On 7/21/2012 5:57 AM, Bruno Marchal wrote:

Le 19-juil.-12, à 06:47, meekerdb a écrit :

    This may be of interest to those recently discussing free-riders.


    -------- Original Message --------

    Unto Others


    It is the oldest and most universally recognized moral principle
    that was codified over two millennia ago by the Jewish sage Hillel
    the Elder: “Whatsoever thou wouldst that men should not do to
    thee, do not do that to them. This is the whole Law. The rest is
    only explanation.”

With comp this does not work. We are too much different, and we can never judge for another. The principle becomes: "Don't do to others what others does not want to be done on them, unless you need to defend your life". Put in another way: respect the meaning of the word "no" when said by others.


Hi Bruno,

I disagree. You are over thinking the meaning of this. It is just the "tit-for-tat" strategy. Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you. It assumes sanity on your part, but it does not tell you what to do in a elaborative sense. One is supposed to use one's reason and not depend on some a priori rules.

    That explanation has been the subject of intense theological and
    philosophical disputation for millennia, and recently scientists
    are weighing in with naturalistic accounts of morality, such as
    the two books under review here.

    Paul J. Zak is an economist and pioneer in the new science of
    neuroeconomics who built his reputation on research that
    identified the hormone oxytocin as a biological proxy for trust.
    As Zak documents, countries whose citizens trust one another have
    higher average GDPs, and trust is built through
    mutually-beneficial exchanges that result in higher levels of
    oxytocin as measured in blood draws of subjects in economic
    exchange games as well as real-world /in situ/ encounters. /The
    Moral Molecule/ is an engaging and enlightening popular account of
    Zak’s decade of intense research into how this molecule evolved
    for one purpose—pair bonding and attachment in social mammals—and
    was co-opted for trust between strangers.

    The problem to be solved here is why strangers would be nice to
    one another. Evolutionary “selfish gene” theory well accounts for
    why we would be nice to our kin and kind—they share our genes so
    being altruistic and moral has an evolutionary payoff in our genes
    being indirectly propagated into future generations. The theory of
    kin selection explains how this works, and the theory of
    reciprocal altruism—I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch
    mine—goes a long way toward explaining why unrelated people in a
    social group would be kind to one another: my generosity to you
    today when my fortunes are sound will pay off down the road when
    life is good to you and my luck has run out. What Zak has so
    brilliantly done is to identify the precise biological pathways
    that explain the mechanics of how this system evolved and operates

    Order the hardcover from Amazon
    Order the Kindle Edition
    /The Moral Molecule/ is loaded with first-person accounts of how
    Zak got his data, starting with a wedding he attended in the
    English countryside to draw the blood and measure the oxytocin
    levels of the bride, groom, and accompanying parents before and
    after the vows. The half-life of oxytocin is measured in minutes,
    so Zak had to draw 24 blood samples in under ten minutes that then
    had to be frozen and shipped back to his lab for analysis, the
    results of which “could be mapped out like the solar system, with
    the bride as the sun,” he vividly recalls. The bride’s oxytocin
    level shot up by 28 percent after vows were spoken, “and for each
    of the other people tested, the increase in oxytocin was in direct
    proportion to the likely intensity of emotional engagement in the
    event.” Bride’s mother: up 24 percent. Groom’s father: up 19
    percent. The groom: up only 13 percent. Why? It turns out that
    testosterone interferes with the release of oxytocin, and Zak
    measured a 100 percent increase in the groom’s testosterone level
    after his vows were pronounced! How far will Zak go to get his
    data? In the western highlands of Papua New Guinea he set up a
    make-shift lab to draw the blood from tribal warriors before and
    after they performed a ritual dance, discovering that the “band of
    brothers” phenomena has a molecular basis in oxytocin.

