The Persistence of Bad Ideas

The old line about a lie being halfway around the world before the truth is out of bed is a keen observation, but it also suggests something about the nature of lies. That is, a lie that gets around has some appealing quality to it. The reason it spreads so quickly is people want to believe it. There’s something about it that ticks all the right boxes. As a result, even smart and skeptical people, not only want to believe it, but they want to help everyone else believe it. Some lies turn everyone they touch into willing accomplices.

Bad ideas are like that too. For some reason, people want to believe them, even when it really makes no sense to believe them. For example, most people still think your diet can have a significant impact on your health. That if you eat fatty foods, you will have a heart attack. At the extremes this is true, but most disease is genetic. When it comes to heart disease, diet has nothing to do with it. The same is true of things like cholesterol levels, where there is little data to support a link between “bad” cholesterol and heart disease.

Part of what drives the persistence of bad ideas is they seem to address a need among modern people to believe in free will. As the human sciences build the case that we are the product of our genetic coding, the need to believe we can overcome that by force of will becomes stronger. Therefore, if you have a family history of heart disease, you want to believe eating unpleasant food, like some form of preemptive penance, will ward off the reality of your genetic makeup. Your diet becomes a moral issue for you.

The concept of epigenetics seems to be following a similar path. It is becoming this catchall idea that lets people ignore what we know, in favor of speculative nonsense that has no supporting data. This set of long posts on the Arktos site the other day are a good example of the phenomenon. The argument from the author is that epigenetics is proving that experiences can be passed onto subsequent generation through a biological process, just as genetic traits like eye color are passed on from parent to child.

The author is picking up on something Oswald Spengler argued. That is, the land of a people shapes their sense of identity, how they see themselves and their purpose. This in turn shapes their culture. The author of the Arktos piece thinks science is proving that these collective cultural experiences as a people are shared, but also passed on to subsequent generations via the miracle of epigenetics. He points to some papers on the subject and this study on the children of holocaust survivors.

The original definition of epigenetics¹ is the study of how genes are expressed, from a biological perspective. Your DNA contains instructions for determining your eye and hair color, for example, but it also contains instructions for more subtle things like personality traits. You inherit your DNA from your parents. Epigenetics refers to ways in which those genes are turned on and off. Genes are the blueprint for creating proteins, while epigenetics is the study of how genes are read.

The way in which epigenetics is used here and in popular writing is the claim that your experiences can somehow be passed onto your children. This is complete nonsense and there is no evidence to support it. You cannot pass on your experiences to your off-spring through any known biological processes. This nutty idea was cooked up by left-wing agitators so they could claim victim-hood by proxy. Their ancestors were treated poorly, so they are now suffering from the same effects, as part of their biological inheritance.

To now put this bad idea to use in the name of race realism or the moral philosophy of Oswald Spengler is amusing, but every bit as a nutty. As Greg Cochran once put it, this line of reasoning is like saying if you chop off a cat’s tale, it’s kittens will be born without tales. There’s simply no known biological process for passing on experiences or learned behavior. In fact, the changes to how your genes are read as a result of environmental factors are reset in the zygote. In other words, you can’t pass on your experiences.

Now, the author of the Arktos piece is probably a nice guy with good intentions. His background is history and theology, so he can be forgiven for not understanding the human sciences part of this. That raises the question of why epigenetics is so attractive an explanation for someone without math or science. Why embrace something about which you know nothing? The obvious answer is it supports his main point, but another aspect of it is that old need to believe in free will. We are not just moist robots.

In this way, bad ideas are like great salesmen. The bad idea always flatters the person willing to believe it. Pitchmen and motivational speakers have relied on flattery since forever, because people like being flattered. The flattery of free will is that you, unlike the rest of those slobs out there, control your destiny. The promise of epigenetics is that your decisions today will alter the lives of generations to come, because your decisions will be passed onto them, whether they like it or not. You are a god.

Of course, it also suggests something about the future. Many think that the unriddling of the human genome will usher in an age of reason. The fact that our theological overlords have suddenly become evangelical opponents of the human sciences, while embracing things like epigenetics, suggests otherwise. Belief is powerful magic, that has always found a way to override factual reality. That’s probably the main reason bad ideas are like drug resistant viruses. They make it easy to avoid facing reality.

¹I’m not writing a biology textbook here, so if you’re tempted to sperg out on the science, restrain yourself. This is not a post about science.

145 thoughts on “The Persistence of Bad Ideas

      • I was fortunate enough to read Edwards “The Freedom of the Will” when I was a young lad. Determinism is our lot. I’m comfortable with that conclusion. Why am I comfortable with that conclusion? Because for “ME” my sentiment here must be so necessarily. Get it?

          • JZs, I am a stupid dog- too stupid to know that doggies are not allowed to jump over the fence.

            I intend to jump that ridiculous fence anyways, the childish axiom of “Why Science and Religion are Incompatible”.

            Religious science is currently where medical sciences were in the 5th century, that is, in the Dark Ages.

            Neither priests nor professors know what, as in what it is, that they are talking about.

            Time for a new framework, a practical, quantifiable, verifiable union of science and religion. The older frameworks have reached their limit, unable to deal with our modern environment and its masked madnesses. We need real answers and better weapons.

          • Alzaebo, I’m no atheist. And certainly have no desire to live in a world governed by them. I come from a reformed presbyterian background. My break with that tradition came from wrestling with the problem of evil and free will from a biblical perspective. The Bible claims that God made man in his image and perfect. But how could perfect man fall? Because he made a decision to disobey God? But God made him perfect, no? God gave him free will some will say. But that makes no sense given free will is none existent.

            So the will according to Arminian Christians was free to choose good or evil before the fall but after the fall it was in bondage to Satan ( can only choose evil). But then by God’s grace the will has been jiggled by God to choose Him, FREELY, of course. Now this NEW man is perfect in his relationship tp God. But wasn’t he made perfect originally by God before the fall? But the new reborn man is now said to be made perfect for eternity and will always serve God and never fall away. How could evil come out of perfectly made man in the first place? That’s a contradiction I can’t square.

