see from perspectives that help us identify those truths.

I too have a twisted sense of humor. It sometimes makes me giggle when overly optimistic people come face to face with the unavoidable hard truths. The look of fright as the monster's head appears from beneath a cloud, only to vanish an instance later, veiled in the individual's rosy optimism, and quickly dismissed as an aberration, a trick of their own mind. What I find most depressing is the loneliness. The certainty of reality depends upon the confirmation of others perceiving the same, no? When so many fools chase silly superstitious notions of gods and myths, without justification or evidence, I might as well be floating on a rock in cold dark space.

Surely, you can see the effect of 100 people, absolutely certain of god's existence and the bible's unimpeachable veracity, on an individual (a child, no less) who perceives something different? Even in the presence of hard scientific evidence, the voices of 100 to the individual's one creates doubt. I guess this is the point of cognitive dissonance. The reconciling of two completely incongruent ideas can cause great stress. For me, depression. I admit, my depression has also been in part, due to a desire for something I want but can't have. The image painted for me as a child of eternal life, love, light and streets of gold was extremely hard to let go. But, here I am. Some disagree, but I am nihilistic. And that no longer saddens me. It is actually a source of peace.
It's an utterly delicious idea to me that the truth is the last thing we want. Forbidden knowledge, for our own sakes. I was just watching "Grizzly Man". The most powerful part of that film is when Herzog is sitting with a close friend of a couple who were killed in a bear attack. The friend allows Herzog to listen to an audio recording of the deaths, which she has kept but never listened to herself. Herzog, normally unphased by horror, becomes visibly upset, and says "Jewel, you must never listen to this."

Lovecraft was of a new order of pessimism, who simultaneously insisted that we stay true to a scientific, materalistic and thoroughly atheist outlook, but also realised that it contained an impending disintegration of human dignity that rendered us utterly useless. His opening to "Call of Cthulhu" nails it:

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in their own direction, have hitherto harmed us little. But, some day, the piecing together of disassociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation, or flee from the deadly light, into the peace and safety of a new dark age."


Ahhhhh! :this: was delightful. I have never read Lovecraft... but after your most apropos quote, I had to read more before responding to your post. I'm only part way into Cthulhu, enough to see it's probably not my genre, but the sentiment in your selected quote, Lovecraft's opening paragraph, is the most eloquent way I can imagine saying what I so clumsily attempted earlier. I will read more of Lovecraft, if for no other reason than to find more gems like the above example.

My emphasis above, I agree with this sentiment. However, like a moth to the flame, for me the truth is a mightier draw than the desire to remain ignorant of it... regardless the cost.
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Re: Are you mental?

#87  Postby jamest » Jan 04, 2017 1:39 am

Penny's definitely nuts. I can vouch for that. :shifty:
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Re: Are you mental?

#88  Postby crank » Jan 04, 2017 2:10 am

It's a well-demonstrated fact that pessimists are more realistic than optimists.

I think we have free will, it may be that what we will is predetermined, but it's also what we would will given the exact circumstances but with no predetermination. It's likely optimistic that I think that that makes any sense.
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Re: Are you mental?

#89  Postby SpeedOfSound » Jan 04, 2017 4:00 am

I'm an insufferable optimist. I will end in oblivion as will my offspring and soon humanity itself. Very likely all aware life with it. This gives me much hope. Annihilation is so fucking peaceful.
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Re: Are you mental?

#90  Postby Animavore » Jan 04, 2017 7:44 am

Would I even know myself if I were mental?
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Re: Are you mental?

#91  Postby DavidMcC » Jan 05, 2017 2:36 pm

SpeedOfSound wrote:I'm an insufferable optimist. I will end in oblivion as will my offspring and soon humanity itself. Very likely all aware life with it. This gives me much hope. Annihilation is so fucking peaceful.

Presumably, you're hoping for a killer asteroid to come along and save you from all that awful life?
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Re: Are you mental?

#92  Postby SpeedOfSound » Jan 05, 2017 3:05 pm

DavidMcC wrote:
SpeedOfSound wrote:I'm an insufferable optimist. I will end in oblivion as will my offspring and soon humanity itself. Very likely all aware life with it. This gives me much hope. Annihilation is so fucking peaceful.

Presumably, you're hoping for a killer asteroid to come along and save you from all that awful life?