    /The Moral Molecule/ aims to explain “the source of love and
    prosperity,” which Zak identifies in a causal chain from oxytocin
    to empathy to morality to trust to prosperity. Numerous
    experiments he has conducted in this lab that are detailed in the
    book demonstrate that subjects who are cooperative and generous in
    a trust game have higher levels of oxytocin, and infusing subjects
    with oxytocin through a nose spray causes their generosity and
    cooperativeness to increase. Zak concludes his book with a
    thoughtful discussion of how liberal democracies and free markets
    produce the types of social systems that best enable people to
    interact in a way that puts them on the
    oxytocin-empathy-morality-trust-prosperity positive feedback loop.
    Every corporate CEO and congressman should read this book before
    making important decisions.

    In /Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and
    Shame/ the USC evolutionary anthropologist Christopher Boehm
    tackles head-on the “free-rider” problem in explaining the origins
    of morality. Kin selection and reciprocal altruism only go so far
    in explaining why we would have evolved the propensity to be nice
    to our fellow group members, because big bullies and Machiavellian
    manipulators could easily take advantage of naively engendered
    trust. Before long, free-riders operating on the goodwill of other
    groups members would gain an evolutionary reproductive advantage
    and swamp the gene pool with psychopaths lacking any pretense of
    real morality and thereby reduce humanity to an inhumane /Lord of
    the Flies/. But that did not happen and Boehm explains why: we
    evolved the social technology of shaming and shunning free riders
    who violated social norms, along with the desire to punish those
    who attempted to unfairly gain an upper hand against naïve group
    members or those who could be exploited by powerful alpha-male
    bullies. This explains why we not only practice but often even
    enjoy “moralistic punishment” against those who cheated or bullied
    us. It’s a powerful emotion based in evolutionary logic that I
    felt the full visceral effect of during the revenge scene from the
    film /The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo /that followed the
    pornographically brutal rape scene of the central character
    Lisbeth Salander. There’s a deep emotional satisfaction that comes
    from seeing a bully get his comeuppance. It’s an evolved moral
    emotion necessary to deal with the realities of a social life that
    includes bullies and cheaters.

    Order the hardcover from Amazon
    Order the Kindle Edition
    Boehm’s data comes from his direct observations of primate groups
    and indigenous populations over many decades, which he
    extrapolates back into our Paleolithic past of hunter-gatherers on
    the plains of Africa. Hunting wild game is a dangerous enterprise
    for a puny bipedal primate, so collaborative hunting through
    social bonding evolved. The free-rider problem of individuals
    shirking their responsibilities, laying back during risky moments,
    or taking more than their fair share of the hunt, were vigorously
    punished through shame and shunning, and even expulsion and
    capital punishment. Knowing that there are consequences to
    cheating the system, humans evolved a moral emotion of guilt and
    shame that enabled our ancestors to learn to control their
    impulses to do the wrong thing and to be reinforced for and feel
    good about doing the right thing.

    Boehm estimates that this system evolved over the last 50,000
    years as human groups became vigilantly egalitarian, and yet our
    psychology contains much older selfish moral emotions that are
    often in conflict with these newer sentiments. This goes a long
    way toward explaining why we often feel selfish and strongly
    desire to first take care of ourselves and our kin, while also
    feeling tribal and bonded with our fellow group members,
    especially when we are collectively threatened by other tribes. As
    Boehm notes in a moving epilogue reflection on humanity’s moral
    future, “people in a band are basically economic equals, whereas
    our world of nations is very far from being egalitarian in this
    way. This economic inequality can be seen as a special engine that
    helps to drive international conflict, and it stands in the way of
    creating a more effective international order.” We can’t go back,
    but we can go forward armed with the knowledge that deep-thinking
    scientists such as Christopher Boehm provide in such important
    contributions to humanity’s prospects as /Moral Origins/.


    "We have geared the machines and locked all together into
    interdependence; we have built the great cities; now there is no
    escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable of free
    survival, insulated From the strong earth, each person in himself
    helpless, on all dependent. The circle is closed, and the net Is
    being hauled in."
        ~ From The Purse Seine, Robinson Jeffers, 1937



"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed."
~ Francis Bacon

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