Sunday, January 4, 2015

Das Antleral: A Critique of the Rut

In response to Abscesses, Anonymous writes:
One of the key caveats in random evolution is that "the inefficient" mutation carriers die off BEFORE they manage to reproduce. So if we are going to look for them in the fossil record, we'll have to focus specifically on fossilized babies

Yes. Or on fossilized adults that just didn't manage to mate--e.g., a buck with drooping antlers who never got dat doepussy. (As they say in the vernacular.)

Problem is, because none of those good mutations are instantaneous--Specimen A, the offspring of parents without antlers, isn't born with instant giant antlers, but rather, the lineage develops giant antlers gradually, over a long period of time--those specimens without the antlers have to reproduce over many generations before they can finally go extinct when faced with the first organism/group that does develop the full, mate-achieving spread. (And at the same time as bucks develop those larger antlers, does have to develop a corresponding interest in larger antlers, such that they are impressed by a bunch of idiots thunking their heads together, and made more likely to mate with the "winners." Did that mutation--the trait for "being turned on by larger antlers"--occur alongside the trait for "growing larger antlers" by random coincidence? Or were the does always lusting after bigger antlers even before those had developed, and finally got what they wanted when, thousands of years later, the bigger antlers appeared randomly in that species' genetic code?)

Ergo we know that the weak- or small-antlered can survive to reproduce, thousands of times over, just as can an Alexandra who has mere stumps, rather than working legs. Under random evolution, their extinction must be somewhat gradual, as they are out-mated and out-eaten by the fully-antlered/fully-legged.

Yet, none of the partial successes appear in the record, whether in baby or adult form. We must conclude, then, that such mistakes didn't happen, and that some other factor causes mutations to occur in tandem with environmental demands. This implies an integrative relationship between environment and organism.

Das Antleral

Selfish bastards make this argument in "economic science," just as they make it in "biological science." Capitalists enjoy claiming that they developed larger antlers and bigger stock portfolios through their own individual merit, in a free, competitive marketplace, thereby proving that they are not only the best, but the best fairly. In truth, capitalists only exist because of the protections granted to them by the government and by the marketplace. Only certain people may buy certain things at certain times, only certain people may produce certain things at certain times, certain things may never be sold, armies will acquire certain assets only for certain people at certain times, and courts and police will enforce certain kinds of property laws that legitimize some takings and de-legitimize others.

Without that, there are no capitalists. There is no individual success; the Objectivist is left whining that it is unfair that people violate zoning restrictions, develop new currencies, barter, organize collectives, or trade in controlled substances. Thugs lose social respect, and all managers find themselves out of a job, because no one feels a need to give away the better part of their work product to someone who watches them while they work.

The integrative relationship between economy and individual, under capitalism, is generally denied by those who play in it. They argue that capitalism is a background fairness; a state of nature that is beyond consideration for its unique ability to allow great transactional truths to be revealed, and fair competition to bring out the best in individuals. Capitalists know they're lying, of course; they are constantly buying government in order to change the rules to crush those who would out-compete them in a less-controlled environment. They must control all of the background rules of the market, or they would instantly go out of business and be revealed as worthless leeches; parents' groups would organize daycare and schooling without the benefit of multi-million-dollar licensing or testing services, the local hipsters would grow tons of cheap antidepressants and pain relief in their organic gardens, and that would be The End for capital. No more markets (as we know them now).

Look at that connection, again, between the preferred corporate philosophy on the biological and economic sciences. Modern crony-capitalists have thrived on the philosophical pretense that there is no coordination between government and marketplace, when in fact, their constant trade in Congressional seats, zoning boards, and law enforcement shows that they know otherwise. Similarly, when crony-capitalists want to develop more efficient crops, they meddle directly in the genetic code. No one waits for random mutation to improve corn's drought resistance, anymore than Pfizer wants Prozac to compete with Otto the pot-farmer, because they know that neither battle is winnable. So they buy the cops, buy the universities, and teach the world that their power is the result of impartial natural selection, efficiency, and fairness.

"Oh, no, bucks didn't develop those big antlers in coordination with their environment, anymore than we change our advertising practices based on patent law restrictions. Bucks are simply responding to the demands of external, impartial nature, as we respond to the demands of an external, impartial marketplace. It's all natural, what we do."

We know that they understand what they're doing, because they continue to buy government. Free competition is the last thing they need. So when Warren Buffett makes some claim about how self-starters can get rich, he may be evil, but at least he's not completely stupid--he could only say such things if he were intelligent enough to know that he was lying to the gullible. Dawkins is the same way, when he fulfills his role of explaining why Anglo-America gets to bomb so many places. It's just natural selection, baby. The fittest rise to the top. The game isn't fixed. Stop whining.

If you're not drowning in piles of money, you shouldn't act like you believe their shit. It's as sorry as some trailerbound guy in Nebraska who believes that Mitt Romney is going to get him a job.

On Markets

So maybe we need markets, and maybe they should be somehow regulated by government. What makes crony capitalists such bastards is that they presuppose the answers to these kinds of questions: they take their preferred arguments for granted, then viciously argue against any alteration by calling it socialism or some other bugbear, buying Congress and TV to prevent any discussion about other ways that markets might be designed. "Markets" aren't bad, and "capitalism" isn't necessarily bad, in the sense that allowing individual initiative or whatnot to create and benefit from things is okay. There are all sorts of ways that can be done. Who do markets benefit, how do they benefit them, what do they permit, etc. Any attack on market corruption is countered by squealing about communists or government control--hypocritically so, given that the market exists only as a form of government control.

Most people who consider themselves progressive understand this, to a degree, and they look with pity or derision on those who don't. But you need to give up that same idiotic faith in their "random, fair" story about biology. Genetic alterations occur in integration with the surrounding environment, ergo honeybees and flowering plants have a level of communication we can't currently track, but which allows their species to develop together. Not to cast aspersion on honeybees and flowering plants, but their relationship is no more a coincidence than Cheney's presidency and Halliburton's success thereby. The people who pretend that such conjoined developmental paths are caused by "random mutations" are lying, lying with a deeper purpose, to try to get you to not see the ways that such things work together. They want to reserve that power of cooperation themselves. That's why they're on-message together, in Forbes or the Journal or CNN. It's why, within their own clubs, they have mandatory policies of contribution and mutual benefit--whether in the country club, the lifetime congressional health care plan, or the sharing of political campaign expenses among major corporate donors.

As for you, you are supposed to believe that everything is random change, natural selection, and the devil-may-care confluence of best possible worlds and most efficient outcomes.


  1. Well said! I wish there was something I could add, something I could dispute, but I'm afraid not. It really is this pathetic.

    On the bright side however, there are quirks, loopholes, evolutionary anomalies. Just when we think we have it all figured out, something pops up to remind us we do not know what we think we know. I do so hope this applies to economics too, because at the moment, I cannot see any silver lining in our future there. Less then a month ago I was saying, "well at least gas prices haven't dropped dramatically." Ooops.