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The Overcrowded Lifeboat Debate
Keep the best. Kill the rest. And all of the people will say, Amen.

Seeker of Wisdom: And I plan on planting even more trees this spring, if possible. Life is miraculous, WHY do we expend so much energy destroying it?

Because everyone feels entitled to evaluate the relative worth of different living things, and because energy resource depletion has put all of us into an Overcrowded Lifeboat scenario. Somebody has got to become "shark food," but who should it be? That's obviously the question in most wars, but even if regarding a decision of whether to clearcut a stretch of forest, that really is still the question.

Among people, there are better and worse. Not only in terms of character, but also in terms of sheer animal quality, in the sense that strong is better than weak, or that smart is better than stupid, or that dexterous is better than clumsy, or that more stamina is better than less. And is beauty entirely in the eye of the beholder? No. It is, in part, an indication of health, and poor health isn't a matter of opinion.

But those inferior ones have been empowered to make, or to take part in making, decisions. They will mostly select themselves for survival, and if their betters must become shark food in order for them to live another week, then so be it, they will think.

And that's unfortunate, since inferior people, being stupid, habitually unalert, inclined to abdicate their social responsibilities to institutions, lazy, immoral, physically weak, clumsy, easily fatigued, loaded with heritable defects, and, to sum it all up, unable to survive for long without the bounty and the technical props of the oil era, will rather they lived another short while by sacrificing those of us who could have lived on Earth perpetually without the aforementioned bounty and technical props.

Most humans are mediocrities. When mediocrities make the choices, or determine them either by votes or by market forces, the bulge in the human quality bell curve tends to travel worseward. Money transfers the measure of man from his genes to his bank accounts, from his blood to his wallet, from what he is to what he owns, and during the period of eugenic neglect, entropy degrades the biological character of democratic, economic men.

The masses cannot govern society well, and they should never have been allowed to try. Money should never have become the measure of men, should never have become the primary goal for which men strove, should never have become the determinant of the extent of their influence. Mass democracy and capitalism were both evolutionary blunders, subject to the usual harsh and massive corrections when fossil energy declines and as nature's laws consequently reassert their suzerainty.

Seeker of Wisdom: How could anyone presume to improve upon Nature?

Half-Wise Moderator: That's why I don't think we should have a large scale population control program. That, and the fact that the people who get to make the decisions are invariably scumbags.

When quantity must go, save quality. If disaster must come, then turn it as much as possible to advantage. For most questions, including who should be preferred for surviving a population bottleneck, there are many wrong answers. But there is only one right answer. However, there IS a right answer, and it's as wrong to pretend that there isn't a right answer as it is to pretend that one of the wrong answers is the right one.

One of the wrong answers is that the success of the common man is desirable. It isn't. The success of the "common man" has been a disaster for the species Homo sapiens. While evolution may pull some gold out of this fire, it will be somebody else's gold: none of it will be ours.

Habitual Heckler: Somebody elses gold and none of it will be ours? Can you explain what group you are referring to when you say ours? Americans? White western culture? Chinese entrenepeurs? Indian software engineers? Intelligent people? humble rural folk? Rich people? Your wanting to create a dichotomy of those that should survive and those "common men" who shouldn't but you are not making yourself clear who or what group you are referring to. Please specify.

When I said "ours," I was referring to whichever group happens to be facing choice of favoring excellence, on the one hand, or the masses, on the other. The latter feels better and seems more "morally right," but it is, in fact, the error that kills the group involved, whether it be a country, a race, or a species.
Mass democracy is a premier example of that error. It seems sound from an egalitarian moral perspective, but it has the "common man" flaw that eventually kills nations, whose demise is staved off only insofar as democratic ideals are frustrated.

Suppose a person's body were organized democratically, on the "one cell, one vote" basis. Before you know it, some invading germ has started pleading for tolerance, even as his cohorts roam the cardiovascular byways, the arteries and the veins, looking for host cells to prey upon. Subversives among the invaders begin casting out political questions that pit "the brain" against "the rest of the body, the downtrodden non-brain cells." The immune system is infiltrated and subverted, and it begins making antibodies that target brain cells for death...

