Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Civilization and the Herd

By scanman in Op-Ed
Mon May 27, 2002 at 12:05:34 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Humans evolved from herd animals. Over time, herds became tribes, tribes became civilizations. We fancy ourselves as intelligent, but our intelligence is only a veneer over our base instincts. We are driven to renounce our own identities and ideas and join a herd; a mob, a religion, a political party, a cult, a regime. We use carefully memorized dogma and rationalization as a camouflage for our desperate need to conform, hiding as much from others as from ourselves.

On March 16, 1968, Lt. William Calley ordered his troops to open fire on the small Vietnamese village of My Lei. Over 300 unarmed men, women, and children were massacred. Calley himself rounded up a group of villagers into a ditch, then mowed them down with machine gun fire. At his trial, Calley testified that he had been ordered to kill everyone in the village by a superior officer.

In 1997, 39 members of the "Heaven's Gate" cult commited suicide. Marshall Herff Applewhite started the cult using only his charisma and simple psychological techniques. He eventually convinced his followers that aliens travelling on the comet Hale-Bopp were coming to destroy the world, and that by killing themselves, their spirits could be saved by traveling to the alien space ship.

During World War II, Japanese kamikaze pilots volunteered for suicide missions as a way of honoring their emperor, whom they saw as a god. The September 11 attacks were most likely conducted with similar motives.

From the 1930s to the 1970s, scientists working for the US Department of Energy conducted numerous dangerous experiments on unconsenting schoolchildren and members of the general public. In one such experiment, the milk in school lunches was laced with various radioactive substances to test the uptake of radiation into the bones.

During the Holocaust, concentration camp guards poured Zyklon B into gas chambers, forced prisoners to live under inhuman conditions, and carried out macabre and painful medical "experiments" on children. Residents of nearby towns ignored the constant smell of burning bodies.

After World War II, psychologist Stanley Milgram was troubled by the compliance of concentration camp guards. Popular opinion at the time was that a disposition towards violence was something peculiar to the German character. Milgram conducted an experiment to prove his hypothesis that the majority of people would willingly commit cruelty under the right conditions.

The test subject is told that he will be participating in an experiment on memory. The test subject and an actor engage in a lottery to decide who will play the role of teacher and learner. The actor is a likeable middle-aged man who mentions he has a heart condition. The lottery is rigged so that the test subject is always the teacher. The experimenter, who has a stern appearance and is dressed in a white lab coat, leads the learner (actor) into a small room where he is connected to electrodes. The teacher (subject) is then taken into an adjacent room, where he sits at a mock-up machine with thirty switches marked from 14-450 volts. The switches are also labelled with descriptions, going from "Slight Shock" to "Danger: Severe Shock". The subject is given a sample shock of 45 volts, strengthening his belief in the authenticity of the machine.

The experimenter instructs the teacher (subject) to read a list of word pairs into a microphone, which is connected to a speaker in the other room. The learner must then repeat the list of words. Each time a wrong answer is given, the teacher is instructed to give a shock, starting at the lowest voltage and increasing to the next higher voltage for each wrong answer.

Conflict arises when the man receiving the shock begins to show that he is experiencing discomfort. At 75 volts, he grunts; at 120 volts, he complains loudly; at 150, he demands to be released from the experiment. As the voltage increases, he begins to complain of heart problems. At 285 volts, his response can be de scribed only as an agonized scream. Soon thereafter, he makes no sound at all.

65% of test subjects continued administering shocks up to the 450 volt limit, at the urging of the experimenter, even after the learner has stopped responding completely. Not a single one of the subjects refused before reaching 300 volts.

Morris Braverman, another subject, is a thirty-nine-year-old social worker. He looks older than his years because of his bald head and serious demeanor. His brow is furrowed, as if all the world's burdens were carried on his face. He appears intelligent and concerned.

When the learner refuses to answer and the experimenter instructs Braverman to treat the absence of an answer as equivalent to a wrong answer, he takes his instruction to heart. Before administering 300 volts he asserts officiously to the victim, "Mr. Wallace, your silence has to be considered as a wrong answer." Then he administers the shock. He offers halfheartedly to change places with the learner, then asks the experimenter. "Do I have to follow these instructions literally?" He is satisfied with the experimenter's answer that he does. His very refined and authoritative manner of speaking is increasingly broken up by wheezing laughter.

- Stanley Milgram

Milgram conducted several more variations on this experiment. He found that compliance decreased significantly when the experimenter was less impressively dressed. It also decreased when the learner was physically closer to the subject, and increased when the experimenter was closer. Compliance was greatest when the learner was not visible to the subject.

In 1971, students at Stanford University conducted an experiment to simulate the conditions in a prison. Eight volunteer students played the role of "prisoners" and eight played the role of "guards." The experiment was planned to last two weeks, but it was terminated after only six days when the situation began to get out of control. The guards became increasingly sadistic, and the prisoners began to show signs of extreme stress and nervous breakdown, even though they were free to leave the experiment at any time. Even Stanford psychology students can fall prey to this behavior pattern.

The vice president of Arthur Anderson in charge of the Enron account ordered employees to shred thousands of incriminating Enron documents. These were CPAs who would have known that this was illegal, but not a single one refused or alerted authorities. The vice president was impressively dressed and nearby, while the victims were far away and unknown to the auditors. Therefore, they did not feel responsible for their own actions.

When a large group of people form around an ideology, people within the group are put under pressure to stop thinking critically. Our instincts tells us to conform, even if the rational mind is skeptical. This results in cognitive dissonance. When an individual experiences cognitive dissonance, he instinctively attempts to reduce the dissonance, either by adding cognitions consistent with instincts, or removing inconsistent ones. Therefore, people tend to react emotionally against an argument that goes against the group ideology without ever rationally considering it.

For instance, the people shredding Enron documents rationally knew what they were doing was wrong, but were emotionally driven to do it anyway. To reduce the dissonance, they probably added consistent cognitions (I'm only following orders, everyone else must know something I don't), and marginalized inconsistent ones (It's not a big deal).

