Sunday, 3 April 2016

TARK MARG: THE POLE STAR OF MORAL BEHAVIOR.

THE CENTRALITY OF MORALITY IN SOCIAL QUESTIONS:           

Most of the vociferous disputes in society hinge on the question, “what is the moral/right thing to do?” For instance, the entry of large numbers of Middle Eastern migrants into Germany at the behest of Chancellor Merkel is either a fine example of European values in action, or a disastrous decision which could destroy European values, depending on whom you ask (1,2). Gay marriage, transgender rights etc are either self-evident justice or gross deviancy. A similar divergence of views exists regarding everything from taxation and redistribution to housing policy and affirmative action. Throughout history, most intra-society conflict has hinged on disagreement over what constitutes the right thing to do. A clear answer to this question will go a long way to addressing these conflicts.

THE AMBIGUOUS NATURE OF MORALITY:

These disputes exist because moral behavior has no unambiguous, commonly agreed upon definition, unlike say, questions from mathematics or physics. Instead, most people’s conception of morality is heavily colored by subjective, circumstantial and selfish interest factors.

Thus, unlike the objective theorems of Euclidean geometry or arithmetic, what is considered morally acceptable behavior in 2016 in the Western world, such as gay marriage, would be considered ludicrously libertine by the standards of the West in 1916. 1916 itself, being on the cusp of female suffrage etc, would’ve been disapproved of in 1816 and so on. Extrapolating this trend into the future, perhaps the world of 2116 will look upon in horror at the cruelty and callousness of 2016, at the absence of cetacean or chimpanzee personhood (3, 4), or at “animal slavery” or factory farming (5, 6) etc. Or, if the trend towards greater liberalism has gone into reverse by 2116, 2016 may be seen as the high water mark of libertinism and decadence after which sense was restored; there is absolutely no way to say.

One only has to recall that people once were exactly as secure in their beliefs about witchcraft or Geocentrism as we are in our beliefs today. For instance, the English Parliament passed a Witchcraft Act in 1604 supported by the great and the good of the land, under which convicted witches could be hanged and King James I even apparently published a book on Demonology (7, 8). Famously, people once believed with utter confidence that the sun revolved around the earth, and Galileo’s attempt to refute this notion by evidence and reasoning only earned him house arrest (9).

Just as the sense of morality varies with time, it also varies over space, with perfectly acceptable behavior in the liberal West like homosexuality or public nudity being considered depravity punishable by death in some cases, as in Islamic countries. Similar variation occurs with other parameters like age, sex, income, religion, family background etc. Moreover, as popular fashions change, people’s conception of morality changes with the herd. For example, Hillary Clinton or President Obama have totally inverted their earlier stances on issues like gay marriage and immigration just as the popular mood shifted (10, 11, 12).

Thus we see that in general, people’s sense of morality is not an autonomous, logical stance taken after careful observation and consideration, but is mostly a function of A) their individual instincts and B) social milieu.

DERIVING A MORAL CODE FROM FIRST PRINCIPLES:

How can one break through the mist and fog and determine the actual truth? Would physics or mathematics have gotten anywhere if it was simply a product of collective gut feeling rather than logical observation and hypothesis formation? Should we be content to be driftwood pushed back and forth by the tides and currents of popular passions and fashions?
This is not an idle theoretical question either; the fate of whole societies may hinge on being able to carefully ascertain what constitutes optimal behavior, as for instance in the case of the recent migrant crisis in Europe.

I shall therefore ambitiously attempt in this post to derive an objective, explicit guiding principle for moral behavior which holds true always and everywhere, like the Pole Star, which unerringly points due North from wherever and by whoever observed.

As with other fields of rational enquiry, I shall start by establishing a basic axiom. An axiom is a starting point known to be true based on everyday observation, using which further principles may be derived. Some common examples from geometry and mathematics are “it is possible to draw a straight line between any two points”, or that “if A = C, and B = C, then A = B”. Based on these empirically validated starting points, further principles can be derived.

What axiom can we deduce from an examination of human behavior? Let us consider the two major drivers of human behavior, hardwired individual instincts and social norms.

UNDERLYING BASIS OF INDIVIDUAL INSTINCTS AND SOCIAL NORMS:

Let us look at a few well known, universal, culturally invariant human instincts. As I see it, these can be divided into two categories; 1) those that urge repetition of certain situations and 2) those seeking to avoid certain circumstances. Examples of the first category are love of rich foods, peer approval, wealth, sex etc, while examples of the latter are avoidance of physical injury, deprivation, social isolation, etc. What pattern can one spot here? Are these universal instincts mere random whims or is there an underlying logic?

It is apparent that the former are situations that enhance one’s chances of survival and reproduction, while the latter diminish these chances. Thus calories, peer approval, wealth, sex etc improve one’s likelihood of survival and reproduction, while the converse is true of injury, poverty or peer rejection. 

We can thus assume that instincts have evolved to bring about the self-perpetuation of the individual whose behavior they shape. Instincts that did otherwise would have driven the person they influenced and thereby themselves, extinct over the generations.

The same can be deduced from an examination of universal social norms. Practically all societies promote, at least internally, behaviors like honesty, altruism, hard work and prohibit behaviors like dishonesty, theft, gratuitous violence etc. It is particularly noteworthy that societies as widely separated by distinct as the European, Islamic and Australian Aboriginal all subscribe to a similar set of basic social norms. In my view, this is an example of an evolutionary biology concept called convergent evolution (13). The gist of convergent evolution is that widely differing species that face similar situations will likely evolve similar responses. A famous example is that of sharks (cold blooded fish) and dolphins (warm blooded mammals), which have independently evolved similar streamlined shapes despite being from very different parts of the evolutionary tree because this is the most efficient shape for their common problem, cutting through water.

Similarly, conservation of social norms like avoidance of gratuitous violence or theft or promotion of altruism, is a good sign that there is an underlying logic behind these norms. They can only be sensibly explained, in my view, in the context of social survival and propagation. Thus, it is evident that a society whose members are honest, eschew gratuitous violence towards each other, help each other in times of need will be more competitive in the long run. 

A particularly illustrative norm is the almost universal prohibition of incest. Incest does not necessarily involve force or fraud typical of other prohibited behaviors like murder or theft, yet practically all societies all over the world consider it taboo. Even societies where cousin marriage is acceptable, as in the Middle East, prohibit marriage between direct siblings. This prohibition is not explained logically but is instead articulated as a kind of disgust into which people are indoctrinated. 

Why should this be? The answer has become apparent with the advent of modern genetics. Offspring of closely related persons are at much greater risk of contracting homozygous recessive diseases and susceptibility to infectious disease (14), and by outlawing incest society avoids the burden of having a large number of its citizens debilitated by avoidable diseases, thus increasing its potential for self-perpetuation. Thus we see that social norms have evolved solely to ensure the collective survival of its members. 

Based on the above reasoning, we can conclude that the underlying basis for both individual instincts as well as collective norms is an impulse for self-perpetuation. This, of course, is a direct corollary of the theory of evolution.

Extrapolating from this, an eternally valid, context independent morality statement can be formulated as follows:

That is moral which leads to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation.

For any given set of possible actions, the one whose pros regarding self-perpetuation most outweigh the cons is the most moral choice; i.e. maximizes P(act) - C(act),  where P(act) is the self-perpetuation benefit (pro) of a given action while C(act) is the con. I shall refer to this perspective as Tark Marg.

It is of course, often difficult to quantitatively gauge this, and a large degree of subjectivity is unavoidable. Nonetheless, I believe that this line of thought will help society avoid many pitfalls, as shown later.

FRICTION BETWEEN INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE SELF-PERPETUATION:

It’ll be apparent to the reader that a conflict can arise between individual and collective self-perpetuation. Individual self-perpetuation may be enhanced by theft, whereas collective self-perpetuation will be hurt by such actions. This is a classic case of the tragedy of the commons, a personally useful act can lead to collective loss. The solution is to realize that individual survival is impossible without collective strength. Thus, actions like theft or dishonesty, while beneficial in the short term to an individual, can and will hurt his progeny, and thus his personal self-perpetuation, by creating an unhealthy culture in society and making that society weak and dysfunctional compared to competitors. It is no coincidence that societies with high levels of transparency and low levels of corruption, like the Scandinavian countries or Singapore, are also the ones with the highest and most secure standards of living.

INSTINCTS AND NORMS CAN BECOME OBSOLETE:

Although individual instincts and collective norms have evolved to ensure individual and collective survival, these can easily become obsolete in the face of rapid social change. As external circumstances can change abruptly, while changing hardwired instincts or deeply inculcated social norms often requires generations, instincts and norms can become obsolete or even counter-productive.

We see a stark example of this in the wave of obesity sweeping many parts of the world. For pretty much all of history, humankind has been short of calories. Hence our bodies/brains have evolved an attraction towards calorie rich (sweet/fatty) foods and a mechanism for storing these as fat. This helped to buffer against times of scarcity. However, with the advent of industrial agriculture, food is plentiful, while the need for hard manual labor which would burn up those calories has declined sharply. However, because the instinctive love of calories is hardwired, many people persist in consuming and storing excess calories, leading to a sharp spike in the obesity rate, with grievous health consequences and unfitness which are the precise opposite of what the calorie-loving instinct evolved for.

To avoid pitfalls like this, it is best to keep in mind the explicit underlying rationale behind instincts and norms, rather than merely following them blindly. I shall refer to this manner of thinking as Tark Marg (reason-path in Sanskrit).

APPLICATION OF TARK MARG MORALITY TO SELECTED TOPICS:

Let us apply Tark Marg to some current topics:

1) ANIMAL RIGHTS:

Animal rights (and associated phenomena like vegetarianism, veganism, anti-cruelty laws etc) is a well-established and growing movement in various parts of the world. Indian civilization in particular has developed a very prominent vegetarian strand, possibly catalyzed by Buddhism and Jainism. In the West, as far my admittedly limited knowledge goes, there’ve been movements as far back as the 19th century (anti-vivisection society, 15) and more recently Peter Singer’s book “Animal Liberation” has become the bible of animal rights movement (16). Yet when seen from a Tark Marg perspective, conferring rights on animals is an unambiguous case of a negative P(act) – C(act).

Without belaboring the point, in my view rights are reciprocal concessions (such as freedom from unprovoked violence or theft) given by parties to each other for mutual self-perpetuation benefit. This requires that for all concerned parties, the P(act) – C(act) be greater in the case of a cooperative arrangement rather than a coercive one. In other words,

P(co-op) – C(co-op) –P(coer) + C(coer) > 0, where P and C stand for benefit (pro) and cost (con), and co-op and coer stand for cooperation and coercion respectively.

By and large the benefit of co-operation (P(co-op)) with humans is high and so is the cost of conflict (C(coer)) as humans can retaliate. Moreover humans can decrease the P(coer) term by destroying the resources for which coercion might be applied, so it makes sense for people to be cooperative, i.e. confer rights on each other.

As animals are unable to comprehend, let alone participate in this arrangement, concessions (i.e. rights) conferred on animals are nonsensical, and are an example of empathobesity in my view.
To elaborate briefly, much of the calorie product present in the natural environment, such as grass, straw, decaying or waste matter, marine plankton etc are indigestible by humans, but not to animals like ruminants, pigs, chickens or fish. Even in agriculturally intensive environments, a majority of the biomass of crop plants is in the form of straw, leaves etc and only a minority in grains. Thus the only way to access these calories is the consumption of animal products like meat, milk and eggs, and so the P(coer) term is very high for animals. Similarly, the C(coer) and P(co-op) terms are low for animals, rendering the above equation negative.  

Thus, a society that practices vegetarianism, let alone dogmatic veganism, will have fewer calories available form an otherwise equal environment than an omnivorous competitor society. This will result, other things being equal, in a smaller and weaker population, a recipe for extinction. This is without taking into account other animal products like leather and wool, as well as other benefits like serving as model systems for the study of human diseases etc. 

Thus it is indisputable that Tark Marg is highly in favor of animal usage and against the animal rights/vegetarianism meme.

As mentioned in Peter Singer’s book, the origin of the animal rights movement is an extension of the instinct of empathy, historically restricted to members of one’s society, to animals. But should instincts be extended ad infinitum? As we have seen with the example of obesity, instincts make sense only to a certain extent and in a certain context. What is this context when it comes to empathy?

As with other instincts, empathy can only be logically explained from a self-perpetuation rationale. In my view, empathy is useful in that in compels the subject to extend help to fellow citizens in distress, who may then reciprocate later, thus enhancing collective self-perpetuation.

The implication is that empathy is only relevant when applied to those willing and able to reciprocate for mutual benefit, thus ruling out its application to animals, who are incapable of understanding, let alone reciprocating the contract implicit in empathy.

2) GAY MARRIAGE AND MARRIAGE IN GENERAL:

WHY CONFER PRIVILEGES ON MARRIAGE?

Until recently, marriage was by default a prelude to reproduction, and as married couples are more likely than other parenting models like single mothers to give rise to productive citizens, (17), it made sense to confer special status/financial benefits on married couples. In other words, the most parsimonious explanation is that from a self-perpetuation perspective, society gains a net self-perpetuation benefit (P(act) > C(act)) in conferring special privileges on those who would privately bear burdens (i.e. Childbearing and rearing) which have public positive externalities (future taxpayers, workers etc).
In recent years the extension of marriage rights to homosexual couples has become a popular political trend in Western countries, and as such is likely to spread to others which are culturally downstream from the West (18, 19). This is in line with a centuries long trend of increasing empowerment, which was responsible for the rise of the West historically but has now run into negative returns, in my view (see December 2015 post). Marriage confers privileges like exemption from inheritance and gift taxes and others, so extension of this to homosexual couples imposes a cost (C(act)) to society in terms of foregone revenue. Yet I cannot see a clear countervailing P(act), given that homosexual couples are unable to produce future citizens. Thus, in my opinion, C(act) is greater than P(act) in the case of homosexual couples and gay marriage is therefore a unfavorable policy.    
In fact, in contrast to the trend of expanding marriage rights, the self-perpetuation rationale seems to me to require a contraction of marriage privileges. As the widespread availability of contraception means that many heterosexual couples are also childless, these too no longer produce the P(act) to justify being given subsidies/privilege historically associated with marriage.

Thus, the rational path, Tark Marg would be to modify the current arrangement and provide tax rebates/subsidies/exemptions etc to parents or guardians, including homosexual and single parents etc, whose children meet a minimum threshold of likelihood to be good taxpayers. As a rough example, all children scoring above, say, the 20th percentile in basic criteria like literacy and numeracy could qualify their parents/legal guardians for certain subsidies. These incentives could be formulated to achieve optimal outcomes in terms of number of children etc.

The availability of decades of data on individual citizens should enable estimation of what early childhood parameters are predictors of future potential as good citizens, and these could then be subsidized; however this should not be overdone as there are likely important parameters that are difficult to measure.
The details of this modified incentive structure are beyond the scope of this blog post, and will vary based on numerous variables. Suffice it to say that Tark Marg leads us to quite a different and, in my view, more sensible and sustainable direction than the default empathobese path which society is on now.   

CONCLUSION:

I hope I have been able to convey the empirically and logically compelling, and rather beautiful reasoning that unifies disparate facts and observation into a coherent structure centered on the most basic impulse of all living creatures, self-perpetuation. Not only is it intellectually satisfying, it is an indispensable guide, like the Pole Star, in an otherwise complex and ever-changing world. I hope you’ll agree, dear reader.

It has not escaped my notice that some of the thoughts expressed here can cause disquiet or outrage. Yet outrage can also be a consequence of a creeping realization of the fragility of one's position. After all if I said something obviously false like 2 + 2 = 5000, this wouldn't likely cause outrage. I'd appreciate an attempt to examine one's own position from scratch and I promise to hear logical or factual rebuttals of my position with all the objectivity I can muster.

In the coming days I’ll try to discuss this in greater depth. Please spread the word if you found this post interesting and leave a comment if you have criticism or feedback.

REFERENCES:
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-25459648






121 comments:

  1. Convergent evolution requires that the trait was not continually in all lines going back to the MRCA. So your examples of "convergent evolution" in humans seem much more likely to be traits that have remained constant in all societies dating back to the MRCA population of all humans.

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    1. That's a valid point. The prohibition of certain kinds of behavior (the context for which I used the convergent evolution analogy) likely predates the MRCA of various human societies, and probably Homo Sapiens itself.

      Perhaps a better analogy would be the conservation of various genes or gene segments (especially active site residues) or signalling pathways over different species. On the whole however this does not detract from the points made above, as far as I'm able to objectively judge.

      What do you think of the overall argument though?

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  2. Re your ideas on animal rights. You are yapping in abstractions. The reality is that it is sheer craziness to inflict on another sensate being the kind of suffering you yourself want to avoid. That animals aren't rational is irrelevant. Because the world is not perfect, some people, some of the time will have to kill animals and eat their flesh. But decent folk will try to minimize it and, further, regret that they had to resort to participating in the inflicting of pain on animals.

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    1. "You are yapping in abstractions"

      Usage of pejorative terms like yapping suggests that your stance lacks rational, factual support so you have to compensate with insults. In addition, by belittling speech you don't like by comparing it to the vocalization of dogs, you're implicitly confirming my notion that animals are inferior. Anyway, abstractions are the starting point of action (including actions you'd support), so there's nothing wrong with abstractions per se.

      "The reality is that it is sheer craziness to inflict...suffering..."

      I get it. You experience a blast of repulsive feeling when thinking about suffering inflicted on helpless animals. We all feel that; I certainly do.

      Yet blasts of emotion are not reliable guides to reality or correct behavior, as in the example of an excessive love of food leading to obesity. Not that emotion is always wrong, but some times it is and even when tending in the right direction, it can stray from the optimum point.

      What is needed then, in my view, is an objective parameter using which to calibrate our stance and actions. I have tried to develop this above (self-perpetuation) and based on this, it is indisputable that concern for animal suffering (which does not enhance self-perpetuation) is a mis-application of concern for the suffering of one's fellow citizens (which does enhance self-perpetuation).

      Please try and separate yourself for a while from reflexive emotion or social conditioning and consider the reasoning.

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    2. Lastly, I'm sorry if it seems like I'm putting you down rudely. That is certainly not my intention. But do try and set aside ingrained, reflexive passions and consider things objectively.

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  3. Hello Tark Marg,
    The post of 3rd April 2016 on the centrality of morality in society was thought-provoking. The notions presented, such as "deriving a moral code from first principles" and "an objective, explicit guiding principle for moral behavior which holds true always and everywhere", and the adoption of an algebraic paradigm on which to base moral judgments (P(co-op) – C(co-op) –P(coer) + C(coer) > 0), demonstrate an unusual and interesting approach to morality. It would indeed be an achievement to derive a moral code from first principles (a secular moral system, as it were) that can be applied universally and without contradictions in practice. Also the ideas were expressed with economy, clarity and some wit, which is appreciated.

    In the spirit of lively debate, the following three observations are offered (A, B and C).

    A. The "eternally valid, context independent morality statement: 'That is moral which leads to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation'."

    It is not clear what implications this has for civilized human activities, foremost being reading, writing and mathematics. They are not instinctive behaviors, and thus may not lead very much to self-perpetuation. They are very recent in human evolutionary time, and humans appear to have perpetuated rather well before them. And as an empricial fact, those who learn reading, writing and math tend to perpetuate less, and the more they learn the less they tend to perpetuate; on the other hand, those humans innocent of them tend to perpetuate more. Can it be said then that reading, writing and mathematics are immoral. Or is it that the principle somehows averts this result in ways that were unstated in the post, or which the reader missed. Or is it that some other moral principle is applied by the writer that averts this result, which is again either unstated or missed by the reader.

