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Scientist seeks to banish evil, boost empathy

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posted on May, 9 2011 @ 01:24 PM
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"Deny Ignorance"
That motto has never been more appropriate than in this thread.

Very, Very importantly, at no point in that article does Baron - Cohen or anyone else suggest using gene therapy to increase empathy!!

Where the hell did you get that from?
Baron-Cohen is discussing the usefulness of psychological treatments, meaning talking therapies.
He's not even suggesting medication!

There's so much utter rubbish written here it's saddening. Do you know why psychopaths exist? It's because they cannot empathise. Simple as that. Sociopaths too.
If there was a massive worldwide increase in empathy tomorrow, the result would be nothing but positive.
How any of you can even attempt to suggest that more empathy could ever lead to harm is beyond reason.

Suggesting that intolerance and violence are positive attributes is childish and ignorant and just plain dumb.

Shame on you.


edit on 9-5-2011 by subby because: (no reason given)




posted on May, 9 2011 @ 01:40 PM
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reply to post by subby
 


Why don't you subscribe to your own advice?

Baron-Cohen made NO assertions as to what the "reparations" were, simply that the deficiences should or can be addressed.

Additionally, I certainly don't and would not WANT to share in your over-emotional state right now as I'm very happy and wouldn't want your unappealing disdain of what you've seen to ruin my day. So in that, I can say that empathizing with you would be a negative thing, especially right now.



posted on May, 9 2011 @ 01:47 PM
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Originally posted by Illusionsaregrander


What does theology have to do with anything?


Sometimes it seems you have a serious knack for reading into a post what you WANT to read, instead of what was precisely typed. I SAID, depending on your particular interpretation of "evil". IF you believe that it is some supernatural manifestation, then obviously science has NOTHING to do with it.


Originally posted by Illusionsaregrander
In fact, religion IS based on a type of science.


Not even close. Religion is based upon dogma, from start to finish. The end. There is absolutely no science what so ever involved in the basis of religion.



posted on May, 9 2011 @ 06:06 PM
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Originally posted by alphabetaone
reply to post by subby
 


Why don't you subscribe to your own advice?

Baron-Cohen made NO assertions as to what the "reparations" were, simply that the deficiences should or can be addressed.

Additionally, I certainly don't and would not WANT to share in your over-emotional state right now as I'm very happy and wouldn't want your unappealing disdain of what you've seen to ruin my day. So in that, I can say that empathizing with you would be a negative thing, especially right now.


I'll tell you why I don't need to subscribe to my own advice; because I have a correctly informed opinion.
Baron-Cohen is referring to a section of society that have personality disorders. Psychopaths and sex criminals are amongst these types and medication does not treat or cure them. Their damage is psychological and the only treatment that comes close to having a positive affect on their conditions is psychotherapy, and he is proposing a specialist form of this which targets empathic responses.
I expect a murderer doesn't want the realisation of the pain that has been caused to "ruin their day" either.
Yes, I have disdain; for people that exhibit poorly constructed, knee-jerk reactions fuelled by paranoia and Hollywood movies.
This isn't about governments wasting tax money to treat people for being selfish solipsists, it's about serious illness and the innocent lives destroyed by severe personality disorders.

Oh, I almost forgot that you compared Baron-Cohen's desire to save lives by increasing empathy in psychopaths with Hitler's desire to murder millions of Jews.
Do you have a problem with Jewish people?
edit on 9-5-2011 by subby because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 9 2011 @ 07:19 PM
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Originally posted by alphabetaone

Not even close. Religion is based upon dogma, from start to finish. The end. There is absolutely no science what so ever involved in the basis of religion.


You are wrong. The big three Abrahamic traditions have at their core the ten commandments. Which, if you look at them objectively, you will see is a blueprint for "how to have a strong and cohesive group." It has rules about not stealing, envying, sleeping with other peoples wives, and only having one God, (as an attempt to eliminate in fighting) it has rules about obeying elders, (because in the old days the older people served as cultural repositories and their input was crucial to survival of the group) and the rules about sex also help to keep down STDs which can run rampant and cause serious weakness in a group.

Those rules all have clear survival advantages to them in terms of group selection. As do many of the other rules on food, (shellfish and pork often carry serious diseases.)

Science couched in myth and stories is no less science. Its NOT just dogma, although there is plenty of that in there. Even the way the Bible handles the slaughter of enemies, (leaving virgin girls alive but killing all the others) has clear survival advantage.

Some people, including many scientists, are not objective enough to see WHY these religions do as well as they do worldwide, they provide real advantage in the realm of group selection to their followers.



posted on May, 9 2011 @ 08:06 PM
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Originally posted by Illusionsaregrander

Originally posted by alphabetaone

Not even close. Religion is based upon dogma, from start to finish. The end. There is absolutely no science what so ever involved in the basis of religion.