That's how what might seem a boon to the masses is in reality a poisonous, if addictive, idea. The masses can't lead themselves - any leaders who rose from among them would be among them no longer; in fact, that's what their former leadership did, until the masses killed them off. Once the natural, native brains are gone, the subversive takes over. Once the proletariat has risen and removed the Tsar, the Bolsheviks rise and shove the proles into collective farms and trains bound for Siberia.

And the subversive's goal isn't the health of the host people. His intention is to exploit them until they die, or nearly, and then seek new prey.

In order to exist, a subversive niche doesn't have to be sustainable. It only has to offer advantages for those who occupy it. A repetition of a niche doesn't require any communication from the past, genetic or otherwise. The conditions that created it once may create it again, much later, among a different race or species, when a subversive element among them notices that subversion has become possible.

The dichotomy I was creating wasn't between urban and rural, or between humble and arrogant, or between rich and poor. It was, rather, between groups in whom heritable virtues are conspicuous and groups in whom those virtues are lacking.

Between strong and weak, I favor the strong. Between fleet and sluggish, I favor the fleet. Between savant and retard, I favor the savant. Between industrious and bum, I favor the industrious. Between dexterous and clumsy, I favor the dexterous. Between those having many of the above (and other) virtues and those having few of them, I favor those having many. I favor competitive contest as the means by which to sift the grain from the chaff, assorting them into classes of overall excellence.

When you would improve a full world, you must first do a lot of culling, an elimination of inferiority in mass quantity. Since we didn't do that to our own species when we might have had the chance, nature will do it to us with more brutality and with less concern for the quality of the resulting immediate survivors. If their quality is not high enough, then nature will cull once again, and Homo sapiens will disappear completely. But, once the inferior masses have been eliminated, and provided that enough high-quality human life remains, it will be possible to multiply that quality in quantity, repopulating the world with stronger, smarter, more dexterous, abler, and healthier people than was common in the previous population.

Democracy puts power in the hands of the commonest sort, namely the mediocrities. Since mediocrity cannot even maintain itself at its own level, any democratic society decays with time, in every sense: culturally, morally, economically, genetically. Those wise enough to lead can see where mass democracy goes and can understand that the democratic system is therefore something that should be avoided. The masses, however, can't see this and demand their bit of empowerment, while loudly denying its ultimate lethality. Once they are organized, the "masses" can be used to pull down the better people and extinguish all high quality by killing them.

Habitual Heckler: Jenab6, I assume you place yourself in the elite "better" group?

You can assume whatever you wish, of course. I won't answer your question because it contains an incorrect implicit assumption. The assumption is: nobody can see beyond his own interests. Or, rephrased: anybody who claims that something ought to be done in a certain way expects to profit from it. Or, rephrased again: whatever appears to be virtue is really selfishness wearing a disguise.

However you phrase it, it's wrong.

In fact, it can happen that a correct assessment of "what ought to be done" can come from someone whose interests would be served by the doing of it. Using "cui bono" as a means of finding culpability might be a useful rule of thumb, but it shouldn't be construed as a logical necessity.

Especially: since the elite of a race are precisely those people who can see most clearly into the nature of things, into cause and effect relationships, the ways in which the present reflects the past, and so on, it's likely that the best advice for the race will come from those who would be best served by its being heeded.

The self-serving nature of advice that comes, during a crisis, from everyone offering advice isn't a guide to the wisdom to be found in it. There usually is a right answer, or if not a right answer then at least a best answer,
and that answer might be supplied by someone who will benefit from its use.

Habitual Heckler and Half-Wise Moderator each made about the same argument, to the effect that quality is whatever survives and nevermind what the winner can or can't do with his life after he has won. That is, whether civil relations are better than brute savagery depends on whether the civil or the savages are left when the fighting is over.

Neither of them recognized that there is a difference between winning a struggle and being able to foresee and deal with trouble after the immediate struggle has been won.

I'll contrive an example. Pardon it for being so off-the-shelf.

Suppose that three lifeboats from a sunken ship are adrift in the ocean, each of them overloaded with passengers and taking on water from the choppy sea. Let's stipulate that they are no longer in communication or within sight of each other. In order for anyone from each lifeboat to be saved, some of its passengers must be pitched overboard.