    Of course, it may be that reading, writing and math help, perhaps indirectly, the perpetuation of humans. But it is unclear whether this can be asserted as a fact. Evidence may be required, such as research studies, controlled experiments, repeatable results etc. Without it, the assertion remains a hypothesis. And this seems to be the problem with many, maybe even all, civilized human activities.

    Continued...

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    1. Hi Anonymous, once again, thank you for raising interestig points in a civil manner. Please see below my responses to your comments:

      A) "reading, writing and mathematics...may not lead very much to self-perpetuation" "But it is unclear whether this [reading/writing help perpetuation of humans] can be asserted as a fact."

      I politely but unreservedly disagree. Some of the most important developments underpinning the sharp spike in human population in recent centuries would be impossible without the technological advances enabled by reading, writing and mathematics.

      For instance, Pasteur's germ theory of disease, Fleming's discovery of antibiotics, the invention of vaccines, the development of indoor sanitation, the development of Haber-Bosch process for synthetic fertilizers, the availability of electricity and mass transportation, and so on, without which the human population could not have grown, are impossible without the generation and dissemination of insight enabled by mathematics and writing/reading.

      "...those who learn reading, writing and math tend to perpetuate less..."

      Correlation is not causation. As I see it, analogous to how obesity or allergy result from misregulation of hitherto useful instincts, the availability of contraception has allowed people (especially the well educated who have more awareness and access to contraceptives) to short-circuit the sex drive. They can now experience the thrill of sex without carrying out the purpose for which sex has evolved to be enjoyable; namely reproduction. This is the result of insufficient knowledge, not knowledge, and to rectify this is a part of the motivation behind this blog.

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    2. "Correlation is not causation."

      Perhaps it will be agreed that, to be precise, correlation is not NECESSARILY causation. Ordinary empirical knowledge relies on correlation to indicate causation, and modern science assigns correlation to cause through controlled experiments where the effects of the different variables are isolated.

      The more appropriate principle to consider may be the logical principle of modus ponens. On this principle, the Tark Marg proposition, 'That is moral which leads to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation' does not necessarily mean that what does NOT lead to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation is NOT moral. Therefore, assuming for argument that literacy does NOT lead to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation, it does not follow that it is NOT moral.

      For this reason, the reader has taken care to argue for the most part that the Tark Marg principle renders literacy morally dubious, and that some other moral principle may be required to decide on its morality.

      It is possible for the Tark Marg principle to be stated as "that is immoral which goes against perpetuation". This proposition appears to be less troublesome. For example, literacy and other civilized pursuits do not face the burden of dubious morality, until it is positively established that they go against perpetuation. But this is not the reader's call.

      However the writer may care to respond to the basic argument posted earlier by this reader, that "Reading, writing and mathematics are not instinctive behaviors [i.e. not genetically inherited], and thus may not lead very much to self-perpetuation. They are very recent in human evolutionary time, and humans appear to have perpetuated rather well before them. The time at which human population became significantly larger than other primate populations is when agriculture was taken up, and that did not involve reading, writing and mathematics."

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    3. "The sharp spike in human population in recent centuries would be impossible without the technological advances enabled by reading, writing and mathematics."

      The point is that this has to be an established fact, else the moral status of reading, writing and mathematics is dubious. Though the sharp spike in human population appears to be correlated with technological advances, correlation is not necessarily causation. Generalizations about causation in human society are tricky because of the multiplicity of variables, some of which could be hidden, and complexity of interaction, some of which may not be tractable for study. But general propositions about an empirical state of affairs require rigorous research studies, controlled experiments, repeatable results etc. to be tenable, including human affairs. Now, people have intuitions in these matters, but it is hoped that personal intuitions about facts are not made the basis of moral principles.

      At any rate, it is clear that reading writing and math are moral only in so far as they promote self-perpetuation, and dubious in all other cases. So for example writing and reading research papers on cosmogony (the origins of the universe), or deciphering the Indus Valley script, are moraly dubious, because there is no clear link to self perpetuation. (And it is hoped that the counter-argument will not be that they may have a link, unknown at present. If this is to be the argument, then the Tark Marg theory may not be saying anything useful, because just about anything can have a link to self-perpetuation that is at present unknown.) In general, modern humans do many things that are orthogonal to self perpetuation, and the moral status of these is dubious.

      So, as the Tark Marg moral principle is currently stated, anything that we cannot be sure aids perpetuation, is morally dubious. And when there are signs that it may go against perpetuation, we may fear the thing to not be moral. It is for this reason that the inverse correlation between literacy and perpetuation was adverted to. Also worth mention is that the human population spike is acute in low literacy countries, whereas high literacy countries have a distinct problem of maintaining their population levels.

      To sum up, the point is not so much to argue that literacy CAUSES low perpetuation, as to draw out the consequence of the Tark Marg principle that things like literacy cannot be considered to be moral until it is an established fact that they aid perpetuation.

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    4. "Reading, writing and mathematics are not instinctive behaviors...thus may not lead very much to self-perpetuation...humans appear to have perpetuated rather well before them. The time at which human population became significantly larger than other primate populations is when agriculture was taken up, and that did not involve reading, writing and mathematics."

      Thanks for your civil tone enquirer2000. However I find the above statement factually incorrect. Below is a link to world bank graph of the human population over time. You will notice a sharp exponential spike in the aftermath of the industrial revolution, especially in the 20th century as industrialization spread to the developing world (http://www.worldbank.org/depweb/english/beyond/global/chapter3.html).

      A relevant quote from above link: "death rates gradually decreased in the late 19th and the 20th centuries, with death rates in developing countries plummeting after World War II thanks to the spread of modern medicine that allowed control of infectious diseases.".

      To illustrate further that literacy and therefore technology is responsible for this growth, consider the sharp drop in mortality and increase in life span, both directly responsible for population growth, enabled by the germ theory of disease, vaccination and sanitation.

      For instance, a landmark in proving the germ theory of disease was the tabular analysis of the 1854 Broadstreet cholera outbreak by John Snow (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1854_Broad_Street_cholera_outbreak). Famously, quantitation and charting of the cholera toll was instrumental in proving the germ theory of disease, which has led to simple but massively effective measures like Pasteurization, sterilization etc. The importance of tabulation in solving the Broadstreet outbreak is direct illustration of the importance of mathematics, even of this simple kind, in improving mortality.

      Similarly, modern vaccine production on a mass scale relies on large bioreactors requiring precise control of temperature, aeration, material and heat transfer, all of which reply on precise quantification and detailed instructions, which require mathematics and literacy, without which mass and reliable manufacture of vaccines, perhaps the greatest factor in the reduced mortality leading to increased population, would have been impossible. Thus a direct link exists between literacy and population growth.

      Similarly, modern sanitation systems require large drainage systems and treatment plants, the construction of which require substantial calculation, which would have been impossible without mathematics. Much the same is true of the Haber-Bosch process (which requires precise stoichiometry and precisely machined reactors able to withstand massive pressures) required to produce the fertilizer without which agricultural yields would be less than half of what they are.

      This seems evident beyond doubt in my view. Moreover, your requirement for rigorous evidence for this particular point is inconsistent with loose assertions made elsewhere such as "Health professionals are observed to recommend more of fruits and veggies...".

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    5. "Reading, writing and mathematics are not instinctive behaviors"

      That is true, but whether a behavior is instinctive or otherwise has no unalterable correlation with its morality, especially based on the Tark Mark principle, which is solely concerned with the self-perpetuation, not it's instinctive or artificial origin.

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    6. "for example writing and reading research papers on cosmogony (the origins of the universe), or deciphering the Indus Valley script, are moraly dubious, because there is no clear link to self perpetuation."

      It depends. It seems to me that there are indirect but not absent benefits of studying such questions, perhaps because studying the past enables accurate prediction of the future, which is indispensable for maximizing self-perpetuation. I'd say that given the availability of a certain amount of resources, a moderate amount could be diverted usefully (from a self-perpetuation perspective) to such long horizon questions.

      On the whole, given the uncertainty surrounding such issues, one is reluctant to take blunt positions on such questions. I'm more confident about the futility of studying topics such as "contemporary dance" or "post modern fashion trends" than your examples of the Origin of the Universe or deciphering the Indus Valley Script.

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  4. B. "Rights are reciprocal concessions given by parties to each other for mutual self-perpetuation benefit. The benefit of co-operation with humans is high and so is the cost of conflict as humans can retaliate... As animals are unable to comprehend, let alone participate in this arrangement, concessions (i.e. rights) conferred on animals are nonsensical... empathy is useful in that it compels the subject to extend help to fellow citizens in distress, who may then reciprocate later, thus enhancing collective self-perpetuation."

    On the face of it, this appears to have the consequence that empathy is misplaced for any being that cannot co-operate, cannot retaliate, cannot comprehend and cannot participate in the enterprise of collective self-perpetuation. Is therefore empathy for the aged, the terminally ill, the crippled, the weak, the mentally retarded, the ignorant, the monks, et cetera, misplaced. Is it therefore moral for the 15th and 16th century Europeans to capture African natives and sell them to slavery. After all, what possible co-operation or retaliation could they offer. In general, are the weak and inferior to have no rights at all, and be at the mercy of the strong and capable, as it was in certain European countries in the mid-20th century.

    And as the ability to co-operate, retaliate, comprehend and participate is taken to be the basis of rights, should rights be granted in proportion to the individual's strength in these abilities, with first class, second class, third class citizens in consequence. The recourse taken to quantization in the blog post suggests that this would be consistent with the moral view expressed in it.

    As these are implications that one would not shrug off lightly, there is no doubt a way to avert them, or in the alternative, an explicit and unequivocal embrace of them needs to be declared.

    C. "The only way to access these calories is the consumption of animal products like meat, milk and eggs."
    This may be true of hunter-gatherer societies. The agricultural revolution was the first wave of civilization, and it does not appear to have consisted of feeding cultivated vegetation to animals and then eating meat. The secret to plentiful food appears to be the making of a food source of grains, which rather than weakening human society has caused the human population to explode compared to other primate populations.
    Besides the existence of traditional vegetarian communities in some parts of the world, whose members are not noticed to have many more defects than others, and indeed have produced individuals of note (see Srinivasa Ramanujan, C V Raman, Abdul Kalam, Narendra Modi, Han Kang...), there is a growing world-wide trend of vegetarianism for purely HEALTH reasons. Health professionals are observed to recommend more of fruits and veggies and less of meat. It may be that these people are somewhat delusional, but then, if one is to make moral claims on empirical grounds, preponderance of evidence for the purported fact would be a fundamental requirement.

    It is re-iterated that the blog post is very interesting and well-written, and a reasoned response is welcomed.

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    1. Thank you for your kind and incisive comments.

      Please give me about 36 hours from the time of this reply to respond as I have some work commitments to complete. I shall reply at length within this time.

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    2. B. "[is empathy] misplaced for any being that cannot co-operate, cannot retaliate..." " Is ...empathy for the aged, the terminally ill...the mentally retarded... misplaced"

      I would say that empathy for such entities should be applied in a limited sense, insofar as it does not significantly divert resources from more self-perpetuation friendly applications like providing help to promising but poor students or healthcare to those who would be able to then stand on their own feet. This is more feasible, to a greater extent, in wealthy societies than in those closer to the edge. To do otherwise is to risk being outcompeted by more evolutionarily attuned societies.

      To take one example from above, families of severely deformed children not only must bear a huge burden, but to little avail, and especially at the cost of depriving other normal children in that family. It is worth considering whether the option of legal, painless euthanasia should be available to such families, with suitable regulation.

      It is likely that this suggestion will provoke strong, hardwired, instinctive emotional reflexes and raise many hackles. Yet the arbiter of morality should not be reflexes or hackles, but reasoned argument, because instinct can go haywire in unfamiliar contexts, as we see in the case of obesity.

      I was surprised to see that this topic has apparently been publicly discussed for years; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_euthanasia.

      "Is it therefore moral for the 15th and 16th century Europeans to capture African natives..."
      "should rights be granted in proportion to the individual's strength in these abilities..."

      Perhaps. I would oppose enslaving people or non merit-based inequality (such as hereditary, caste-type inequality) because these seem fraught with various harmful effects on long term social perpetuation, such as undermining common citizens' labor and distorting the optimal allocation of resources. This kind of misallocation is perhaps a major reason why the South was much weaker industrially than the North during the American Civil War, contributing to its defeat.

      Yet it could be reasonably argued that we already engage in slavery right now, animal slavery; which I support owing to its beneficial effects on social perpetuation. The fences or cages used to confine cows or hens are functionally little different from shackles and chains used on human slaves, although as an aside, it should be noted that it is owing to this arrangement that there are far more cattle/poultry etc today than could possibly survive in the wild, so whether you want to see it as slavery or symbiosis is up to you.

      Nonetheless, I sense that you want to hear "an explicit and unequivocal embrace of them". I shall do so, and declare that as and when favorable, slavery (and other such acts like colonization) could indeed be considered a moral choice according to Tark Marg.

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    3. C. " it does not appear to have consisted of feeding cultivated vegetation to animals and then eating meat..." "he secret to plentiful food appears to be the making of a food source of grains..."

      I do not dispute your point regarding agriculture, but consider it incomplete. Only a minority of the biomass of crops like rice or wheat comprises of edible grains. The rest is stalk, leaves, husk, roots etc which are cellulosic and inedible to humans. Moreover, not all land is suitable for farming and the only way to mobilize the energy present in such land is through ruminant intermedites like meat and milk. Similarly, nutrients in marine plankton or spoiled food can only be accessed via fish or pork. These foods comprise a rich and dense source of calories, protein and micronutrients and eschewing these out of misapplied empathy is unwise from a social perpetuation perspective.

      This sub-optimal usage of available resources likely explains why vegetarian India has worse malnourishment than muslim pakistan or Bangladesh or sub-Saharan Africa, and why India has a disproportionately high incidence of anemia and stunting, while simultaenously being the world's top beef exporter.

      http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2008-07-02/news/27723199_1_maternity-benefits-malnourishment-malnutrition
      http://beef2live.com/story-world-beef-exports-ranking-countries-0-106903

      "...have produced individuals of note..."

      One must rely on aggregate data rather than individual cases when debating broad trends. We can probably find tall Pygmies or short Dutchmen, but does this constitute the average of these groups? The fact remains that rampant malnourishment prevails in India and for every CV Raman in India there must've been many more who have failed to fulfill their potential owing to this shortage.

      "Health professionals are observed to recommend more of fruits and veggies and less of meat"

      They recommend less meat for those who're consuming 40-50 grams of red meat a day, not for low stunted/anemic children commonly found across India. This is an apples to oranges comparison.

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    4. "Only a minority of the biomass of crops like rice or wheat comprises of edible grains. The rest is stalk, leaves, husk, roots etc which are cellulosic and inedible to humans."

      Yet it appears to be this minority biomass that fueled the human population spurt. If the above is taken with the blog writers point that "not all land is suitable for farming and the only way to mobilize the energy present in such land is through ruminant intermedites like meat and milk", the agricultural revolution should have been unnecessary for human population spurt. There should have been a herding and animal husbandry revolution instead. And if 'efficiency' is the concern, surely a lot of calories fed to animals become unavailable to humans, some if not a lot are lost in bone mass, inedible tissue, inedible organs, maintaining body processes and temperature, and moving about. (Admittedly, the last can be minimized by herding livestock into pens where they cannot move, which is the case in modern industrial meathouses. Thus, 'free range' enters the public consciousness.)

      All plant products are cellulosic, if by cellulosic is not meant something other than the cellulose cell wall of plant cells. This is not a technical quibble. Plant products are eminently edible by humans. Wheat and rice ARE grasses.

      "Vegetarian India has worse malnourishment than muslim pakistan or Bangladesh or sub-Saharan Africa".

      There are some communities that are traditionally vegetarian, and there are some communities that are not, so how can it be known for a fact that the country is vegetarian? How were the variables isolated to conclude that vegetarian DIET causes malnutrition and stunted growth? As this reader said before, those communities in India that are traditionally vegetarian AND have enough food are not malnourished or stunted, or exhibit more diseases/ shorter life spans, or lack in vigor. They even produce thinkers, writers and mathematicians. Now it may be said that they do not produce as many as the West does, or as accomplished ones, but then so do not a lot of meat-eating third world societies. Whatever explains intellectual vitality or lack thereof, it does not appear to be meat eating or lack thereof.

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    5. "One must rely on aggregate data rather than individual cases when debating broad trends."

      This reader hoped to convey that there is a trend of traditional vegetarians who not only are not malnourished or stunted, but also exhibit vigor. Here is a trend that the traditional vegetarians of India DO NOT exhibit - excelling in sports. Thus Ramanathan Krishnan and Ramesh Krishnan are the true tall pygmies / short Dutchmen. But can it be said that the traditional vegetarians of India do not excel in sports BECAUSE they are vegetarians? It may be, or it may be that they traditionally devote themselves to other activities, or it may be something else we don't know. After all, there are many meat-eating (third world) countries that do not produce world-class sportsmen as a trend.

      Now if the blog writer wishes to argue that there is NO trend of traditional vegetarians excelling in any walks of life, the supporting facts are awaited.

      "This is an apples to oranges comparison."

      Only if taken in isolation. The overall point is that the jury is out on whether vegetarianism is detrimental to health. To repeat, there are traditional vegetarian communities that seem to do no worse in health than meat-eating societies in comparable conditions, AND there is a growing world-wide trend of vegetarianism for purely HEALTH reasons. Added to that, health professionals are emphasizing the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, but no so much of meat. Taken together, it probably shows that vegetarianism is not bad for health. But this reader has no way of knowing that certainly for a fact, or the opposite. Therefore this reader would venture to make moral arguments on neither the purported health benefits of vegetarianism, nor the opposite.

      The blog writer's patient audience of these replies is appreciated, and all observations continue to be offered in the spirit of lively, friendly debate.

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    6. "All plant products are cellulosic, if by cellulosic is not meant something other than the cellulose cell wall of plant cells. This is not a technical quibble. Plant products are eminently edible by humans. Wheat and rice ARE grasses. "

      This seems to be erroneous. Leaves and straw are load bearing structures and therefore cellulosic, whereas grains are starchy. There is a chemical difference. Cellulose is a beta(1->4) linked D glucose polymer and is poorly soluble and herefore poorly digestible, hence it's use for rigid load-bearing components like stalks. This is why ruminants have multi-chambered stomachs and need to chew cud for extended periods of time (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulose).

      Starch is primarily 1,4 alpha bonds which makes it much more soluble and digestible (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starch). So nutrients in cellulosic materials are not accessible to humans, and can only be accessed through animals. Thus an omnivorous society can access (cellulosic (meat and milk) + starchy + marine plankton(fish) + spoiled food (pork)) materials whereas vegetarian societies can only access starchy materials.

      "the agricultural revolution should have been unnecessary for human population spurt."

