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Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish? 
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 Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?
Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?



Fri Jun 22, 2012 12:21 am
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Post Re: Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?
Haidt conveniently organizes the book under three major thoughts, each given a major section. The first two were "Intuitions first, strategic reasoning second," and "There's more to morality than harm and fairness." The third section is "Morality binds and blinds." In this section in general he stresses the sociality that he says was responsible for our making civilizations, and he makes the controversial claim that group selection was the means by which we became so social.

He changed my thinking about our social natures. Haidt still considers it an unsolved mystery as to why we built our complex civilizations. He wants to suggest that an infusion of super-sociality into our genes did the trick. I had always just assumed that since we have primate ancestors that were social and since socialness is common in other mammals as well as birds and insects, we're not dealing with anything special when we come to human sociality. Add language and bigger brains, and voila, a natural progression of sociality. I looked at animal groups such as chimps or penguins as being more social than humans, just because they all live in such close quarters and and interact a lot. Chimps that groom each other and forage together give the appearance of being highly cooperative. But if we specify that cooperativeness is the essential element in sociality, we might then decide that chimps and other mammals have relatively little of this quality, whereas we have it in spades. Haidt cites a chimp expert who says that you'd never see one chimp help another chimp carry a log. Haidt also views the leadership of chimps troops as not at all the same as what we mean by leadership. The leader, or alpha male, is mostly a strongman who is out to protect his privileged position in the troop. The hierarchical structure lends itself to stability in the group, but there is not much concern for the group shown by the alpha.

All this is why Haidt says we are 90% chimp and 10% bee. How did we get this groupishness that echoes faintly that of a hive of bees? To a large extent the answer depends genetic changes that made our groups more social because social groups tended to have better survival rates than other groups. That's where the theory gets sticky, as you can see by all the attacks that have been made on E.O. Wilson's latest foray into group selectionism. The chapter in this thread gives all of Haidt's reasons why Wilson is probably right (if anyone is interested in discussing them further).



Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:37 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?
DWill wrote:
That's where the theory gets sticky, as you can see by all the attacks that have been made on E.O. Wilson's latest foray into group selectionism. The chapter in this thread gives all of Haidt's reasons why Wilson is probably right (if anyone is interested in discussing them further).

You bet I am - just need to get to this point in the book - and hope Loudoun Co. Public Library doesn't send someone to my house to pry the book out of my hands (it is way over due :( ).



Wed Aug 08, 2012 6:36 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?
It probably would have taken him too far afield, but I think if he's going to challenge the consensus of evolutionary biologists on group selection (if in fact that is the consensus), he should present the counterarguments more carefully. Maybe have an appendix addressing the literature.



Thu Aug 09, 2012 6:07 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?
He puts some material in the notes to the chapter that does some of what you're asking, but I'm sure a complete job would take more than that. I think at least he does present the debate in such a way that the reader can see more clearly what the stakes are. Otherwise, group vs. individual selection can seem just an academic debate. He tries to convince us that only through competition between groups, rather than competition between individuals of the same group, could we have developed our hive mentality. His analogy of the beehive to our complex hive-making in cities was striking, I thought. We faced a survival scenario similar to that of bees: territorial creatures guarding their nests (caves); having needy offspring requiring a lot of care; being under threat from other groups of the species. Over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, we evolved to be the ultrasocial animals we are today.



Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:50 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?
I mentioned in the last post the stakes involved in the debate over individual or group selection. (Actually, it's not over one or the other but over whether group selection even exists as an addition to individual selection.) Haidt believes that first of all, our need for group belonging and identity and our skill at creating huge, complex groups of individuals united in a goal, is something that required continuous natural selection to reach the level that we witness today. The selection had to occur at both the individual and group levels simultaneously. Individuals who did not have group interests in mind were not as successful in passing on their genes. The groups who had more of these group-minded, cooperative individuals then gained a reproductive advantage, over many generations, over less endowed groups.

Moral systems clearly were integral to the expansion of group size, and thus of group power. When group size exceeds a certain threshold, it no longer works to rely upon the watchful eyes of our neighbors to contain the harm of selfish behavior. Haidt would specify here that the changes contributing to the construction of these moral systems were products of coevolution, cultural change leading to genetic change. We thus developed the innate mental modules upon which the moral foundations that Haidt described in previous chapters are based.

A reliance on individual selection gives us no choice but to call our groupishness, as well as our morality, a byproduct of individual selection, one that was not an adaptation at all in the neo-Darwinian (i.e, genetic) sense. Although it's true that not every trait of a creature exists because it conferred reproductive advantage, to Haidt it seems unlikely that a trait so central to our nature could be incidental. He will make a similar argument about religion, that it, too, was selected at the group level because ultimately it gave religious groups better ability to grow in population and thus in power.

Haidt seems to have really done his homework on fields that are outside his own field of moral psychology. He admits, though, that he is not an expert about any of the four exhibits he presents for the validity of group selection. He says that what he intends is simply to present the case for reopening an inquiry into group selection. The virtual ban on studying it seriously, which began in the 60s, he says is still largely under enforcement. This is starting to change, though, with a heavyweight like E.O. Wilson stepping out to champion it.