          • The Bible claims that God made man in his image and perfect.

            Nope. The word “perfect” appears nowhere in Genesis. As to “God created man in His own image” it’s obvious that the meaning there is something other than “identical to” because none of us is an all-powerful deity.

            We weren’t made perfect.

            Now, God may indeed be omniscient and know everything that will befall each one of us. However, if you accept the idea that God made us for a reason, it’s entirely possible to think that this existence — the death, the grief, the joy, the triumph, the sadness, the misery of it all — was the one chain of causation that produced the end-product he was after.

            Maybe we can’t really be what He wants us to be without experiencing this.

          • God made man in His image and it was good (in a moral sense, which to my mind is perefect in the sense God desired). Some claim this implies God gave man so called free will to choose either obedience or disobediece, which I believe was Augustine’s view. That view of a dualistic “good” creation is patently ridiculous. So God’s “ good” creation does not possess a causal inclination towards Him anymore than Satan? Edwards obliterated any causal chain in an origin of this description. At best this state of mans origin can be laid to mystery, not known fact. What we do know is man chose to disobey his creator. What we also know from the New Testament is that man with a regenerated heart graciously infused by God will always love and serve the Divine Master for eternity. As Luther wrote, man’s will is then forever in bondage to God, not Satan. In other words in either state there was no human agency of so called free will but rather bondage. Apparently, given the Genesis account, the will was in bondage to evil right at the outset of existence also. Good is bad?

          • Just to clarify terms, how would you define free will, and what would be an empirical test of whether someone was exercising it?

          • This might come off as a paradoxical answer but I think every act a person does is freely done according to their underlying nature. There is a causal chain in other words. It’s just that the causal chain isn’t known in its fullness by anyone. I don’t get hung up on WHY I act as I do. For example what part of ME brings thoughts into my head? What exactly is ME in a non material sense? I’m conscious of what might be called the end products of thoughts and actions in myself. Not sure of the antecedents to these phenomena though. So in a sense I do have free will in that there is a cause to the effect. I just don’t know how the complete mechanism of volition works from beginning to end.

          • Bah. This is standard, low-grade determinism thinking.

            Now this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t punish criminals. We should—in order to remove them from society when they’re dangerous, reform them so they can rejoin us, and deter others from apeing bad behavior. But we shouldn’t imprison people as retribution—for making a “bad choice.” And of course we should still reward people, because that rewires their own brains, and those of onlookers, in a way that promotes good behavior. We can therefore retain the concept of personal responsibility for actions, but reject the idea of moral responsibility, which presumes that people can choose to do good or bad.

            The idea that determinism requires rejecting the idea of moral responsibility is incredibly crude and simplistic.

            Even if you accept determinism, we are very complex machines and moral responsibility is an input to those machines.

            It’s self-evidently obvious that people do, in fact, change their actions in response to moral arguments or punishments based on moral responsibility.

            There are some philosophers who argue that while we do behave deterministically, we can still have a form of free will, simply redefining the concept to mean things like “our brains are very complex computers” or “we feel we are free.” But those are intellectual carny tricks.

            No, it’s not a “carny trick.” If it were, maybe the author would have spent ten seconds trying to present an argument to actually refute it, if it’s so easily and self-evidently refutable.

            The fact is that our “determinism” is so complex and so subject to literally billions of unpredictable outside influences that result in different decision trees, that the idea of “determinism” is simply a philosophical ideal rather than a useful tool.

            As Zman says about randomness in a later post I commented on, “Unless you know the formula it uses to return the number, the result appears to be random. It may even be random. You can’t know.” I respond that the appearance of randomness is deceptive, and that sometimes looking for patterns is helpful, but I believe Zman is correct in the case of human cognition: the sheer number of variables and inputs are so vast that even if you agree that it’s all deterministic, that’s meaningless in addressing every day life.

            Anyone who says to you with a straight face, “Man, I had no choice. Life is deterministic. I could not have avoided raping that small child.” is full of bullshit, and we all know it. It’s impossible to run a society that has abandoned the concept of moral responsibility.

            We can therefore retain the concept of personal responsibility for actions, but reject the idea of moral responsibility, which presumes that people can choose to do good or bad.

            Personal responsibility vs. moral responsibility seems a distinction without a difference. The whole idea of responsibility is intrinsically moral.

    • Yep just meat machines. You could give your first born to Charles Manson to raise and he’d turn out just as well as if you raised him.

      Culture doesn’t matter, parenting doesn’t matter, none of it does.

      Might at as well just do a collective suicide and get it over with. Because nothing is worth fight for or even doing.

  1. “Our theological overlords have suddenly become evangelical opponents of the human sciences.”

    Oh, trust me, they’re going to doublethink right through that. They’re going to be writing articles slamming genetic determinism while on the plane to secret clinics in China to concoct their designer babies.

    It’s going to be the 21st-century equivalent of left-wing judges doing everything they can to make public schools shitty and dangerous, then sending their kids to fancy private schools.

    • I won’t hide my sympathies for “Lamarckian feedback” as a non-scientist. Whatever the scientific merits, I personally despise the so-called Neo-Darwinists that are promoted as way of undermining Christianity. If it takes lunatic gender theory leftism to knock the smugness off of the Dawkins, Myers, Nye, and DeGrasse Tysons of the world; I’m willing to accept the collateral damage.

      • that’s hitting the nail on the head DBD. Dawkins sanctimonious pontification is revolting. i would add Daniel Dennett to the list.

        it might amuse you all to hear that my 12 year old son is begin fed Lamarckian theory at the Baptist school we are asking to help educate him. i’ve yet to figure out how that fits and forms an advantage to the fundamentalist Christian worldview. i’d love to hear any thoughts on that…

        • I thought Lamarckianism (what I think Mr. Z terms epigenetics) was disproven over a century ago. The idea that if I cut off Fido’s tail, that Fido’s puppies will be tail-less, is self-refuting. And it just goes to show that no bad idea, however self-evident, ever dies, but just waits around for a new generation of rubes to discover it.