In Lifeboat #1, this tossing of people into the ocean is so vigorously opposed that it cannot be done. The people who see the need to do it haven't the strength required. Further, these wiser people are too few to save the others in the boat by jumping overboard themselves. This lifeboat will sink, and everyone in it will die.

In Lifeboat #2, the people who wouldn't jump are saved only because the people who would, did. Jumping was a volunteer thing, and it turned out that the jumpers lightened the boat enough that it could stay afloat.

In Lifeboat #3, the people who recognized the need for someone to GO identified the least valuable passengers and pitched them to the sharks.

All three boats had outcomes in accord with natural selection, the main evolutionary operation. The different outcomes are the result of different initial conditions.

The outcome for Lifeboat #1 was immediate extinction.

The outcome for Lifeboat #2 was near-term survival, however with a genetic step in the direction of extinction.

Although the survivors from Lifeboat #2 did nothing except pursue their individual self-interest, they were selected for being selfish, and the average for selfishness among them is now higher than it was before the shipwreck. The survivors from this boat will pass along their selfishness to their offspring, and, down the generations, the next time a heroic and selfless act is needed to save the group, there's less chance that the necessary heroes will appear. That is, the next time the scion from this stock finds itself adrift at sea, they will probably be in Lifeboat #1.

The outcome for Lifeboat #3 was survival and genetic improvement.

The survivors from Lifeboat #3 will have the "best" genes overall, and their descendants will inherit better qualities than those of Lifeboat #2. Not only did the remaining passengers survive, they founded a nation (after they beached their boat in a new land) whose average member was an improvement over the average where they'd come from.

Now, let's add another idea.

Suppose we consider a mistake that those in Lifeboat #3 might have made. Who is the one person aboard that boat who should never be considered Shark Food? The navigator. Without someone aboard who can find his way by the sun and stars, the boat will probably never find its way to land before the food runs out and everybody starves. If any egalitarian impulse toward "equality" is entertained, e.g. if the decision of whom to toss is made by drawing lots wherein no one is exempted, the passengers further jeopardize themselves, since the navigator is necessary to the survival of everyone else.

Habitual Heckler: You seem to think that, what you see as, "weeds" are inferior. Clearly they are not, if they can grow and spread more easily than other crops. Clearly "weeds" are a superior plant.

Half-Wise Moderator: My point exactly. Given a free hand, weeds would overcome any monoculture as they are more fit for survival. Says a lot about how tenuous the few cereal grains are in our food supply. Jenab, let's get off this supremacist tangent and back on topic. Ok? Now, not later...or I will split the thread.

In regard to weeds and grains: We are a force of natural selection, albeit a conscious one. What we do is what nature does through us. If we do one thing, the universe gains a higher degree or state of consciousness. If we do something else, the universe takes a plunge and falls to a lower degree or state of consciousness. It's a question of whether the universe will have more or less self-recognition than it has had heretofore.

Seeker of Wisdom: The problem is who is "fit" to survive, or who "fit" for selection. Ultimately the people who are "fit" are the ones with the guns, the military behind them, and the political power, regardless of how destructive and useless they are.

That's the point I was trying to make with my lifeboat parable. Being able to win the struggle for survival does not make one the fittest for living after that particular struggle has been decided. I'm not certain what Monty means by making a distinction between the "survival of the fittest" and "the struggle for survival." The struggles of men and those of wolves are the same in principle. For both, the fittest learn who they are by struggle, and the struggle for survival is what determines who is fittest to survive whichever struggle they had just been engaged in. But the struggles never end, and the array of advantages (and shortcomings) that served the winners of the past struggle might betray them in the next.

In a dieoff triggered by a resource overshoot (like the one we're approaching), there are two struggles of major importance. First, there's the military struggle, in which the soldier has the advantage on the farmer. Second, there's the struggle to grow food in a world without petrol, in which there has been a reduction of soil fertility. In this second struggle, the farmer has the advantage on the soldier.

How does the farmer survive the military struggle, so that he can be alive to produce food when the fighting is done? It seems that the farmer must be protected by soldiers.

