by Douglas Moreman begun in June 2013
Some Basic Considerations
Groups Die. A group can die of disease, famine, fire, flood, war, ...
Since, sooner or later, a group of a social species must die, how can there continue to exist groups of that species? We conclude that
Do there exist instinctive mechanisms for the reproduction of groups?
Aposyndetic: "apo sin DEH tic" was coined by mathematician F. Burton Jones to be interpreted as
When, before 1975, I first began to think of social instincts and the evolution of groups, the concept of instinct was frowned upon in many American universities where research into the behavior of animals was conducted. Honey bees led me away from that frowning crowd. Observers of bees them reported that the tiny brains of bees encode instinctive mechanisms resulting in several distinct roles that can be played by a worker bee in the course of her life. Contrary to prevailing fashion, I reasoned that the much larger brains of humans might hold hundreds of instincts that can be activated in the course of ones life. Most human instincts, if they exist, are not noticed as such. Are you aware that when you greet a friend you rapidly raise and lower your eyebrows before you smile, for one example? You instinctively, unconsciously emit a signal. Your friend, just as instinctively and without conscious awareness of the flash of your eyebrows, reacts both with internal emotion and external smile.
It has seemed to me that humans are unconscious of many of their behaviors and, in particular, of instinctive aspects of motivations of their social behaviors.
People immitate others without always thinking consciously about why. Often, when caught at it and asked, their answers convey no meaning that is both clear and credible.
In the U.S. Presidential election of 2016, for example, millions of people ardently supported one side or another while uttering rationalizations having tenuous connections to reality. This behavior of asserting and rationalizing belief-without-understanding seems pervasive around the world. I am convinced that it represents an evolved complex of social instincts.
Steven Pinker has seen this practicality that might seem to almost explain the evolution of ardent holding of nonsensical beliefs -- without reference to group-based selection of genes:
People are embraced or condemned according to their beliefs, so one function of the mind may be to hold beliefs that bring the belief-holder the greatest number of allies, protectors, or disciples, rather than beliefs that are most likely to be true.
It is good that many people have a natural sense of mathematics.
To decipher human social behavior, objectively within the context of broader science, will require a mathematical intuition augmenting the empathetic mode of thinking that is commonly used in attempting to understand people.
A possible function of aposyndetic behavior might be to allowing the making of choices among alternatives facing a group.
Social Fission Hypothesis of 1975:
The simple fact that "groups die" entails that, in a social species, groups must reproduce. It seems, to me, unlikely that reproduction of groups would, in even one social species whatsoever, fail to become an object of evolution and come to involve instinctive mechanisms.
A mechanism of reproduction of a group would seem to result in, and otherwise be involved in, evolutionary selection among groups. Yet, some (e.g. Stephen Pinker of Harvard)
Once understood, the Social Fission Hypothesis can lead to a programmable mathematical model to demonstrate that some environmental influences can make selection of some genes stronger via groups than via individuals. And also, the other way round -- can make selection stronger via individuals.
I am currently (June 2013, and still, in December 2014) working, very hard to invent, test and patent methods that make images from echoes, as I imagine that the brains of dolphins do. I cannot now take a great many careful, small steps to convince you of Instinctive Reproduction of Groups. Perhaps you can slog your own way forward with a few more hints:
Natural reproduction is wasteful.
Groups Must Die Fast Enough.
If that average is a bit less than one then the species will slowly die.
A Group's Self-Identifying Stink
The stink of a hive of ants binds members of that hive away from other hives.
The stink of a group need not be chemical. A group-identifier can work through sight of sound generated by behavior.
In some sense, the "stink" of a cult or clique of humans binds members of that group away from other folks.
There exist group-instincts related to discriminating a group more or less strongly from other groups.
One can imagine that, after a panicked flight, a family of zebras can re-form itself, even among hundreds of other zebras, by means of vocalizations. In order for this to work, members of the family must recognize sounds made by some other members of the family. This requires prior practice. So, perhaps, one evolutionary reason for zebras making sounds, in times of rest, is for training in recognition that might be vital later.
Perhaps, as one group defends its territory, or warns-off another group, we can detect group-identifying differences in their vocalizations?
There is already this unsurprising, related evidence: one study is reported to have found that two languages are more or less similar as their native speakers share, on average, more or less similar genetic material.
In the case of humans, what would be a Stink of the Tribe that binds members of a group together away from other groups? It might begin with the synglot, the proper, or eigen, language of a group. A group's synglot combined with other behaviors can become so obnoxiously distinctive that they constitute a macherschnitt, a behavioral complex that cuts its believers away from non-believers. We expect macherschnitts in gangs of teenagers.
Apologia (apo LOH geea): A subset of the synglot of a beliefplex that marks it and marks its enemies.
A Beliefplex is a Stink of the Tribe.
A Beliefplex has component "beliefs." The components of a Beliefplex need not be systematic. In fact, Beliefplexes are so often observed to have nonsensical parts that we have the hypothesis that follows below this supposition:
Suppose that we have an operationally defined measure of "success" of a Beliefplex and that our measure relates to membership. Relates perhaps, specifically, to numbers of members or to the duration of the movement.
