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Carey N
April 17th, 2006, 07:35 AM
The city of New York has just issued a set of "Politeness Laws" that promise to enforce major fines for commiting such crimes as:

- bringing children under 10 years old to the movies after 10pm
- bringing a cell phone into a broadway or movie theater
- letting you car alarm run for more than 3 minutes
- allowing graffiti to remain on any property that you own (!)
- putting your feet up on a seating place in the subway
- others than I can't remember

I find this interesting and wonder: are we more willing to be rude in large social groups, where we are unlikely to encounter any given individual more than once? Is being polite vs. rude a one-off prisoner's dilemma?

Is politeness really politeness when it's inspired by fear of punishment?

Fred H.
April 17th, 2006, 10:11 AM
Carey: What will it mean if politeness increases as a result of these laws? Is politeness really politeness when it's inspired by fear of punishment?
Unfortunately Carey, moral illiteracy seems to be rampant these days, as evidenced by the inability of some participants on this very forum to make the distinction between social instincts and morality. Hence the necessity of fines to impose morality.

Of course a morality imposed by fines is dreadfully inefficient and doomed to ultimately fail. Fortunately, technology will save us—electric conditioning collars will soon be used to condition those at the lower end of the morality bell curve—then they too will begin to comprehend “moral responsibility.” Oh happy day.

Margaret McGhee
April 17th, 2006, 11:09 AM
Fred, Why is it so hard for you to imagine that someone would want to be seen as a moral person by others in their society - and that that could be a strong motivator for their behavior?

Even criminals in prison observe a strong "moral" code of not ratting out another prisoner, even sworn enemies. Do you think those convicted murderers and rapists have a strong sense of free-will morality - or do you think they are more worried about having the respect of other prisoners?

Margaret

Carey N
April 17th, 2006, 01:36 PM
Even criminals in prison observe a strong "moral" code of not ratting out another prisoner, even sworn enemies. Do you think those convicted murderers and rapists have a strong sense of free-will morality - or do you think they are more worried about having the respect of other prisoners?
This is not strictly true . . . one of my father's relatives is the warden of Sing-Sing Prison, and hes has related that inmates kill and rape each other with some regularity.

They do form alliances, within which loyalty can be very strong (just like people do on the outside). This is the key to morality - it's all relative: within a social group, the rules work in one way (don't tattle or kill or rape), and between social groups, they work in a completley different way (kill everything that moves). The dynamics within a prison are just a microcosm of what happens on the outside, but usually with escalated violence.

Margaret McGhee
April 17th, 2006, 01:46 PM
Good point, Carey. However, I would maintain that when a convict kills, rapes - or refuses to rat out another prisoner - in all those cases he is highly motivated by maintaining the respect of other prisoners.

My point was that being concerned about what others (in your society) think of you is the cause of what we call moral behavior. In otherwords, one's culture greatly determines what behavior is considered moral - not some absolute moral code that we are born with and that we have the free-will to ignore or follow. I think your example reinforces that point.

When you say This is the key to morality - it's all relative: within a social group, the rules work in one way (don't tattle or kill or rape), and between social groups, they work in a completley different way (kill everything that moves). . . you explicity restate that same point - without mentioning the cause for that behavior.

Margaret

Carey N
April 17th, 2006, 01:57 PM
Fred, Why is it so hard for you to imagine that someone would want to be seen as a moral person by others in their society - and that that could be a strong motivator for their behavior?
The will to be seen as an upstanding citizen is clearly not enough to support a general aura of politeness . . .. my guess is that as social groups become larger and larger, and repeat encounters between any two given individuals become rare, politeness takes a nosedive.

Imagine a local movie theatre which only your community attends: you see these people all the time. If you bring a cell phone in there and bother everyone, you'll have to take crap from them for the rest of the month.

Now think of a multi-plex to which a couple thousand people from all over a county flock every weekend. You don't know anyone in there and don't have to worry about hearing back from them should you commit some kind of trespass. Some people remain polite anyway, but it only takes one couple stupid and inconsiderate enough to bring crying baby to ruin it for everyone. Enter (so NYC says) the politeness police. Not that it will really work.

Carey N
April 17th, 2006, 02:05 PM
you explicity restate that same point - without mentioning the cause for that behavior

The differentiation between "within-group" and "everyone else" is an instinctive component of human behavior, though it's heavily built upon by cultural evolution as well. I am inclined to agree with D S Wilson's argument that this feature of human behavior is actually a group-level adaptation. Social collectives in which members make a strong distinction regarding within vs. between group rules tend to replace social collectives that do not.

Margaret McGhee
April 17th, 2006, 02:21 PM
Carey, I draw your attention to the words in their society in my statement. And again, I think your example makes my point.

My premise is that social instinct and morality is being concerned with what others in your society think of you. If that is true you would expect people to be less concerned around those who they see as less a part of their society.