But these considerations involve skills, which aren't heritable, but learned. I'd been referring to innate potentialities that aren't learned, but heritable. Not "farming knowledge" or "marksmanship," but the potentials for developing strength, intelligence, dexterity, stamina, and so on. Although exercise will improve anyone's muscles, up to a point, some people have an inborn capability of taking the process further than others do. Likewise with intelligence: everyone benefits to some extent from using his mind, but some have an inborn ability to benefit more than others do.

These innate potentialities are what I would maximize when trying to decide who would be preferred for surviving the die-off. Some of them would be trained as soldiers, and some would be trained as farmers, but the soldiers and the farmers, though differing in skills, would be alike in having an uncommonly high set of potentialities.

Now the correlation of these potentialities to fitness seems rather reliable to me. A strong man will, all else being equal, do better than a weak one. An intelligent man will, all else being equal, do better than a stupid one. A man who is both strong and intelligent will, all else being equal, do much better than one who is both weak and stupid.

Won't those having great potential simply rise in the natural course of things? Usually, perhaps. But maybe not during the die-off. The reason for that is that the capitalism of our times, run as it is by terawatts of exosomatic power, and organized as it is by the legal and corporate hierarchy, has divorced genetic potentiality from success. A small bulldozer will win a tug-of-war against the world's ten strongest long as there's gasoline to put in it.

And that, more or less, is why those of lesser potentiality might survive while their genetic betters die off. The political and corporate elites have gathered to themselves a massive head start in resources; they, not the supremely gifted with heritable potentials, will win the military phase of the struggle, after which they'll find themselves at something of a loss when their stored food supplies run out and they can't figure out how to farm efficiently.

Half-Wise Moderator: How do you know what genetic traits will promote reproduction and survival? How do you know what traits the changing environment will select? The traits may have nothing to do with intelligence or strength or any of the qualities you select, they may be as simple as the ability to tolerate high global temperatures, high doses of radioactivity or being immune to SARS, AIDS, or whatever pandemic arises. Inherited abilities are not what drives evolution, it is random genetic mutations that just so happen to promote survival.

All genetic variation, every last scrap of it, originated as mutation. You're trying to isolate johnny-come-lately mutations as being the only ones having any possible importance.

I don't know how to test for immunity to SARS or AIDS, though some races may have a higher resistance to some diseases than others do. But I do know how to test for strength and intelligence, and those are frequent deciders of struggles, whereas an immunity to a specific disease is a rare one at best.

I suppose it would be all very well to cull the prospective survivor group for susceptibility to certain diseases, when this can be done. I expect it might be advantageous, for example, to cull persons having a family history of diabetes. Sure, why not?

But inherited attributes, traced back into the past, are the result of mutations. Ancient ones, but still mutations.

Seeker of Wisdom: But who decides? The Europeans who invaded North America 500 years ago described the indigenous peoples they encountered as lazy, when, in fact, they merely had an alternative approach to living that the Europeans did not understand. In retrospect, we see that the indigenous "bums" led a sustainable lifestyle that had lasted for 10,000 years up until that point, while the "industrious" Europeans replaced them with a lifestyle that has, essentially, brought us to Peak Oil and all that will result from that. If I were asked to decide between the industrious and bum in 1492, I would favor the bum. Who gets to decide?

There was no "bum" in that comparison. Neither the Europeans nor the Amerinds were bums. The industriousness of the Europeans isn't in doubt; at least, neither of us questions it. You raised doubt about the industriousness of the Amerindians. But they were, indeed, industrious. You have to be somewhat industrious to make a living hunting and fishing. Bumhood wasn't their failing. They were less intelligent. While it would be a mistake to name them the least intelligent race on Earth, the Amerinds were certainly not on a level with the Europeans.

Further, the Amerinds led a lifestyle of frozen development, more "sustained" than "sustainable." They had their ups and downs, their kill offs and die offs. They had their migrations to new hunting grounds and resource wars with other tribes. It was their mental limitations that prevented them from harming their environment more, faster, and on larger scales than they did.

Jerry Abbott

Those who want their race to die should lead the way.


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