I have a great life. It's just that annihilation and change is beautiful in itself. I have this recurring depression. When it happens I am often not aware that it is. My world is colored darker. I was expressing to my son that I was just tired of each day just waking up excited then I do some stuff then suddenly the day was over and it just starts again tomorrow. I was complaining about the saltatory and inexorable progression of life. He asked me what I would do about my problem. Here is what I said:

"I just want want my life to STOP PROGRESSING! .....

.... Wait!!!!"
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Re: Are you mental?

#93  Postby VazScep » Jan 05, 2017 3:35 pm

You got sucked out of the great nothing once. You might just get dragged out again.
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Re: Are you mental?

#94  Postby SpeedOfSound » Jan 05, 2017 4:08 pm

So I was reading Dylan Trigg the week I had to murder the family dog. For his own good. A little on the dark side.
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Re: Are you mental?

#95  Postby VazScep » Jan 05, 2017 4:39 pm

SpeedOfSound wrote:So I was reading Dylan Trigg the week I had to murder the family dog. For his own good. A little on the dark side.
You should also read Thomas Ligotti's Conspiracy Against the Human Race, from which was lifted much of Matthew Mcconaughey's dark dialogue in True Detective, but which is much funnier in print.

Or don't bother. Either way, your existence is MALIGNANTLY USELESS.
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Re: Are you mental?

#96  Postby SpeedOfSound » Jan 05, 2017 4:51 pm

I'll read that next time I have to kill a loved one.
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Re: Are you mental?

#97  Postby VazScep » Jan 06, 2017 1:38 pm

PensivePenny wrote:I'm not sure what to make of this. On one hand, saying "Or take Sagan's..." sounds like you're equating Dawkins' and Sagan's optimism, but I don't see the optimism in your comment about Dawkins. I agree that your Dawkins comments are nihilistic, in the existential sense. I share that view with him. I've read the Selfish Gene, but I don't recall specific moments of optimism where some arbitrary value is seen as good or desired. Maybe I just chose not to accept those? Nevertheless, Dawkins does paint a kind of rosy picture of the universe, it's beauty and grandeur awe inspiring. Is that optimism? Or is it just an appreciation of what is?
Right. The optimist looks at the world and approves.

I only use the word as an aesthetic. Dawkins can paint an extremely inhuman picture of humanity, but chooses not to refine it into a rejection of humanity or a vision of horror. Instead, he wonders whether he should have wrapped the cover in sugar and titled it "The Immortal Gene", the sort of title, he thinks, Sagan would have liked.

For me, pessimism is a tool that sometimes counters the optimism that surrounds us, the human practice so many engage in, to help us see from perspectives that help us identify those truths.
As I say, for me, it's just an aesthetic judgement, and one I'd maybe like to see a bit more popular. I only get to imagine what Lovecraft would have spun out of the nightmare fuel that is the Selfish Gene, because Dawkins isn't interested in writing it. That such horror is so readily evaded by Dawkins and his fans nevertheless impresses me. I guess I see how the opposite attitude wouldn't help promoting science and would instead give ammunition to dull theists who think you need a god to be optimistic. I say we give them the ammo and continue to laugh at them.

As for Sagan, I think I know what Lovecraft would have thought of the pale blue dot. "For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love." Pffftt.... The vastness is unbearable. The only thing to do is try not to think about it.

I too have a twisted sense of humor. It sometimes makes me giggle when overly optimistic people come face to face with the unavoidable hard truths. The look of fright as the monster's head appears from beneath a cloud, only to vanish an instance later, veiled in the individual's rosy optimism, and quickly dismissed as an aberration, a trick of their own mind. What I find most depressing is the loneliness. The certainty of reality depends upon the confirmation of others perceiving the same, no? When so many fools chase silly superstitious notions of gods and myths, without justification or evidence, I might as well be floating on a rock in cold dark space.
That does sound pretty depressing. I suppose I'm fortunate that, here in the UK, and perhaps even moreso in my chosen field, everyone is assumed to be an atheist, and the few religious people only admit it with some embarrassment. I'm not sure how I'd be in your environment. I know that my thoughts about humanity aren't popular among my colleagues, but I have a mate down the pub who's a card carrying anti-natalist and so I can share stuff with him, even if he takes it all a bit too seriously to my mind.