This pattern can be seen in groups of almost any type. Religions and political parties rely on it for their very existence. Until we can learn to stop allowing emotions to overpower reason, we will always be vulnerable to ourselves.

[Ed. Note - this was originally written as a school assignment. It's handed in now, so I thought the K5 audience might enjoy it. Mr. Kennedy, if you're reading this... don't flip out.]


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o My Lei
o Heaven's Gate
o September 11
o US Department of Energy conducted numerous dangerous experiments
o Holocaust
o Stanley Milgram
o compliance
o conditions
o simulate the conditions in a prison
o Also by scanman

Display: Sort:
Civilization and the Herd | 173 comments (78 topical, 95 editorial, 3 hidden)
Metaphor (5.00 / 7) (#6)
by ucblockhead on Sat May 25, 2002 at 11:33:45 PM EST

I have to take issue with your metaphor. Humans aren't really herd animals, and aren't descended from herd animals. They are pack animals. The difference is important, though much of what follows in your essay still follows.

Perhaps it seems a trivial difference, but I think it is important. Much of human group behavior makes sense when you realize that we were designed to work in groups of ~30 with one or two alpha types in charge.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

ya monkeys aren't herds (3.66 / 3) (#10)
by nodsmasher on Sat May 25, 2002 at 11:57:20 PM EST

there packs
Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
[ Parent ]
No... (5.00 / 2) (#14)
by ShadowNode on Sun May 26, 2002 at 12:07:04 AM EST

They're packs.

[ Parent ]
Good point (none / 0) (#11)
by scanman on Sat May 25, 2002 at 11:57:20 PM EST

You are absolutely right, but that's a major change and my edit time is almost out. Your comment is appreciated, however.

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

Troll (1.40 / 5) (#20)
by medham on Sun May 26, 2002 at 01:11:19 AM EST

The more subtle of us gave up on the EP bullshit long ago. Tell me though, of all the many internet cranks who've written similar sentences in the past, how many did not imagine themselves to be those "alphas?"

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Do you, Mr. alpha? (2.50 / 2) (#25)
by ucblockhead on Sun May 26, 2002 at 01:54:23 AM EST

After all, what is trolling if not an attempt to make oneself feel superior?

Do you feel superior, Mr. alpha? Superior in your subtlty?

Do you get all the babes? Unlike those poor losers who haven't achieved pure alpha-male status? Those poor, unlaid geeks? That is, after all, the insult...they don't get laid...virginal beta males, unable to penetrate the harams of alpha males like...uh...you. Perhaps someday you'll even get around to putting that ol' haram together...funny how you still haven't gotten to that, isn't it?

The most superior of us are still monkey-brained...and that, of course, includes you, Mr. medham...flung any feces lately? In think you have...I've seen it flying, verbal diarhea flung with expert precision, painting those poor, unlaid geeks with crap...they'll never get all the babes that way...

Don't worry...I'll be happy to continue falling for your trolls so that you can continue to feel superior to me.

Sad thing is, I do it to feel superior to you... we are all just fucking baboons in the end, aren't we?

Oook oook.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

As I once noted (2.50 / 2) (#29)
by medham on Sun May 26, 2002 at 02:03:59 AM EST

"Logorrhea" works much better in that context.

I've yet to see any convincing evidence that the higher cognitive functions of humans have any relation to other primates. Kiplingesque ruminations about savannahs, yes. Evidence, no.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

I wouldn't put it quite like that (2.50 / 2) (#49)
by danny on Sun May 26, 2002 at 07:32:43 AM EST

While no apes possess the higher cognitive functions of humans, there are some cognitive abilities that they but not other animals appear to share with us. But I agree with you about the general problems with EP, which mostly does just consist of Just So stories about hypothetical human ancestors.

There's a provocative essay by Richard Lewontin buried away in A Invitation to Cognitive Science: Methods, Models, and Conceptual Issues, in which he argues that it is likely we will never know how human cognition evolved, as the evidence is simply no longer available.

[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

Perhaps (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by medham on Sun May 26, 2002 at 01:14:13 PM EST

But the point is that I don't see, as you note, how what we share with other primates will ever tell us anything meaningful about the human brain.

By "meaningful," I mean not literally "meaningful," of course, but "meaningful" relative to the burning questions of why middle-managers tend to self-select for obsequiousness and stupidity and then think of themselves as "alphas."

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

contexts (2.33 / 3) (#62)
by ucblockhead on Sun May 26, 2002 at 10:54:48 AM EST

I realize you are not good with things like "metaphor", medham, so I will take pity on you and explain my wordchoice. I chose "verbal diarhea" over "logorrhea" in order to draw a parallel between primate shit-flinging and your own posts. "diarrhea" == "shit", get it?

If you want, I can explain why I chose the word "penetrate"...

Anyway, I think you make a mistake, confusing the inability to detect the existence of something with its lack of existence. I agree that EP theories have no real grounding, and aren't the least bit scientific. But the refusal to admit that one's mind has any relation to the mind of an ape, well, that's human arrogance.

Relation to ape psychology or no, it doesn't take a psychological genius to notice certain interesting behaviors when they work in groups. The term "alpha male" certainly does work well with humans. Humans certainly do work best in groups of a certain size.

If it makes you feel any better, just throw out the "where did the behavior come from" question and examine the behavior itself. Perhaps internet flames have no evolutionay relation to chimpanzee shit-flinging. It doesn't really matter, because they are metaphorically similar. They are similar behaviors, regardless of whether the one came from the other. Who knows, maybe it's parallel evolution.

Oh, and one more thing...to make it so obvious that even you will get it...if I used "logorrhea" instead of "verbal diarrhea", I wouldn't have been able to imply that your posts are shit.

You "swallowed the dictionary" types miss so many good opportunities when you discard the demotic for the abstruse.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Well (3.00 / 2) (#68)
by medham on Sun May 26, 2002 at 01:07:08 PM EST

"Logorrhea" is modeled on diarrhea, obviously, and thus does the duty without the awkwardness. Both refer to excessive flow, and it's quite probably that "logorrhea" was coined to avoid phrases like "verbal diarrhea." But I disgress.

