Friday, January 29, 2010

Rand vs. Evolutionary Psychology - Norms promoting tolerance and honesty

Bryan Caplan at EconLog wrote something worth reading.

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Rand vs. Evolutionary Psychology: Part 2, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty: "If Rand really wanted to build an individualist sub-culture, she would have done so in an evolutionarily informed way. If people naturally care about the opinions of others, jumping on people is a good way to get dishonest conformity, but a bad way to get an honest exchange of ideas. Instead, an individualist sub-culture must be built upon tolerance and honesty. I'd suggest three key norms:

1. Don't think less of people who sincerely disagree.

2. Do think less of people who insincerely agree.

3. Do think less of people who think less of people who sincerely disagree.

I don't claim that these norms are easy. It's tough for humans to follow them perfectly. But they're do-able - and given human nature, they're self-reinforcing. In fact, these guidelines are pillars of the legendary GMU lunch. Our tradition is now in its thirteenth year, and I'm proud to say that unlike the Objectivists, we've never purged a member."

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People moan about overcoming bias - but the unstated is that they bemoan the bias in other people. Disciplines that actually allow one to shed personal bias are very uninteresting to most people. The disciplines that actually allow an individual to shed his own biases are practically the only interesting things in the world.
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