Last edited by DWill on Sat Aug 11, 2012 7:42 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Sat Aug 11, 2012 7:40 am
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Post Re: Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?
I might have quoted Jerry Coyne on this topic already, but this is a good piece talking about group selection (in the process of bashing David Brooks):

Quote:
Let’s be clear about what biologists really know about group selection and altruism. If true human altruism has a genetic basis, it is individually disadvantageous and could have evolved only by differential propagation of groups. That’s very unlikely, since it requires that the rate at which altruist-containing groups reproduce themselves must be high enough to counteract the substantial rate at which altruism genes disappear within groups. It’s unlikely because groups reproduce much less often than do individuals! Further, once a group consists entirely of altruists, any non-altruistic genes would rapidly invade it, as their carriers reap the benefits of altruism without sacrificing their reproduction.


However, he also says the following, so maybe there is less disagreement than appears

Quote:
There is increasing realization that selection can occur in groups, that being in groups can affect how selection operates on genes, and that there can be group effects (“multilevel selection”) that influence the evolution of genes.


http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com ... -altruism/



Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:41 am
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Post Re: Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?
Haidt doesn't appear to see us as being particularly altruistic. He's a Glauconian, so that paints him as fairly cynical about our motives. We act, usually, to get ahead or make ourselves look good. Our moral reasoning is meant to prop up our reputations rather than arrive at the truth. But because of our groupishness, we do act in the interest of our group, and sometimes we even feel our "hive switch" turned on, so that we feel totally subsumed in the group and care only about its welfare. This is different from altruism, which is more of a principled and rational act of putting others first, although at times it may look the same. Haidt therefore doesn't need to have an argument about how altruism can be selected at the group level.



Sat Aug 11, 2012 9:08 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?
DWill wrote:
Haidt doesn't appear to see us as being particularly altruistic. He's a Glauconian, so that paints him as fairly cynical about our motives. We act, usually, to get ahead or make ourselves look good. Our moral reasoning is meant to prop up our reputations rather than arrive at the truth. But because of our groupishness, we do act in the interest of our group, and sometimes we even feel our "hive switch" turned on, so that we feel totally subsumed in the group and care only about its welfare. This is different from altruism, which is more of a principled and rational act of putting others first, although at times it may look the same. Haidt therefore doesn't need to have an argument about how altruism can be selected at the group level.


Really? That's not the impression I get from Haidt's argument. I thought that was precisely what he was trying to argue.

Caring only about the group's welfare (i.e. other individuals) seems to me what altruism is supposed to be. Wouldn't he say that either way it is not rational in the immediate self-interest sense?



Sat Aug 11, 2012 10:06 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?
I see your point, and the best way I might explain my statement is that the altruism that sometimes emerges from our feelings for the group is the parochial kind, not a universal, disinterested kind, according to Haidt on p. 234. But he apparently does consider this more limited type altruism, even though he doesn't spend a lot of time in the book talking about that term specifically, so you're probably right. I was also thinking that acting in the interests of the group often doesn't require any altruism at all, because we see the group's interests as identical to our own, so there's no sacrifice involved of our self-interests. Haidt makes this point, too. Is altruism necessarily a key to determining whether selection operates at a group level in humans? Individuals who were willing to cooperate socially because they found out it was in their own best interests to do that, might have been selected within the group, and they might have made the group more competitive among other groups. But that isn't what we think of as altruism. In a nutshell, Haidt doesn't equate groupishness with altruism. Both good and bad results occur because of our groupishness, whereas altruism is always a moral good, I think.



Sun Aug 12, 2012 11:48 am
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Post Re: Ch. 9: Why Are We So Groupish?
I can't let this chapter go without mentioning a few more of the ideas that jumped out at me.

In relation to the chimp expert's remark that it was inconceivable to him that one chimp would help another carry a log, Haidt brings in the mental ability of shared intentionality, which he says is undeveloped in all animals except humans and accounted for our ability to divide labor to get things done. We needed an ability to represent mentally the intention that another human had in order to join him in any shared effort. Language is sometimes thought to be the watershed event in human cooperation, but language is after all an agreement that a combination of sounds will represent some object or action, so it couldn't have gotten off the ground without shared intentionality.

Haidt had previously talked about a "shared defensible nest" as the key prerequisite for group selection. He spins a great passage off this idea:
Quote:
If the key to group selection is a shared defensible nest, then shared intentionality allowed humans to construct nests that were vast and ornate yet weightless and portable. Bees construct hives out of wax and wood fibers, which they then fight, kill and die to defend. Humans construct moral communities out of shared norms, institutions, and gods that, even in the twenty-first century, they fight, kill, and die to defend.

We might see somewhere here an idea similar to the theory of memes. I find Haidt's formulation more comprehensive and satisfying, though.

There is a process known as self-domestication that accounts for the way the early human groups slowly changed to more socially cohesive units by selecting
Quote:
friends and partners based on their ability to live within the tribe's moral matrix. In fact, our brains, bodies, and behavior show many of the same signs of domestication that are found in our domestic animals: smaller teeth, smaller body, reduced aggressiveness, and greater playfulness, carried on even into adulthood. the reason is that domestication generally takes traits that disappear at the end of childhood and keeps them turned on for life


Although we usually talk about tribalism as a negative, Haidt sees it as the essential ingredient in our social natures.
Quote:
It may sound depressing to think that our righteous minds are basically tribal minds, but consider the alternative. Our tribal minds make it easy to divide us, but without our long period of tribal living there'd be nothing to divide in the first place. There'd be only small families of foragers--not nearly as sociable as today's hunter-gatherers--eking out a living and losing most of their members to starvation during every prolonged drought. The coevolution of tribal minds and tribal cultures didn't just prepare us for war; it prepared us for more peaceful coexistence within our groups, and, in modern times, for cooperation on a vast scale as well.



Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:11 pm
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