      The point is that relative to competing societies which are omnivorous (such as Bangladesh or sub-Saharan Africa), a predominantly vegetarian society (such as India) will have fewer resources available and thus be evolutionarily uncompetitive. It is true that agriculture is indispensable, but the comparison is not between hunter-gatherers versus vegetarian agriculturalists; it is between vegetarian agriculturalists and omnivorous agriculturalists; in which the vegetarian society is at a disadvantage.

      In any case, the point being made in the post is that animals have a negative P(act) - C(act) sum for cooperation as the benefit of cooperation (P(act)) is 0, while the cost of co-operation is positive (lost meat etc). This point remains whether the C(act) is high or low as the benefit of cooperation with animals is zero; animals being unable to even comprehend this point, let alone reciprocate.

      "The blog writer's patient audience of these replies is appreciated, and all observations continue to be offered in the spirit of lively, friendly debate. "

      I whole-heartedly and fully reciprocate the sentiment. Constructive and friendly dialog like this is one of the major attractions of starting a blog like this.

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    7. The reader would like to complete one or two thoughts.

      'That is moral which leads to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation.' Assuming 'x' to be the object or behavior in question, what the principle says is: "if x promotes perpetuation, then it is moral.". Let 'x' be literacy. Then we have: "if literacy promotes perpetuation, then it is moral." Now if literacy does in fact promote perpetuation, literate individuals and societies can be observed to perpetuate more. Causation is always correlation. But is there any established correlation between literacy and perpetuation? It is not easy to tell; it seems intuitively compelling, but there are indications to the opposite, that literacy decreases perpetuation. It appears therefore that the moral status of literacy is doubtful.

      The same is true of many, perhaps all, civilized human pursuits. Now against this it may be argued that the pursuit of medical science, for example, promotes perpetuation. There are some technical problems with this argument, because after all vasectomy, tubectomy, contraceptive pills, morning after pills and MTP are 'medical', and these may not promote perpetuation. But that may be set aside, and the focus may be kept on correlation of medical science with increased perpetuation. Once again, it is immediately clear that there is no obvious correlation between the two (though there may be one established through rigorous research). Within any society, those with access to more healthcare are not observed to perpetuate more (in fact, they appear to perpetuate less). Across societies, those societies with more advanced healthcare systems are not observed to perpetuate more (again, in fact, they appear to perpetuate less; and it is low healthcare-no healthcare countries that are observed to have increasing populations). Now, of course, better healthcare may be correlated with increased health and life expectancy, but that is different from increased perpetuation.

      The same applies to the blog-writers proposition that 'vegetarian India' should take to meat-eating because of the high number of stunted and malnourished. Whether India is 'vegetarian' or not, it certainly does not have a plummeting population problem. So taking to meat-eating may improve HEALTH and quality of life, if that, but this is not something that the Tark Marg principle makes moral, at least not explicitly.

      Perhaps this enquirer2000 blog maybe of interest. Thanks. http://wideavenue.blogspot.com/

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    8. Thanks for your comment Enquirer2001. Below are my replies. For some reason your comment doesn't show up on the blog itself, but I have it in my notification email, so I'm replying to that below.

      "What is being discussed here is a microcosm of the values that may lead to enlightened democracies or to death camps. " ... "it may be remembered that there are extremist groups today, in the 21st century, that oppose female literacy on the grounds that the essential female role is child-bearing and child-rearing (i.e. perpetuation), for which they claim literacy is irrelevant or even inimical (see Malala Yousufzai)."

      But the "extremists" will call you an extremist in turn. Their belief in the correctness of their approach is just as strong as yours. They call you "brainwashed" or "indoctrinated" just as you call them the same names. Epistemologically, how is one to know who is right?

      This reciprocal name calling illustrates how important it is to have a context independent method to to determine what is objectively moral. This is my motivation behind the Tark Marg principle. You may want to see my post on 16 April 2016 titled "how to tell you're a zombie".

      For the record, as you'll see in my post "rise and decline of the West.." I support female participation in the work force but not at the cost of the sharply dropping birth rate, because that is just a road to extinction.


      "rely on absolute knowledge of facts to determine what is moral" "Tark Marg's averment that... is agreeable; then why insist on anchoring morality on it? "

      What then should morality be anchored to? Mere passing herd passions and fashions, as is the case now?

      One must distinguish between the correctness of the principle or equation and the practical ability to gather detailed parameter values and then gather the computational firepower to precisely solve it. For example, we can theoretically predict the motion of a projectile/aircraft using the laws of physics, but when many parameters like air resistance, shape of the object are unknown or difficult to compute, the result is lower accuracy over longer distances. Thus it is prudent to be cautious when making very long term predictions. Yet this does not mean that physics is useless or should be discarded; the same applies to Tark Marg.

      For more immediate/simpler cases, or where great precision is not required, Tark Marg can alleviate mental fog or correct ideological overreach, in my view.

      "Here are two references... "Reduced cancer risk in vegetarians: an analysis of recent reports ... "Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables..."

      As I mentioned earlier, the intended subjects for these articles are modern Americans who eat dozens of grams of red meat daily on average. This is not valid for poor malnourished stunted anemic street children in India.

      I get the impression that you're applying my comments at an personal level rather than population level for which they are intended. Individual vegetarians, especially middle-class ones (presumably such as yourself) can indeed lead healthy lives without meat, yet for a country like India which barely produces enough calories on average, even before wastage and access issues are taken into account (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_food_energy_intake) to effectively waste the calories/protein/micronutrients present in inedible material like wheat straw or grass or marine plankton by not eating meat (the nly way to convert inedible calores into edible ones) is grievous self-harm. Thus we see the bizarre spectcle of a country like India with some of the highest stunting and anemia levels, is also the largest exporter of food which is the most concentrated source to alleviate them (http://beef2live.com/story-world-beef-exports-ranking-countries-0-106903), amounting to 5.2 grams of red meat per person per day, or more if focused on the most needy.

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    9. " if literacy does in fact promote perpetuation, literate individuals and societies can be observed to perpetuate more.... that literacy decreases perpetuation. It appears therefore that the moral status of literacy is doubtful. "

      It is not literacy that decreases self-perpetuation, just as it is not food which causes obesity; it is the misregulation of it.

      The technological advances enabled by literacy are responsible for the sharp spike in the human population of recent centuries, as I have shown in my comments above. The world is a complex place full of multiple variables and confounding effects; the drop in self-perpetuation amongst the more literate is not because of literacy per se but because of increased access to contraception and because of an instinctive preference for comfort and leisure over the hard work of rearing and bearing offspring. This may be a side-effect of literacy, but to blame literacy for this is like giving up drinking water for fear of drowning.

      The optimal solution, in my view, is to retain the increased food production and decreased mortality enabled by technology, while overcoming the instinctive preference for an easy life over the self-perpetuation drive.

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  5. Hello Targ Marg,

    The reader too is sometimes unable to see the published replies. Added to it there is 4096 character restriction that is making it difficult to present arguments properly. It is feared that the blog writer may see less coherence in the replies than should be the case. It may be possible to press on nonetheless.

    "Modern vaccine production on a mass scale relies on large bioreactors requiring precise control of temperature, aeration, material and heat transfer, all of which reply on precise quantification and detailed instructions, which require mathematics and literacy, without which mass and reliable manufacture of vaccines, perhaps the greatest factor in the reduced mortality leading to increased population, would have been impossible. Thus a direct link exists between literacy and population growth."

    Let us paraphrase the above. "The testing, production and delivery systems of nuclear weapons on a mass scale relies on large reactors requiring precise control of temperature, pressure, material and heat transfer, all of which rely on precise quantification and detailed instructions, which require mathematics and literacy, without which mass and reliable manufacture of nuclear weapons, perhaps the greatest threat to the human species leading to extinction, would have been impossible. Thus a direct link exists between literacy and extinction."

    If literacy saves lives in retail, it may also kill in wholesale. What we have then is that the morality of literacy hinges on the contingent fact of whether or not there is a full scale nuclear exchange on the globe.

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    1. Thanks for your replies enquirer and Zooey for the delay. My responses are below:

      "...it may also kill in wholesale... "

      This is entirely speculative. As and when a global extinction event owing to high technology occurs, the above might be correct. Yet the actual data support my notion that literacy drives population growth.

      "...the morality of literacy hinges on...whether...there is a full scale nuclear exchange"

      Correct, and there is little prospect of this. Even then one is doubtful of the possibility of extinction; Hiroshima and Nagasaki are thriving urban centers today. Indeed, one may test the propositions being discussed above by putting to the citizens of Hiroshima a choice of a) reverting back to primitive times and have the nuclear attack not happen or b) live with the security of modern technology despite having lost tens of thousands to an aspect of technology. One suspects the answer will be b.

      Incidentally, one remembers reading a book called "the world until yesterday" by Jared Diamond, which mentions the point that mortality rates among the tribes of Papua New Guinea owing only to tribal warfare, were greater over time than even those suffered by Japan and Germany including the world wars.

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    2. - There is data to support the notion that literacy drives population growth, yes. But if all the data is considered, it looks like literacy drives population growth in some conditions, does not drive population growth in some other conditions, and even decreases populations in yet other conditions.

      - Why are these the only two choices? Why is the choice of 'live with the security of modern technology and have the nuclear attack not happen' not on the table. This choice appears to be the best for perpetuation, and the citizens of Hiroshima may even choose it.

      - More than 50 million people died as casualties in six years of WWII alone (http://www.nationalww2museum.org, http://www.hitler.org). How many people are estimated to have died among the tribes of Papua New Guinea owing to tribal warfare? And why is their mortality rate counted 'over time'?

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  6. On another note, Tark Marg's arguments appear to be directed to show that 'literacy' is beneficial, but make no clear case for 'mass literacy'. As this reader noted earlier, it may justifiably be argued that activities that benefit the population are generally the work of a small minority of individuals. Therefore the Tark Marg principle may require no more than an elite few to be literate or educated, and serving the cause of society at large. (For interest, this is what Plato recommends in 'The Republic'.) The Tark Marg observation that "female participation in the work force is supported, but not at the cost of the sharply dropping birth rate" appears to be in consonance with the general spirit of this.

    It is ventured to repeat with some stress that this reader is not arguing that the Tark Marg principle renders literacy to be immoral. Such an argument would require too much confidence in what is known with certainty about the world, and even what CAN be known with certainty. This reader has the more limited objective of showing that, by applying the Tark Marg principle, the moral status of literacy cannot be decided. Now literacy is a matter of great social concern all over the world. Many countries invest in social programs to ensure that ALL children go to school. Some groups invest in social programs to ensure that female children do NOT go to school. Surely, it may be important to establish the morality, or otherwise, of mass literacy beyond resonable doubt?
    Tark Marg's aim "is to have a context independent method to to determine what is objectively moral". THIS AIM IS LAUDABLE AND IS LAUDED HERE WITHOUT RESERVATION. IT IS PRECISLY THE INTEREST IN THE QUESTION THAT KEEPS THIS READER ENGAGED WITH THE BLOG. But the given solution does not appear to meet the stated aim in the test case of literacy.

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    1. "literacy' is beneficial, but make no clear case for 'mass literacy'. As this reader noted earlier, it may justifiably be argued that activities that benefit the population are generally the work of a small minority of individuals..."

      Applying the Tark Marg approach to the above, education for any given individual or group is viable until Pedu - Cedu > Punedu.
      That is, education is useful until it's cost subtracted from the resulting benefit is greater than the alternative. For most people, in my view, this includes at least some education. For those endowed with special aptitude this level is higher and vice versa. The situation is even more favorable to mass education after the advent of the printing press, in my view, as the Cedu drops. Moreover, mass education is likely to allow the discovery of especially intelligent individuals whose skills can then be developed to the benefit of all.

      In the example proposed by enquirer above, the elites are only able to apply their skills because the citizenry is able to produce a surplus to support the elites; this surplus being greater for technologically competent masses up to a certain extent.

      "Surely, it may be important to establish the morality, or otherwise, of mass literacy beyond resonable doubt? "

      No doubt. But I'm surprised that this should be unclear or ambiguous in the light of the example of the industrial revolution.

      One must remember that it is impossible to know anything with total certainty, even whether one will be able to consume at night the dinner one cooks in the evening. So long as the cost weighted probability of the event is greater than the alternatives, it is best to proceed.

      "THIS AIM IS LAUDABLE..."

      We are of one mind about this; and I'm grateful for enquirer's patience and support.

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    2. A clear case now appears to be made for 'mass literacy', and is acknowledged (but within the limited context of Pedu - Cedu > Punedu). However the larger question of whether literacy (mass or otherwise) promotes perpetuation continues to be in the balance, and is pursued below. The able defense of mass literacy is appreciated.

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  7. 'For more immediate/simpler cases, or where great precision is not required, Tark Marg can alleviate mental fog or correct ideological overreach, in my view.'
    Yes, and a test case where there is at present fog and ideological overreach may be examined and resolved using the Tark Marg principle. The argument about animal rights has the consequence that it is moral to exterminate or exploit 'weak' people or 'inferior' people, a consequence that the blog writer explicitly embraced, with the caveat "as and when favorable". It is difficult to see how this is different from a throwback to the great evils of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. But that is not the basic flaw. The caveat "as and when favorable" once again puts the onus entirely on certitude about what the state of affairs is, and certitude about the ability to predict cause and effect; this is the basic flaw. So it appears doubtful whether the principle has cleared any fog in the given test case.

    The other case analyzed by Tark Marg is gay marriage. The underlying assumption in the argument (also found in the 'The Rise and Decline of the West' posting) is that homosexuality does not promote perpetuation. That seems to be the case, but its existence is a challenge for the selection theory of evolution, and there is a line of thinking, elaborated by biologists Robert Trivers and James Weinrich, among others, that gay people may have evolved ... to work harder for the protection and advancement of closely related family members rather than invest in having children of their own. While this hypothesis is nowhere near being an established fact, it presents the possibility that homosexuality perhaps indirectly does promote perpetuation, and should give us pause: how can we be so sure that homosexuality does not promote perpetuation, that we can proceed to pronounce upon its morality thereby?

    'It is prudent to be cautious when making very long term predictions. Yet this does not mean that physics is useless or should be discarded; the same applies to Tark Marg.'
    But physics is shown to solve some specific problems and increase our sophistication thereby. For example, Newtonian mechanics and gravitation solved specific problems; and of course they are practically useless for solving problems with more than three moving bodies. In human affairs the very variables are mostly unknown; nonlinearities and feedback effects make the workings of it opaque. Given this, the parallel sought to be drawn between physics and human affairs about the limitations of what can be predicted, makes it a fortiori imprudent to make predictions in human affairs. So it is not obvious how the Tark Marg principle is a net gain in sophistication.

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    1. "the great evils of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries."

      But the writer assumes without justification that certain events are "evil". Similarly certain persons today may label aspects of enquirer's preferred mode of action "evil", as is the case in Islamic states, for example.

      "The caveat "as and when favorable" once again puts the onus entirely on certitude about what the state of affairs is, and certitude about the ability to predict cause and effect..."

      No event in real life may be predicted with absolute certainty. One is perforce compelled to proceed according to probabilities, which one can estimate based on historical or contemporary events. Thus, given the example of the industrial revolution, it is (subjectively) likely that perpetuation will be enhanced by the adoption of technology, for which literacy is important.

      Regarding homosexuality, as I've replied to commenter Alex in "rise and decline of the west...", it could be argued that the geographically and temporally widespread taboo placed on homosexual behavior, as well as other unconventional sexual preferences such as sex with animals, objects, or even oneself, may be interpreted as an evolutionary adaptation to maximize self perpetuation, geographical and temporal spread and persistence being a proxy for evolutionary underpinning, although rapid social change could render this difficult to interpret.

      In any case, given the uncertainty around the issue as pointed out by enquirer, my suggestion is that society must not prescribe or prohibit sexual orientations, but peg its policies to the unambiguous good of producing future taxpayers rather than simply rewarding persons for sexual pairing, as is the case with gay marriage. Thus heterosexual non parents should not get social subsidies or privileges while gay parents should not be denied them.

      ...how the Tark Marg principle is a net gain..."

      Ad I see it, the absence of an explicit statement like Tark Marg makes one vulnerable to being carried away by superstitions or fashions and passions, as in the case of veganism or "animal rights" for example, which will only diminish available resources without any payback. So while uncertainty exists, it is also possible to use known facts more logically, for which a clear statement like Tark Marg is necessary.

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  8. 'What then should morality be anchored to? Mere passing herd passions and fashions, as is the case now?'
    There may or may not be an alternative principle to consider. But lack of alternative does not make the principle in question correct, it is hoped.

    'It is not literacy that decreases self-perpetuation, just as it is not food which causes obesity; it is the misregulation of it.'
    But what principle is telling us that it is a misregulation? The stated principle is 'That is moral which leads to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation'. But what is being argued now appears to be 'it is moral to self-perpetuate; all things should be done only in ways that promote self-perpetuation'. This appears to be an entirely different argument; it sounds prescriptive rather than descriptive (the stated Tark Marg principle is descriptive of what is moral, unless the blog writer interpretes it other than as it is written). This putative argument is echoed in a Tark Marg addendum to the Rise and Decline of the West posting - "My sole parameter is self-perpetuation... Whatever gets us that, I'd support." If this is indeed the Tark Marg principle, all discussion conducted hitherto is beside the point. So it may help if clarification is received here: is it 'self-perpetuation' that is moral, or 'what leads to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation' that is moral? (If it is of interest, please see 'Euthyphro dilemma'.)

    'Individual vegetarians, especially middle-class ones (presumably such as yourself) can indeed lead healthy lives without meat ...'
    Well there are millions of 'individual vegetarians' (basically all the Hindu priestly and trader castes, and all the Jains), so it is not clear why the fact that they can lead healthy lives is dismissed as irrelevant. It is essentially being admitted by Tark Marg that being vegetarian is inimical neither to perpetuation nor a healthy life (moreover the latter's link to morality has not been proposed). Anyway, this reader's points on vegetarianism vis-a-vis Tark Marg are all stated at this point, and it may not be required to belabor them.

    It is hoped that this exchange is about ideas and critique of ideas. This reader even eschews using terms like 'you' and 'I' to avoid any hint of personalities. A reciprocation is requested.

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    1. "But lack of alternative does not make the principle in question correct, it is hoped. "

      My view remains that the evidence considered in the post leads unerringly to the conclusion that behaviors widely considered "moral" are so because of their promotion of self perpetuation of the subject, which I have condensed into the Tark Marg statement. Within the limits of my objectivity, the examples proposed by enquirer do not constitute disproof thereof, for the reasons we have discussed above.

      Even though Tark Marg is beset by the innate uncertainty of complex systems, like weather forecasting, it only needs to perform better than alternatives to be of value, which are blind passions and fashions, which do not pay even lip service to objectivity.

      This is analogous to any tool or process; one does use interpolation algorithms or purchase phones based on whether they are perfect, which none are, but based on which which are the best amongst alternatives.

      "This appears to be an entirely different argument...prescriptive rather than descriptive..." "is self-perpetuation...moral or what leads to...self perpetuation...moral"

      I'm unable to see enquirer's dilemma. "Moral" is that which should be done and is thus inherently prescriptive. As I see it, if we say "roses are red", this is a purely descriptive statement. But if we say "altruism is moral" then this is both descriptive and prescriptive, because calling something moral is implicitly prescriptive. So whether self perpetuation is considered moral or that which leads to self perpetuation considered moral amounts to the same thing, in my view, as achieving self perpetuation requires doing that which leads to self perpetuation.