Ahhhhh! :this: was delightful. I have never read Lovecraft... but after your most apropos quote, I had to read more before responding to your post. I'm only part way into Cthulhu, enough to see it's probably not my genre, but the sentiment in your selected quote, Lovecraft's opening paragraph, is the most eloquent way I can imagine saying what I so clumsily attempted earlier. I will read more of Lovecraft, if for no other reason than to find more gems like the above example.

My emphasis above, I agree with this sentiment. However, like a moth to the flame, for me the truth is a mightier draw than the desire to remain ignorant of it... regardless the cost.
You might enjoy his novella "At the Mountains of Madness". The story shows Lovecraft's love for scientific detail even if it opens with a dire warning of the dangers of exploration.

You said you liked True Detective, so I really would recommend Conspiracy Against the Human Race, which talks about Lovecraft in a dozen place. I wasn't exaggerating above. The creators of True Detective have been accused of plagiarising the book, with Matthew McConaughey's lines sometimes word for word taken from Ligotti. I guess I thought this was quite cool, though I think Ligotti's got more of a sense of humour and, as an imaginative author, isn't the dead and dreary Rust Cohle. The book is full of deliciously dark quotes and reflections (if you like that sort of thing).
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Re: Are you mental?

#98  Postby SpeedOfSound » Jan 06, 2017 2:10 pm

I don't relate to pessimism or optimism or depression and elation as having anything to do with what I think. I'm this beetle that digs around in the dirt. How optimistic I am is obviously just some net flow of juices from one end of my beetle frame to the other. Philosophy and math is the dirt I dig in.

Of course I have learned a trick or two about how to position my beetle body so as to allow the best flow of juices, thereby facilitating my digging activities. I call that positioning 'optimism'. I'm god damned good at at.

But why would some little mildewed chunk of Dawkins detritus affect my juices? Seems to me that if I accept this Dawkinsian chunk then it just reaffirms that it's all about the juice. Let the Juice be with you.
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Re: Are you mental?

#99  Postby zoon » Jan 06, 2017 9:44 pm

VazScep wrote:........ Dawkins can paint an extremely inhuman picture of humanity, but chooses not to refine it into a rejection of humanity or a vision of horror. Instead, he wonders whether he should have wrapped the cover in sugar and titled it "The Immortal Gene", the sort of title, he thinks, Sagan would have liked.

Dawkins discusses his reasons for now thinking "The Immortal Gene" might have been a better title, in the introduction to the 2006 30th anniversary edition of "The Selfish Gene". It's not sugar coating, rather that many people (even including himself at times in the book) misunderstood the message of the phrase "selfish gene" to mean that living things are incurably selfish as individuals, when in fact a major theme of the book is that when the same genes are shared by different organisms, then natural selection can, and very often does, lead to those individual organisms behaving altruistically or cooperatively towards each other. He says that other good alternatives to "The Selfish Gene" might have been "The Altruistic Vehicle" (where the vehicle is the individual organism carrying selfish genes) or "The Cooperative Gene". The 1976 book "The Selfish Gene" was largely a popularisation of work in the 1960s by William Hamilton, who was (quoting Wikipedia) "widely recognised as one of the most significant evolutionary theorists of the 20th century.[1][2] Hamilton became famous through his theoretical work expounding a rigorous genetic basis for the existence of altruism, an insight that was a key part of the development of a gene-centric view of evolution."

Quoting from Dawkins' introduction to the 30th anniversary edition:
..does natural selection, as I urge....here, choose between genes? In this case, we should not be surprised to find individual organisms behaving altruistically 'for the good of the genes', for example by feeding and protecting kin who are likely to share copies of the same genes. Such kin altruism is only one way in which gene selfishness can translate itself into individual altruism. This book explains how it works, together with reciprocation, Darwinian theory's other main generator of altruism.............

Let me repeat and expand the rationale for the word 'selfish' in the title. The critical question is which level in the hierarchy of life will turn out to be the inevitably 'selfish' level, at which natural selection acts? The Selfish Species? The Selfish Group? The Selfish Organism? The Selfish Ecosystem? Most of these could be argued, and most have been uncritically assumed by one or another author, but all of them are wrong. Given that the Darwinian message is going to be pithily encapsulated as The Selfish Something, that something turns out to be the gene, for cogent reasons which this book argues. Whether or not you end up buying the message, that is the explanation for the title.
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Re: Are you mental?

#100  Postby VazScep » Jan 06, 2017 9:49 pm

Yes. I know what he meant.
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