Your comments about flaming and alpha-ism and so on are amusing in that it is you who are doing the insulting here. I'm simply pointing out a few well known facts about the gross generalities of pop EP-izing.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

amusement (1.00 / 1) (#85)
by ucblockhead on Sun May 26, 2002 at 07:08:15 PM EST

You think I'm unaware of that? Reread the Last two lines.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Yes (1.50 / 2) (#93)
by medham on Sun May 26, 2002 at 09:31:43 PM EST

They have demonstrated to me and to all interested parties the ginsu-edge of your wit. If only you could unsheathe your dagger definitions at work, wouldn't life be so much more fun?

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Work? (nt) (1.00 / 1) (#96)
by ucblockhead on Sun May 26, 2002 at 09:55:58 PM EST

This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Those who cannot control themselves... (1.00 / 1) (#45)
by Demiurge on Sun May 26, 2002 at 06:15:00 AM EST

must be commended.

[ Parent ]
Packs vs. Herds (none / 0) (#158)
by phliar on Tue May 28, 2002 at 04:05:35 PM EST

Humans aren't really herd animals, and aren't descended from herd animals. They are pack animals. The difference is important ...
Could you write what the difference is between a herd and a pack? Is it just size, or is there some difference in group dynamics?

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

-1 starts with a falacy </nt> (4.16 / 6) (#13)
by nodsmasher on Sun May 26, 2002 at 12:04:55 AM EST

Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
-1 missing opening <nt> tag (5.00 / 2) (#15)
by Ian Clelland on Sun May 26, 2002 at 12:20:08 AM EST

And 'fallacy' is misspelled :)

[ Parent ]
Everyone has assumptions (2.00 / 1) (#24)
by joecool12321 on Sun May 26, 2002 at 01:46:24 AM EST

I assume you are referring to the statement:
Humans evolved from herd animals. Over time, herds became tribes, tribes became civilizations. We fancy ourselves as intelligent, but our intelligence is only a veneer over our base instincts."
It is a fallacy (begging several questions, including: "Did we Evolve?"; "Did we Evolve from herd animals?"; "Is intelligence truly a veneer for base instincts?"  However, I voted +1 section, because everyone must begin with some assumptions -- most people don't bother to share what they are.

Given the same "facts", someone with a different worldview would come to a different conclusion.  I think scanman does a decent job of showing what happens if you begin with his assumptions, and move from there.  


[ Parent ]

its a fallacy as in (none / 0) (#32)
by nodsmasher on Sun May 26, 2002 at 02:20:28 AM EST

its all bassed on somthing that isn't true aka that people evolved from herd animals when in reality they evolved from pack animals, which is a very diferent thing
Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
[ Parent ]
No (none / 0) (#40)
by qpt on Sun May 26, 2002 at 04:30:22 AM EST

Arguing from false premises is not necessarily a fallacy. A fallacious argument is one with an incorrect form, or one with premises of the wrong types. An argument with false premises is merely unsound.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

ok your right its not a fallacy (none / 0) (#41)
by nodsmasher on Sun May 26, 2002 at 04:39:39 AM EST

its just an unsound argument
Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
[ Parent ]
No (5.00 / 2) (#39)
by qpt on Sun May 26, 2002 at 04:21:53 AM EST

An argument is question begging if it presupposes its own conclusion.

Unless scanman's piece is arguing that 1) humans evolved from herd animals or that 2) intelligence is a veneer for base instincts, his piece is not question begging. These two proposition should be taken as premises. Perhaps they are not good premises, in which case a legitimate form of objection would be to show why we should not accept one or more of them.

Scanman's thesis appears to be entirely different from either of these points, though, so I can only conclude that you really do not know what you are talking about.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

Civ3 (4.00 / 8) (#18)
by medham on Sun May 26, 2002 at 12:53:58 AM EST

What's up with the AI tech-trading? Jesus, post-patch, it's not even competitive anymore.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

All the more reason to stick with Alpha Centauri (none / 0) (#113)
by Demiurge on Mon May 27, 2002 at 06:15:23 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Dress sense and rebellion (2.00 / 1) (#22)
by izogi on Sun May 26, 2002 at 01:38:20 AM EST

He found that compliance decreased significantly when the experimenter was less impressively dressed. It also decreased when the learner was physically closer to the subject, and increased when the experimenter was closer. Compliance was greatest when the learner was not visible to the subject.

I can easily rationalise why the distance between the learner and the subject and the experimenter would have an effect on the subject's actions. I find the dress code one more interesting, though. Did he dress people up differently before beginning the experiments, or did he mean that people who generally chose less formal clothes were more likely to rebel?

If it's the latter, it would probably support a correlation between something like people's dress sense and their individuality from the herd. If he dressed them up beforehand though, it would imply that you could have influence on someone's actions by making them fit in, visually at least, with everyone else.

- izogi

Dressing for Authority (none / 0) (#27)
by John Milton on Sun May 26, 2002 at 02:02:01 AM EST

We are trained from an early age to respect people wearing certain uniforms. We are not supposed to question them like we would others. They are our alphas. Simple explanation.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
No... (none / 0) (#33)
by scanman on Sun May 26, 2002 at 02:23:36 AM EST

The experimenter dressed differently, not the subject of the experiment.

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

Oops, my mistake (n/t) (none / 0) (#36)
by izogi on Sun May 26, 2002 at 02:45:10 AM EST

- izogi

[ Parent ]
Is it a bad thing, though? (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by Pseudonym on Sun May 26, 2002 at 03:43:32 AM EST

This pattern can be seen in groups of almost any type. Religions and political parties rely on it for their very existence. Until we can learn to stop allowing emotions to overpower reason, we will always be vulnerable to ourselves.

I don't think that's the best solution at all. If we stop allowing emotions to overpower reason, we cease to be human.