Margaret

Margaret McGhee
April 17th, 2006, 02:37 PM
Carey, I generally agree with all of that.

OTOH the concept of in-group and out-group is a much more complex idea than shirts vs. skins or red state - blue state.

People typically belong to several social collectives. One person could be a member of the Rotary Club, the Presbyterian Church, and the Republican party - and gay. The behaviors seen as moral in each of those seemingly compatible groups are not necessarily the same.

When you say Social collectives in which members make a strong distinction regarding within vs. between group rules tend to replace social collectives that do not.

. . . do you you think those other groups will generally come to see homosexuality as moral - or will gays and other members of those groups who don't see homosexuality as immoral eventually leave?

Margaret

Carey N
April 17th, 2006, 02:46 PM
. . . do you you think those other groups will generally come to see homosexuality as moral - or will gays and other members of those groups who don't see homosexuality as immoral eventually leave?
My reference to the group selection idea is more pertinent to our ancestral environment, when social collectives were much smaller and had far more distinct boundaries (both cultural and geographical) than modern ones.

Carey N
April 17th, 2006, 02:56 PM
My premise is that social instinct and morality is being concerned with what others in your society think of you. If that is true you would expect people to be less concerned around those who they see as less a part of their society.
And my premise is that politeness can also be inspired by fear of punishment, which is possible when you're within a well-defined social group, but impossible when you're not. However, I think your point and mine are two sides of the same coin.

Margaret McGhee
April 17th, 2006, 03:32 PM
Thanks for clarifiying. ;)

You and Tom have both mentioned motivations this morning that I have not placed on my scale - fear of punishment and sympathy, respectively.

I think I'd place fear of punishment as the other side of the concern with what others think coin, as you do.

I think sypmathy could be part of multiple motivations. It is probably instinctive as an extension of an instinct that (usually) prevents angry males from killing infants and females in a social group. It is probably part of concern with what others think as most people would generally like to be seen as a sympathetic person - although in some societies like the military or prison that could be the opposite. It could be a belief as expressed in the Beatitudes. And I guess it could be intelligent - as in by being sympathetic to the plight of others we will be more likely to deserve sympathy from them if we fall on hard times - pragmatic karma.

There's a lot of interesting studies that are trying to figure out how much of altruism (behavior that can be motivated by sympathy) is inherited or acquired culturally. I think it's an area that is influenced by both areas with a lot of that dialectical feedback going on

Margaret

Carey N
April 17th, 2006, 03:57 PM
There's a lot of interesting studies that are trying to figure out how much of altruism (behavior that can be motivated by sympathy) is inherited or acquired culturally.
This is an interesting point in that it definitely depends on what kind of altruism is under discussion.

Strong altruism, which entails an absolute cost to the actor, is widely acknowledged to be feasible only under kin selection - i.e., if altruism is preferentially directed towards closely related family members. This kind of behavior is heavily influenced by instinct and doesn't require cognitive complexity to evolve.

Weak altruism, on the other hand, is selfless behavior that eventually comes back to increase one's own direct fitness (i.e. it entails only a relative cost to the actor). If an organism behaves altruistically to increase the quality of life in a social group, the benefits come back to the actor, and an inclusive fitness interpretation isn't necessary. It's still an interesting phenomenon - because altruists are susceptible to exploitation by cheaters - but it can follow different evolutionary dynamics than strong altruism as described above. I would guess that this kind of behavior is under relatively stronger cultural influence, although it still does not require human-like cognitive ability to evolve.

Then there is the question of reciprocal altruism, which probably qualifies as a sub-class of weak altruism in that it entails time-delayed exchange of favors that increase the direct fitness of both participating organisms. This behavior entails the most cognitive complexity and is restricted to a small number of vertebrates (that I know of). Humans are definitely tuned to participate in reciprocal interactions, but cultural influence obviously has enormous impact on the rules of the game.

Cool stuff

James Brody
April 17th, 2006, 04:05 PM
Ed Wilson and others told us about "K-Selection": conditions in very stable niches and the accrual of larger sized species that have fewer children that require longer investments in their rearing. The opposite, "r-selection" describes environments of shorter longevity and their use by smaller species who make lots and lots of children. Applied to human evolution by Phil Rushton when he discussed black/white differences. (He took a beating but survived..."

Brody has compared selfishness and selflessness to niche characteristics but as a parallel to the same conditions that we find in Bose-Einstein Condensates: limit resources and all participants lose boundaries and act in sync.

Wal-Mart and the Politeness Police are possibly aspects of the same statistical outcomes...and are, therefore, probable outcomes of evolution, and therefore, I don't have to erase this thread today...

JB

Fred H.
April 17th, 2006, 05:18 PM
Carey: And my premise is that politeness is inspired by fear of punishment, which is possible when you're within a well-defined social group, but impossible when you're not.
Well, that certainly would seem to be true of well-behaved dogs and children.