  2. “If you chop off a cats tale, its kittens will be born without tales.”

    Is this a typo or a brilliant turn of phrase about inherited victimhood?

  3. Likely the second best defense against most Bad Ideas coming down the pike is a strong belief in a Good Idea.

    GKC’s Father Brown character summed it up:
    “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense.” [_The Oracle of the Dog_ (1923)]

    “You hard-shelled materialists were all balanced on the very edge of belief — of belief in almost anything.” [_The Miracle of Moon Crescent_ (1924)]

    For my own part, belief in the Almighty does provide quite an anchor when the Bad Idea du jour bursts like a pustule upon the consciousness of society. I already have a faith-based belief system, one with a long tradition and puh-lenty of argumentation and documentation to support it.

    OTOH, this leaves some adherents open to Bad Ideas specifically crafted to be parasitical to Good Ideas. Nothing’s foolproof.

    The TOP defense against a new Bad Idea? Not having any interests aligned with the Bad Idea or its adherents. Not 100% prophylactic, but pretty universal.

    • Skepticism is most likely as much of our coding as eye color. No one is completely skeptical. There would not be a way to make it to adulthood without some capacity to accept things on faith. Some people are more skeptical than the average, some are less skeptical than average. Belief is most likely one of man’s earliest evolved traits, one that co-evolved with language, both of which are required for even the most primitive of religious strictures.

      In more rational times, the secular as well as religious authorities tried to police society for harmful ideas. Part of it was self-interest, but part of it is the nature of hierarchical society. The people at the top are defined by their stewardship. Today, this has been flipped on its head, where the people at the top define themselves by how much damage they cause, part of which is the promulgation of nutty and dangerous ideas. The leveling effect of democracy.

      • “Belief is most likely one of man’s earliest evolved traits…” This is one of my arguments in favor of the existence of God. How does Darwinian evolution explain that a species’ survival is enhanced by centering it’s beliefs and actions around a falsehood. The Darwinian argument is usually that faith helps us deal with the knowledge of our impending deaths. But certainly the evolution of a truthful coping mechanism would be much more efficient. Unless of course God is truth.

        • For a long time, people believed spirits inhabited trees, the wind, the tides, etc. Does that mean the wind has a soul?

          • belief in ridiculous things come at a cost, but it demonstrates that one is willing to incur that cost, and is therefore welcome in the group. leftists seem to be spiraling on this trait – more and more virtue signaling of progressively more ridiculous ideas – the cost of purity for retaining group membership.
            kind of like a balding guy in a $200K Ferrari planning on picking up 20-something gold diggers. grotesque, but mysteriously works sometimes.

          • No, there have been many examples of religious symbols and gods that people through the ages have attached their faith to that have been shown to be false by science. However, these examples still reflect the universal yearning for a higher power that permeates every culture we have ever studied. That yearning is so strong it forms the center of existence for the majority of humans. The fact that different religions choose imperfect symbols to express their faith in a higher power does not negate that this phenomenon makes no sense from an evolutionary perspective, unless there is a god.

        • A much better word than “beliefs” is “guidelines”.

          No, we’re not born to believe a this or a that, but to form guidelines, mental maps of probability. That is what’s universal.

  4. A complex brain in a complex body in a complex environment, doing exactly what you would expect it to do – it runs moderately parallel. Your attention is lucky if it gets presented with 1 in 5 voluntary decisions before they are made by those “other thought threads”. Brains spend lots of time running on autopilot.

    What decisions do get made by conscious attention or otherwise, they become cause and effect in a world, and those effects hit everybody with the consequences, especially your kids. Inherited bad ideas ? Not hardly.

    You made choices with your IQ, now eat them.

  5. The belief in Lysenkoism will never die on the Left, it’s just too useful. They keep changing the name, but the belief remains.

    • T. C.;
      Yes. One (of many) crazy things about this topic is that Progs. oppose the death penalty (it’s really not his fault_!).

      The ultimate sanction of actual Darwinism *and* Lysenkoism is not reproducing. So if you really believe that bad behavior passed down, the only way to stamp out bad behavior is to prevent it from being passed down.

      • …or you could do it Hitler’s way–the gas chambers. That was given the stamp of approval by Oliver Wendell Holmes (albeit Holmes was careful to mask his assent) and of course by Margaret Sanger–a great admirer of Hitler.

        • dad;
          Just to be clear, I don’t endorse any sort of precautionary elimination, contra to the villains you cite who did.

          What I *am* saying is that a pretty obvious (after all, that’s how I came up with it) logical consequence of the view that either we have zero free will *or* that we’ll pass on our bad (anti social) behavior invariably to our descendants.

          Under either moral framework, precautionary elimination it would seem to be a civic duty, just like those villains held it to be. After all, even the tree-hugging DNR’s hereabouts are fine with putting down any man-attacking predator as a precaution. Why not the same for troublesome human meat puppets_?

          The answer, of course, in what used to be Western Civilization is that humans are made in God’s image (in some unfathomable way), have an immortal soul, and (enough) free will to be held accountable for bad behavior and yet retain the possibilities of reform and redemption. We’re really going to miss Western Civilization.

          • I did not think YOU believed in cleaning up the species! I merely showed where it leads.

            Pixels are difficult to work with.

            You’re correct: we have the free will necessary and get to make choices–and yes, I think Western Civ is in danger.

  6. When confronted by the reality of the burgeoning science of genetics, you knew something had to give over on Lefty’s side. Either Lefty would admit defeat…or make a new “scientific” discovery! So Lefty seems to be moving to a new piece of ground on which to defend his blank slate theory, (his “all in all”). Naturally, the media will give Lefty all the cover he needs.