I think a much better idea is to be conscious of your own motivations. I don't begrudge anyone membership of a political party so long as they do it for the right reasons.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
Vulcanisation ? (4.50 / 4) (#43)
by lazerus on Sun May 26, 2002 at 05:42:53 AM EST

I don't think that's the best solution at all. If we stop allowing emotions to overpower reason, we cease to be human.

If being human leads to mass destruction over things like invisible Gods (my invisible friend vs your invisible friend), perhaps you have to question whether the emotional reaction part of being human is a good thing or not.

[ Parent ]
For the right reasons (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by Pseudonym on Sun May 26, 2002 at 08:50:35 AM EST

Perhaps you missed the bit where I said "for the right reasons". Religions, to me, are no different from any other life philosophy. If it gives you meaning, that's cool. Given that premise, if someone's religion boils down to my invisible friend vs yours, they're clearly not in it for the right reasons.

I guess that comes from being a geek. We've generally spent a whole childhood each getting hell for being conscious. So I can hardly do the same to someone who is consciously political (where the politics is not the same as mine) or consciously religion (where the religion is not the same as mine).

There are non-herd people in all movements. Hell, the originators of most religions were not "herd" people (Jesus, the Buddha, Lao Tse or whoever).

As always, though, YMMV.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
How? (3.00 / 1) (#73)
by Canar on Sun May 26, 2002 at 02:46:48 PM EST

I don't think that's the best solution at all. If we stop allowing emotions to overpower reason, we cease to be human. I've never understood that line of reasoning... Could you give me an example how we stop being human by stopping irrationality, such as emotions, from controlling our existance? That's different from stopping emotions all together. Love can coexist with reason. Sadness can coexist with reason. As can many emotions. Admittedly, they do alter your perception of the world, but then again, if you require a viewpoint less altered by your emotion, you'll definitely take your emotional state into the reasoning.

[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 0) (#97)
by Pseudonym on Sun May 26, 2002 at 09:57:25 PM EST

Here's what I see as the danger:

If we try to stop allowing emotions to overpower reason, at best we will end up fooling ourselves that this is what we have achieved.

Think about it this way: I once tried to be an unbiassed critic on matters of technology. Eventually I realised that this is impossible. Why? Because I can't help caring about what I do for a living. Indeed, I wouldn't be good at what I do if I didn't care about it.

On second thought, "cease to be human" is probably an abuse of poetic licence here.

Anyway, I find it much better to acknowledge biasses where they occur, declare them up front, and go with that. In return, the onus is on me not to dismiss someone's reasoning because of their biasses, so long as they have made those biasses clear.

Humanity: We're all in it together.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Human==good? (2.00 / 2) (#80)
by scanman on Sun May 26, 2002 at 04:15:20 PM EST

How do you know it would be a bad thing to cease to be human? Are you honestly arrogant enough to think that we have, in our current state, achieved perfection? Can you not imagine anything better? I certainly can.

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

Here's what worries me... (none / 0) (#94)
by Pseudonym on Sun May 26, 2002 at 09:48:00 PM EST

I don't think we've achieved perfection, no.

I do think that until we do, we have an obligation to work with what we have.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Great article (3.00 / 1) (#50)
by Christian Roberts on Sun May 26, 2002 at 07:40:44 AM EST

Even though I don´t personally care for you very much, I like this article and think it´s interesting stuff to talk about.  Humans -are-, as you say, pretty simple creatures when it comes down to it.  Aside from computers, I like music, sports, and women.

I still wish that we´d mature a bit more until we all learn to respect and be nice to one another.  That´d be a really cool world.

Would it? (none / 0) (#136)
by Eater on Mon May 27, 2002 at 02:58:21 PM EST

And where would this world get us? When thinking about what would make the "perfect world", you will in the end have to decide what is more important: peace and happiness or "humanity" and the persuit of perfection/art/technology/whatever. If we all get along, we will all be happy and at peace, but will we have reason to improve ourselves? Would we have reason to seek new knowledge? Or create art? Human progress is, like it or not, pushed along by human conflict.

[ Parent ]
Not a bad effort, but... (5.00 / 7) (#52)
by localroger on Sun May 26, 2002 at 07:48:41 AM EST

1. Social groupings of primates are not called herds. I'm not sure what the going term is for our closest relatives, but it's probably more like "pack." This is relevant, because "herds" imply hundreds or thousands of individuals, but most primates (including humans) seem to prefer groupings of less than 100 individuals.

2. You have confused two different phenomena. You have incidents which demonstrate a tendency to do what everyone around us is doing, mixed in with incidents that demonstrate a tendency to defer to figures of authority. I don't think these are the same thing, although they have a tendency to reinforce one another at times.

Have you read Colin Wilson's A Criminal History of Mankind? I think you might find it interesting.

I can haz blog!

I voted +1 (3.50 / 2) (#57)
by mami on Sun May 26, 2002 at 09:42:49 AM EST

Though the article is too long (the electro shock experiment is way too long in description and most have heard about it). But I like the subject to be discussed. I didn't have American style psychology 101 etc.

May be someone has by chance also knowledge where to find a description of this experiment, which I once saw described either on CNN or public TV, I don't remember.

It tried to examen the willingness of people to cheat and lie. The surroundings were like this: students (adults and teenagers) were asked to take a test and given proper instructions exactly how to take the test. But then the testees discovered in the exam room some information material with the answers to the test, which allowed them to cheat. Only a fraction resisted the impulse to cheat. Once they handed back the test results, they were asked, if they had done the test all alone and had not cheated etc. Of course, they all were honest and didn't cheat, though most of them did.

Then an experiment was done where the person, who took the exam was accompanied by his three to four year old son. Father cheated and son saw it.

After the exam the child was asked, if his father had taken the test all on his own and never cheated. The child, barely old enough to express his opinions, emphatically denied that the father had cheated, though he knew he did and the child was not particularly prepared to watch what his father was doing.

The szene impressed me, because the child reacted with a spontaneity and conviction that had no resemblence of being subtly manipulated beforehand. His reactions were straight out of his guts.