You are wrong. The big three Abrahamic traditions have at their core the ten commandments. Which, if you look at them objectively, you will see is a blueprint for "how to have a strong and cohesive group." It has rules about not stealing, envying, sleeping with other peoples wives, and only having one God, (as an attempt to eliminate in fighting) it has rules about obeying elders, (because in the old days the older people served as cultural repositories and their input was crucial to survival of the group) and the rules about sex also help to keep down STDs which can run rampant and cause serious weakness in a group.

Those rules all have clear survival advantages to them in terms of group selection. As do many of the other rules on food, (shellfish and pork often carry serious diseases.)

Science couched in myth and stories is no less science. Its NOT just dogma, although there is plenty of that in there. Even the way the Bible handles the slaughter of enemies, (leaving virgin girls alive but killing all the others) has clear survival advantage.

Some people, including many scientists, are not objective enough to see WHY these religions do as well as they do worldwide, they provide real advantage in the realm of group selection to their followers.


But the 'Ten Commandments' isn't responsible for nature's development of reciprocated altruism, evolution is.
The Bible took what already existed and tried to claim it.



posted on May, 9 2011 @ 08:19 PM
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Originally posted by subby

But the 'Ten Commandments' isn't responsible for nature's development of reciprocated altruism, evolution is.
The Bible took what already existed and tried to claim it.


Of course its not responsible for it, absolutely those were natures rules. But human beings vary in their natural adherence to those rules. Some people are naturally highly alruistic, and some are what behavioral science and game theory sometimes calls "cheaters." Those who will accept altruism and cooperation but not reciprocate it.

Religions that codified natures rules tried to come up with a solution for this problem of differential natural altruism by inventing a God always watching who would punish you if you got over on your peers. Its quite clever really.

And how do we know this is indeed the kind of reasoning that went into "religious practice" by the proto scientists of the day? Because Plato, for one, tells us so explicitly in the "Republic" when he outlines his strategy for selective breeding under the auspices of "the noble lie."



posted on May, 9 2011 @ 08:27 PM
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reply to post by HunkaHunka
 


HH,

I don't even need to tear apart your pathetic reasoning.

It's obvious to everyone else that you're severely personality disordered.

Sad, sad, sad....



posted on May, 9 2011 @ 08:30 PM
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The people who want to have evil on a planet either need to stop trolling or date a sociopath and then come and tell us all that.



Look at where evil got humanity; cancers (torture) with chemo (more torture), deaths, beheading with a knife, cooking people alive in a microwave...
Yeah sounds like the exact thing we want to keep around.



It was best said by the guy that stated "we either remove evil, or let it remove us". There's no middle ground forever.



posted on May, 9 2011 @ 09:27 PM
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reply to post by Illusionsaregrander
 


I wouldn't claim to be an altruist and I think it's an overused, often misunderstood word, but I suppose being a professional nurse, I may be naturally more empathetic than average, as well as trained to think that way.
But, that doesn't make me a gullible fool. I'm perfectly capable of recognising if somebody is taking advantage of kindness and withdrawing it if required. Even without religion people carry reputations and we are programmed to respond to reciprocated altruism, not to simply help every leech that rears it's head.
This is covered very well in Richard Dawkins' 'The Selfish Gene' and 'The God Delusion'.



posted on May, 9 2011 @ 09:43 PM
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Originally posted by subby

I wouldn't claim to be an altruist and I think it's an overused, often misunderstood word, but I suppose being a professional nurse, I may be naturally more empathetic than average, as well as trained to think that way.


Dont go read my comments on nurses in the serial killer thread then.


Originally posted by subby
Even without religion people carry reputations and we are programmed to respond to reciprocated altruism, not to simply help every leech that rears it's head.
This is covered very well in Richard Dawkins' 'The Selfish Gene' and 'The God Delusion'.


Reputation is only worth something if the person committing the act gets caught. So, for instance, a burglar who never gets caught can have a stellar reputation in the community. Stupid "cheaters" do get selected against. But smart or good cheaters dont get selected against because of their reputation. Just like smart and clever serial killing nurses and doctors can go on for years.

And Im well aware of Dawkins work. Evolutionary theory as applied to human behavior is one of my strong areas of interest. And of course people CAN do it without religion. But people like Dawkins are letting their bias show by pretending religion, specifically the three middle eastern ones who are very much so modeled on the principles of group selection, do not have some pretty remarkable survival value to offer their adherents.

They havent dominated every religion on the planet because they are detrimental to the followers. They are globally dominant because they offer some serious selective advantage, including the willingness to kill off those who dont play ball.



posted on May, 10 2011 @ 07:43 AM
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Originally posted by Illusionsaregrander

Dont go read my comments on nurses in the serial killer thread then.

I'm very interested to read that...will try and find it.