      Perhaps I'm misunderstanding the intended meaning, could enquirer can propose an example discriminating between the two to illustrate?

      "Well there are millions of..vegetarians.. so it is not clear why the fact that they can lead healthy lives is dismissed as irrelevant."
      "...may not be required to belabor them. "


      I have to agree that we seem to be at an impasse, but I'd like to state my point again. To use an analogy, if a society decided to outlaw all foods except, say, caviar, quinoa, Wagyu beef and champagne, you could find many healthy individuals who could fulfill all nutritional requirements using these. Yet the population that could be supported on the same landmass under this system would be smaller, and the less wealthy of them could not afford sufficient quantities of these expensive foods and would be malnourished and stunted. While this example is exaggerated for effect, this is not qualitatively different from a vegetarian system which eschews substantial food sources for no good reason.

      It is not being recommended that beef be fed human-edible grains or that one eat tens of grams of red meat per day, which is the case being addressed by the articles referenced by enquirer earlier. Rather inedible materials like straw or grass or marine plankton can be mobilized by eating moderate quantities of meat, which is particularly beneficial in a country beset by malnourishment like India.

      "It is hoped that this exchange is about ideas... This reader eschews using terms like 'you' and 'I'... A reciprocation is requested."

      I fully reciprocate the sentiment, and have no intention of using ad hominems or rude/sarcastic language etc., but I request enquirer to permit the use of pronouns as it is tedious and jarring to do otherwise.

      Lastly, I'd like to apologize for the delayed responses, as I'm occupied with numerous commitments in addition to working on a subsequent post dealing with application of the Tark Marg principle.

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  9. '"Altruism is moral" is both descriptive and prescriptive.' There may be some truth in this, but it may not be on point. The proposition 'That is moral which leads to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation' has a different logical structure; in it morality appears to be attached to the MEANS of achieving something (the ENDS). Usually it is the ends that are the moral desiderata, which is why enquirer feels some confusion. The issue is analyzed below -

    If literacy is only a means to achieve the moral, it can (and should) be regulated to achieve the moral. Thus the products of literacy should be judged by their efficacy for perpetuation, and only those products which favor perpetuation should be allowed. For example, pharmaceutical research should be promoted and nuclear weapons proliferation should be banned. Therefore it is perpetuation that is moral, and literacy is only a regulated means to it. But this is not what the Tark Marg principle states or even implies. It simply asserts, 'That is moral which leads to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation.' It is sought to be shown by enquirer that the morality of literacy does not follow from this principle, yet Tark Marg focuses only on those facts that show literacy favoring perpetuation (of which no doubt there are many). If the threat of nuclear weapons with their potential to decimate the human population (admittedly 'extinction' is a remote possibility, but this is more of a technicality) is not acknowledged as a highly anti-perpetuation product of literacy, there are basic semantic issues to be sorted out before this exchange can proceed meaningfully (see "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is").

    Second, if a better means to achieve the moral is found, the means currently employed would have to be given up. So if literacy becomes inefficient for perpetuation compared to some other means, it would have to be given up (which means Shakespeare would have to be given up, for example). Perhaps Tark Marg would again explicitly and unequivocally embrace this consequence.

    The above provides a good way to segue into the question of perpetuation as the moral desideratum.

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  10. If perpetuation is what is moral, then the most efficient means to it has to be adopted. The movie 'The Matrix' may be recalled, in particular the fields of amino-fluid tanks in which humans are cocooned all their life from birth to death. Whatever may concern us about this scenario, the danger to perpetuation may not figure at the top; perpetuation is being taken care of rather nicely. Would Tark Marg explicitly and unequivocally embrace this model of existence as a moral one? Note that this is an in principle question, therefore the response has to be on principle, and not an attempt to show that this model would be impractical or somehow infeasible. Note also that Tark Marg has proposed no principle concerning 'quality of life' in the given moral theory. (As enquirer pointed out earlier, Tark Marg seems to be arguing that eating meat may improve the HEALTH of malnourished children, which is different from perpetuation. 'Vegetarian India' has doubled its population in the last sixty years, perpetuation seems hardly to be in danger.)

    Second, if perpetuation is the moral desideratum, why should things not be left to nature? After all, nature appears to have mechanisms like fitness selection to ensure perpetuation. Why should imperfect human wisdom be applied to the problem when a far more effective means has been in operation for billions of years? More to the point, why should competing wisdoms interminably conflict over morality and try to impose one's own on others? Tark Marg avers that "Even though Tark Marg is beset by the innate uncertainty of complex systems, like weather forecasting, it only needs to perform better than alternatives to be of value". But natural selection appears to perform even better, going by the record, so why not dismantle all the institutions of civilization and return to the state of nature as the moral ideal? Some appertunances of civilization may increase perpetuation more than natural selection can, but other appertunances can shrink it as well. On balance natural selection appears to perform better. Despite mass extinctions and other troubles, the primordial organism has managed to perpetuate to this day.

    And this in turn enables us to segue into a basic question that may be of interest: why do we face the problem of morality? Why at all does a moral principle (such as the Tark Marg principle) need to be proposed? Why not let superstitions or fashions and passions keep blowing about, and leave nature to shake things out?

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    1. "Whatever may concern us about this scenario,"

      I believe it is the lack of control, wherein if the controller changes his mind and becomes malvolent, one would be unable to stop him. Incidentally, this related article might be of interest: http://www.economist.com/node/4102350.

      "Would Tark Marg explicitly and unequivocally embrace this model of existence as a moral one"

      As the principle is maximization of perpetuation, it depends on the alternatives. If the alternative is severe enough, then this might be the moral path. This might be considered analogous to the decision of Imperial Japan to surrender to the USA in WWII.

      "HEALTH of malnourished children, which is different from perpetuation"

      How could health possibly not be strongly causative of increased perpetuation, if only via means like lower susceptibility to disease or lowered maternal and infant mortality? Perpetuation inherently implies a long term perspective, in which good health is an indispensable factor. Moreover, societies do not exist in a vacuum. Being of poorer average health compared to competitors will diminish that society's likely chances of perpetuation. Ignorance of the competition factor is an "end of history" type globalist perspective contradicted by recent and older history.

      "But natural selection appears to perform even better..."

      One has to disagree. Just to consider one example, modern industry, weapons technology, medicine etc have allowed adopting societies to outcompete and colonize those living a "natural" existence, as we see with the colonization of America or Australia etc. The adopters of technology, whether steel and gunpowder or agriculture, have always displaced the "naturals" throughout history. Thus technology is highly perpetuation-friendly, as we discussed earlier.

      As I see it, natural selection has a "survival bias"; we only see those that have come out better. But the more likely outcome is extinction; most species that have existed are extinct. So leaving it to natural selection strongly risks that outcome. In any case, humans are part of the natural environment and human inventions are also natural in that sense.

      "...and leave nature to shake things out"

      This will always happen, whether or not Tark Marg exists. Tark Marg is predicated on the assumption that the reader is interested in not meeting the fate of native Americans or Australian aborigines.

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  11. This exchange appears to show that major ideological differences notwithstanding, ideas may be shared and critiqued respectfully and in an atmosphere of friendship, and with openness to perceiving the other's point of view. Enquirer highly appreciates this.

    The purpose of this sustained questioning is to either produce a stronger theory that satisfactorily answers many or most moral questions, or force the present theory to be abandoned as unworkable and stimulate a new approach. Tark Marg may agree to the purpose.

    By way of expanding the debate, the following is presented as a tryout moral principle.

    It is moral to live a life of high quality. We should do things only in such a way that ourselves and others can lead higher quality lives. We should not do things in such a way that ourselves or others have a lower quality life. (The principle 'it is moral to live a life of high quality' contains in it the implication that ANY life has to be a life of high quality. To illustrate by contrast, the tryout moral principle does not say, 'it is moral for Bernie Madoff to live a life of high quality', or 'it is moral for Aryans to live a life of high quality'.)

    By this principle, literacy would be analyzed by its bearing on a high quality life and detriments to it.

    Of course, this tryout principle can be questioned in a number of ways, and all possible questions are invited.

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    1. "it is moral to live a life of high quality"

      Naturally "quality" must be defined. One suspects that the features instinctively considered as high quality by enquirer are those which, not coincidentally, are historically associated with a higher likelihood of perpetuation, like wealth, health, social status, autonomy, access to sex etc.

      The problem, as I see it, is that cleaving to instincts leaves one at the risk of being blindsided by rapid changes which drastically change the context in which the said instincts evolved, as in the case of obesity in the article.

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  12. "The writer assumes without justification that certain events are "evil"."

    Let us grant that enquirer has called certain events as great evils without any objective basis. And let us see what the Tark Marg principle (which is admittedly 'objective' if it is anything) has yielded - contraception is in principle immoral, selfies are in principle immoral, women may in principle work only on sufferance and not as a matter of right, slavery is in principle moral, genocide is in principle moral, extermination of the aged, crippled, terminally ill, mentally retarded, sexually impotent is in principle moral. (And although this was not raised earlier by enquirer nor affirmed by Tark Marg, one suspects that rape is quite moral on the Tark Marg principle.) All this for establishing objectively that gay marriage rights is in principle immoral, and empathy for animals is in principle immoral. It just seems that the Tark Marg principle has given away a lot in exchange for very little. That is why enquirer has difficulty perceiving how the principle constitutes any progress and how at all it is useful.

    But let us yet be patient. Let us for a while focus on the internals of the Tark Marg argument. As already stated, a major difficulty enquirer sees is the reliance of the principle on the predictability of large-scale cause and effect. Tark Marg has acknowledged the difficulty, comparing it aptly to weather forecasting. Yet Tark Marg insists on applying it on relatively smaller scales, where presumably cause and effect can be known with enough confidence on which to operate the principle. Let us try this out. Perhaps Tark Marg can take any one civilized human behavior of his/her choosing, and work out its positive consequences on perpetuation (taking care to remember that the Tark Marg principle is a positive principle). There may be presented a sustained argument that 'x' behavior is a cause of increased perpetuation. All the facts may be considered rather than cherry-picking those that support the conclusion. Alternatives may be considered and analysis provided of how the observed or experimental evidence supports 'x' as a stronger cause over the other possibilities. Purported evidence may be referenced, and relevant excerpts from the reference may be quoted. Then it may be proposed how existing behavior has to be changed according to the fact that 'x' is likely a cause of increased perpetuation. A clear social and/or economic policy may be prescribed based on it, or, equally, a proposal made about which social policy should be favored over others. This is a vital requirement, because if a moral principle does not reveal what has to be changed or given preference over something else, it is of no great use. (Therefore for example it may be pointless to show that agriculture is a positive cause of perpetuation, when its application to policy is marginal; it can be used to persuade the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies to adopt agriculture, and that is about it.)

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    1. "Let us grant that enquirer has called certain events as great evils without any objective basis"

      Then it follows that this assumption must be discarded or defended. Can I request enquirer's indulgence in attempting to do so?

      "Tark Marg [considers] contraception...selfies...women working...slavery...genocide...extermination...rape...in principle moral"

      Firstly I note once again that enquirer provides no objective backing for his implicit contention that these are "evil" (i.e. to be avoided) actions. This is not to say that they are not "evil", but mere reliance on Tark Marg's Pavlovian repulsion to these arising from socially conditioned dogma (whether right or not) leaves enquirer vulnerable to similar attack from competing viewpoints, like that of ISIS. An ISIS supporter might use a similar tactic to induce agreement that homosexuality, women's emancipation etc are "evil".

      It is to avoid this kind of "he said, she said" dilemma that Tark Marg is being proposed.

      Moreover, I shall attempt to prove that enquirer is himself "in principle" in favor of some of the above. Humans, likely including enquirer, have made use of animals for pulling weight, providing milk, wool etc, testing medical products and processes etc without their consent, thereby amounting to "animal slavery".

      Similarly, humans have driven many species extinct, including the intentional eradication of smallpox virus, the attempted eradication of polio virus, not to mention animals, insects, plants driven extinct in the push to clear forests for agriculture and settlement. This therefore constitutes "genocide" of these species.

      One assumes enquirer will claim that he meant to restrict himself to human slavery or genocide. But this only means that he is not opposed to slavery or genocide per se, only when said action is applied to humans. One may the conclude that enquirer is thus not opposed to slavery or genocide in principle, only their application to humans.

      This instinct to confer special status on humans is revealing. It's provenance from Tark Marg's perspective is that humans are uniquely capable of forming mutually cooperative units which can increase the likelihood of self perpetuation manifold. It is for this reason that the prohibition of murder, theft, gratuitous violence (such as rape) as well as the promotion of altruism and empathy have evolved. Thus Tark Marg, as implied in the article, is a strong proponent of cooperation, and is a vehement critic of practices like caste discrimination, as mentioned in the "decline of Indic religions.." post.

      Thus, it is erroneous to imply that Tark Marg is insouciant about the above issues. Nonetheless, one must not become merely dogmatically, unthinkingly opposed. There may indeed be situations when violence of great severity may be necessary. I hope to describe this in a much delayed upcoming post and request your indulgence.


      " It just seems that the Tark Marg principle has given away a lot in exchange for very little."

      This statement is entirely self-referential. It assumes, without providing any objective reasoning or factual backing, relying merely on conventions that do not even form the majority view of the human species across time and space, that some positions are a liability (i.e. holding them constitutes "giving away"). I request enquirer to dig deeper into the origins of his stance; one posits that an impulse of self-perpetuation (i.e. Tark Marg) will be found therein.

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    2. "There may be presented a sustained argument that 'x' behavior...All the facts may be considered rather than cherry-picking those that support the conclusion..." "a proposal made about which social policy should be favored over others..."

      One would love to do so, not only to provide proof, but perhaps stumble upon disproofs or shortcomings of Tark Marg. However, enquirer no doubt is aware of the significant time and mental investment required. As I am liable for many other responsibilities, this is a difficult commitment to undertake for some time.

      It is much easier to point out what should not be done however, which is what I've attempted with the examples of gay marriage and animal rights. I request enquirer's patience, as I plan to discuss such topics in upcoming (and much delayed) posts.

      Lastly, I'd like to suggest that the optimal perspective in discussions of this nature is not one against another, but rather one and another in search of fundamental, context-independent truth.

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    3. "It follows that this assumption must be discarded or defended. Can I request enquirer's indulgence in attempting to do so?"
      But why is the onus on enquirer? It is Tark Marg that has proposed a theory, and it is for Tark Marg to make the case. Enquirer has the lesser burden of asking reasonable questions and/or bring the theory into reasonable doubt. If the theory has the enormous implication of upending almost every significant social and political milestone of the last two hundred years, for the (dubious) advantage of rendering animal rights and gay marriage rights immoral, then surely enquirer can just point this out, and wonder if it is justified. It does not come out of repulsion based on social conditioning and dogma, but rather the spirit of skepticism and balance - what is the extent of the claim? What is the balance of merit?

      "gratuitous violence (such as rape)"
      On the Tark Marg principle, rape is an instrument of perpetuation (of course as and when favorable). There is no more 'gratuitous violence' in it than killing animals for meat to ensure perpetuation.


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    4. "Humans are uniquely capable of forming mutually cooperative units which can increase the likelihood of self perpetuation... It is for this reason that the prohibition of murder, theft, gratuitous violence (such as rape) as well as the promotion of altruism and empathy have evolved."

      Perhaps this is the summary: "Our moral sense evolved from the pressures of ensuring perpetuation. Therefore ensuring perpetuation is what should regulate our moral sense." But the proposition that our moral sense evolved from the pressures of ensuring perpetuation is a hypothesis (of the highly dubious science of evolutionary psychology); it has some intuitive appeal, but there is hardly any evidence adduced. It is also unclear what the 'moral sense' is, and whether humans innately have it, as a general fact, as most people so easily assume. What we call 'moral sense' could easily be the internalization of social conditioning or even just a sub-conscious distillation of personal experiences. (This may explain the persistent ideological divide between the left and the right; what is moral to one is not moral to the other, and what is immoral to one is not immoral to the other.) At any rate, 'moral sense' appears to be a weak instinct if it is one, which circumstantial factors easily override.

      It is a different story with emotions, which appear to be innate, though also regulated by social conditioning and/or personal experience. There is a school that identifies emotions, or at least certain emotions, with being moral (e.g. feelings of compassion). But having emotions by nature is not necessarily the same thing as being moral by nature. If humans feel compassion when it is called for in the same unambiguous way that they stand upright and walk when it is called for, there would be no moral problem to solve. Please note that while evolution is more or less a settled science, evolutionary psychology is far from being one.

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    5. Of course, Tark Marg argues, as do evolutionary biologists like Richard Dawkins, that our moral instincts "misfire" in the present day, or have become maladaptive in civilized settings. Richard Dawkins puts altruism (such as jumping into a river to save perfect strangers) to a misfiring of the kin selection instinct, and Tark Marg puts the animal welfare movements to a misfiring of the altruistic instinct (i.e., a misfiring of the misfiring). While the evidence (or lack) in favor of these proposals can be questioned, the basic difficulty is that the moral problems today do not seem to arise from the "misfiring" of kin selection instincts and its further misfiring in favor of animals. That kind of misfiring would probably produce problems very different from what obtain now. The moral problems of today seem to have more to do with greed, agression, domination, repression, deprivation and ignorance. It is puzzling that Tark Marg, instead of applying the perpetuation principle to these central issues, applies it rather to fringe issues like gay marriage rights and animal rights, and then endorses moving almost everything in the direction of domination, repression and deprivation to deny them.

      It seems reasonable to argue, therefore, that if morals are evolved traits, there should be little by way of the moral problem. (Ergo, morals are best left to evolution, neglecting the irony that this is a moral prescription in itself.) Organisms do not fret over the appropriateness of their evolutionary apparatus for meeting their purposes. For example, do humans spend time ratiocinating about their upright gait or their opposable thumbs and having interminable debates about them? (Humans are actually unaware of the abstraction that they have 'upright gaits' and 'opposable thumbs', except the unfortunate few who attend college classes on evolution). These things mechanically serve the purpose they were evolved for, and humans go about their business mindless of their existence. The fact that human beings encounter a moral problem indicates that they are seeking something that is MISSING in their evolutionary apparatus. And the fact that morality is missing from the evolutionary apparatus indicates that it may have nothing to do with perpetuation. (Similarly most civilized human behavior may have nothing to do with perpetuation.)

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    6. To conflate morality with perpetuation, therefore, appears to be a fundamental error of thinking. It appears bound to throw up inconsistencies and inadequacies when it is closely analyzed. Moreover, it appears bound to lead to chaos and destruction when it is sought to be applied in practice. It is not mean-minded nay-saying that is behind enquirer's persistent focus on the logical inconsistencies, factual inadequacies and chaotic consequences of the Tark Marg principle. (The blog writer may like to see enquirer's comment on the "Communists and Kashmir" post, where an insightful observation by Tark Marg is whole-heartedly endorsed.) It is rather that any moral principle** that takes biology as the foundation is bound to throw up these things in vast quantities, simply because biology cannot provide any basis for moral principles. (All moral arguments based on biology have to reach, and still come up empty). It requires almost no effort to find the inconsistencies, inadequacies and chaotic consequences, and to explain and understand them - just a modicum of attention and objectivity. Therefore 'moral theories' based on biology are not moral theories in any meaningful sense, they are rather the intellectual equivalent of those brightly-colored flies that carry a lethal sting - attractive at first glance, but deadly in their effect.

