Denyer wrote: ↑
Wed May 27, 2020 11:25 am
And if it still goes wrong it's all those other people's fault for not praying hard enough.
As Bill Hicks put it, "Hitler had the right idea, he was just an underachiever."
I understand Hicks' point (both the joke and the frustration behind it, the release of which makes it funny), but I can't agree. For starters, you have the fact that social purification will always, always backfire and include the people advocating it (the Terror period following the french revolution comes to mind). Additionally, while you could probably find enough people to agree that "X needs to happen to Y" that it gains social traction, X and Y are always relative, meaning no one has the authority to decide that group X needs to be extirpated, nevermind it backfiring later.
The only remedy for any of that is to agree on a passive, entirely self-selecting system of stupid-purging. If you're an adult that drinks bleach because "the pres'dent said it'd help beat the 'rona," then maybe the rest of us shouldn't rush to help. The problem with that
is that it presumes that self-inflected pwning would be self-contained, but as we're seeing with this current pandemic, people not wanting to wear a simple mask when out in public are actually a vector for a virus that will cause collateral deaths in other people who trying earnestly to not get infected.
And of course, the problem with that
is that it's a fundamentally human trait to make mistakes, and if people die from something that's easy to remedy, then they're not really going to learn. This reveals that the problem, both individually and socially, isn't making mistakes so much as repeating them over and over.
It reminds me of a passage toward the end of The Lost World (the Crichton one, not the Doyle one). Malcom's talking about the raptors leaving their young to starve and observes that physical characteristics and instinctual behaviors only get you so far. Anything that's a learned behavior, actively taught by adults to offspring, is completely lost when performing genetic alchemy to resurrect an extinct animal, or even when its offspring is raised while completely separated. Learned behavior then, as an adaptation, is a double edged sword. Organisms can adapt their behavior in astronomically fewer generations (think of writing down knowledge so it gets passed on, or the advancement of the scientific understanding of the physical world, like say, viral pathogens), but all that adaptation can all be lost in one generation. For example, the number of people that can invent calculus from scratch (one Isaac Newton) are few and far between, but the number of people that can be taught calculus (high school students) are basically everywhere. But if for some reason we stop teaching calculus to subsequent generations, it'll be lost for a long time, if not forever.
When I see remarks like Hicks' (which again I see the humor in the frustration), or allusions to Idiocracy and the "full reproductive capacity of morons", I actively temper my attraction to that kind of world assessment. Humans are more than just our biological makeup. We are what we teach each other. If we're in crisis because we've reached critical mass of stupid because we've been too passive about teaching scientific subjects like viral pathogenics, then it's all of our own fault for either failing to teach them or to limit the damage they can do. There's far more to it than that ("my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge, after all"), but it's an aspect that I don't see articulated as often as I'd like. A failure in education isn't just a matter of poor economic prospects for a student at the micro level, but also human civilization in the macro. So, even if we purge all the ignorant people without fixing the systemic problems that led to ignorance, we'd end up right back where we are now within a generation.