  7. Repost from yesterday, the most important part of the Quilette gatekeeper

    “Back when evolution was under attack from proponents of Biblical Creation and Intelligent Design, academic scientists were under no pressure to hold back criticism. This is because these anti-evolution movements were almost exclusively a product of right-wing evangelicals who held no power in academia”

    No power, no power, no power. And that’s what the Intellectual Dork Web believes we deserve. To appropriate a leftist phrase, “representation matters”. Affirmative action for fundie profs.

    • There’s been a gag about “the Left being against whatever normal people like” since I can remember. Recently, it is about open borders. “If these people coming in were voting Republican, the Left would demand we seal the border.” Whatever Progressvism was historically, today it is essentially a negative identity. Whatever they think defines the bad whites, they oppose. Hence the embrace of increasingly degenerate causes. Now that race realism has scientific footing, the Left will go back to reading poetry and smoking clove cigarettes.

      • Nobody wants to admit it, but this Left hatred of whatever normal people like was behind a lot of the 1980’s – 1990’s Jihad against smoking. Yeah, smoking tobacco can be bad for you, but the campaign against it verged on the hysterical; besides, lots of research indicates that smoking weed is even worse, but somehow we never hear Lefties expatiating on the hazards of that, because weed is considered to be subversive of normal white culture (whether this is still true or not is another matter). We won’t even get into Lefty attitudes on health hazards like promiscuous gay sex…

        • Frankly, this is why I am 100% in favor of pot legalization, any amount, for any purpose, anywhere — maybe then the goddamn stoners will finally shut! the f*ck! up!! about it. A guy who spends his 24/7 enthusing about how much he loves alcohol is a skid row bum; a guy who does the same with pot is the Libertarian Party chairman. Legalize it!!!

          • Sev;
            Come on, you know that they will just move on to another self-destructive cause that allows them to feel superior, no matter how bad for others or stupid it is.

          • Al, at some point I simply get curious about what it is they will come up with next. Does their cupboard ever get bare?

          • They have not yet found a cause sufficiently self-destructive: they’re still there. But I keep hoping.

          • I don’t really care about the legalization of it one way or another – but what I do want to get back to , is a culture where smashing your car into my car while you’re stoned/drunk/high/whatever – it likely to lead to you getting your head cracked open.

            When I started driving back in the 80’s – driving drunk was not necessarily acceptable – but it was common. What was also common was the likelihood of getting a beatdown if you drove drunk and smashed into somebody else’s vehicle.

            Life simply doesn’t work correctly without consequences. And consequences in the more general sense is what the left has seemingly concentrated on eliminating at all levels for as long as I can remember.

            So – I would be perfectly fine with accepting the consumption of mind altering substances, as long as the consumers of said substances are ok with me inflicting consequences upon them when their altered brain states cause me grief.

          • And, correspondingly, the price to excuse their consequences shouldn’t be coming out of my pocketbook — my tax money paying their Medicaid hospital expenses.

          • The left has based it’s entire worldview on making sure that their consequences are paid for by somebody else.

            This is why I keep going back to concentrating on the financial machinations undertaken by our government at all levels.

            This stupidity isn’t funding itself.

          • The left has based it’s entire worldview on making sure that their consequences are paid for by somebody else…
            Definitely agree on that, problem is a quite a few on the right end of the spectrum have that view as well…

          • Calsdad, you totally nailed it on that one. A really awful and selfish way of going about things, central to an entire world view.

        • The recent “wine aunt” meme touches on the fact that middle aged women are consuming far more alcohol than before. But it escapes cultural shaming. The GOP Congress actually gave the alcohol industry a tax cut last year. The reality is that oncoming Medicaid insolvency means a major tax hike is unavoidable.

        • I’m not a smoker, never have been… but it’s always puzzled me why smoking tobacco is seen as low class or trashy but smoking marijuana is, if not encouraged, more acceptable.

      • My definition of Leftism’s core dogma is “Reality is always wrong.” Combine that with the definition of Leftist politics — the desperate struggle to somehow, someway, **finally** make high school turn out the way it should’ve — and you’ve got Postmodern America right there.

        • “Reality is always wrong”. I realized last night that a huge portion of the people in this country are completely vested in the “Mueller will take down Trump” concept. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. Maybe Trump will wrongly be taken down by Mueller, and maybe Trump will get away with things he shouldn’t.

          In the kaleidoscope of fake news and ideas attached to agendas, who can tell what is real any more? A reasonably intelligent person would remember that any scenario is possible, including the one that if big things happen in DC, it may have no effect at all at home.

          Grifters and phonies use appealing possibilities to entice people into dumb ideas and actions. But stupid people allow themselves to get wedded to singular concepts of the way things seem to be and of how things will turn out.

          Two essences of humanity are not knowing how things will turn out, even if we have some partly formed ideas of how things should go, and, beyond that, having the self awareness to know that we don’t know. The conceit of humanity is failing to remember these essences.

      • Very similar to Sowell; paraphrasing… “How can one of the Elites prove they’re Elite if they believe what the common man believes?”

        Spot on. If the common man loves America, the Elites must hate America to differentiate themselves. Believe in G-d? Ditto. Abortion is murder? Ditto. Gender is an XX or an XY? Marriage is one man – one woman? Ditto.

        • Ditto! It’s why our Betters, the bluenose Progressives, the public puritans, banned marijuana too.

          (And drinking, and gambling, and cathouses, and smoking, all the things natural to a man and in accord with the Tenth Amendment)

      • I’m not watching “the funeral” but I just had a client bring it up and she was filled with Maudlin sentimentality. It makes me sick these people that destroyed the culture now are so sorry it’s gone. Hypocrites

  8. “We are not just moist robots.”

    Great line! My reading of the arc of German philosophy from Kant to nietzche is an effort to salvage the idea of god or the spirit in the face of ever encroaching mechanistic science. Each philosopher seeks the interstices of the universe where god may still be hiding, until with nietzche there is finally the conciliation “god is dead!”