So, I would say, we lie instinctively as soon as we have to protect our own interests or the interests of people, who we believe protect us from harm and we trust to be our "buddies" and on whom we put so much trust that we accept to become dependent on them. We accept a lot of lies to keep united with those we believe we need. That tendency is already there at age three.

I am not quite sure, if I have described the experiment properly. If someone knows where to find a description about it, please give me a link. I couldn't find it, unfortunately.

Another experiment... (none / 0) (#144)
by DonQuote on Tue May 28, 2002 at 12:41:33 AM EST

I vaguely remember this from my Society class (oooh it must've been like 5 years ago now). An easy multiple choice question was put to a class, each student in turn giving their answer aloud. Some of the "students" were instructed to confidently, purposely answer it with an obviously wrong choice. In general, subsequent students tended to repeat the same answer, instead of the correct one.

Sorry it's not very clear, old memory I thought I'd share. :)

... Use tasteful words. You may have to eat them.
[ Parent ]

nice... (none / 0) (#168)
by mami on Wed May 29, 2002 at 08:36:59 AM EST

shows how easily one is lead to believe others are smarter than oneself...

[ Parent ]
Humans are not herd animals. (4.87 / 8) (#72)
by Zara2 on Sun May 26, 2002 at 02:05:30 PM EST

Humans are what is known as a gregarious animals. We are not herd beasts. There is a very real difference between the two. There is a long way between a herd of sheep and a family group of chimpanzees. The chimp's have a much more developed social structure that serves many more functions than a simple herd of sheep or a school of fish.

To be honest just this mistake makes me not want to argue any of your other points. Some are good, some are bad, this could really use a re-write however so that I can tell which are which.

Milgram (4.50 / 2) (#79)
by xriso on Sun May 26, 2002 at 04:00:27 PM EST

What does that Milgram thing have to do with herds?
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
Emotions are Good (4.11 / 9) (#81)
by boxed on Sun May 26, 2002 at 04:36:42 PM EST

Until we can learn to stop allowing emotions to overpower reason, we will always be vulnerable to ourselves.
The day we allow reason to overpower our emotions is the day we go extinct. We need passion and fire to survive in a harsh world, and we need irrational love to bring children into it. And remember that emotions are the basis for reason, they create the basic framework for judging if actions are good or bad, stupid or smart. No emotions: no reason to live.

Yes, we're pack animals. (4.50 / 2) (#83)
by Apuleius on Sun May 26, 2002 at 04:55:02 PM EST

It's our genetic heritage. But you're drawing the wrong lesson from this. We aren't going to stop being pack animals any time soon, if ever. More than anything else, we have to do our part in making sure the pack goes to the Right Places and does the Right Things. You can lead, follow, or get trampled. The planet's too small for just getting out of the way.

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Good job. (4.40 / 5) (#86)
by wji on Sun May 26, 2002 at 07:49:38 PM EST

You stiched together numerous extremely well known experiments and pieces of history with some banal speculation. Coupled with a tacked-on conclusion and some factual inaccuracies, this makes for compelling reading.

(I'm being sarcastic.)

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.

Bah, go back to Slashdot. (2.14 / 7) (#108)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon May 27, 2002 at 03:02:30 AM EST

Humans evolved from nerd animals. Over time, nerds became tribes, tribes became civilizations.

I'm sorry, but the whole "Geek Power" thing is *so* 1999.


Wrong conclusion. (5.00 / 6) (#110)
by gnovos on Mon May 27, 2002 at 04:25:16 AM EST

This does not imply that people are "pack animals" so much as it demonstrates that humans are naturally selfish.  In each of the cases you mentioned, the "price" that the subject would have to pay for disobeying outweighs all other considerations.  In the more severe cases, ask yourself what the result would have been if the subject refused.  Would the nazi who refused to drop in the gas canister be given a pat on the back for his compassion, or would be most likely be tossed into the gas chamber with the next group?  

The research subject who quits before he is finished with the expierement rarely would get paid his $300 (which he needs for rent).  The Lt. who disobeys a direct order from a superior in the middle of a war will be lucky to return home at all, and when he does he'll probably be headed off to jail.  The CPA that doesn't start shredding for his boss can kiss his severence pay goodbye (and good luck finding a new job in this economy when your previous employer of 10 years isn't going to be giving you a good recommendation).  The kamikaze pilot that isn't willing to give his life to the Emporer (and this is true of many religious atrocities) faces an eternity in hell...

The problem isn't so much that the subjects had no ability to think rationally, but that they weighed thier chances of survivial when doing the "right" thing vs. doing the "wrong" thing, and they decided that they stood more to gain by doing the "wrong" thing. If anything, it is proof that the human mind is thinking quite well.

If you want to blame the devaluation of compassion and honor then you have an excellent point to make, but if you just want to say that "mob" mentality is not based on rational thought, I believe you are wrong.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen

factual re. Milgrom (4.33 / 3) (#116)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 27, 2002 at 07:01:39 AM EST

The research subject who quits before he is finished with the expierement rarely would get paid his $300 (which he needs for rent).

Milgrom made it clear to all test subjects that they would get paid the same no matter what, to my certain knowledge. IIRC, the same is true of the Stanford experiment, which was also carried out among college students who did not have the "rent" problem you identify.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Not necissarily correct. (4.00 / 1) (#143)
by scanman on Tue May 28, 2002 at 12:28:40 AM EST

What you have described is essentially the basis of game theory. If one individual goes against status quo, he faces negative consequences; however, if the entire group changed its behavior, the result would be better for everybody. Herein lies the conundrum...

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

tribes not herds (5.00 / 2) (#114)
by svampa on Mon May 27, 2002 at 06:16:11 AM EST

Human beings are "social animals", they must belong to a tribe, a group with social structure and with the strong feeling of "we" and "they".

Of course, there are people with strong social feelings and people that see the rest of the "tribe" as "they".

