virus: Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Prisoner'sDillema

Reed Konsler (
Thu, 24 Apr 1997 11:27:10 -0400 (EDT)

>From: "Wright, James 7929" <>
>Date: Wed, 23 Apr 97 16:07:00 EDT

>I don't recall addressing what goes on inside academic institutions; I
>was generalizing about their role in society. The primary purpose of
>these institutions is still transmission of knowledge, in whatever flawed
>and fallible mechanisms they can manage. I am quite aware of the "publish
>or perish" mind-set, the academics who research in order to be able to
>have a technical basis for their own start-up companies, and so forth. I
>would still contend that despite their problems, they are a unique and
>efficient way to transmit knowledge from one group to another.


From: "This Book is not Required" by Inge Bell (1985)

"Why do our school function this way? Why is intellectual curiosity
regularly killed in order to teach discipline? Why do our school give
even seven-year-olds failing grades? Whenever sociologists see a
system continiually operating in "dysfunctional" ways, they suggest
that perhaps we have not discovered the "real" function of the system.
A hint is given here in the fact that the only schools which don't beat
up their students emotionally are a few private and public schools
which serve the rich. The real purpose of school is to make people
obedient to authority. The mindlessness of school is meant to prepare
us for the mindlessness of most jobs. And, perhaps, most importantly,
it is the job of schools to convince those who have lousy jobs that their
fate is their own fault...that thet just weren't smart enough (translate,
deserving enough) to do any better." -p11

>The miracle is that they exist at all; the background of the discussion,
>I thought, was that knowledge could convey a competitive edge to the
>descendants of those who have it. If you create fire and could (somehow)
>keep its secrets to yourself, then your children will be better-comforted
>and possibly better-fed than your competition. The same applies to
>knowledge that creates tools, machines, lasers, etc. Universities and
>such transmit a tremendous amount of useful knowledge and discover more,
>along with cultural baggage, mindless prejudices, etc.

"Why are small children made to stand in line and at attention in school?
So they will stand in line and at attention in the army! Schools are quite
open about their aim of producing 'good citizens.'" -p12

>The purpose of expounding ideals is not to imply that existing
>institutions fail, even when they do; nor to point out how unattainable
>they are, and it's pointless to try. Ideals exist to give you a goal, a
>desirable point to aim for. Keeping the goal in sight is what keeps you
>from wandering far away from the path towards it; and this is a real
>problem right now in our government and social institutions.

"College is a little different...becuase they have to carry independent
responsibilities, it is neccesary that they have the confidence to act
independently. Therefore, the intimidation becomes much more subtle
and the inducement to internalize the system becomes more insidious.
Of course, the sorting mechanism is still in high gear. Only some will
become leaders; others still have to be convinced of at least their
RELATIVE worthlessness. Otherwise, how can we count on teachers
to obey principles...on everybody down the line to carry out orders
which are often non-sensical, always self-serving, and not infrequently
catastrophic? Would social workers...hound clients off welfare rolls...
would college professors forward failing grades to draft boards...whould
nurses...tolerate underpayment while doctors get rich?" -p13

>There is no ivory tower; but we do not wander in total darkness, either.
>I am grateful for the light that shines about, whoever and whatever the
>sources are.

"Why has teaching [in college] been relegated to this position of
unimportance? One reason is that professors are elitists in an elitist
profession...another reason is that...good teaching might encourage
freely questioning, heretical minds. Sacred cows like "free enterprise"
of "the free world" or the "happy consumer society" might then be called
into question...universities stand to lose their federal grants. The intellect
is always a danger to those in power. Hence it is neccesary to curb a too
free and stimulating exchange of ideas. Professors are cordoned off by
the requirement that they publish exclusively for their fellow professionals
and generally in a secret language which in unintelligible to the layman."

I find these arguments pursuasive.

For a full picture of my opinion on this issue, you need to remember my
defense of the academy when David R. decided to define as illegitimate
anyone with a sig file.

Curiouser and Curiouser.


Reed Konsler