      For example, the same arguments that are applied to deny gays marriage rights can be applied to deny social recognition for literary and artistic excellence, which is destructive, though not as destructive as some of the other consequences that the Tark Marg principle entails. If Tark Marg asks for a justification why this is deemed destructive, enquirer can do no more than refer to Justice Potter Stewart: "I shall not today attempt to define pornography, but I know it when I see it". A moral theory is a contrivance that is sought to be developed for meeting certain needs, similar for example to a telescope, which scientists use to examine far away objects not easily apparent to the unaided eye. If it is asked about something that is under one's nose, "what telescope did you use to see it", and further, if the observation of the object is regarded to be unscientific because no telescope was adduced, that is not "being scientific", whatever else it may be. Now, certain well-known objects are used - have to be used - to calibrate the telescope and establish that it is mostly working correctly, so that when we use it on unknown objects, there is some confidence that it presents largely the correct picture; similarly, a moral theory may be required to provide results that accord with intuition in a few familiar cases, and importantly required to NOT provide results that do not accord with intuition in any familiar cases. Then it may be applied with some confidence to harder, less clear problems.

      Now if Tark Marg sees no need for calibrating his/her moral theories, then his/her proposals are more in the nature of a religion, and one is not going to have a debate with THAT.

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    7. Thank you for your comments enquirer. Please excuse my tardiness in not replying yet. I promise to get back to you by the end of this week.

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    8. "Enquirer has the lesser burden of asking reasonable questions and/or bring the theory into reasonable doubt"

      True, but for the objection to be reasonable, it must be shown to have a factual or logical basis. It is not reasonable to simply say "xyz said so". This can easily become a circular argument; you point to others' opinion to support your point and they in turn point to you.

      "But the proposition that our moral sense evolved from the pressures of ensuring perpetuation is a hypothesis (of the highly dubious science of evolutionary psychology); it has some intuitive appeal, but there is hardly any evidence adduced"

      It is certainly true that evolutionary reasoning can become quite tenuous. Yet it seems reasonable (to me) that like other animals, mankind has evolved to have certain traits like a love of sex, food or one's offspring, or repulsion towards injury or social rejection, based on which I have deduced the Tark Marg statement. While circumstantial, it seems to be the most parsimonious explanation. Does enquirer have an alternative hypothesis to explain these observations?

      "It is also unclear what the 'moral sense' is...But having emotions by nature is not necessarily the same thing as being moral by nature."

      If I understand correctly, you're pointing out problems with conventional explanations of morality, with which I agree. These are vague and variable in history and geography (i.e. across time and cultures). Hence Tark Marg's attempt to start with an "universal" axiom; that based on simple evolutionary theory.

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    9. "Richard Dawkins puts altruism (such as jumping into a river to save perfect strangers) to a misfiring of the kin selection instinct..."

      I wouldn't call it a misfiring; human strangers are also one's (rather more distant) kin. While not doing a quantitative analysis, it seems to depend on the cost and benefit. To save a drowning child from a shallow river is definitely worthwhile as it conserves a member of society as well as enhances social cohesion (both self perpetuation-friendly acts) at little cost to oneself; while jumping into Niagara falls to save a dog would seem rather a loss making proposition. Other acts of altruism lie in between.


      "The moral problems of today seem to have more to do with greed, agression, domination, repression, deprivation and ignorance"

      This seems to be a subjective opinion; no doubt other (not necessarily Tark Marg) would beg to disagree. Indeed it is to clarify precisely this sort of emotional "he said, she said" morass that Tark Marg is being proposed.

      "...applies it rather to fringe issues like gay marriage rights and animal rights, and then endorses moving almost everything in the direction of domination, repression and deprivation to deny them. "

      These issues are chosen because they are (subjectively) the most stark and obvious applications of the utility of Tark Marg, whether or not they are the most pressing.

      Regarding enquirer's repulsion from "domination/repression etc" it may be pointed out that enquirer assumes, presumably propelled by subjective emotion based on no apparent factual or logical basis, that these are "bad". How does one know that these are "bad"? How may one be sure that one is not in the same boat as all those who were merely following their instincts/social conditioning in the past and are now condemned for it? Moreover, enquirer presumably has benefited from such acts himself in the shape of "animal slavery" as mentioned in my post above.

      " if morals are evolved traits, there should be little by way of the moral problem. (Ergo, morals are best left to evolution..."

      The problem arises, as in the case of obesity or allergy (described in the Tark Marg post), when rapid social change renders evolved instincts obsolete, and therefore "anti-evolution". Humans have a long tradition of not waiting for evolution to work things out (like inventing clothes or antibiotics instead of growing fur or natural immunity), and Tark Marg is an effort in that vein. Indeed, as humans are fully within nature, the use of intelligence for "artifical" evolution is also "natural".

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    10. "It is not mean-minded nay-saying..."

      No doubt, and one is thankful to enquirer for his unfailing decorum and patience.

      "To conflate morality with perpetuation, therefore, appears to be a fundamental error of thinking. It appears bound to throw up inconsistencies and inadequacies when it is closely analyzed"

      Within the limits of one's objectivity, enquirer has not pointed out "fundamental errors" or inconsistencies". There are certainly "inadequacies", chiefly that there is insufficient resolution to produce long term quantitative detail. One hopes to shed some more light on this issue in a subsequent post. Can I bother enquirer to list what he would consider "fundamental errors and inconsistencies"?

      " It requires almost no effort to find the...chaotic consequences"

      But, as I see it, enquirer's examples of the above are premised on assuming that currently fashionable memes are the be all and end all of "morality". One may point out (as in the post "how to tell you're a zombie") that innumerable predecessors lived their lives thinking exactly the same thing, and are today considered variously foolish or evil. What is the likelihood that enquirer's position on "morality" is the one out of so many others which is the "right" one? It is warm and cozy in the middle of the herd, but it should not be mistaken for being in the right place.

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    11. "If Tark Marg asks for a justification why this is deemed destructive, enquirer can do no more than refer to Justice Potter Stewart: "I shall not today attempt to define pornography, but I know it when I see it"

      I'm sorry for being repetitive, but this example (once again) demonstrates the problem. What is considered pornography by enquirer may be considered "art" by more liberal persons, while what is considered non-pornographic by enquirer will be considered scandalously libertine by others. It can be said with certainty that enquirer's personal definition of the line between pornography and art (and various other things besides) will be in a minority.

      May one request enquirer to consider whether his absolute certainty about the rectitude of his stance is justified?

      "certain well-known objects are used - have to be used - to calibrate the telescope and establish that it is mostly working correctly"

      One would argue that the examples proposed of widespread love of food, sex etc and avoidance of injury etc constitute this.

      "...a moral theory may be required to provide results that accord with intuition in a few familiar cases, and importantly required to NOT provide results that do not accord with intuition in any familiar cases."

      Whose intuition though? This varies from person to person, culture to culture, era to era. Why should enquirer's (or mine, for that matter) intuition be given primacy? In any case, both are likely to be minority positions when compared to the positions held across time and space.

      The "intuitions" that should then be used for calibration are the "universal" or at least widespread ones like avoidance of hunger, injury and attraction to social approbation or sex etc., or social "intuitions" like avoidance of theft or murder, from which indeed Tark Marg has been deduced, as described in the post.

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  13. Tark Marg may reply that this has already done in two cases: empathy for animals and gay marriage rights. Tark Marg asserts that empathy for animals is immoral and giving marriage rights to gays is immoral. On the strict logical view, both these derivations are non sequiturs; they do not follow from the stated moral principle. The Tark Marg principle tells us what is moral, and not what is immoral. In essence, the principle has the logical form, "if x promotes perpetuation, then x is moral". But it does not follow from this that "if x does not promote perpetuation, x is not moral" (see modus ponens). So for any x which does not promote perpetuation, the moral status is indeterminate as far as this principle goes; it may or may not be moral, and we need something else to decide it. (Thus if literacy does not promote perpetuation, the moral status of it is indeterminate. One suspects that in general the Tark Marg principle is not very useful for judging the morality of the vast majority of civilized behaviors.) But again, let us confine ourselves to the internals of the two arguments.

    Empathy towards animals is not, or need not be, only a 'civilized' behavior. It is quite possible to have empathy for animals in a state of nature, and indeed there are isolated instances of empathy and friendship between animals of different species not counting humans. So to be precise human empathy for animals does not constitute a civilized human behavior. But let us consider the claimed facts. "Animals cannot comprehend or reciprocate the empathy shown to them." Well, dogs are able to do this, for one. And millions of people benefit from pets, service animals and draft animals, so there is some service that animals provide other than being fodder. Besides animals (together with plants) make up the eco-system that gives humans sustenance, so they are providing a service just by going about their lives. Of course this may not be strictly 'reciprocal', but it appears that Tark Marg does not expect such strict reciprocity in human society either. On the whole, therefore, the claim that empathy to animals is immoral appears to be bad on the facts (in addition to being bad in logic).

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  14. On the subject of gay marriage rights, enquirer is conscious that Tark Marg is not holding homosexuality per se to be immoral. This is as it should be, given that the Tark Marg principle is a positive principle. But then Tark Marg commits the same logical mistake in holding marriage rights for gays to be immoral. The basic thrust of the Tark Marg argument is that gay marriage does not produce future citizens who can contribute to society, i.e. it does not promote perpetuation, and what does not promote perpetuation should not be rewarded. Again, this is a conclusion that does not follow from the premises. But if it is still insisted upon, then all social recognitions and awards for literary and artistic excellence should also not be allowed (and this is just the start).

    Now let us consider the facts in the matter of homosexuality. Is it really clear cut that homosexuality is of no help in perpetuation? If it is such a clear fact, the question arises as to why it has not been stamped out by natural selection. (Note that homosexuality may not be peculiar to humans alone.) Its persistence in the population indicates that it MAY have a role in perpetuation, though in ways that are opaque to us at this time. In fact the inexorability of natural selection has some serious biologists convinced that homosexuality does have a role in perpetuation, and they have even ventured hypothesis on what the role could be (see R L Trivers). So how can we say with confidence to gays, "Sorry gov, but you get no rewards", when as a matter of fact these people may actually be making a sacrifice for perpetuation?

    So once again, the argument against gay marriage rights appears bad both in logic and the facts.

    Now there is a simple way to avert the bad logic, and that is by amending the Tark Marg principle to state, "ONLY that is moral which promotes perpetuation". This is really not enquirer's call though (and it is suspected that Tark Marg would not like to go down this road).

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  15. To develop an objective moral theory that always and everywhere resolves what is moral and not moral, is a monumental challenge that very few have the patience, the ability or even the desire to attempt. That Tark Marg has ventured to take the initiative is lauded (yet again). And Tark Marg appears to possess the intelligence, curiosity and temperament demanded of this great task. So it is with some confidence that enquirer expects that Tark Marg will give up on this biology-based principle as unworkable, and apply his/her initiative, enthusiasm and knowledge to discovering and developing some original principle that may do better.

    If it is of some comfort, enquirer has walked away from many cherished ideas when it became just too obvious that they were chimeras. An easy example is communism. Initially the slogan "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" just seemed so moral to a young mind. But adulthood experiences (and contemporary history) showed it for it was: a superficially attractive notion that devolves into robbery in practice.

    But what, aside from morality, is the basic flaw in the communist theory? It is that communists (at least the theoretical ones) think that the econo-cosm is well understood, that cause and effect can be predicted far and wide, in time and with enough precision, and therefore that economic outcomes can be arranged by central planners (that too through a vast bureacracy).

    What Tark Marg is attempting is similar, though with different motivation and for different ends. In the case of communism, at least there is some semi-scientific knowledge of some economic causes and effects that give it the proverbial ghost of a chance. But Tark Marg takes on phenomena that are even more diffuse and poorly understood. What real knowledge do we have about cause-and-effect in increasing human perpetuation? It should be sobering that evolutionary biology, for all its success as a science, has not quite made it to being a predictive science (for any class of organism). Such predictions that it makes are few and far between, and then not always as cause-effect relationships about what factor(s) will help a given organism perpetuate more in given conditions (i.e. predictions about the effects of natural selection for any organism).

    Now it may be that Tark Marg has some special insights and innovative techniques to pierce the fog and render sufficiently clear what factor(s) will help humans perpetuate more, in given conditions. If so the questions raised by enquirer can perhaps be answered, but then Tark Marg's contributions to science and intellectual life would far outweigh that in importance.

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    1. "Tark Marg appears to possess the intelligence, curiosity and temperament demanded of this great task"

      Enquirer is perhaps more confident of this than I myself, nonetheless, I shall attempt to do it justice.

      "But what, aside from morality, is the basic flaw in the communist theory? It is that communists (at least the theoretical ones) think that the econo-cosm is well understood..."

      True, and such examples are a sobering reminder of the pitfalls of hubris. It is such examples which kept one from pronouncing on the value of the study of the origin of the universe or deciphering the Indus valley script. For this reason Tark Marg may be compared to weather modelling; while detailed predictions of the far future are not likely, we can rule out snow in Chennai or dust storms in the middle of the Pacific.

      Yet one hopes that the downfall of communism etc will not be taken to conclude that ANY prediction is pointless; one's confidence must neither be 100% nor 0%, but proportional to the amount of knowledge of the subject.

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  16. **In the 20th century there was a state that operated on an ideology based on biology. It's principle was "survival of the strongest", and it's dogmas were that the Aryans were the strongest race, and that their leader was the strongest man, the "Fuhrer". This Fuhrer applied the principle of survival of the strongest quite thoroughly and quite literally, and while the genocides he ordered rightly attract attention, the principle also had consequences for his own society and his own self that give important lessons. He destroyed German science, German jurisprudence, German education, the German army and the German government through his strongest-wins, winner-take-all policies and decisions. Everything came to center on domination and a war of all against all, and everywhere confusion and mistrust reigned. Towards the end even as the German army was putting up a hopeless defence of the homeland, he was not on speaking terms with his own generals.

    Reading Ronald Soble's excellent "Hitler's Mistakes", one repeatedly wonders what gave the man the impulse to be so consistently self-defeating and self-destructive, and an answer that intuitively suggests itself (in colloquial language) is - "he believed his own bullshit". Aryans WERE the strongest, see, and he WAS the strongest of them all, and so he could order his Aryan armies to victory against both the American and Russian war machines on two different fronts at the same time, while systematically undercutting every resource that he had and could have had on his side. When reality hit, the "strong" man ate cyanide and shot himself in the head, not to sacrifice himself for a greater cause, which would have been heroic, but to escape capture and humiliation.

    When one believes oneself to be innately strong, all things seem possible and nothing appears to be contradictory; there is no need for self-correction, trade-off, give and take, team work and taking responsibility for something other than imposing oneself on others. And what is missed is that it is self-correction, trade-off, give and take, team work and taking responsibility that go to making humans strong, not some mystical, innate aura bestowed on a person by nature.

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    1. "...In the 20th century there was a state that operated on an ideology based on biology. It's principle was "survival of the strongest", and it's dogmas were that the Aryans were the strongest race... destroyed German science, German jurisprudence, German education, the German army and the German government through his strongest-wins, winner-take-all policies and decisions"


      As perpetuation is Tark Marg's parameter, such an outcome is anathema by definition; and indeed trade, cooperation are very often better ways to achieve this. Yet one must not "always fight the last war", and take other examples into account also; such as the emergence of Homo Sapiens or the colonization of America and Australia.

      Rest assured that a war of all against all is far from what I'm advocating, based precisely on Tark Marg. I hope to post my thoughts in more detail soon.

      "When one believes oneself to be innately strong, all things seem possible and nothing appears to be contradictory; there is no need for self-correction, trade-off, give and take, team work and taking responsibility for something other than imposing oneself on others"

      Neither I myself, nor any conceivable group to which I may be considered to belong can be considered particularly "innately strong", let alone "superior" or "strongest (race)" and I'm under no such illusions. It is perhaps unsurprising given the prominence of Nazism in modern discourse, that Tark Marg may be interpreted in this sense, but this is certainly not what I have in mind.

      Delete
  17. "The optimal perspective in discussions of this nature is not one against another, but rather one and another in search of fundamental, context-independent truth."

    It bears repeating that Tark Marg has taken on a monumental challenge that very few have the patience, the ability or even the desire to attempt. The initiative required to do this is a very precious commodity, and is recognized and valued by enquirer above all. Any present disagreements may be viewed as no more than volleys in a tennis match between friends - a serious, no-holds barred match, no doubt, but BETWEEN FRIENDS. For his/her part, Tark Marg may also recognize that a person who reads the blog with close attention, and provides honest, detailed, rigorous analysis is also a precious commodity. (Enquirer seeks exactly the same in regard to his/her own blog at wideavenue.blogspot.com; perhaps Tark Marg will oblige.) This service cannot be bought anywhere; it cannot be priced, but it is priceless. It is offered because there is on the other side something of comparable value - a mind with a capacity for abstract thinking and lucid writing, and the motivation to apply itself to difficult problems with no cash reward in sight. Robert Pirsig called metaphysics the high country of the mind. We are not doing metaphysics here, but the principle still applies. Tark Marg may want to look around. From what enquirer can see on the blog, other comments are drying out. We are climbing up a difficult mountain (together), and we have left the teeming crowds behind on the dusty plains below. There is no map of the route to the top. Mistakes are costly. This is where objectivity is at a premium. Yes, some of our cherished ideas may break. But by being broken, they can become stronger. Tark Marg is invited to keep climbing, together.

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    1. "For his/her part, Tark Marg may also recognize that a person who reads the blog with close attention, and provides honest, detailed, rigorous analysis is also a precious commodity."

      Indubitably, and I'm deeply grateful for Enquirer's time and insightful comments.

      "(Enquirer seeks exactly the same in regard to his/her own blog at wideavenue.blogspot.com; perhaps Tark Marg will oblige.) "

      I did visit the site, but have not yet delved in depth. I promise to engage by early-mid July 2016. I certainly hope to repay Enquirer's valuable service in providing rapid and perspicacious feedback, but I'm trying to put together more posts following on from these, and juggling other responsibilities. One hopes Enquirer will understand.

      "...This is where objectivity is at a premium. Yes, some of our cherished ideas may break. But by being broken, they can become stronger. Tark Marg is invited to keep climbing, together. "

      The sentiment is appreciated and fully reciprocated. One is glad to have found an interlocutor such as Enquirer.

      Delete
  18. "Tark Marg is predicated on the assumption that the reader is interested in not meeting the fate of native Americans or Australian aborigines."
    The principle that is seeking to protect the reader from extermination is actually making that extermination moral.

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    1. "The principle that is seeking to protect the reader from extermination is actually making that extermination moral"

      This is not a contradiction; the possibility of that extermination exists anyway.

      Delete
  19. "Natural selection has a "survival bias"; we only see those that have come out better. But the more likely outcome is extinction; so leaving it to natural selection strongly risks that outcome."

    What Tark Marg is requiring here (though unsaid) is "perpetuation in the same form". This is nowhere given in the original principle. But let us analyze it nonetheless. It is rather obvious immediately that "perpetuation in the same form" is quite unheard of. There are variations within a given species at any time, yet all the individuals do constitute the same species. Similarly there are variations in offspring compared to parents at any place, yet all the individuals do constitute the same species. Though speciation does occur over a long time, each offspring is of the same species as its parent, with some variation. Thus the primordial organism has in a very real sense perpetuated to this day, albeit with change of form as conditions changed. To insist that perpetuation should retain the same form in all conditions is not only baffling, but also ominous: it brings to mind 'racial purity' ideas that did the rounds in the preceding two centuries.