The idea that no human being is "they" no matter the race, religion or social class is relatively new and not so common in the world. That is a really thin veneer and it may be removed quickly, and make you feel other human beings are strangers that you don't have to respect:

a) When you feel your "tribe" is in danger.
b) When the "big tribe" doesn't make you feel safe, you make a smaller "tribe" with stronger cohesion and more agressive.
c) When your small group is in a privileged position.
d) When the others are very different, race, language, religion, even only clothes they wear.

Exploiting this points you can easily make people treat other people as animals or objects.

Making people feel unsafe even in their own "tribe" destroys cohesion and isolated persons are quite vulnerable. We are "social animals"

Tribe not herd (none / 0) (#169)
by Rhodes on Wed May 29, 2002 at 12:46:36 PM EST

I completely agree- we are closer to a wolf pack or group of chimps than a huge herd of antelope or cows.

[ Parent ]
Stanford Experiment repeated (4.50 / 2) (#115)
by maroberts on Mon May 27, 2002 at 06:17:54 AM EST

The BBC repeated the Stanford experiment with noticably different results.
The greatest trick the Devil pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist -- Verbil Kint, The Usual Suspects
heh (4.80 / 5) (#120)
by ODiV on Mon May 27, 2002 at 07:13:50 AM EST

The more extreme violence of the Stanford experiment, described as "degrading and pornographic", took place while the guards thought they were not being filmed.

To ensure this could not happen in the new regime a vast army of cameras was installed in the prison environment, which was mocked up in a studio in Elstree.

Gee... I wonder why they had different results.

[ odiv.net ]
[ Parent ]
This brings up an interesting question (4.00 / 1) (#131)
by jolly st nick on Mon May 27, 2002 at 12:55:31 PM EST

Which is, what is the social utility of privacy?

I don't think there is a simple answer; clearly having the government or big business poking around in our private affairs is a bad thing. On the other hand, when people people do bad things, it is with the expectation that nobody will know.

So what would life be like without any expectation of privacy at all?

[ Parent ]

What counts as `bad things'? (none / 0) (#141)
by gidds on Mon May 27, 2002 at 09:30:05 PM EST

And what about the many things which aren't `bad', but which you wouldn't want to see plastered over the newspapers?  This could range from simple biological functions like nose-picking and all sorts of sexual practices to actions that are morally justified but severely susceptible of misinterpretation.

Sure, you want privacy to commit crimes, but you also want privacy to use the toilet!

And of course, you'll want privacy if you don't trust those who are doing the poking around...

[ Parent ]

You stole my comment (2.00 / 1) (#121)
by Rasman on Mon May 27, 2002 at 07:23:54 AM EST

As I was reading about the Milgram experiment and remembering it from my Social Psychology class in college, I began to wonder if the article would mention the Stanford University experiment. Because if it did, I was going to comment on how the BBC was redoing it as a reality show. Sure enough, it was mentioned, and here, the first comment I see is about the BBC programme.


[ Parent ]
You can say that again (5.00 / 1) (#122)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon May 27, 2002 at 08:06:37 AM EST

The results weren't just different, they were completely reversed. The guards were painfully uncomfortable with their position right from the beginning, unwilling to enforce punishments or even reprimand prisoners. Several of the prisoners caused a wide variety of grief, and the prisoners acted as a group much more effectively.

By the end of the series, the guards and prisoners had agreed to form a commune, which had then collapsed as a group of the former prisoners attempted a "millitary coup".

Now, I don't know why the results were so different. They were all very closely monitored, as you would expect after the fallout of the Stanford prison experiment, and forbidden to use violence, which perhaps made the guards power much too illusory to be any use. It may be an artifact due to the selection process used to choose guards and prisoners, since there seemed to be a deliberate effort to choose "harder" types as prisoners. An interesting idea, though, is the possibility that things have changed since the original experiment in such a way as peope feel much more confident trying to subvert authority from a  subservient position than they do trying to enforce it.


If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Possibly because... (none / 0) (#129)
by FredBloggs on Mon May 27, 2002 at 12:20:07 PM EST

"Now, I don't know why the results were so different"

..one was a scientific experiment, and the other was a TV show?

[ Parent ]

Shrug (none / 0) (#132)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon May 27, 2002 at 12:57:16 PM EST

That may or may nor have played a part, but the BBC claimed the TV version was scientifically useful. I guess you'd have to ask the psychologists who ran the thing.


If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Role reversal (5.00 / 1) (#154)
by janra on Tue May 28, 2002 at 01:03:34 PM EST

I heard the researcher guy on the radio talking about this experiment, and he claimed that his experiment proved that the Stanford experiment was flawed. After listening to his description of how his experiment was set up, and pulling up my memories of what I read about the Stanford prison experiment, I claim that he was running a completely different experiment, and that he was wrong to compare them at all.

First off, In the Stanford experiment, the guards were told they were to be prison guards, IIRC the only restriction was that they weren't allowed to physically beat the prisoners, but no mention was made of ordering them to do things or humiliating them; in the new one, the guards were specifically told that violence was unacceptable, and they would be kicked out if they attempted to physically or emotionally bully the prisoners. This led to a completely different power dynamic between the two groups; in the Stanford experiment, the guards had the power, and they and the prisoners knew it; in the new one the guards were hamstrung before they even started, and they and the prisoners knew it. In the new experiment, the prisoners had the power, not the guards.

Secondly, he claimed (on the radio) that the researcher at Stanford egged on the guards, and that they really weren't being all that horrible on their own. I seem to recall that the guards at the Stanford experiment would, as some people have commented here, do stuff to the prisoners at night, when the researcher wasn't around. One of the most innocuous examples I recall is that they would walk down the cell block dragging their stick along the bars to wake all the prisoners up. I'm not sure which of the other things they did were at night or during the day, it's been a while since I read about it. They were seen when the researcher reviewed the night's tapes, but they didn't realise that.