    I had some sperginess, but I will just say that I would be wary of the arguments against the link between heart disease and fats. There is still an overwhelming consensus in favor. Just from a couch scientist perspective: disorders of congenital high cholesterol or triglycerides result in what? Heart and other vascular disease. Why would intermediate states not increase risk as well?

    Somethings coming…a poem may follow

  9. “Studies” like this are the gospel in the clownier parts of the academic clown quarter, as they “prove” that “systematic racism” is real — Dontarrious is failing out of high school because his great-great-great-great grandfather was a slave. I used to say “holy Lamarck, Batman!” but nobody with a Humanities PhD has ever heard of Lamarck. Fun times. One wonders when they’ll begin openly advocating positive eugenics, to breed the rayciss out of us.

    • No need to advocate — they’re already DOING it … see Global War on Terror and its (Obama directed) follow-on: Overseas Contingency Operations. Who fights and dies?

  10. This sounds like a rehashing of Lysenkoism.

    Amazing how people keep returning to discredited ideas. What’s next, phrenology?

      • Well…Lilek had some old crimes on his Bleat this week. One was an attractive woman who grifted, cheated, and committed murders now and again. The newspapers of the day (the 1920s or thereabouts) even published her head shot as a photo, when photos were rarely put in the papers. There was never any doubt she did any of it. But she kept getting let off, including by a judge who cited phrenology to justify letting her out—“her head shape says she wouldn’t do these sorts of things”.

    • We have already returned to a sort of phrenology. CH and the denizens of his blog propound a theory that the face reveals the inner woman or man. Thus “lawyercunts” have “man jaws” and “soy boys” have soft round faces and open, “glory hole” mouths. It’s amusing, but hardly scientifically creditable.

      • I, too have thought about how silly that is, but I’ve also never been able to find a good, decent wife and mother with a man jaw.

  11. The leftist affair with “science” is part alchemy and part con game.

    What persists, much like the program guarded within our genes, is the timeless appeal of gaining something from nothing.

    Many old books, take the Bible for example, fixate on a set of human frailties that invite and propagate the lies of the confidence men.

    The idea of lead into gold relies on just enough truth to tickle ones propensity toward greed, i.e. the similar nature of lead and gold: even when the methodology of science refutes this nature, the twinkle of possibility is maintained by the religion of science. We can split atoms, recast elements by out hand, certainly we can overcome those invisible forces of nature.

    The long con of the death cult has been running for generations, and like all good cons, it is more about puffing the ego, the vanity, of the mark than it is about the quality of the deception. In fact, the looser the better; a malleable and appealing lie can survive the constant assults of truth far better than the more rigid.

    We are always inclined toward a back door in the programming.

    So the “science” of leftism feeds this need. It is a religion, a long-con of faith in something else; always probing for the next “discovery” or “study” to pump up the confidence of the “I fucking love science!” drones while also assuring the other tail of the bell that they can’t possible be held accountable for their choices.

    If nothing else, the contortions necessary to Progress through the out door of the paradox are entertaining.

  12. Science terminology, like many aspects of current society, is being misused by the practitioners of memetic indoctrination. Common folk have no inherent understanding of a highfalutin term like epigenetics (which has impressive phonetics) and therefore are inclined to give more credence than deserved. No one uses a dictionary anymore and charlatans love to bamboozle the ignorant with nonsense definitions. In a healthy society, charlatans are discouraged or disdained. Nowadays, they become internet stars. That suggests more about the nature of the audience than the continued existence of outlier scam artists.

  13. There could be something to the effect they are observing and describing as “epi-genetics” in that a predisposition to environmental factors could be genetic. They are of course confusing cause and effect, which they almost always do.

    • Sure. If your parents were drunks, you could be a drunk too and not because it was learned behavior, but because you have the same genetic disposition toward drunkenness. The apple does not fall far from the tree. Remove all alcohol and all of a sudden, the children of drunks are as sober as judges.

      The argument being made today is that experiences add bits to the DNA that are then passed to the next generations. DNA methylation is a real thing, but there is no evidence that it is passed on to children. In fact, the evidence seems to be the opposite. That in the zygote, there is a reset back to factory specs, so to speak. This makes a lot of sense, actually, from an evolutionary perspective.

      • Z;
        The ‘reset to factory specs’ *does* make a lot of sense from an evolutionary perspective (prevents the waste of carrying zygotes with unsurvivable mutations to term). But it *also* tends to open the question of how ‘the engine of Darwinism’ (incorporation of beneficial mutations into the genetic line) can operate.

        • No. Think of it this way. You have one set of plans to build a blue sedan. Your mate has plans to build a red coup. By the time you two meet, your blue sedan has some dents and dings, as does her red coup. The *plans* did not change. They don’t have dents and dings in the spec. When you combine the two designs, well, some things can go wrong. Some are unimportant, while others are lethal. Some may turn out to be quite useful. Your kid’s final spec however does not include the dents and dings of your sedan or your wife’s coup.

      • The reset in the zygote makes a lot of sense given the fact that gonadal elements are formed in embryonic development before any personal experience ever takes place. In men at least there is also a blood brain barrier equivalent in the testicle between the sperm forming elements and the rest of the body. Anything that is over a certain molecular weight doesn’t get in. Hard to make a case for experiences to be passed on.

  14. “If you chop off a cat’s tale, its kittens will be born without tales.”

    More like, the kittens will be born with plenty of tales, most importantly “The Tale of how the evil goyim chopped off our mama’s tail, so now they have to pay us infinity reparations for all eternity, plus we cats get to terraform human society to suit the whims of us cats.”

    Dollars to donuts this whole pseudoscientific fad is simply being used to prep a battle space, to lay the groundwork for making sure Whitey never, ever stops paying good cash money for the Slaveocaust.

  15. Back when he was a real philosopher and not a New Atheism shill, D. Dennett wrote a paper called “Why the law of effect won’t go away.” From Watson to Skinner and beyond, it keeps getting proposed and then refuted, and then “reformulated” and re-refuted. Why? Because, Dennett argues, even though false, it’s the only way to have a completely materialistic psychology. If not the Law of Effect (eg, Skinner’s operant conditioning) then there’s some kind of vital spirit, will, soul, etc. intervening. So although empirically false, it’s a necessary presupposition for materialistic science.