Originally posted by Illusionsaregrander
Reputation is only worth something if the person committing the act gets caught. So, for instance, a burglar who never gets caught can have a stellar reputation in the community. Stupid "cheaters" do get selected against. But smart or good cheaters dont get selected against because of their reputation. Just like smart and clever serial killing nurses and doctors can go on for years.


Yes, but we were discussing the danger of 'cheaters' becoming a dominant force in a world of increased empathy that requires the 'altruistic' types to willingly help the 'cheaters', which is very different to the 'cheaters' taking what they want by force. I believe that these 'cheaters' will inevitably get caught out and 'de-selected'.
If crime were such a predictable and safe way to accumulate wealth our prisons wouldn't be so overcrowded.


Originally posted by Illusionsaregrander
But people like Dawkins are letting their bias show by pretending religion, specifically the three middle eastern ones who are very much so modeled on the principles of group selection, do not have some pretty remarkable survival value to offer their adherents.

They havent dominated every religion on the planet because they are detrimental to the followers. They are globally dominant because they offer some serious selective advantage, including the willingness to kill off those who dont play ball.


From where I'm standing it's hard to say which religion is dominating the world...

All very interesting....and a little off topic, really. This thread being about Simon Baron-Cohen's desire to increase feelings of empathy in severely personality disordered patients by means of psychotherapy.
I'm still amazed at how quickly that passed through the paranoid over-reaction filter to become the whole world being forced to receive gene therapy to make them decent human beings



posted on May, 10 2011 @ 11:35 AM
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Originally posted by subby

Yes, but we were discussing the danger of 'cheaters' becoming a dominant force in a world of increased empathy that requires the 'altruistic' types to willingly help the 'cheaters', which is very different to the 'cheaters' taking what they want by force. I believe that these 'cheaters' will inevitably get caught out and 'de-selected'.


Who runs the world? And why do we all help them? What are people who move into countries to take advantage of social programs and then undermine the culture of the country they have moved to? What are people within a culture who take from social programs and do not pay in? What are people who exploit the desperate for cheap labor at great profit to themselves, demanding loyalty and dedication from workers and returning none? What are people who send other peoples children to war, but not their own? What are people who use infrastructure paid for by taxes and refuse to pay themselves? What are priests, preachers, etc., who instruct in giving and moral values they do not follow themselves?

One could argue that we ARE being overrun by cheaters.

And it is relevant to the topic. Because moral/immoral, good/evil, nice/mean, are all merely labels for the same concepts that game theory and economics, and other fields study as cheaters/reciprocal altruists.

The scientist in the OP wants to take the long way around to get rid of "evil" by trying to find a way to engineer it out. When in fact, we have methods of engineering it out. Its called "killing them." And many religions DO ask that you kill out from the group those who "cheat" or who undermine the good of the group in favor of their own advantage.
edit on 10-5-2011 by Illusionsaregrander because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 10 2011 @ 04:29 PM
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Originally posted by Illusionsaregrander

Originally posted by subby

Yes, but we were discussing the danger of 'cheaters' becoming a dominant force in a world of increased empathy that requires the 'altruistic' types to willingly help the 'cheaters', which is very different to the 'cheaters' taking what they want by force. I believe that these 'cheaters' will inevitably get caught out and 'de-selected'.


Who runs the world? And why do we all help them? What are people who move into countries to take advantage of social programs and then undermine the culture of the country they have moved to? What are people within a culture who take from social programs and do not pay in? What are people who exploit the desperate for cheap labor at great profit to themselves, demanding loyalty and dedication from workers and returning none? What are people who send other peoples children to war, but not their own? What are people who use infrastructure paid for by taxes and refuse to pay themselves? What are priests, preachers, etc., who instruct in giving and moral values they do not follow themselves?

One could argue that we ARE being overrun by cheaters.

And it is relevant to the topic. Because moral/immoral, good/evil, nice/mean, are all merely labels for the same concepts that game theory and economics, and other fields study as cheaters/reciprocal altruists.

The scientist in the OP wants to take the long way around to get rid of "evil" by trying to find a way to engineer it out. When in fact, we have methods of engineering it out. Its called "killing them." And many religions DO ask that you kill out from the group those who "cheat" or who undermine the good of the group in favor of their own advantage.
edit on 10-5-2011 by Illusionsaregrander because: (no reason given)


I agree, the world is an incredibly unfair place and the people with all the money and power don't give a hoot about the less well off. If we could increase their empathetic feelings I would think it would be a huge benefit to all.
Regarding reciprocated altruism, my understanding is that it works on a tribal basis. Meaning though the government of my country may well be cheating the tax paying public out of their hard earned money, within the governmental tribe they belong to, they will obey cultural rules in order to survive. As long as people are reciprocating within their own tribe, regardless as to the size of that tribe, they will survive.
"Honour amongst thieves"

I think your last point is about the death penalty if I'm not mistaken. I suppose the question is whether we should be spending tax money trying to cure psychopaths. It's a good question. Psychologists get paid a lot of money.
Thankfully I'm a nurse, not a judge, so that's not my decision.
edit on 10-5-2011 by subby because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 11 2011 @ 09:04 AM
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Originally posted by subby

I agree, the world is an incredibly unfair place and the people with all the money and power don't give a hoot about the less well off. If we could increase their empathetic feelings I would think it would be a huge benefit to all.