Thirdly, the clothes make a difference. The researcher I heard on the radio made no comment about what type of clothes the guards and prisoners wore, but in the Stanford experiment, the guards had not only uniforms (which the new experiment probably also used) but mirrored sunglasses, making them much more anonymous; while the prisoners were forced to wear hospital gowns and shower caps (because they didn't want to actually shave their heads) to make them feel helpless and exposed, as well as enforcing uniformity. I think those mirrored sunglasses are more important than a lot of people would think. They are a shield, they prevent eye contact, they anonymise the guard's face. Just look at how many people behave on the internet compared to how they behave in real life - they believe they are anonymous and hence have no (or less) responsibility for what they do.

There were a bunch of other gripes I had about the researcher after I heard him on the radio, but that was a couple of weeks ago, and I can only remember the big ones now :-)

Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Fourthly... (none / 0) (#167)
by Obvious Pseudonym on Wed May 29, 2002 at 03:37:13 AM EST

Fourthly, in the original experiment the people were simply 'taking part in an experiment' which is a fairly anonymous thing to do - and doesn't have many long term consequences. In the BBC thing, on the other hand, the people knew they were going to be on primetime television so they were playing to the cameras (and all their friends and family who were watching) and doing what they wanted to be seen to be doing. After all, they could end up a minor pseudocelebrity like the 'Big Brother' people.

Obvious Pseudonym

I am obviously right, and as you disagree with me, then logically you must be wrong.
[ Parent ]

that's a good point (none / 0) (#170)
by janra on Wed May 29, 2002 at 02:13:23 PM EST

I hadn't heard on the radio interview that it was to be a big-brother-like tv show. Both experiments were videotaped, but knowing you're going to be on TV is quite different than knowing the researchers are making a record so they can study it later.

Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Maybe the results were different... (none / 0) (#155)
by Humuhumunukunukuapuaa on Tue May 28, 2002 at 01:08:03 PM EST

...because they used a different bunch of people.
[ Parent ]
"experiments" (none / 0) (#157)
by ucblockhead on Tue May 28, 2002 at 01:39:57 PM EST

The trouble with this experiment is that the subjects know damn well that they are being experimented on, which makes any examination of their psychology worthless. They are not going to act liked they'd act in a prison. They'd act like they'd act in a prison experiment. That is, their actions are likely to be biased by what they think the researches want to see, and by what their own views on how other people will act.

These sorts of experiments make great press, but they are scientifically worthless.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Why I voted for the front page.... (4.00 / 2) (#128)
by poopi on Mon May 27, 2002 at 10:12:21 AM EST

There are many are many readers here who feel this story shouldn't see the light of day. Although the story doesn't impress with its writing, logic or references, it does provide fodder for a good discussion. The one thing that I truly fear in this world is the mob. All through my life I was privy to acts of cruelty and stupidity perpetrated by what are otherwise good people who were carried away by mob mentality. I am a logical person and so are most people, but mob mentality can make many reasonable individuals make illogical and irrational decisions and THAT is what scares me. There is no way to predict what the mob will do. After September 11, USA and many of it's western allies became one huge mob and many actions were taken without pause that otherwise would have never survived a reasonable debate. Even now dissent in the USA is a rare thing. So in view of the fact that a discussion about mob mentality would not only be current and relevant but is in fact necessary - I vote for this article to be on the front page. I hope the other readers would consider it in the same light.


"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera

consider an experiment (none / 0) (#142)
by martingale on Mon May 27, 2002 at 10:44:52 PM EST

I personally abstained because I'm indifferent to this story, however since it made the section page I gave it a quick rundown and saw your comment.

Allow me to suggest an experiment you might wish to perform: in a few days, when all commenting has died down, make a tally of the topical comments to see which discussed the actual subject of the story, however you interpret it, and which comments discussed the merits or the form of the story itself rather than its content. At this stage, it isn't clear to me that your voting "purpose" of stimulating topical discussions is successful (but it is early yet). Good luck.

[ Parent ]

Um... No. (4.25 / 4) (#139)
by Skywise on Mon May 27, 2002 at 06:55:01 PM EST

So... A man inflicts pain on his subordinate because the authority says the subordinate has broken the rules.

Ergo, this proves that man wants to conform with his clique.

Oh, and this also explains the Enron scandal...

To which I say... BS.

What you're seeing is the end result of uniform educational systems.  The first thing, the VERY first thing you learned in school was to shut up and take orders or punishment would be bestowed.  This immediately establishes the authority figure as "right" regardless of the action you need to perform.  Individual thought is not desired or tolerated by this system, so individuals MUST learn to conform or be sent elsewhere.

At this point, the students have 2 roles.  Conformists and Enforcers.  In other words, Prisoners and Guards.  Conformists just want to follow the rules to avoid punishment.  Enforcers are "smarter" in that they realize they can avoid punishment by doling it out AND gain more authoritarian power.

This pattern is locked in for 20 years of education (one third of your life), and in some cases doubly reinforced by military service.  Not including most businesses organize themselves around military hierarchy structures as well.

This is *not* because of a biological/evolutionary social action.  It's an environmental occurrence mandated from the industrial revolution where individual thought is a liability to the needs of the factories.  They need laborers... not philosophers.  And that's what our education system (in Western Civilization) is setup to provide.  (Career track, College track... Blue collar, White Collar...)

If you performed this test on tribes in South Africa, I guarantee you'd get different results.

Um... (none / 0) (#145)
by nYxxie on Tue May 28, 2002 at 01:31:47 AM EST

I don't fully agree, it's just becouse of education - you know, many people are quite lazy...and not only when they have to DO something...but even if they have to THINK about something...they happily accept opinions of other people...the bigger the authority, the bigger the acceptance...BUT...there is one interesting thing - there were experiments:

Group of people was convinced about drug use. One half talked with someone dressed as some politican and the other half with man, who looked like regular drug user (they were even told he has some criminal past). Of course, "politican" had better success...people trusted him more. But now, the interesting part...some time later, when all of those people were asked again, there was no difference...like if the peoplne forgot who gave them the information and they simly accepted it as part of "their" opinions. So at the end, it almost doesn't matter, who's trying to manipulate people...