    Dennett of course agrees, but at least he sees clearly that it’s just a presupposition for conducting science, not a metaphysical truth, or a truth of any sort.

    Now, the law of effect = no free will, so your argument is itself an example of a bad idea that won’t go away.

    .

    • Dennett was always a crank, but even cranks can be interesting, even if they have heads full of nutty ideas.

    • Yup. “No free will” supposes that a human being is mechanical; a mere collection of atoms,. It also leads to the conclusion that obeying traffic laws is in the genetic code. Uh-huh.

      • Imagine a web page that returns a number between one and a billion. Unless you know the formula it uses to return the number, the result appears to be random. It may even be random. You can’t know. Unless you are prepared to spend your life examining the results, looking for patterns, you should accept the results as random.

        That web page is your life.

        • Random number generators are rarely, if ever, random. Just unpredictable. Most of them operate using some algorithm that produces a large irrational number, like pi, and some “seed” number that influences where in the irrational number’s digit sequence the random number generator will start. Good generators pick unpredictable values out of the operating environment — mouse movement, etc. — to generate the seed value(s) and use varying algorithms to make the initial starting conditions hard to replicate. But, like any equation, if you know the values that are being fed in, the values coming out are fixed.

          • Just that the appearance of randomness is deceiving. Maybe you knew all that, but not everyone does. Perhaps we shouldn’t always accept the results as random, depending on how important that number is, what we’re going to do with it, and who is behind the algorithm (God? The Devil? The government? Pick your situation.). Your life is pretty important; your life may not be absolute Calvinist determinism, but it also might not be completely random. Examining your life, looking for patterns isn’t always a bad way to go, though I’m sure it can be overdone if you find yourself in a room wallpapered with tinfoil, trying to overlay the U.S. Constitution on John Dees’ Enochian Tablets. Sorry if that was a waste of your electrons and your time.

      • “No free will” is a provocative overstatement to upset the theological. It overstates simple truth that brains run voluntary thoughts in parallel, and our conscious attention is not directed at every voluntary thought the brain raises.

        It’s a phrase being used against us. Seven billion people should agree, it really does feel like something to have free will. I can’t shake it, nor do I want to.

  16. Epigenetics is cited for the transmission of trauma of holocaust survivors to their descendants. So we will never run out of holocaust survivors.

  17. Epigenetics has suddenly reared its head so that another generation of Jews can continue the HoloHoax victim scam.

    It’s not rocket science

    • No doubt, but never underestimate the desire of our dusky brothers to keep the gibs coming. There are at least a few Holocaust survivors still alive, but slavery – not so much. Hence the coming “Deshontay stuck up a Pick-n-Pack because his Great-Grandpa was a slave” meme

  18. “That raises the question of why epigenetics is so attractive an explanation for someone without math or science. Why embrace something about which you know nothing? The obvious answer is it supports his main point, but another aspect of it is that old need to believe in free will. We are not just moist robots.”

    He doesn’t “know nothing” about epigenetics (at least if he really read the studies he cites). He’s not making a random assertion. Laymen on juries are asked to evaluate rival scientific claims all the time. A certain sort of person demands people “be scientific” all the time, then gets upset if they endorse the “wrong” science.

    It’s like when people say, “Dr. Weil is a New Age quack.” Really? He has a Harvard MD and a license to practice medicine. If you have evidence of malpractice, bring it up to the state medical board; until then, his opinion is as good if not better than your doctor’s.

    If I can find published research to support “that old need” (wonder why it’s an old need?), what’s wrong with that? If you don’t like the published research, take it up with the editors.

    • Laymen on juries are asked to evaluate rival scientific claims all the time.

      No, they are not. Juries evaluate legal claims.

      • In point of fact, juries do not evaluate legal claims. They are instructed by the judge as to the law they must apply. Juries evaluate evidence. They are fact finders, choosing which facts have been creditably established by the evidence presented by the parties to the case. One type of evidence is the opinion of scientific experts on such matters as DNA identification, ballistics, toxicology, cause of death etc. Jurors must determine whether the facts as they have determinrd them are relevant to one or the other of often conflicting scientific opinions. It is also worth noting that a judge must first decide if the scientific method is held widely enough in the scientific community and of sudficoent probative value to allow the jury to consider it. Good trial attorneys prepare and question scientific experts in such a manner as to make complex scientific subjects accessible to laymen.

  19. Interesting discussion. I read Cochran as well and that is where I stumbled on to you, Z-man. Currently, I’m having the tangent of this discussion with my ne

  20. You linked to JayMan’s article about heart disease. The problem with JayMan is that he is a fat geneticist. He sees genetics everywhere and he wants an excuse to stay fat. I accept in advance that this is ad hominem and that I should fuck myself.

  21. K.Bolton isn’t so much wrong but simply misunderstands.

    It isn’t stated anywhere in the parts that I read of his essay, but he seems to assume all genomic expression is internal. He’s implicitly assuming the Nature vs. Nurture separation.

    This is dead wrong. Nurture is nature. It (nurture/culture) is the outward expression of innate aesthetic preferences that we have evolves with as a group. All of his “epigenetic” memories do exist but as the result of his interactions with his environment, the extended phenotype. Our collective memories are on every street corner, mantel piece, tale, tune, and so on. That’s what a civilization is: an extension of our innate biological preferences and abilities. This works as a feedback loop and voila…a haplogroup ( a genetically similar population) creates a culture around its innate biological preferences.

    This is what the proggies think of as “privilege”. Every culture is “privileged” for the preferences of the group that created it. It’s only a social construct if by social we mean the interaction of biology with the environment. The “social construct” gibberish coming out of fem/gay/race studies departments is fantasy. (That they have so much power is troubling, but I’ve found that reading their stuff has always been a gas. Now that the wheels are coming off their bus they’ve become even more entertaining.)