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  20. "Modern industry [has] allowed adopting societies to outcompete and colonize those living a "natural" existence."
    The bearing on natural selection here is not clear. Is modern industry the phenotype of some genetic variant? In the given case there is obviously a domination by the strong of the weak, but no natural selection appears to be evident.

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    1. It is a memetic/cultural rather than genetic selection. Indeed it is also a genetic/allelic selection in a sense, but within the species, as in the case of colonization of America and Australia.

      Delete
  21. "Naturally "quality" must be defined. One suspects that the features instinctively considered as high quality by enquirer are those which, not coincidentally, are historically associated with a higher likelihood of perpetuation, like wealth, health, social status, autonomy, access to sex etc."

    Yes, "quality" must be defined, and yes, there may be features considered as high quality by enquirer (whether instinctively or otherwise, and whether intersecting with Tark Marg's list or otherwise). But these are not required to be specified here to rebut Tark Marg's point that 'high quality life' may be historically associated with a higher likelihood of perpetuation.

    Here are the top five societies in life-quality rankings by US News (2016): #1 Canada, #2 Sweden, #3 Denmark, #4 Australia, #5 Netherlands. And here are the top ten societies in life-quality rankings by the Economist (2005): Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden, Australia, Iceland, Italy, Denmark, Spain. Which among them have high population growth rates?

    Here are the top fifteen societies in population growth rate rankings by World Bank (2014): Zambia, Malawi, Senegal, Congo, Tanzania, Gambia, Uganda, Angola, Burundi, Chad, Qatar, South Sudan, Niger, Kuwait, Oman. Which among them figure high in the quality of life rankings?

    Enquirer is unable to see a single intersection in the two data sets. In fact it appears to enquirer that there is actually a reverse correlation between quality of life and higher perpetuation. Note that it is quite irrelevant HOW quality of life is defined here; enquirer is willing to take the US News / Economist definitions, whatever they are. Also note that the same reverse correlation exists between Tark Marg's claim that meat-eating increases perpetuation and the doubling in population in the last 30 years of 'vegetarian India'.

    Now it is Tark Marg's turn to show a correlaton between high quality life and perpetuation, no matter at what time in history, and no matter how 'high quality' is defined (as long as it is not in terms of population growth, which would make the argument a tautology).

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    1. "Enquirer is unable to see a single intersection in the two data sets. In fact it appears to enquirer that there is actually a reverse correlation between quality of life and higher perpetuation"..."Now it is Tark Marg's turn to show a correlaton between high quality life and perpetuation"

      Firstly, high quality of life is enquirer's parameter, not Tark Marg's, so it is unclear why Tark Marg should have to defend it.

      In any case, one proposes the following thought experiment: if enquirer were offered unlimited resources necessary to lead a "high quality of life", in return for sterilization, and/or the killing, after enquirer's natural death, of his kin, to end his perpetuation, would he choose it? Here we have a choice between high quality of life and perpetuation; what does enquirer choose?

      As I see it, the instincts that attracts one to "high quality of life" are also perpetuation based; plentiful resources, low disease burden, law and order etc are attractive (in my view), precisely because they are important for perpetuation. The problem appears to be that the availability of evolutionarily unprecedented contraception has caused a de-linking between the sex drive and it's underlying rationale, reproduction, in advanced societies, analogous to obesity and allergy, both of which are not coincidentally also highly prevalent in these countries.

      Nonetheless, all the "high quality of life" societies have themselves undergone a phase of high perpetuation, without which one presumes they would not have the manpower they have today to maintain the high quality of life. For instance, the Netherlands (which does not have a history of high immigration), like every developed country, has undergone rapid and exponential population growth (http://www.populstat.info/Europe/netherlc.htm ; sorry about the absence of a graph, but compare percentage growth between 1700, 1800, 1900 and 2000).

      Moreover, many of these societies are demographically moribund, and coupled with high immigration, it is possible that the ingredients underlying their "high quality of life" may not persist. I assume that enquirer is aware of the anxiety in Germany following the entry of about a million immigrants last year. One presumes enquirer follows the zeitgeist in being uncomfortable with the question of demographic decline, but it is a very real possibility.

      An analogous situation is to be found in Lebanon, where the more "modern" Maronite Christians have declined in population over a few generations by a third to almost half (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maronite_Christianity_in_Lebanon , see "demographics" tab). The resulting loss of political power will increasingly undermine their ability to preserve autonomy. In addition, there are increasing fears of economic stagnation in many of these countries, partially as a result of demographic collapse. One example is the effort of Singapore's government to boost the birthrate (https://app.msf.gov.sg/Policies/Strong-and-Stable-Families/Supporting-Families/Baby-Bonus-Scheme).

      Thus we may conclude (or at least I do), that it is not low perpetuation that is at the root of the high quality of life mentioned above; past high perpetuation was indispensable for the high quality of life today, and indeed the existing low perpetuation (particularly coupled with mass imigration) puts this very high quality if life in jeopardy.

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  22. Now it is Tark Marg's turn to show a correlaton between high quality life and perpetuation, no matter at what time in history, and no matter how 'high quality' is defined (as long as it is not in terms of population growth, which would make the argument a tautology), because CAUSATION IS ALWAYS CORRELATION.

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  23. "Humans, likely including enquirer, have made use of animals for pulling weight, providing milk, wool etc, testing medical products and processes etc without their consent, thereby amounting to "animal slavery"."
    Yes, animals are often mistreated, that is why animal welfare and animal rights are called for. Enquirer is being consistent - we believe that we co-exist with animals and can and do derive benefits from them, therefore they should have rights and be well-treated.

    "It is much easier to point out what should not be done however, which is what I've attempted with the examples of gay marriage and animal rights."
    If the focus is going to be on what should not be done, the adoption of a positive principle is puzzling; the premise does not support the conclusions as a matter of correct reasoning (PLEASE SEE MODUS PONENS AND MODUS TOLLENS; THEY ARE VERY EASY TO UNDERSTAND). Perhaps Tark Marg may care to comment on enquirer's analysis of the bad logic used in the examples of gay marriage and animal rights.

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    1. "animals...should have rights and be well-treated"

      As the discussion was about enquirer's unsubstantiated claim that certain acts, like slavery are "evil", while presumably engaging in animal slavery, the central question is whether animal consent is present (absence of consent being the mark of slavery; a happy slave is still a slave) or even being sought. Otherwise enquirer's statement might easily be adapted to human slavery; "Yes, slaves are often mistreated, that is why slave welfare and slave rights are called for. Enquirer is being consistent - we believe that we co-exist with slaves and can and do derive benefits from them, therefore they should have rights and be well-treated. " Does enquirer agree?

      "the adoption of a positive principle is puzzling...MODUS TOLLENS..."

      Thank you for bringing this to my attention. As I understand it, it suggests that if P--> Q, then if not Q, then not P. But if not P, then not necessarily not Q.

      If applied to Tark Marg (if perpetuation, then moral), it may be interpreted to mean that there may be moral acts which nonetheless do not enhance perpetuation or even decrease it.

      As Tark Marg's concern is with MAXIMIZING perpetuation, acts which decrease it cannot be considered moral, the intention was to imply a 1:1 correlation between maximizing perpetuation and morality. One may rephrase the Tark Marg statement to something like "the moral path must be that which maximizes long term individual and collective perpetuation". Does this make sense?

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  24. "Humans have driven many species extinct, including the intentional eradication of smallpox virus, the attempted eradication of polio virus, not to mention animals, insects, plants driven extinct in the push to clear forests for agriculture and settlement."
    The Anonymous poster of 26th April made reference to "a sensate being". What enquirer is concerned about (and possibly a number of others) is "sensate beings". The smallpox virus, the polio virus, insects, plants, bacteria and trees do not appear to be "sensate beings". Insofar as animals are harmed by human activity, enquirer notes again that this is one of the reasons that animal welfare and animal rights are called for, which may include habitat protection. Further, a case may be made for preventing the eradication of members of the eco-sphere that hurts the environment (e.g industrial scale felling of trees).

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  25. Hello Tark Marg,

    The close reading and responses to enquirer's comments are appreciated.

    It appears that the conversation has become a bit far-ranging and it may be better to pull the issues into focus at this time. Enquirer has identified 15 issues that may be worth further discussion, and presents them in the following comments with tracking numbers, to enable easy reference going forward. For example, blogger may respond to enquirer's comment '101e' with reply number '101b'. It is hoped that the issues be discussed one by one to keep the focus on, and attempt some convergence of views to the extent possible.

    And there are some issues that enquirer feels it may not be worthwhile to pursue at this time, which may be quarantined: animal slavery and animal rights; vegetarianism and perpetuation; putting to the citizens of Hiroshima a choice of a) reverting back to primitive times and have the nuclear attack not happen or b) live with the security of modern technology despite having lost tens of thousands to an aspect of technology; '"Altruism is moral" is both descriptive and prescriptive'; numbers killed in WWII vs people estimated to have died over time among the tribes of Papua New Guinea owing to tribal warfare; rape is moral on the Tark Marg principle.

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  26. 100e
    "Enquirer has not pointed out "fundamental errors" or inconsistencies".

    Please see enquirer's comments of 31 May 2016 at 18:18 and 18:21, each one measuring about 12 lines and about 4096 characters.

    In analyzing a given principle, enquirer broadly operates within the following framework of questions -

    What is the extent of the claim? How far reaching are the consequences?
    What is the balance of merit? Does it solve more problems than it creates?
    For arguments made on the basis of the principle: Is the logic sound? If there are empirical claims, is the supporting data adequate? Is any contrary data ignored (i.e. cherry-picking)?

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  27. 101e
    "It is also unclear what the 'moral sense' is...But having emotions by nature is not necessarily the same thing as being moral by nature." -> "If I understand correctly, you're pointing out problems with conventional explanations of morality, with which I agree."

    But blogger does give the impression that he/she holds 'moral sense' to have evolutionary purpose and thus evolutionary explanation: "Like other animals, mankind has evolved to have certain traits like a love of sex, food or one's offspring, or repulsion towards injury or social rejection, based on which I have deduced the Tark Marg statement. While circumstantial, it seems to be the most parsimonious explanation. Does enquirer have an alternative hypothesis to explain these observations?" This appears to say: certain traits like a love of sex, food or one's offspring, or repulsion towards injury or social rejection are adaptations, and also that they are moral. Enquirer would like to understand the principle behind this reasoning, because having certain traits by nature is not necessarily the same thing as being moral by nature. Is it, for example, blogger's unspoken assumption that 'THAT IS MORAL WHICH IS AN ADAPTATION'? If so, please see 102e.

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    1. 101b

      "because having certain traits by nature is not necessarily the same thing as being moral by nature"

      As I have tried to elaborate in the post, for any theory, one must start with an empirically supported axiom. As human instincts, as well SOCIAL NORMS/TABOOS (which are closely linked to conventional definitions of "morality") can be most parsimoniously explained (in my view) on a self-perpetuation rationale, this by definition is the said Tark Marg axiom.

      Delete
    2. 101e
      The close reading of and responses to enquirer's admittedly long and winding arguments is appreciated. Enquirer shall attempt to be brief and more focused.

      So there appears to be a meta-axiom underlying the Tark Marg axiom: moral principles must have empirical support. In other words (if one may take the liberty of re-phrasing), morality has to be founded on the laws of nature, or to be precise, on biology.

      The above may be expressly confirmed or denied by blogger.

      Delete
    3. Dear Enquirer, I've resumed blogging after a long hiatus (necessitated by various commitments and my own indiscipline). I have a new post up, which may clarify or crystallize our differences, and to which I would suggest we move our discussion, if there is still interest on Enquirer's part.

      I also had a look at your blog (wideavenue.blogspot.com), specifically the first post. I couldn't find an option there to leave comments so here are my preliminary thoughts:

      1) Use of the term state seems confusing and does not seem to add value. Why not use terms like "basic necessities" or "essential services" etc?

      2) As you have noted, there is certain to be disagreement over what constitutes "essential". Ideally there should be a framework for resolving these disagreements in an objective manner.

      3) "Government", as I see it, is nothing more than a group of people deputed to run basic functions; and as such is simply a subset of society. There is no macroscopic rule to assume that it will always possess the resources needed to provide whatever is deemed "essential". The framework proposed, at least in the first post, does not seem to address this. For instance, in recent months, the government of Venezuela seems unable to provide enough food and medicine to many citizens. How does your model deal with this situation?

      4) There does not seem to be an empirically supported axiom underlying the notion that government (i.e. the rest of society) MUST provide what is deemed "essential" or "having state". In mathematics for example, based on everyday observation, we assume some statement to be true (i.e. axioms) such as "a straight line is the shortest distance between two points" or if A = B and B = C, then A = C.

      Is there such an axiom on the basis of which we may derive your implicit assumption?

      In Tark Marg for example, the observation that widespread instincts/norms like avoidance of injury/desire for sex/prohibition of theft all seem to align with an impulse for maximizing self-perpetuation is used to derive the Tark Marg statement.

      Delete
  28. 102e
    "Mankind has evolved to have certain traits like a love of sex, food or one's offspring, or repulsion towards injury or social rejection..." AND: "rapid social change renders evolved instincts obsolete".

    The thesis appears to be that humans have certain adaptations, and that at this time these adaptations are no longer reliable for perpetuation, therefore 'cultural adaptations' have to be developed by rational enquiry to ensure perpetuation. In a more distilled sense, the thesis appears to be that our moral sense evolved from the pressures of ensuring perpetuation, therefore ensuring perpetuation is what should regulate our moral sense.

    Whatever the merits of the thesis (as judged by the size and number of problems it solves), its upfront characteristic is that it makes vast emprical claims and proposes to attain vast empirical outcomes, both of which have to be backed up by solid empirical knowledge (science).

    The empirical assertion that "mankind has evolved to have certain traits like a love of sex, food or one's offspring, or repulsion towards injury or social rejection..." is certainly a basic hypothesis of evolutionary psychology, but the evidence for it is thin at this time; and evolutionary psychology is nowhere being a solid science. How is the assertion to be accepted without skepticism?

    The other empirical assertion proferred is that "rapid social change renders evolved instincts obsolete". This is even more thin from a scientific point of view; there is no known science or wanna-be science that makes this claim. Of course it may be that blogger has some original contributions to make in the matter, in which case perhaps his/her own and everybody else's interests are better served by publishing a research paper in a peer-reviewed journal, and then referencing it in the moral theory.

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    1. ""mankind has evolved to have certain traits like a love of sex, food or one's offspring, or repulsion towards injury or social rejection..." is certainly a basic hypothesis of evolutionary psychology, but the evidence for it is thin at this time"

      It certainly seems like the most parsimonious explanation to me at the moment, and is a direct corollary of the theory of evolution. Also, unfortunately with relatively non-quantitative, circumstantial fields such as this, there is likely going to be a subjective component to what is considered "thin" or "sufficient" evidence. The epistemology surrounding this question bears more thinking about, but at the moment there is little more than what is in the post to convince determined doubters.

      ""rapid social change renders evolved instincts obsolete". This is even more thin from a scientific point of view"

      As described in the post, this conclusion is drawn from the example of the spike in obesity, especially in industrialized countries. Other examples could include the high prevalence of alcohol abuse in groups that have only short histories of exposure to it, like native americans or australian aborigines (1). Once again we have a subjective disagreement.

      What is "thin from a scientific point of view"? Is there a quantitative, objective measure of thinness or sufficiency of evidence? I'm asking as a means of arriving at an objective way to either conform or deny any general proposition.

      "publishing a research paper in a peer-reviewed journal"

      This would be optimal, but impracticable at the moment owing to a shortage of time and access to relevant infrastructure.

      1) https://www.dpmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/indigenous/Health-Performance-Framework-2014/tier-2-determinants-health/216-risky-alcohol-consumption.html

      Delete
    2. 102e
      True, it is parsimonious, and is compelling to common sense. But the meta-axiom underlying the Tark marg axiom appears to place the entire burden of morality on what the empirical facts are. Therefore it may be reasonable to expect blogger's arguments to invoke, if not solid facts, at least hypothesis that have been researched somewhat to generate SOME evidence to confirm or deny them. So here is the crux: is there any scientific paper published in a science journal that provides support for the claim that "mankind has evolved to have certain traits ... ".

      Please note that enquirer is not questioning whether mankind has certain traits or not, be they even the traits mentioned by blogger; the question rather is how we know, with some degree of epistemic confidence, that mankind has EVOLVED to have certain traits (which, therefore, presumably constitute the human 'natural essence', and yet therefore, indicate what is moral and what is not). How many such scientific papers exist? How widely referenced are they? What research work do they rely on? What are the assumptions and techniques employed thereto? Have the results been repeated and confirmed? A factual answer to these questions goes to constituting "sufficient evidence", even before going into its merits.

      Blogger may note that the first sentence in the above paragraph is intended to capture the essence of the Tark Marg approach. The rest of the paragraph addressess the issue, it is hoped, of "what is "thin from a scientific point of view"".

      There may or may not be "a quantitative, objective measure of thinness or sufficiency of evidence", but surely SOME evidence, and SOME evaluation of the evidence, in the form of published research papers can be expected?

      Delete
    3. 102e
      "determined doubters"
      Assuming that is an oblique reference to enquirer, enquirer would like to suggest that it is "determined skepticism", something that meets enquirer's own notions when they are expressed in public. At such times enquirer welcomes skepticism that is rightly argued (which is rather rare), and likes to ignore what appears to be mean-minded naysaying without much intellectual substance. It is hoped that blogger perceives that in addition to being determined, enquirer's skepticism is rightly argued.

      Once again, the tennis match metaphor may be invoked; of course the opponent would be determined. What makes the game enjoyable is the determination of the parties, as long as they play by the rules. And may enquirer take the liberty to suggest that by playing a determined opponent, one's own game improves. Enquirer has no hesitation in admitting that the on-going exchange with blogger has been a learning experience of quite some value (eg clarifying one's own concepts, honing expression, perceiving how expressions are interpreted by others,...), in addition to the up-front pleasure of reading and writing the arguments.

      On the question of "evidence", blogger seems to have rested his/her primary case entirely on what the matter of fact is, and therefore he/she may be persuasive only in the extent of factual evidence presented. This has been a major theme of enquirer's critique from the outset, and it is hoped that blogger will make this a focus of discussion.

      Delete
    4. 102e
      "This would be optimal, but impracticable at the moment owing to a shortage of time and access to relevant infrastructure."
      Then perhaps it may be better to keep the cart of morality in abeyance and attend first to the horse of fact; otherwise it may appear to be pre-judging.

      Delete
    5. 102b

      "So here is the crux: is there any scientific paper published in a science journal that provides support for the claim that "mankind has evolved to have certain traits ... ""


      The points referred to as evidence for Tark Marg (that there exists a "widespread" love of certain behaviors like sex, food, peer approval and aversion to injury or social rejection) are (admittedly subjectively) of such a general nature that to require published literature for backup is akin to requiring published literature to support the assertion that water is wet or that the sky is blue.

      Another class of assumptions are that murder or theft are widely prohibited in most societies (i.e. the social equivalent to an individual trait). These are of course based on personal observation and general knowledge. Would Enquirer disagree with these?