I would like you to consider a real life example of a society becoming "kinder and gentler," and how that occurred.

www.nytimes.com...


Sometimes it takes the great Dustbuster of fate to clear the room of bullies and bad habits. Freak cyclones helped destroy Kublai Khan's brutal Mongolian empire, for example, while the Black Death of the 14th century capsized the medieval theocracy and gave the Renaissance a chance to shine.

Among a troop of savanna baboons in Kenya, a terrible outbreak of tuberculosis 20 years ago selectively killed off the biggest, nastiest and most despotic males, setting the stage for a social and behavioral transformation unlike any seen in this notoriously truculent primate.


There are lots of sources for the story, some more technical which you can google if you want, and its also included in a National Geographic special called "Stress" if you like your data visual.

It actually goes beyond merely "the death penalty," and sort of enters the uncomfortable realm of deliberately removing from the gene pool not only people who are convicted of crimes, but those who display certain traits whether criminal or no. Increasing empathy may or may not be possible, depending on how someone is wired. And, genetics is complex and we are still in our infancy in terms of understanding the complex interrelationships.

What we understand much better is the brutal hatchet method of not letting animals/people reproduce if they carry certain traits.

Although the method is time tested and consistent with nature, people dont react well to the idea. "Eugeneics" is a dirty word, which is why I suppose the scientist in question is seeking a kinder, gentler way to achieve an end we can already achieve via a much more nasty process.

My goal for pointing it out isnt advocacy. Its to point to an underlying problem with altruism that many people who do not actually study it, ignore. That problem being, it REQUIRES discrimination and violence to maintain itself as viable in a population. Say for instance this scientist succeeds in his plan to alter the genetics of a people to make them more altruistic. More empathetic, and less "evil." Great right? And no one has to die.

BUT. In a world where our leaders tend to have a higher concentration of traits we could call "sociopathic" who is to say that that technology will not simply be used to further "altruism up" the masses, and the leaders will exempt themselves from it. Which would really create a two tiered human family, the sheep and the wolves would take on a whole new meaning, and the engineered sheep would be entirely lacking in the ability to discriminate and select against, (kill off) their leaders/farmers should they become increasingly exploitative.


Originally posted by subby
Regarding reciprocated altruism, my understanding is that it works on a tribal basis. Meaning though the government of my country may well be cheating the tax paying public out of their hard earned money, within the governmental tribe they belong to, they will obey cultural rules in order to survive..


Thats not the case. And here is where it is important to see the value in the Ten Commandments as a guide to playing the game of "group selection."

If reciprocal altruism isnt a norm, if people do not expect it from each other and their leaders, the group begins to shatter from the inside out. Making it vulnerable to competing group who have maintained greater internal cohesiveness. You cant ignore cheating. There is no level at which you can say it is "safe" to allow it to occur, because human beings are always seeking advantage. (The more individual "selfish gene" theory) If they see that their neighbors and boss and leaders are getting advantage by doing X, even if they are highly altruistic, eventually they HAVE to become more of a cheater themselves or they begin to be selected against. (See the "Tragedy of the Commons" for how this plays out.)

Natural selection is ALWAYS at work. We can acknowledge that, and work with it, or we can ignore it, which is a form of selection itself whether we admit it or not.



Originally posted by subby
Thankfully I'm a nurse, not a judge, so that's not my decision.


And Im a philosopher, so this is the kind of stuff that is right up my alley, and while that may not be your profession, you clearly enjoy is as a sport.
Good conversation. I enjoy discussions with people who can remain relatively impassive and not get all emotional about an issue.



posted on May, 11 2011 @ 01:28 PM
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reply to post by Illusionsaregrander
 


Agreed, it's refreshing to have a calm, reasonable and enjoyable discussion about such a potentially inflammatory topic.

Such massive concepts we're dealing with - the very nature of human interaction and the balance of power.
The concept of Tribalism is particularly complex at the moment I think, because the tribes we belong to are growing exponentially. The internet has brought us closer together as a species - we can share experiences and connect with like the minded like never before, meaning our personal perception of our tribe could potentially envelop every member of our favourite website. Could this mean that as our tribal membership grows numerically and geographically, so does reciprocated altruism?

As far as corrupt governments are concerned, maybe the recent revolutions in the middle east suggest that the 'sheeple' won't simply sit back and watch those in power cheat the system.



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