It's sad, but it's true...I know almost noone, who is able to resist power of crowds and group-thinking...

btw: I have to recommend to read at least introduction to Social or Experimental Psychology...I read something by Nicky Hayes and D.D. Cummins and you can find there many interesting facts about way, we think...at least most of us.

(sorry for my inferior english ;))

[ Parent ]

That's my point... (5.00 / 1) (#153)
by Skywise on Tue May 28, 2002 at 12:07:57 PM EST

It's sad, but it's true...I know almost noone, who is able to resist power of crowds and group-thinking... Oh, I dunno... I bet you could find some Jews against Nazi-ism/Christianity... I bet you could find some Palestinians against Judaism... You also realize, of course, that you're separating yourself into the "intellectual elite" by pointing out that people herd because "those people are lazy" That's also part of our uniform education system. I agree that the human species is not isolationist, there's a strong biological need to bond with a family. In other words, there's a biological need to conform to the group you identify with. There are loners, but they're the exception, not the rule. My point is that many of these groups are formed intellectually and are not part of the biological stock set. (IE Someone chooses to be a "Trekkie" it's not something you're born with... and that even groupings of the same topic can have sub groups to identify themselves from the other groups... "Trekkers") It is also my point that it is a learned trait that it is okay to inflict punishment/pain on anyone not of your group. People are not intellectually "lazy" intentionally. Everybody thinks they're smarter than they are (even me!), and daily do the intellectually right thing. The people who continued to inflict pain on the subordinates did so because they thought they were in the "right", because they were intellectually "better". (In the experiment, the guy says he'll switch places because he knows he can do better than the subordinate!) I lay this square at the feet of uniform education because the problem with uniform education is that you're trained to group to your nation. And all intellectual study and honors that you get are there ONLY to conform to the nation. Anybody who doesn't conform is relegated to the menial labor class. You're not trained to group to the "human race" and you're certainly not trained to discover the truth for yourself. Conformity to authority is the rule. And the authority will notify you when you're ready to progress to the next level of achievement. This is SO ingrained into your psyche that you subcounsciously rate yourself against the group. Here's a good example: When you go to a job interview, the interviewer will ask you your previous salary was, and what your salary expectations are. Almost everyone will give an honest answer (plus a few thousand) Because you don't want to lose your salary "rank". Made sense to me until I read an article that pointed out that you should ask for the salary YOU want and never give out previous salary levels. So, instead of saying "I made $5/hour at the Quick-E mart", you say "I'm the best Quick-E mart person you'll ever find and I'll do the job for $7/hour" Ultimately, this comes down to morality and ethics. What is "right" and what is "wrong". What is "truth". Abstract questions that aren't even attempted by most colleges these days. But were considered important concepts by the Greeks. (Really, when was the last time you saw "Philosophy" as a required track course in your college curriculum?) Hitler didn't gain power because he deceived the populace, or because people were intellectually lazy. (There were a LOT of intellectuals who sided with him, even knowing of his racist views) Hitler gained power because he provided a rational, intellectual view of how to build economic wealth and prosperity and was proven RIGHT because he led Germany to become a world power in almost 10 years. At that point he explained how the jews had conspired to hold back Germany as part of their long term zionist plan to rule the world, and rightfully deserved to be exterminated. Without even the basic toolset of how to discrern your own knowledge, how can you even hope to conceive that your nation's savior is wrong?

[ Parent ]
exmples before Industrial Revolution (none / 0) (#171)
by svillee on Wed May 29, 2002 at 07:15:01 PM EST

I have to disagree about this being a recent phenomenon.

In 1633, Galileo was tried for heresy because his book supported the Copernican view that the earth was not the center of the universe. Many of those directly involved in the trial, including the commisary general, were actually sympathetic with him, but they found him guilty anyway, essentially because the Pope insisted on it.

Another example is the trial of Socrates in 399 BC, on the charge of "corrupting the young". The prosecutor Meletus was doing what he had to do, because Anytus ordered it.

I'm skeptical of any claim that some historical event such as the Industrial Revolution changed basic human tendencies. I think human tendencies have stayed fairly constant for millenia. We have just found new tools and new excuses for doing the same old stuff.

You mentioned South African tribes. Do you have some first hand knowledge to suggest they would behave differently?

[ Parent ]

The electroshock experiment.... (3.00 / 1) (#140)
by CtrlBR on Mon May 27, 2002 at 07:04:19 PM EST

Is subject of a sub-plot in I... comme Icare, a really nice film for conspiracy theory alficionados...
If no-one thinks you're a freedom fighter than you're probably not a terrorist.
-- Gully Foyle

Disappointed (1.00 / 1) (#152)
by egg troll on Tue May 28, 2002 at 10:11:17 AM EST

I'm saddened that this article didn't contain a reference to the Hurd that we all know and love. And here I was all set to smack some self-rightous Linux Zealout off his high horse. Damn!

He's a bondage fan, a gastronome, a sensualist
Unparalleled for sinister lasciviousness.

Unfortunate Duality (4.00 / 1) (#159)
by Wah on Tue May 28, 2002 at 04:22:59 PM EST

Until we can learn to stop allowing emotions to overpower reason, we will always be vulnerable to ourselves.

And the second we allow reason to overcome emotion, we all become Randites.

Really, they are two tools for different jobs. The question is really more a matter of learning when to use which one, than it is which one to use all the time. Reason doesn't do a whole lot for you when your family is in trouble. And emotion isn't terribly useful for final exams.

And when you base your reason on faulty information, where will you go without emotion to guide your actions?
Choas and order, flowing down the drain of time. Ain't it purdy? | SSP

Although ironically... (none / 0) (#172)
by Homburg on Mon Jun 03, 2002 at 05:03:56 PM EST

The reason Ayn Rand was so keen on reason, of course, is that she wanted a big fat cock up her. Seriously, any of you seen the bit in the film made of her life where the character of Rand goes on about how much she wants to be dominated by a strong man. Entertainingly fucked up, that.

[ Parent ]
Civilization and the Herd | 173 comments (78 topical, 95 editorial, 3 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest © 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!