    K. Bolton’s “memories” are simply how our mind will interpret some of our interactions.

    If you aren’t a shut-in you have thousands of interactions every day. Most of them go unnoticed because they are routine or expected. But over the course of a month you may have hundreds of thousands of interactions with people, objects, memories, thoughts, etc; most will go unnoticed but some will seem unusual and be remembered. Some may even seem miraculous. This is simply a function of large numbers.

    Expect a miracle a month…

    • I think the one argument for saying environment could change us in ways that don’t show up in our DNA is in how the human mind perceives its environment. Some people, and I am one of them, thinks all predators have a simplified mental model of our environment that is formed somewhere in childhood, probably around puberty. This Cliff Notes version of our environment makes us more efficient.

      Imagine a cat. It has this mental map of its hunting grounds. Just the important bits it needs for hunting. Therefore, when the cat is chasing a rodent, it can anticipate the movements of the rodent during the chase. The map fades over time, so the cat will patrol its hunting ground, updating the map. I’ve actually observed this with my cats. Move things around and they re-examine the whole room in three dimensions.

      Maybe humans get imprinted on their environment and this can have some effect on how their cognitive traits are expressed. Maybe. I think there is a guy at one of the UC colleges working this angle, but I forget his name and I could be wrong about his research. Again, it’s just speculation with no supporting data. It’s certainly not heritable.

    • Yves Vannes, taking your ideas a bit further, it seems like parts of our (western white) culture go out of their way to reject many of the common experiences of our culture and go in another direction entirely. They don’t want to dress western or eat western or raise their kids in a western set of shared experiences. Is it mommy and daddy issues? Is it the novelty of going in some other direction? Is it bonding instead to an alternative cultural orthodoxy that is edgy and hippy and values other things? All of the above?

      Then you have an odd case like Obama. He simply missed many of the western social experiences growing up, and ended up, as president, adopting this strange behavioral melange of tin pot African dictator, Middle Eastern monarch, some of the stuff of the west, and basic angry black guy. No societal tethers, no easy to identify social direction he was coming from. The rest of the presidents are easier. Carter as a puritanical scold, Bubba as the grifter rolling through town, GW Bush as one of the white frat guys saved from his own failings through family money and influence. Trump’s a bit of a tougher case as well. He’s a bit of a chameleon.

      • @Yves Vanes — I recall an experiment a while back where there was an international cultural exchange between two artists, a Western landscape painter of the Romantic, sorta Barbizon/Hudson Valley school, and a CHINESE landscape painter of the more-or-less Sung scroll-painting style (think highly-washed brush-and-ink ethereal craggy mountains and pines wrapped in mist, Han-Shan type of stuff.

        Anyway, they sent the Barbizon guy to go paint rural China, and they sent the Chinese guy to go paint the Hudson Valley. You’ll never guess what happened. Actually, you will, and I bet you already did.

        @Dutch — part of the reason that soft-minded Westerners reject their own cultural traditions and embrace lesser Third World bric-a-brac is an unconscious feeling of frustration and guilt over a simple, readily-observed fact: Western, European culture of the Classical Christian mode is crushingly, overwhelmingly superior to all other world cultures. Even the great Other cultures come up vastly short. It’s not even a contest, really.

        Imagine you were a Yankees starting pitcher, and for a charity event, you had to pitch against a team of Down’s syndrome crippled midgets. Your natural human empathy and sympathy (well, natural to Westerners, at least, and maybe natural ONLY to them) would lead you to stop smoking them and just throw meatballs. Same thing with 60s Hippie retards digesting Hindu gibberish, or our current-day retards slobbering and licking the feet of moronic Islam. It’s an offshoot of Ethno-masochism / pathological altruism.

        Difference is, this time we don’t have the numbers or the residual cultural confidence. This time, the game is not an idle sport, it’s for keeps.

        • House of Pancakes, I like your Yankees analogy. But what I can’t comprehend is while sympathy and generosity to the Little Leaguers is nice, why extend that to tearing apart the Yankees in the process? There is a cultural suicidal death wish baked into it somewhere. I don’t recall having ever seen such a widespread, virulent strain of it in any other culture. It’s as if the cultural virus had taken hold, but was allowed to spread for a long time without treatment. Now the virus has spawned a plague.

  22. I can’t restrain myself! I agree with the general thrust of Jayman’s post and many of his assertions. I will say only this: hard, progressive weight training, with a diet appropriate for supporting your goals *will* net you noticeable and semi-permanent results.

    Most studies about exercise focus on useless cardio regimes or weight training regimens that are lacking in sufficient intensity, progressivity, or both. And most also either fail to account for diet or impose an inappropriate diet.

    I can’t promise you’ll live longer, but being lean and muscular certainly has its benefits. The effort it takes to get an 85th or 90th percentile physique (for men) is really not much, but it really pays dividends: men respect you more, women are more attracted to you, and it feels great.

  23. This why you won’t see Biological Calvinists like Z as doctors.

    Dialog goes like this:
    Patient: What should I eat?
    HBD nerd:: Anything you want, any time and in any amount because diet is irrelevant to how your quality of life and how long you will live. Don’t worry about exercising either. It won’t help you. Your genetics determine everything so what you do doesn’t matter.

    Six months later the patient waddles in weighing 300lbs.
    Patient: You SOB you lied to me, I’m diabetic and suffering from high blood pressure and my kidneys are bad.
    HBD nerd; Blame your genetics . It’s always your genetics. So keep eating what you want. Now for your bill.
    Patient: You damn quack. I’m gonna shoot your sorry ass, I bet you didn’t see that coming!!

    Sound of HBD’er screaming as shots are fired.