Hypothesis of Core Absurdity.
That hypothesis might seem to many readers, on reflection, to be true. But, a more likely refinement of its idea is this:
The most successful Beliefplexes have at least one core utterance that MUST be believed, or pretended to be believed, and that is repellent to most people who are not believers.
Of course, being human and subject to all the human instincts, most of which operate below the level of consciousness, you and I might each indicate our own Belief as a counter-example -- its absurdities seeming reasonable to us.
Through Dilbert, Scott Adams has explained "cognitive dissonance"
When people are in an absurd situation, their minds rationalize it by inventing a comfortable illusion."But surely, believing random absurdities does not make evolutionary sense as a behavior of isolated individuals? To understand this hypothesized phenomenon of required absurdity, we think in terms of existence and evolution of groups. Shared beliefs need not make sense in order to have survival value - what they need do is to differentiate members of the group from non-members. Barking like baboons could do almost as well? The humans species does, of course, have language.
In humans, the Synglot of a group contains, or expresses, the Beliefplex of that group.
The seeming absurdity of the utterances of a Beliefplex both binds a person, through poorly understood psychological mechanisms, to the group of that belief and also separates that person apart from other people.
You may doubt the "apart from" part. Some Beliefplexes are evangelical. They don't want to separate other people away, but to bring them into the loving fold of a forgiving God, for example. They desire peace and joy for everyone and they can even be tolerant of other Beliefplexes. But, somehow, much of the rest of the world remains aloof. Even hostile. As if the believers stink.
Every religion is aposyndetic, binding Believers together apart from non-Believers.
A Beliefplex is like the stink of an ant hive. Ants that have the stink are supported by other members of the hive. Ants that do not exude the proper stink are not encouraged and might be attacked.
Perhaps you have observed for yourself an hours-long discussion within a Beliefplex, in which not one utterance could be checked against facts in the Real World - apart from utterances like "John said that he felt the power of the devil." (which one could check by asking John if he said that)
We do not suspect that those zebras, or similarly behaving dolphins, at least the younger ones, are consciously thinking about their making of noises as training for a future emergency. Nor ought we to assume that of humans.
Do you expect that humans are aware of the future benefits of their instinctive social behaviors? They are not even aware of their eyebrow flashes, to which some part of their brain reacts most every day. They, or we, are not aware of the eyebrow flash made by an equally unaware, newly arrived friend in 1/6 of a second -- even though it, instinctively, increases the friendly component of our mood. Our instincts are largely hidden from us and must be found by observational and modeling methods of science.
For what emergencies might evolution have prepared our groups?
Swarms and Wars
Now, think of human wars over the eons. If you do not have some ardent group to cling to when a really bad war sweeps across your part of the world, you are, it seems, less likely to survive that war.
If you have not yet noticed that war has been an episodic constant among humans for all of recorded history, you are either blinded by a Belief or have not yet read enough relevant history.
Wars have shaped human evolution.
Animals who survive wars, get to pass on their genes.
Genes that cause animals to reproduce their group and to conquer territory seem to survive.
Instinctive elements of warfare existed more than five million years ago in animals that were ancestral both to humans and to chimpanzees.
Beliefplexes play some part in the competition for existence.
Does war between two groups of humans requires that the groups have distinct Beliefplexes?
Seeming Multiplicity of Beliefplexes and Synglots
If some of the behaviors associated with (nearly) every Beliefplex are instinctive then it seems likely (but is not necessary) that everyone has at least one Beliefplex.
Ardently Held "Beliefs" and the Reproduction of Groups
There are terms to be sharpened.
One can think of an instinct as being something like a neuronal computer program that is passed from parents to child via heredity.
A swarm of honey bees does not land near to its old hive (still populated) when it is about to send out scouts to find a new hive-site. One can imagine there might be evolutionary pressure to separate related bee-hives in order to increase the chances of their being enough food within flying distance.
There seems to be a complex of instincts related to splitting away a group of adolescents from a village -- in a social mitosis. But, survival of such a group, long enough to spin-off another group, is seldom likely. Imagine a group containing 50 fiery adolescent males leaving their homes and, in a confident band (or "gang") travel over a mountain and descend into a lush valley - that is already territory of an alliance of villages having 500 hearty men, ready to fight. Most acorns die.
Entraining for War
There is an instinctive mechanism for entraining groups that are, each, splitting away a home village - such that a natural army forms.Entraining mostly draws together groups of similar language.
Men of a village are more likely to be entrained into an army as the language of that village is similar to perceived languages of that army. With increasing similarity of languages, the degree of kinship between village and army increases. This impacts evolution.
Hypothesis: On average, the more similar the language of two groups, the closer is their kinship.
It seems instinctive that humans have some Beliefplex that has some stinkily absurd beliefs and the humans are blind to (or not worried about?) the absurdity or obnoxiousness which is obvious to people who do not share those beliefs. But, I am a human and my brain must be "wired" with that same instinct. I surely have some beliefs that seem stinkily absurd to others. Not just to others who are made crazy by their own beliefs but to nearly all others not in my Beliefplex. I wonder what they are?
to be continued ... This page was modified on