      Moreover, there is also an opportunity cost in terms of time lost and effort spent which could have been used elsewhere. To turn the argument around, would it be sensible require consultation with scientific literature before asserting that "Equatorial Africans have more melanin content on average than North Europeans" or that "On average men have more upper body strength than women"?

      Moreover, arguments must stand on their own factual and logical legs; publication in scientific journals, while quite likely to be indicative of reliance on empirical method, is neither strictly necessary nor sufficient for establishing correctness. To suggest that one may not form an opinion based on one's observations unless this has been published in the literature is not tenable.

      Nonetheless, it is an interesting epistemological issue. What constitutes correctness? What is the threshold for sufficient evidence?

      "Then perhaps it may be better to keep the cart of morality in abeyance and attend first to the horse of fact; otherwise it may appear to be pre-judging"

      As mentioned in the post, the "facts" being relied upon to draw the Tark Marg inference are that there is in humans a "widespread" love of sex, food, one's kin or aversion to injury or social rejection, as well as "widespread" social prohibition of acts such as murder or theft. Admittedly this is personal observation. Perhaps Enquirer can elaborate why these assumptions are erroneous?

      Delete
    6. would it be sensible require consultation with scientific literature before asserting that "Equatorial Africans have more melanin content on average than North Europeans"... "On average men have more upper body strength than women"... "water is wet or that the sky is blue"

      102e
      The above given assertions are no doubt in the character of 'fact', with the possible exception of "water is wet", which may be a tautology. The first may justifiably require some supporting studies, because 'melanin content' is an abstraction (unless blogger means to say that "Equatorial Africans have darker complexion on average than North Europeans", which is considerably less abstract); the second may not require 'studies' - it is a lay induction, low in abstraction, and it can be countered by other lay inductions by anyone aware of other facts, resulting in a balance of plausibility or an addition of nuance; the last may definitely not require 'studies', it is a raw observation that contains no abstraction, and therefore may not occasion an alternative viewpoint to be put.

      Coming to the point in question, when blogger says, "murder or theft are widely prohibited in most societies" and "there is in humans a "widespread" love of sex, food, one's kin or aversion to injury or social rejection", he/she appears to assert them in the character of fact; these are again lay inductions, quite low in abstraction, and they may be accepted without much demur, unless someone has knowledge or experience of the contrary and puts a counter, resulting in a balance of plausibility or an addition of nuance.

      For the record, enquirer shares blogger's perception that "murder or theft are widely prohibited in most societies" and "there is in humans a "widespread" love of sex, food, one's kin or aversion to injury or social rejection". Enquirer may not be asking for experimental evidence or research studies to support these 'facts', and may not view them as 'erroneous', as alleged by blogger.

      What, then, is enquirer seeking evidence for? Blogger is urged to read the following carefully.

      Delete
    7. Blogger's point of argument does not appear to be simply that "murder or theft are widely prohibited in most societies", which is surely a banality. Blogger's point of argument is that "murder or theft are widely prohibited in most societies BECAUSE they promote perpetuation".

      Similarly, blogger's point of argument does not appear to be simply that "there is in humans a "widespread" love of sex, food, one's kin or aversion to injury or social rejection", which is also surely a banality. Blogger's point of argument is that "there is in humans a "widespread" love of sex, food, one's kin or aversion to injury or social rejection BECAUSE humans have evolved to have them".

      In both cases, there is some abstraction on account of abstract concepts used in the assertion ('promote perpetuation', 'evolved'). But more than that, there is some abstraction arising from the imputed CAUSE-AND-EFECT relationships in the assertion. And this kind of abstraction takes the assertion to a different epistemic level; it is no longer a 'lay fact'. It now has to be regarded as a hypothesis. Experiments, field studies, simulations, research, evidence, peer review become called for. Variables have to be isolated, controls have to be established, data has to be collected, regression analysis has to be performed, conflicting data has to be evaluated, results have to be duplicated.

      So here is a research paper that reports studies of whether a human trait is CAUSED by nature or nurture - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23063236 (identifying a possible cause of the ability to delay gratification in children).

      Tark Marg proposes to assign reasons and causes of phenomena, including the expansive claim that human ethics are determined by evolution (if they are determined by evolution, why is there so much controversy about them? do humans agonize about the other, more physical adaptations, as they do over moral questions?)

      It is hoped that the distinction is clear to blogger. No more can be said in the matter.

      Delete
    8. Thank you for your replies Enquirer, and I once again apologize for the delay in responding. Rest assured that the delay is not owing to a lack of appreciation of the value of Enquirer's criticism.

      I'm working on a subsequent post which I'd like to finish within the next 1-2 weeks. I'm forcing myself to desist from various online activity to avoid the distractions involved. Please allow me some extra time to respond, which I promise to do.

      Delete
  29. 103e
    "The moral problems of today seem to have more to do with greed, agression, domination, repression, deprivation and ignorance" -> "This seems to be a subjective opinion; no doubt other (not necessarily Tark Marg) would beg to disagree. Indeed it is to clarify precisely this sort of emotional "he said, she said" morass that Tark Marg is being proposed." AND "Enquirer assumes, presumably propelled by subjective emotion based on no apparent factual or logical basis, that these are "bad"."

    Enquirer's observation is derived from an expectation that the moral questions (or implied moral questions) examined in popular discourse in newspapers, magazines, blogs, essays, debates, politician's speeches, constitutions of countries, court verdicts, movies, TV dramas, novels and drawing room conversations, would be addressed by anyone proposing a moral principle. It is not unreasonable to infer from the prevalent social discourse that "the moral problems of today seem to have more to do with greed, agression, domination, repression, deprivation and ignorance". From what appears in the blog article, the moral problem addressed is that of 'empathobesity'. This is certainly an unusual and interesting notion; but the expectation is that the notion would be brought to bear on the issues that the wider world is generally concerned about. What we get is an application of the notion to gay marriage rights and animal rights. Also, if empathobesity were at the root of today's problems, then today's problems would perhaps be of a quite different character than what obtains. If blogger wishes to convey that enquirer's expectation is not on point, then it is a different matter.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. 103b

      "...moral questions...would be addressed by anyone proposing a moral principle"

      True, and some such examples ave been provided in the form of consideration of animal rights and gay marriage. I hope to provide a more detailed framework in some time.

      "the expectation is that the notion would be brought to bear on the issues that the wider world is generally concerned about..."

      The world is a rather large place and what seems relevant or pressing to Enquirer in the global context may not to others. Perhaps Enquirer can propose a topic of interest? Alternatively Enquirer may want to wait for a few weeks by which time one will hopefully be able to propose what one hopes will be a more concrete framework using which light may be shed on issues in a context independent manner.

      "Also, if empathobesity were at the root of today's problems, then today's problems would perhaps be of a quite different character than what obtains"

      This is a subjective judgement. It is certainly not the intention to suggest that each and every issue is down to empathobesity; some issues may be owing to empath-deficiency.

      The overall thrust however is to apply a self perpetuation perspective rather than particular social/individual norms/instincts or cultural/religious dogma which may not be in keeping with the self-perpetuation rationale underlying said instincts or dogma.

      Delete
  30. 104e
    "Regarding enquirer's repulsion from "domination/repression etc" it may be pointed out that enquirer assumes, presumably propelled by subjective emotion based on no apparent factual or logical basis, that these are "bad". How does one know that these are "bad"?"

    Blogger may please see 103e, and understand that enquirer approaches the matter from a skeptical point of view (albeit with healthy skepticism, it is hoped). Then the question simply is - is one willing to upend the social and political miletones of the past two hundred years in order to adopt a principle that resolves relatively minor problems?

    Of course, morality as it stands now may have no objective basis, but it is quite clear that almost every group in the ballpark sees a moral problem. For example, Westerners see a moral problem in the Middle-Eastern extremist worldview, and Middle-Eastern extremists see a moral problem in the Westerners' lifestyles. The expectation is that the Tark Marg principle will bear on these topical issues, that it will resolve a given disagreement one way or the other. Granting that Tark Marg is objective, how exactly is it resolving one or the other of Westerners vs Middle-Eastern extremists as objectively moral?

    An objective resolution of this (or a comparable) ideological conflict would make a reader less skeptical of the principle, and perhaps more receptive to the Tark Marg consequences for gay marriage rights and animal rights, as part as a putative trade-off. Perhaps blogger plans to apply the principle to resolve such weighty matters. Until such time, the balance of merit does not appear to be in favor of the principle.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. 104b

      "Then the question simply is - is one willing to upend the social and political miletones of the past two hundred years in order to adopt a principle that resolves relatively minor problems?"

      Indubitably.

      The milestones/dogmas/norms of the past 200 years have themselves (generally rightly in my opinion) emerged from an upending of previously widely accepted norms/dogmas. Moreover, as I see it, and have tried to convey in my post "rise and decline of the West", the problems, as I see them, are far from minor.

      "...Middle-Eastern extremist...An objective resolution of this (or a comparable) ideological conflict..."

      As before, Enquirer subjectively assigns adjectives like extremists without any theoretical justification.

      One would definitely like to propose a "resolution"; and indeed, the animal rights/gay marriage sections address deficiencies (as I see it) in current Western moral fashion. Deficiencies in the Islamic (which presumably is what Enquirer meant by "Middle-eastern extremist) worldview are numerous too, and I hope to address them soon. However, I'm much more exposed to and familiar with Western cultural developments (as I would assume, is Enquirer) and am more favorably disposed to the West as well, hence the focus on Western deficiencies like animal rights/gay marriage.

      Delete
    2. 104e
      The issue in not whether the social and political milestones of the past two hundred years are seen as 'moral' by enquirer. The issue is how much social change is sought at the cost of how much other social change. Suppose that there is an anomaly in some scientific observations, and there is proposed a physical theory that explains the anomaly at the cost of negating all known physics. Is it justified? And will such a theory be rightly defended by maintaining that modern physics also came about by upending previously held notions (which was indeed the case)? What is required is compelling evidence, a solution to a broad variety of existing problems, increased sophistication in understanding phenomena etc.

      Now please appreciate the scale of social change being allowed here -
      Tark Marg makes immoral contraception, selfies, women's right to work ...
      Tark Marg makes in principle moral slavery, genocide, rape, 'The Matrix' style human farms, extermination of the aged, crippled, terminally ill, mentally retarded, sexually impotent, ...

      And please appreciate the scale of change being sought thereby: banning gay marriage rights, and refusing to treat animals with kindness. (And in this regard, perhaps blogger may care to evaluate 100e and fortify the case.)

      The use of the term "extremists" here is not judgment-laden. The context is to invite a comparison between Western values and extreme Middle Eastern values (extreme being a measure of insistence on orthodoxy, and quite a neutral term used by scholars ). There are after all strands of moderate thought in the Middle East (see Jordan, for example). However it is encouraging that blogger also addressed the point of resolving either way between Western values and extreme Middle Eastern values, which was really the issue there.

      Delete
    3. "Tark Marg makes immoral contraception, selfies, women's right to work ... Tark Marg makes in principle moral slavery, genocide... "

      But this simply isn't the case; at least Enquirer should mention that these points are Enquirer's interpretation. Moreover, Enquirer/traditionalists may themselves be accused of accepting slavery/genocide applied to animals etc.

      "banning gay marriage rights"

      But this seems to be a contradiction of Enquirer's own point; gay marriage is a very recent "inversion" of thitherto accepted moral norms.

      "refusing to treat animals with kindness"

      This is a misrepresentation; the point is not that animals SHOULD be subjected to unkindness arbitrarily, but that given their inability to reciprocate, they not be accorded the same concessions as fellow humans. This may be turned around to suggest that Enquirer/traditionalists should allow animal voting rights or marriage. Should this be allowed, and if not, why not?

      "extreme being a measure of insistence on orthodoxy, and quite a neutral term used by scholars"

      But isn't Enquirer's position precisely an "extreme" (i.e. total) adherence to current Western conventional wisdom (i.e. orthodoxy)?

      "There are after all strands of moderate thought in the Middle East"

      How would Enquirer judge that these strands are "moderate"? Moreover, "moderate" is not the same as "correct".

      Delete
    4. "Tark Marg makes in principle moral slavery, genocide... "
      But this simply isn't the case; at least Enquirer should mention that these points are Enquirer's interpretation.

      104e
      It is not for no reason that enquirer in the beginning sought an explicit and unequivocal embrace by blogger of the perceived consequences of the TM principle. And at that time blogger appeared to undertake the embrace, allowing slavery, genocide & c "if they were favorable to perpetuation".

      Delete
    5. When a moral principle is proposed, the proposer tends to assume that the moral 'cut' it makes will fall roughly along the lines that the proposer would be comfortable with. It may be justified to point out in critique that there are consequences that perhaps the proposer has not yet considered, and that perhaps may not be comfortably embraced by the proposer.

      Delete
    6. When blogger avers that it simply is not the case that Tark Marg makes in principle moral slavery, genocide..., one tends to assume that he/she is being moderate in applying the principle. But perhaps blogger will agree that more extreme interpretations are possible, and persons other than blogger may embrace them.

      It may be noted here that "moderate" and "extreme" are judged by the extent of departure from a standard, whatever be that standard. For liberals, the Christian belief that God made the world in literally six days is an extreme view from the standpoint of science; the other Christian belief that God made the world in six stages, and not necessarily in six days literally, is a "moderate" one. Of course, for a Christian, support of abortion rights would be "extreme" liberalism, whereas support for abortion only till such time that the fetus does not become viable would be a "moderate" liberal position.

      Delete
    7. But this seems to be a contradiction of Enquirer's own point; gay marriage is a very recent "inversion" of thitherto accepted moral norms.

      104e
      It may be an "inversion", or it may be an "expansion" of the accepted moral norms (akin to giving women the right to vote); either way, supporting gay marriage does not call for inverting the bulk of existing norms and practices, it merely chips at the edges. For this reason, it has minor significance in the scheme of things, and also exactly for this reason, opposing gay marriage on the grounds that it does not promote perpetuation has major significance in the scheme of things, because it allows or even calls for opposing whatever does not promote perpetuation, and thus has the potential to upend many existing norms and practices.

      Delete
    8. "extreme being a measure of insistence on orthodoxy, and quite a neutral term used by scholars"
      But isn't Enquirer's position precisely an "extreme" (i.e. total) adherence to current Western conventional wisdom (i.e. orthodoxy)?

      104e
      Enquirer is unaware that any identifiable "position" or "wisdom" was presented from his/her side in this debate; it is felt that there was presented only a critique of blogger's ideas and buttressing of the critique. In other words, enquirer did not view this debate as a match-up between two ideologies, but rather as an ideology on the one hand and a critique of it on the other. Perhaps blogger feels that enquirer's critique was motivated by "adherence to orthodoxy"; this may indeed be the case - or it maybe be the case that enquirer has some hope in the principle proposed by blogger, and is playing the devil's advocate to be either more convinced of its merits or the opposite. But in any case, enquirer's own ideology and enquirer's motivations have little to do with the SUBSTANCE of this debate, it is felt.

      Delete
    9. One technical quibble, with blogger's permission: when blogger refers to "current Western conventional wisdom", he/she appears to have "liberalism" in mind. But neither is liberalism peculiarly Western, nor is it quite clear that there is a definite "current Western conventional wisdom". For the former, the hoary Upanishads of India exhibit a spirit of tolerance and embrace of diversity (e.g. 'for the large-hearted, the whole world is one family' - Mahopanishad VI.71-73), that they may be considered to have strands of what is now associated with liberalism. For the latter, please see "culture wars" in the USA; in the USA, and in Europe also, there is liberal wisdom and conservative wisdom, and a see-saw over time between liberal and conservative in popular opinion.

      Delete
  31. 105e
    "Whose intuition though? This varies from person to person, culture to culture, era to era."

    Please see 104e. The call is not to give a priori primacy to one intuition over another. Any two conflicting intuitions may be taken, and the Tark Marg principle applied to select one over the other. For example, Tark Marg may be applied to the familiar conflict between Westerners and Middle-Eastern extremists, and either of the two may be resolved as objectively moral, with caveats if any.


    106e
    "One hopes that the downfall of communism etc will not be taken to conclude that ANY prediction is pointless; one's confidence must neither be 100% nor 0%, but proportional to the amount of knowledge of the subject."

    Agreed, and well-stated. And the point is that in the matter of human perpetuation, our confidence would lie closer to 0 than 100 in most cases of interest.


    107e
    "given the prominence of Nazism in modern discourse... Tark Marg may be interpreted in this sense, but this is certainly not what I have in mind."

    There is no attempt by enquirer, explicit or otherwise, to associate TM with Nazism. Nazism is the ideology of superiority and strength, which TM does not appear to be (at least, not as it is stated). However TM is based on biology, much as Nazism is, and it's implications appear to be destructive, just as Nazism's are.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. 107b

      " it's implications appear to be destructive"

      This raises the question of what "destructive" means and why that is "bad" (to be avoided). Perhaps Enquirer will consider this issue at some depth? The possibility might be considered that Enquirer's aversion to "destruction" is itself an instinct with origins in a self-perpetuation impulse.

      Delete
    2. 107e
      The Tark Marg position is that mankind has EVOLVED to have certain traits, which, therefore, presumably constitute the human 'natural essence', and yet therefore, indicate what is moral and what is not (as in 102e). If this position is pursued to its logical conclusion, it will demand a return of mankind to the state of nature, to an animal existence in the jungle.

      If this is not seen as something to be avoided, we may agree to disagree here and discuss other matters.

      It is purposufully requested that blogger not see it as tit-for-tat if enquirer were to urge blogger to consider this issue at some depth. Human civilization IS a move away from the state of nature, and it DOES come into conflict with and restrain 'instincts'. Sigmund Freud may be recalled with profit on this point: "It is difficult to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct".

      Delete
  32. 108e
    "Firstly, high quality of life is enquirer's parameter, not Tark Marg's, so it is unclear why Tark Marg should have to defend it."

    Blogger averred that "One suspects that the features instinctively considered as high quality by enquirer are those which, not coincidentally, are historically associated with a higher likelihood of perpetuation". Therefore enquirer looked for empirical correlation between high quality of life and perpetuation, and was unable to find one. And therefore the question arose whether blogger is able to find any empirical correlation: it is blogger's assertion, not enquirers, that "high quality [life is] historically associated with a higher likelihood of perpetuation".

    On this point, enquirer would repeat that the definition of high quality life is irrelevant, so long as it is not defined in terms of perpetuation, which would make the assertion a tautology. However, it may be of interest to see for example the Economist indices of high quality life: GDP per capita, Life expectancy at birth, Political stability and security, Divorce rate, Community life, Climate and geography, Job security, Unemployment rate, Political freedom and civil liberties, Ratio of average male and female earnings.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. 108b

      My response is as in the post following the above quote sentence, reproduced in part below:


      "As I see it, the instincts that attracts one to "high quality of life" are also perpetuation based; plentiful resources, low disease burden, law and order etc are attractive (in my view), precisely because they are important for perpetuation. The problem appears to be that the availability of evolutionarily unprecedented contraception has caused a de-linking between the sex drive and it's underlying rationale, reproduction, in advanced societies, analogous to obesity and allergy, both of which are not coincidentally also highly prevalent in these countries.

      Nonetheless, all the "high quality of life" societies have themselves undergone a phase of high perpetuation, without which one presumes they would not have the manpower they have today to maintain the high quality of life. For instance, the Netherlands (which does not have a history of high immigration), like every developed country, has undergone rapid and exponential population growth (http://www.populstat.info/Europe/netherlc.htm ; sorry about the absence of a graph, but compare percentage growth between 1700, 1800, 1900 and 2000)."