  24. Is a Cat o’ 9 TALES an anthology, so if you cut one out, the kittens will have only ate?

    I think you meant “tails”, not “tales” above

  25. As mentioned ever so briefly in the article, I suspect that some of the recent vogue for this epigenetics stuff on the mystical-right has to do with a desire to infuse Jungian ideas with a hard science chemical legitimacy. When you recall that Jordan Peterson is a Jungian (of a rather tedious, academic sort) this project begins to make sense from a fan boy perspective, although the endeavor is mostly daft.

  26. The diet stuff was a little on the ridiculous side. It’s true that nutrition has an absolutely atrocious track record as a “scientific” discipline, but bodybuilders and powerlifters make excellent use of the good parts. Aside from that, we know for a fact that obesity is linked to dozens of different diseases, and diet is clearly a cause of obesity, even if the only link is total caloric intake (it’s not). Sailors of yore didn’t get scurvy because of their genetics, it was because of their diet. North Koreans are genetically identical to South Koreans, yet are distinctly shorter, because diet.

    Maybe what you meant to attack was the fringe belief that there are “super-diets” like juice fasting or paleo that can produce ubermensches with limitless energy and immunity to all disease. I wouldn’t say those ideas are popular, though.

    • So you think I should have written, “most people still think your diet can have a significant impact on your health. That if you eat fatty foods, you will have a heart attack. At the extremes this is true, but most disease is genetic. When it comes to heart disease, diet has nothing to do with it.”??

      Cuz, that’s what I wrote.

      As for body builders, steroids are what makes them yuge, not protein shakes.

      • You can’t look like Ahnold in his prime without steroids (good luck even with steroids), but you can get plenty jacked as a natty.

        • Some of the videos I’ve watched interviewing retired bodybuilders seem to have it about right—it’s a matter of genes and steroids (and of course hard work and diet). Take all the steroids you want, but you ain’t gonna get there without the inherent “ability”, i.e. genes.

        • Your comments are about right. I’m getting old, and can’t lift near what I could in my youth, but I still look like I could bench 300. That stuff sticks with you with a little bit of work, no steroids needed.

  27. This post reminds of a hard sci-fi book I read a couple of months ago. It was a ruthlessly materialistic story that understands free will is mostly bullshit. I was pleasantly surprised that this idea is becoming more mainstream. I started reading sci-fi as a kid and I am still a fan but finding good books is nearly impossible now. Anyone have a suggestion for a sci-fi book on these types of topics?

    BTW the book I just read was called Blindsight by Peter Watts. He is some kind of biologist but also a good writer.

    • Not sci-fi per se, but sorta sci-fi-ish, very interesting, and on your topic…

      Jorge Luis Borges, “The Lottery in Babylon,” “The Garden of Forking Paths,” “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” “Pierre Menard: Author of Don Quixote”.

  28. ‘The original definition of epigenetics¹ is the study of how genes are expressed’
    No, epigenetics is inheritance which is not based on the DNA code. It includes prions and methylation of DNA.

  29. There’s simply no known biological process for passing on experiences or learned behavior.

    Epigenetics has that potential, though.

  30. Whilst I agree that epigenetics has morphed into Lysenkoism championed by the usual suspects, and what makes you a man not a monkey is 100% genetic, ordered systems can be non-deterministic and conversely chaotic systems can be rigidly deterministic. Genetics doesn’t dismiss free will in any way, shape or form. Free will is a philosophical concept and science has little or nothing useful or interesting to say about it beyond some basic facts.
    The dirty secret is that science has no answers at all for any of the important questions in life. Even if you use the fruits of the scientific knowledge to help build a bridge you still need to do modeling and prototyping to have some confidence your bridge won’t fall down in the first high wind and the skills and experience of the engineers and craftsman to adjust to the minutiae.
    Substituting science (let alone a subset of science) for philosophy is crass and ignorant: science is a subset of philosophy, not the foundation of it.
    A caramel coloured world dominated by the elite vs nation states of free men is about will to power and the human spirit not genetics.

  31. Very interesting article and therefore sorry to be a grammar Nazi, but errors like those below detract from the credibility of an article (at least for me, as a one-time copy editor).

    …if you chop off a cat’s tale (TAIL), it’s (ITS — possessive) kittens will be born without tales.(TAILS)

  32. Like the Blank Slate, leftists love epigenetics because it implies more “malleable” human beings. “Malleable” humans can be perfectly equal, physically and mentally, and are also ideal denizens of the various utopias leftists have cobbled together for us over the years. They like to claim they are on the side of “science.” In fact, they propped up the Blank Slate orthodoxy for more than half a century. Virtually every behavioral “expert” and “scientist” in the US played along, peddling the claim that there’s no such thing as human nature, a claim that’s transparently bogus to any reasonably intelligent 10 year old. It was the greatest scientific debacle of all time, and the most dangerous, because it blocked our path to self-understanding.

    As is often the case, it took an outsider, the “mere playwright” Robert Ardrey, to smash the Blank Slate orthodoxy. Largely as a result of four popular books on the subject he published between 1961 and 1976 the Blank Slate became a laughing stock among intelligent lay people, and the whole, elaborate house of cards slowly began to crumble. Ardrey’s reward was to be made an unperson among the academics he shamed and humiliated, along with such lesser opponents of the Blank Slate as Konrad Lorenz and Irenaus Eible-Eibesfeldt. A single paragraph is devoted to him in Steven Pinker’s bogus “history,” of the Blank Slate, and then only to claim that he was “totally and utterly wrong.” In one of scientific history’s more amusing ironies, the basis for Pinker’s claim wasn’t Ardrey’s insistence on the existence and importance of human nature, the main theme of all his books. Rather, it was his support for group selection. It turns out that the surrogate Pinker chose as the “real” slayer of the Blank Slate dragon, E. O. Wilson, has outed himself as an even more ardent supporter of group selection than Ardrey in his last few books! No matter, Pinker’s fairy tale is now generally accepted as the “true” version of the history of the Blank Slate.

  33. Of course your diet can have a significant effect on your health. Do you think a lifetime of shoveling crap into your body is going to result in pleasant middle or senior years?

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