Can one be a principled moderate?

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot! So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. — Revelations, 3:14-16

“No one likes a Jesus freak.” — Anon, the internet

From a memetic point of view, most ideologies would like their adherents to be strong believers. What good to memetic Christianity, after all, is someone who does not bother to spread Christianity? As a matter of principle, there is something hypocritical–intellectually inconsistent or dishonest–about people who profess to believe an ideology, but lay down some boundary beyond which they do not bother to follow it.

And yet, at the same time, we often feel a very practical aversion to ideological extremists. People who believe in social safety nets so because they don’t want poor people to starve in the streets may also genuinely believe that communism was a disaster.

Ideologies are rather like maps, and I have yet to encounter a map that accurately reflected every aspect of the Earth’s surface at once (Mercator maps of Greenland, I am looking at you.) The world is a complicated place, and all ideological models seek to illuminate human behavior by reducing them to understandable patterns.

Like any map, this is both a strength and a weakness. We do not throw out a map because it is imperfect; even a Mercator map is still a valuable tool. We also do not deny the existence of a sandbar we have just struck simply because it is not on our charts. Even religions, which profess perfection due to divine revelation, must still be actually put into practice by obviously imperfect human believers.

In extreme versions of ideologies, the goal often ceases to be some practical, real world outcome, and becomes instead proving one’s own ideological purity. SJWs are the most common embodiment of this tendency, arguing endlessly over matters like, “Does Goldiblocks’s advertising/packaging de-value girls’ princess play?” or “Asking immigrants not to rape is racist colonialization of POC bodies.” There are many organizations out there trying to decrease the number of black people who are murdered every year, but you have probably never heard of any of the successful ones. By contrast, the one group liberals actually support and pay attention to, “Black Lives Matter,” has, by driving police out of black communities, actually increased the number of black people who’ve been murdered.

Within the holiness spiral, actually denying reality becomes the easiest way to prove to be even holier than the next guy. The doctrine of transubstantiation claims that a piece of bread has been transformed into the body of Christ even though no physical, observable change has occurred. Almost everyone agrees that the police shouldn’t choke people to death during routine arrests; it takes true devotion to believe that the police shouldn’t shoot back at people who are shooting at them.

A holiness spiral is only useful if you’re actually spiraling into holiness.

The simple observation that extreme versions of ideologies often seem to lead their followers to lose contact with reality is perhaps reason enough for someone to profess some form of principled moderatism.

And yet, I know for certain that were I a religious person, I would not be moderate. (I base this on my childhood approach to religion and the observances of my biological relatives–I wager I have a genetic inclination toward intense religiosity.) Since few people convert away from the religion they were raised with, if I were a believer from a Hindu family, I’d be a devout Hindu; if I were a believer from a Catholic family, I’d attend mass in Latin; if Jewish, I’d be Orthodox Jewish. You get the picture.

After all, what is the point of going to Heaven (or Hell,) only a little bit?

To be continued.

 

Genetic Aristotelian Moderation

I suspect a lot of genetic traits (being that many involve the complex interaction of many different genes) are such that having a little bit of the trait is advantageous, but having too much (or conversely, too little) is negative.

A few obvious examples:

Aggression: too much, and you go to jail. Historically, prison conditions were awful enough in the West that this likely exerted an upper bound on the population’s criminality by eliminating violent people from the gene pool.

But too little, and you get taken advantage of. You can’t compete in job interviews, get promoted, make friends, or ask people out on dates. Aggressive people take your stuff, and you can’t protect against them.

From getting jobs to getting mates to not being mugged, a little bit of aggression is clearly a good thing.

Intelligence: High IQ is tremendously mal-adaptive in modern society. (This may always have been true.) The upper end of the IQ curve basically does not have children. (On both micro and macro levels.) I’m not prepared to say whether this is a bug or a feature.

But, low IQ appears to also maladaptive. This was certainly true historically in the West, where extremely high death rates and intense resource competition left the dumber members of society with few surviving offspring. Dumb people just have trouble accomplishing the things necessary for raising lots of children.

Somewhat above average IQ appears to be the most adaptive, at least in the present and possibly historically.

Height: Really tall men have health problems and die young. Really short men are considered undateable and so don’t have children. So the pressure is to be tall, but not too tall.

(Speculatively) Depression: Too much depression, and you commit suicide. Not enough, and you’re a happy-go-lucky person who drops out of school and punches people. Just enough, and you work hard, stay true to your spouse, don’t get into fights, and manage to do all of the boring stuff required by Western society. (Note: this could have changed in the past hundred years.)

Sickle Cell Anemia: I don’t think I need to explain this one.

(Also speculative) Tay Sach’s: Tay Sach’s is a horrible neurological disease that shows up in populations with evidence of very high recent pressure to increase IQ, such as Ashkenazim (one of the worlds’ highest IQ groups) and Quebecois. There is therefore speculation that in its heterozygous form, Tay Sach’s may enhance neural development, instead of killing you hideously.