      Perhaps Enquirer can address the above in more detail and point out what he sees as deficiencies?

      Delete
    2. 108e
      Yes, and what about 1950 to 1960, 1960 to 1970 and so on? The developed countries, which have a yet higher quality of life NOW than in 1700-1800, are NOW in demographic decline. So blogger's argument appears to be that "high quality quality life promotes perpetuation, except when it does not". So the deficiency enquirer sees is "cherry-picking". But enquirer also stands willing to be corrected.

      Delete
    3. And the countries that are exhibiting the highest population growths NOW figure at the bottom of quality-of-life rankings NOW. It is hoped that this absence of correlation on the one hand, and presence of a significant counter-correlation on the other, persuades blogger to ponder whether the factors in human perpetuation are well-understood (and this was raised on day one); no more can be said in the matter.

      Delete
  33. 109e
    "A "high quality of life", in return for sterilization, and/or the killing, after enquirer's natural death, of his kin, to end his perpetuation. Here we have a choice between high quality of life and perpetuation; what does enquirer choose?"

    On killing of kin, the question does not arise because the kin also have a right to a high quality life and to be there for their kin and friends. On sterilization, the question may have some meaning, and the answer is to point out that in modern societies people can in fact be observed to severely curtail and postpone perpetuation, and often even give it up altogether, in order to have a high quality life. The choice that blogger is giving is actually being made all the time. Contraception and family planning are forms of sterilization, not to mention vasectomy and tubectomy for which some governments even give citizens incentives. But on the whole, framing this choice does not appear to be a legitimate argument: there appears to be no inherent impossibility of having a high quality life and having high perpetuation (though perhaps with higher effort than in the case of having either one or the other).

    It is hoped that this exchange is about ideas and critique of ideas. It may be better to keep both the language and the arguments impersonal. For enquirer's part, he/she even eschews using terms like 'you' and 'I' to avoid any hint of personalities.


    ReplyDelete
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    1. " It may be better to keep both the language and the arguments impersonal."

      I apologize if it came off as such, this is definitely not the intention. The idea was to focus the issue, but as Enquirer prefers to avoid such language, I shall desist from such henceforth.

      "On killing of kin, the question does not arise because the kin also have a right to a high quality life "

      But this is a deviation from the "high quality of life" impulse proposed earlier. If "high quality of life" is the sole impulse, then why should kin matter? If kin matter even if a "high(er) quality of life" may be obtained at their expense, then the proposed impulse is incompletely stated.

      It is interesting to pursue the matter in more depth. Who should matter and who should not? Certainly it would seem that some entities would matter more than others, as many people are content to use animal labor and meat for personal ends, but not that of one's kin. This again seems to tend in a self-perpetuation direction.

      As regarding self-sterilization; this might still be compatible with maximal self-perpetuation; maximal self-perpetuation might be achievable with fewer (but higher quality) offspring.

      Nonetheless, it is certainly true that there will exist persons who would forego any reproduction at all, or even consent to the killing of kin for the sake of a "high(er) quality of life". In such a case, there is an axiomatic disagreement; the discussion will have to move to a more basal level of what parameters should be used to judge what is right and wrong.

      Delete
    2. 109e
      As already noted in 109e, on killing of kin, the question does not arise because the kin also have a right to a high quality life and to be there for their kin and friends. The morality of not killing kin is derived not from the fact that one would desire to have offspring as an essential constituent of a high quality life, but rather from the logical implication of the demo principle, that EVERYONE is entitled to a high quality life; the demo principle, deliberately, is designed to apply not to any individual or group, but to anyone at all.

      Also, "kin" may matter if a person desires to have "kin" for companionship and allying (just like 'friends', who are non-biological allies and companions), as an element of a high quality life, rather than for "perpetuating". So the demo principle makes killing any person's kin immoral, because it denies that person a high quality life.

      And also, as already noted 109e, framing this choice does not appear to be a legitimate argument: there appears to be no inherent impossibility of having a high quality life and having high perpetuation as an element of high quality life (though perhaps it requires higher effort than in the case of having either one or the other).

      On the question of "Who should matter and who should not?", blogger may like to see 'kin selection' and the work of R.A. Fisher, J.B.S. Haldane, W.D. Hamilton etc. The subject is now quite mathematized, and become known as "Hamilton's rule". Simply put, given that a person shares half her genes (on average) with either parent, and any sibling; quarter of her genes (on average) with cousins, one eighth of her genes with second-cousins etc., the one who matters most to a person is herself, parents and siblings matter half of that, cousins matter a quarter etc.

      Enquirer would not like to presume to suggest any readings to blogger, but it may perhaps help blogger with the Tark Marg principle to read Darwin's 'Origin of Species' and 'Descent of Man', Dawkins' 'The Selfish Gene', Brooks' 'Darwinian Fairytales' (as a critique of Dawkins), Freud's 'Civilization and its Discontents', Wilson's 'Sociobiology' and Cosmides-Tooby's 'The Adapted Mind'.

      Delete
  34. 110e
    "past high perpetuation was indispensable for the high quality of life today, and indeed the existing low perpetuation (particularly coupled with mass imigration) puts this very high quality of life in jeopardy".

    As far as logic is concerned, blogger has never claimed differential/sectarian propagation in the theory. The principle 'That is moral which leads to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation' does not appear to contain any requirement for any particular individual or group of individuals to perpetuate more (and this or that culture, race or language to perpetuate more). This is as it should be if the criterion of "an objective, explicit guiding principle for moral behavior which holds true always and everywhere, like the Pole Star, which unerringly points due North from wherever and by whoever observed" is to be met. But there seems to be a strong, if oblique, suggestion on blogger's part that allowing certain kinds of immigrants into certain kinds of countries is immoral on the Tark Marg principle. It is unclear from what premises this moral judgment is derived.

    As far as facts are concerned, the above quoted empirical assertions need to be backed up with data and regression analysis, in the absence of which they may merely express vague intuitions and fears.

    "It is not low perpetuation that is at the root of the high quality of life".

    This averment questions something enquirer has not asserted; to wit, enquirer has not asserted that "low perpetuation is at the root of the high quality life"; enquirer's argument simply is that if, as blogger avers, high quality life is subliminally that which promotes perpetuation, then there may be found a correlation between high quality life and high perpetuation (because causation always entails correlation).

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    1. 110b

      " any requirement for any particular individual or group of individuals to perpetuate more (and this or that culture, race or language to perpetuate more)."

      Briefly, naturally the implication is that for each individual, he/she should seek to maximize is/her own long term perpetuation. Those individuals or groups that are synergistic to one's own perpetuation should be supported, those antagonistic should be opposed, and those which are not one or the other be left alone. Thus it follows from the Tark Marg principle, and from the fact that humans are a social species on a crowded planet, that a degree of differentiation will occur between diffreent individuals and groups.

      "As far as facts are concerned, the above quoted empirical assertions need to be backed up with data and regression analysis, in the absence of which they may merely express vague intuitions and fears. "

      This is true. One hopes to lay out a more detailed framework for the treatment of this topic shortly. Nonetheless intuitions and fears are not necessarily pointless or always to be disregarded, as inaction may incur heavy opportunity costs. Indeed one would suggest that Enquirer's allusions to "dystopia" or "destructive" or "Nazism" with reference to Tark Marg constitutes exactly such intuitions and fears.

      Delete
  35. 111e
    "Yet the actual data support my notion that literacy drives population growth."

    There may be data to support the notion that literacy drives population growth, yes. But if all the data is considered, it looks like literacy drives population growth in some conditions, does not drive population growth in some other conditions, and even decreases populations in yet other conditions. So there appears to be on blogger's part cherry-picking of facts that support the conclusion.

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  36. 112e
    "If P--> Q, then if not Q, then not P. But if not P, then not necessarily not Q."

    Also, if Q, then not necessarily P.

    This constitutes modus ponens and modus tollens, the fundamental principles of logically correct argumentation, which enquirer regrettably finds observed more in the breach in popular discourse. However, they apply to synthetic relationships, and not to analytic relationships. For example, "if the thief came in through the window (P), there will be footprints in the flower bed (Q)" is a synthetic relationship between P and Q. On this relationship, if it is known that the thief came in through the window (P is true), then it follows as a matter of logic that there will be footprints in the flower bed (Q is true). If it is known that the thief did not come in through the window (not P), then there may or may not be footprints in the flower bed (not necessarily not Q). If it is known that there are footprints in the flower bed (Q is true), then the thief may or may not have come in through the window (not necessarily P). If there are no footprints in the flower bed (not Q), then it follows as a matter of logic that the thief did not come in through the window (not P).

    A synthetic relationship may be considered to establish a certain set as the subset of another set. Modus ponens/tollens may be viewed as analyzing the membership of an object in a set or its subset given its membership in a subset or set. Blogger correctly infers that if modus ponens is "applied to Tark Marg (if perpetuation, then moral), it may be interpreted to mean that there may be moral acts which nonetheless do not enhance perpetuation or even decrease it".

    But bloggers remarks seem to indicate that the Tark Marg principle is an analytic assertion, not synthetic. "As Tark Marg's concern is with MAXIMIZING perpetuation, acts which decrease it cannot be considered moral, the intention was to imply a 1:1 correlation between maximizing perpetuation and morality. One may rephrase the Tark Marg statement to something like "the moral path must be that which maximizes long term individual and collective perpetuation". Does this make sense?"

    Therefore, the Tark Marg principle appears to be a definition, i.e. it is analytic, and modus ponens does not apply. The logic applies both ways with equal validity (1:1 correlation): if P, then Q; if not P, then not Q; if Q, then P; if not Q, then not P.

    If so, the implications of the principle are even worse: if we cannot be maximally certain that reading Shakespeare promotes perpetuation, then reading Shakespeare is maximally immoral.

    So the Tark Marg principle must be shown to have highly compelling applications if one has to give up reading Shakespeare by adopting it.

    ReplyDelete
  37. 113e
    The discussion under 112e seems to show clearly that the Tark Marg principle may lead us into a dystopian world. It may be worthwhile therefore to ask what problem the Tark Marg principle is addressing itself to: what is the moral problem sought to be solved? Say, the ideology of Middle-Eastern extremists vs Western lifestyles, or the ideology behind the 2008 financial crisis vs calls for government regulation of businesses, or the ideology of 'cultural nationalism' vs 'pseudo-secularism'. But the Tark Marg principle does not appear to be addressing itself to any MORAL problem; it seems to be addressing itself to a rather different problem: the apparent subjectivity of moral claims. Therefore the touchstone that the blogger applies is the touchstone of 'objectivity'. While objectivity may be required, one assumes that a moral theory should address itself to solving MORAL problems. The Tark Marg principle may solve the problem of objectivity (in the highly unlikely circumstance that the factors of increasing human perpetuation, under stated conditions, are understood with some precision, to say nothing of the difficulty created by ever-changing conditions), but not necessarily any moral problem.

    The fundamental gap in perception between blogger and enquirer is that blogger sees in the Tark Marg principle the merit of objectivity, whereas enquirer looks for solutions to problems (and finds none), and also considers the putative objectivity to be largely hypothetical.

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  38. 114e
    If objectivity is the sole consideration, here is an objective principle of action that is a lot easier to implement:
    "That is moral which leads to maximum personal wealth."

    This is objective, measurable and practically achievable; there is no complicated weather-forecasting style cause-and-effect to be understood. It is universally applicable (it is not crafted for any particular individual or group). But it does not solve any familiar moral problems, and allows (or even calls for) genocide, slavery, deprivation, banishment, cheating, extortion etc. of any individual or group, as and when favorable for the personal wealth maximization of any other individual or group. The practical consequence can be chaotic, but by the assumed moral principle, it is not 'bad' as long as someone at least is maximizing his/her personal wealth. (Note that we are not saying "It is moral to maximize personal wealth".)

    Would blogger be open to considering this as a possibly better alternative to the perpetuation principle? If not, why not?

    ReplyDelete
  39. 112e
    If blogger cannot be maximally certain that homosexuality promotes perpetuation, then homosexuality is maximally immoral.

    Would blogger wish to argue therefore that the recent mass shooting was a moral act, because, although it was a hate crime, it was also in effect an attempt to get rid of people who blogger may consider to be simply wasting resources with no returns for perpetuation.

    Blogger may have noticed that people all over the world, from the common person to the Pope, are vociferously condemning the act, and it seems to enquirer rightly so. They seem to be acting on their convictions in the matter. Along with being objective and useful, a moral theory must be held with conviction. It appears quite becoming that blogger should publish an article titled "Why shooting gays is good", explicitly and unequivocally proclaiming the incident to be a moral act.

    If such an article is not forthcoming, perhaps we may recall George Santayana, "I would refrain from professing principles which, when I am not arguing, I do not believe".

    ReplyDelete
  40. Do excuse my tardiness Enquirer. Below is a short response; I shall reply at length by the end of this week.

    "Homosexuality is maximally immoral...shooting a moral act..."

    While it is certainly true that digression from self perpetuation is "immoral" based on Tark Marg, "maximal" implies a means of measurement and ranking which has yet to be developed. So whether it is "maximally" or "minimally" or intermediately immoral is a question for another post.

    As for whether this was a "moral" act, let us apply the Tark Marg principle; "that is moral which leads to maximal self perpetuation".

    Firstly, Enquirer may recall that I had used the prohibition of murder globally as a example when deriving the Tark Marg axiom, so it should be obvious that murder is "immoral" because it creates a precedent which could lead to a war of all against all, harming everyone's self perpetuation chances, including the perpetrator.

    Moreover, as the perpetrator in question has predictably been liquidated, in return for no apparent "perpetuation" benefit, this is definitely not "moral".

    While homosexuality is "immoral" in that it leads to decreased or terminated self perpetuation, the application of violence, especially extralegal, only leads to self perpetuation in rare cases. This is certainly not one, where the victims posed no threat to the perpetrator's self perpetuation and indeed, by their nature, likely to leave little trace in subsequent generations.

    One wonders whether this isn't obvious based on the stated Tark Marg principle. One entertains the possibility that Enquirer could not pass up the opportunity to use the tragedy for "guilt by association".

    "..common people...Pope...condemning the act..."

    I reject the implied notion that the number (people) or the prominence (the pope) of those advocating a position is a good reason to toe the line oneself. One's reactions should be based on principles, which I have stated above. Indeed the normalization of homosexuality is owed to exactly such an attitude.


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    1. 112e
      Webster's Online Dictionary - maximal
      adjective
      Of, relating to, or consisting of a maximum.
      Being the greatest or highest possible.
      noun
      Mathematics - An element in an ordered set that is followed by no other.

      Also, 'maxima' and 'minima' are properties associated with mathematical functions.

      Hope enquirer's meaning of 'maximal' in 112e is clear.

      Delete
  41. 112e
    When closely analyzed, "murder" is immoral only in the extent that it attenuates perpetuation, according to Tark Marg. Therefore, as agreed by blogger on 20 May 2016 at 11:26, empathy for the aged, the terminally ill...the mentally retarded... is misplaced according to Tark Marg (making such individuals ripe for extermination), and further blogger recommended euthanasia for severely deformed children.

    So blogger's insistence now that "murder" is a global prohibition appears a little inconsistent. If murder is prohibited 'globally', pray why not 'global' marriage rights?

    And the given rationale that murder is prohibited because it may lead to a war of all against all, is annulled by blogger's agreement to "empathy is misplaced for any being that cannot co-operate, cannot retaliate, cannot comprehend and cannot participate in the enterprise of collective self-perpetuation". The gays in the night club definitely did not retaliate, and the shooter was liquidated by the police, who would not even be there if shooting gays were considered quite moral by Tark Marg, and hence no law against it. He would have walked out to a hero's reception.

    If avoiding a war of all against all to promote perpetuation is to inform morality, then why not accomodate gay marriage on that count? It would certainly reduce one source of social tension and focus diversion.

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    1. 112b:

      ""murder" is immoral only in the extent that it attenuates perpetuation... empathy for the aged, the terminally ill...the mentally retarded..."

      It is a forced conclusion which does not follow. Empathy being misplaced is not the same as undertaking murder. Moreover, the aged can nonetheless be of great help. Regarding the mentally retarded the onus is on their caregivers, who should have the option of terminating an existence that only draws resources (e.g. from other children) who could do much more with those resources. It is certainly not someone else's prerogative, considering that unilateral action from outside is an invitation for retaliation.

      "blogger's insistence now that "murder" is a global prohibition appears a little inconsistent"..."The gays in the night club definitely did not retaliate"

      But they could and would. Retaliation will inevitably follow from relevant entities competent to do so (like caregivers of mentally retarded persons or gays), if violence is not closely regulated.

      Although this must be stated in a more formal manner, in general violence (and other actions) must be exercised only when its likely perpetuation benefit is much greater than the costs, which does not seem to be the case in the issue under discussion.

      Delete
  42. 112e
    It is a great concern of the guardians of 'family values' that acceptance of homosexuality will lead to more people taking it up as a lifestyle choice, and thereby perpetuation will be attenuated. This is one of their rallying cries. Now as is typical in such cases, this claim is made without any reference to evidence. But that should not hinder blogger, because he/she seems to have decided not to wait for evidence to get in the way of morality. Therefore, blogger may be expected to share their concern that homosexuality is anti-perpetuation.

    Blogger's averment that homosexuals, by their nature, are likely to leave little trace in subsequent generations, appears to ignore the fact that homosexuality occurs in nature, in species other than human, and there is a POSSIBILITY that it somehow promotes perpetuation in some unknown, indirect way. Please see enquirer2000 on 27 May 2016 at 19:12 So homosexuals may not die away like dynasties; nature may keep on making them as it has been doing. Bottomline is that we cannot tell for sure that gays will die away.

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    1. "blogger may be expected to share their concern that homosexuality is anti-perpetuation."

      It would certainly seem to be case. Although it is true that I haven't looked at relevant data (assuming it exists), it would certainly seem to be a straightforward inference. Perhaps Enquirer has data to prove otherwise?

      "appears to ignore the fact that homosexuality occurs in nature, in species other than human, and there is a POSSIBILITY that it somehow promotes perpetuation in some unknown, indirect way"

      Quite possibly. For precisely this reason, Enquirer may recall this sentence from the post

      "...Thus, the rational path, Tark Marg would be to modify the current arrangement and provide tax rebates/subsidies/exemptions etc to parents or guardians, including homosexual and single parents etc, whose children meet a minimum threshold..."

      Delete
  43. 112e
    "I reject the implied notion that the number (people) or the prominence (the pope) of those advocating a position is a good reason to toe the line oneself. One's reactions should be based on principles, which I have stated above. Indeed the normalization of homosexuality is owed to exactly such an attitude."
    Enquirer's interest is in neither numbers nor prominence of people. Enquirer's point is that when people, whoever they be, are acting unmistakably on their moral convictions, it is natural to expect blogger to express unmistakably his/her own moral take on the matter. If there is moral conviction, an expression of it would not be held back, and should not be held back if one aspires to bring others round to one's way of thinking.

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  44. 112e
    Blogger is gently requested to entertain any "possibilities" of an ad hominem nature in private, as airing them in the discussion may add little or no value to the merits of anybody's case.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are reactively moderated. Please avoid ad hominems and crude language.