RE: virus: Strange attractors and meta-religions (was God and

Mark Hornberger (
Mon, 07 Apr 1997 16:35:23 -0500

At 09:36 AM 4/7/97 EDT, you wrote:
>Mark Hornberger wrote:

>>I guess you have me there. But I'm quite the cynic, so even then I would
>>question the validity of their altruism.

>OK, they might have decided,"It'll get me now or it'll get me later, so I
>might as well go down fighting!"

>> We all have a particular worldview, and a set of principles which we
>like to think >we live by. <

>Many people have the first: I have met a few who had none of the second.

I think almost everyone has principles; we may just disagree with what they
are. Even in a prison filled with murderers and rapists, there is a moral
pecking-order, with murderers at the top, then rapists, then thieves, then
other whatevers, with child molesters at the bottom of the food chain - and
this is from the principles fostered and reinforced by the environment.
I'm approximating, but I think it's a valid point. Not significant,
perhaps, but... I get in a hair-splitting mood at times. lol

<snip my older post>

>Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" may have long fingers! This seems a
>reasonable point of view, although I would contend altruism can be more
>prevalent than you would imagine.
>I gave someone a "jump-start" yesterday for their discharged truck
>battery. No money changed hands, I don't know their name; I might call it
>altruism, you might call it disaffected self-interest; labels are less
>important to me than the fact that it happens, hopefully more frequently
>than you might imagine.

I don't think I tried to preclude altruism, only imply that something
underlied it - but I think you're right in that labels are unimportant in
comparison to to the fact that someone who needed help recieved it. You're
taken to the emergency room and the trauma team saves your life - does the
fact that they are compensated financially, or derive personal
gratification from it, nullify or diminish the fact that your life was
saved? No, of course not. But I do think that there is often more to
altruism than meets the eye. I don't despise it as much as Ayn Rand did...
I do think there's a place for it (as long as it's voluntary) but I
distrust it. Self-interest is so much more dependable, LOL.

>By the way, there is a practice in Buddhism that promotes such deeds,
>done in total (if possible) ignorance of whom you are doing them for, and
>needing also the total obliteration from your own memory (if possible),
>to fulfill the requirement of not being "attached" to such a deed. By
>publicizing it here, I have removed my deed from consideration in such a
>class, but then perhaps I am moving beyond the need for attachment to
>altruism! (VBG!)

I would agree with this - a laudable goal. Something like those "random
and senseless acts of kindness" we hear about, but with a more spiritual
bent about it.

>>Ah, toasters are hard-wired, but I can supply you with examples of faulty
>>toasters. There will always be anomalies, but I think the impulse to care
>>for our young is definitely hard-wired in, and not a learned behavior per
se. The >>species wouldn't have persisted otherwise, methinks.

>Then the percentage of faulty wiring in the population is on the rise (or
>maybe just better-publicized?) Consider S. Smith of S. Carolina, who
>drowned her own children to win the affections of a man not their father
>(allegedly); those who sell their children into slavery or factory-work
>at a young age; and those admittedly few who abuse their own children for
>their pleasure.
>I would still contend that "care for your young" is a socialized
>behavior, a meme that would not be prevalent were it not explicitly
>necessary for societal and civilizational survival. Individuals would
>survive and prosper whether or not they took care of their young; the
>young, society and civilization would only survive if they were taken
>care of. Please explain how you understand that this is hard-wired, I do
>not so far agree.
>Thanks again for another well-written post!

I think that it's only the public awareness of such pathologies that has
increased, plus the effects of the 'ever-downward-spiral' ideology. We do
see parents selling their children into sexual (or other) slavery, and it
shocks us into thinking how horrible a world we live in, but comparatively
speaking, it merits saying that the practice has been more widespread in
the past than it is now. Murder and rape are on the decrease (In the U.S.,
anyway) yet public paranoia is at an all-time high; I would wager that
child abuse is in a similar decline. But since we hear about it every
single day, it stays at the forefront of our consciousness. This is not to
say that it's insignificant, but only that our focus is disproportionately
skewed in that direction (IMHO) and that this has negative, long-term
affects on how we see and evaluate the world in which we live.

I have to concede that child-rearing is a learned behavior, but only to a
point. I would speculate that bad parenting (abuse, neglect) has more of a
learned component than good parenting. There are the anomalies (always)
but for the most part good parenting seems to take care of itself when the
parent had a decent childhood themselves (nothing too traumatic, etc) while
a bad parent usually had a dominant example in their past (from what I've
seen). Maybe it's half-and-half, but I doubt it.

It's been shown that the cooing and smile of a baby has distinct
physiological effects on us, that there is an instinctual need to protect
and take care of a baby (again, there are anomalies), and I think it's safe
to say that these impulses are hard-wired in, i.e. we are genetically
predisposed to this behavior. I know psychology is a rather soft science,
and can be notoriously succeptible to having study results skewed by the
expectations of the psychologists, but... I would still go with this, until
shown evidence to the contrary. I just go by what I see. (or think I
see?) lol

thanks, and take care