But wouldn’t the larger question be what inspires sane adults to behave “morally” when things turn to shit—like what inspired Bonhoffer to behave as he did, impolitely by Nazi instincts/morality, when the Nazis were the dominant social group in Germany? Then again, since he didn’t survive/reproduce, I suppose that one could argue that he apparently wasn’t all that fit.

ToddStark
April 17th, 2006, 07:13 PM
It seems to me that group identification is central to human psychology, and that this probably is explainable in terms of adaptations. Sober's trait-group selection hypothesis or some form of cultural group selection may explain this to some degree, but I think it may also be possible to explain it in individual selection terms as well.

All that is needed is for group membership to raise individual reproductive fitness, and there are plenty of plausible ways that can happen once we have some minimal amount of social reasoning to bootstrap the process. What I think we are really talking about in this case is a classification scheme with some sort of cost/benefit calculation that makes group identification more likely ... if identifying with a group benefits our reproductive fitness. The same sort of mechanism could apply in different ecological contexts, from small bands to nation-states. The most obvious conditions where this would have a powerful differential reproductive effect are various kinds of warfare. It wouldn't neccessarily have to be a matter of one group with one set of traits wiping out another, group membership in general could plausibly affect the reproductive fitness of everyone involved.

Allen MacNeill (http://evolutionlist.blogspot.com/2006/04/capacity-for-religious-experience-is.html) makes an interesting case for the capity for religion and the capacity for group warfare both being related adaptations at the individual level, and group identification is one of the factors underlying the potential reproductive fitness effects of both.

kind regards,

Todd

Carey N
April 18th, 2006, 01:59 AM
that certainly would seem to be true of well-behaved dogs and children
Yes the view I expressed was over-simplistic

Carey N
April 18th, 2006, 02:27 AM
I've got to be honest with you, JB . . . I'm not sure I know what you're talking about.

My estimated guesses:

K-selection corresponds to stability of selflessness for the maintenance of favorable social environments at carrying capacity

r-selection corresponds to extreme selfishness for the rapid exploitation of briefly available environments populated by K-selected individuals.

In the long run, altruistic punishing and other policing mechanisms make K-selected species competitively superior to r-selected species. If this guy Rushton (haven't read him, yet) has imposed the above characterizations upon races, I can see why he got into trouble with PC-maniacs, even though it's a potentially interesting observation. But then again, I'm really reaching here.


Brody has compared selfishness and selflessness to niche characteristics but as a parallel to the same conditions that we find in Bose-Einstein Condensates: limit resources and all participants lose boundaries and act in sync.
Don't know about Bose-Einstein Condensates . . . but would like to.

Fred H.
April 18th, 2006, 10:58 AM
Carey: Don't know about Bose-Einstein Condensates . . . but would like to.
Hey little brother, I’m here for you—

A Bose-Einstein condensate is a phase of matter formed by bosons cooled to temperatures very near to absolute zero. (The first such condensate was produced by Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman in 1995 using a gas of rubidium atoms cooled to 170 nanokelvins (nK)). Under such conditions, a large fraction of the atoms collapse into the lowest quantum state, at which point quantum effects become apparent on a macroscopic scale.

Bose-Einstein condensates have properties that are currently not completely understood, such as spontaneously flowing out of their container—the effect is the consequence of quantum mechanics, which states that systems can only acquire energy in discrete steps; if a system is at such a low temperature that it is in the lowest energy state, it is no longer possible for it to reduce its energy, not even by friction, and without friction, the fluid will easily overcome gravity because of adhesion between the fluid and the container wall, and it will take up the most favorable position, i.e. all around the container. (above two paragraps borrowed/adapted from Wikipedia)

As you know Carey, I really love JB, but his selfishness/selflessness comparison to niche characteristics (“limit resources and all participants lose boundaries and act in sync”)—the determinism that we see in the classical/ macroscopic world—and his suggested parallels to the conditions that we find in Bose-Einstein Condensates—i.e., our limited understanding and knowledge of the wave/particle duality and so-called uncertainty of the quantum world—just seems to be more of a leap than I find to be terribly helpful . . . OTOH, I’m no JB.

Carey N
April 18th, 2006, 01:24 PM
Thanks bro :)


As you know Carey, I really love JB, but his selfishness/selflessness comparison to niche characteristics (“limit resources and all participants lose boundaries and act in sync”)—the determinism that we see in the classical/ macroscopic world—and his suggested parallels to the conditions that we find in Bose-Einstein Condensates—i.e., our limited understanding and knowledge of the wave/particle duality and so-called uncertainty of the quantum world—just seems to be more of a leap than I find to be terribly helpful . . . OTOH, I’m no JB.
Yeah, I don't see it either . . . was kinda hoping that JB would make an exception and explain further.