Survival & Culture

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / Survival /
@ K. 1997 11 11, written as an adjunct to the Afterward to The Model

Society versus Biology

You want a bicycle. Not just to hack around on: you need it. For transportation. To school. To work. For shopping. Maybe it’s a car you need. Or a Cessna … Even if you’re the CEO of a Fortune company, you might sensibly ask Santa Claus for it. Of course, you’ll want your parents, your friends, your wife, your board members, your employees … to overhear you. You live in a group, a culture, which has an economy, which has a Santa Claus.

You’re lost in the woods. You’re hungry. You’re thirsty. You’re cold. You’ve sprained your ankle. You need food, water, shelter, a walking stick … You won’t ask Santa Claus.

Santa Claus can only help you while you’re in the group that believes in him. Or pretends to believe in him. Or shuns those who are too free with non-standard-issue “beliefs.”

Asking Santa Claus for the bicycle while you’re walking around your living room might get it for you. Asking Santa while you’re lost in the woods might add a sprained knee to your mounting woes.

Society and nature have disparate realities.

A politician, wanting to survive in Congress, will consult his constituency before voting on any measures about pollution. But that congressman, as an individual organism, doesn’t breathe or drink polls. He may bathe in them, but he can’t water his petunias from that stream. Someone had better be looking at the actual air and at the actual water.

The “reality” of politics is based in society.

When Barry Goldwater was a presidential candidate, I think it was Look Magazine nominated him as the perfect conservative to define conservatism for its readership. His “definition” was promised on the cover. So Senator, what is it? He replied that he’d have to check with his backers. !!!

I’ve got to follow them, I am their leader.

How can we tell if we’re going in circles if our noses are in each other’s rumps?

The samurai’s role is to serve the warlord. He has to trust the warlord to know what’s going on. What would he do if he realized that the head of the queue got to head the queue by having his nose in that queue’s tail? What would we do if we realized the degree to which EPA regulations are guided by polls more than by poisons? Toxins don’t consult congressional committees before taking you down.

“Which tie are you going to wear?” “Um, which tie do you think I should wear, dear?” That’s appropriate. You’re trying to live together. A difficult proposition at best.

(See 2004 07 05 PS at end.)

“So, Demi, how poisonous is the water.” “Er,” the lab technician says, looking over his shoulder, “how much poison does the committee, in its beneficent wisdom, want to tolerate?” note Whatever the words, that’s the routine meaning. Appropriate for employability, for social survival; inappropriate for the biological survival that social survival depends on.

We have seen the enemy And he is us.

The reality of science is based in nature.

2004 11 03
Sierra Magazine, June 2004, Strategic Ignorance: “See no evil”: Ideology and politics trump science in the Bush administration.
Check it out. Its history of managed science under Stalin is instructive. Note especially the Lysenko business.
The US hadn’t always been all that bad; but we’re racing to catch up with the Fascists, the Communists … the Church. [note]
I’ll try to add the cartoon
Illustration, The devolution of science once politics become its pal, from Sierra.

In order to obtain a certain result you must want to obtain precisely that result. I need only such people as will obtain the results I need.
Trofim Lysenko
(Stalin’s agronomist)

A civilization, wanting to survive with its identity intact, may say, “Males Only can work here,” or “No Chinamen allowed.” It might allow believers alone to serve in its military. But it ought to notice at what point the war will be lost with believers alone bearing the arms. It also ought to notice when “survival” and “identity intact” are no longer joinable options. People marching arm in arm to glory ought also to have an eye out for any edges of any cliffs that might be about.

But we don’t. Not while we’re arm in arm. We’re so secure in the crowd.

The success of a group can not only be a danger to its enemies, it can be a danger to itself.

Our success assures that the seeds of our failure will spread far and wide.

We don’t need sound reasoning: We’re the good guys.

A group primarily interested in its bank account will spend most of its time checking over its shoulder. A group interested in remaining viable in the actual biosphere had better prescribe for itself regular doses of bitter medicine. Actually, the prescription should duplicate what God recommended to Job: natural science! A good dose of reality. [ search item] If we don’t do it for ourselves, the real god will do it for us. There’ll be no turning back then.

2002 12 12 The classic play on this subject is Ibsen’s Enemy of the People. The town has tourism, spas, hot springs. The town has a tannery. The doctors finds the town to be unhealthy. The chamber of commerce represses the evidence. I’m just now getting around to watching Dante’s Peak (with the delicious Linda Hamilton). Same situation: only here the US Geological Survey is in on the suppression. (What do you expect when scientists are “educated” “publicly”? Real “science”?)

God may forgive you your sins, but your nervous system won’t.

God may forgive you your sins, but the biosphere can’t.

related files

Occam’s Razor
Santa Claus


A few modules here are just getting around to critiquing survival strategies in general. There are advantages and liabilities to any of them. Once a group makes a group decision, individuals are stuck with it. All Frenchmen have to line up behind the Maginot Line while the Germans attack them from their flank. This is a very important area, and I’ll devote more time to it: once I get a good grip on my Macroinformation and Meta-Oxymoron.

2004 07 05 Stimulating, relevant, article by Pierre Lemieux, Following the Herd, gets quickly to “Informational Cascades” [PDF file]:

People form their beliefs using information obtained by observing the behavior or opinions of others …

People will buy information (get private signals) only up to the point where the information yields no more net benefits than just following signals emitted by others.

2008: Now, after my arrest, and monkey trial, I joke:

Hey, Pogo: we’re not just the enemy;
We’re the Nazis!


Planned Results:

2001 02 25 The newsletter brings this delicious quote and report via the great Jay Hanson.

Wherever men hold unequal power in society, they will strive to maintain it. They will use whatever means are convenient to that end and will seek to justify them by the most plausible arguments they are able to devise.

Reinhold Neibuhr

The US Energy Information Agency (EIA) admits studies are “reverse-engineered” in order to keep the liberal economic program intact!!! See page 221 in

These adjustments to the USGS [US Geological Survey] and MMS [Materials Management Service] estimates are based on non-technical considerations that support domestic supply growth to the levels necessary to meet projected demand levels.

Translation: “We cooked the books to satisfy our political agenda.”

2006 02 18 NASA has recently been in the news for censoring its scientists, directing them what to say. Scientists were instructed to emphasize that evolution is a theory. Of course it’s a theory. How often does pk have to emphasize:

Theory is the highest epistemological state rational man can reach.

(I’ve said that in more than one phrasing.)

But of course NASA is run by the state. Schools are run by the state. Universities are increasingly influenced by the state. And the state and science are incompatible. The state’s business is to nurse public lack of sophistication ever back to its default setting: such and such is only a theory; (whereas we superstitious ignoramuses have knowledge without need for theory).

Catch Up with the Fascists:

Think of this though: we said we’d knock Hitler down. We did: hard. But then we snatched his policies and ran with them ourselves! Hating the soviet, for example; handing out big contracts to favored businesses (No need for bidding on this one: we’ll just give it to Haliburton). Hitler could hardly have done either better himself.


The “demi” is of course the lab supervisor: a grad student, a hack, a junior elder.

Social Survival

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
This entry was posted in culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s