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Thornton Hall

The Revolution Will Be Kuhnian.

A Summary of some Theses I May or May Not Believe [Halfassed]

  1. Darwin is the science of living things and this includes human behavior and human social behavior.  
  2. The challenge facing humanity is that we have the ability to change our own environment much faster than we can evolve genetically.  
  3. This would have made our species an evolutionary dead end but for our ability to evolve socially.  
  4. Cultural evolution is therefore the key to our continued survival (although the intellectual history of the notion of human “culture” has probably ruined that word). 
  5. Biology does not reduce to physics. 
  6. Past paradigms persist in our language, and particularly our metaphors, long after the science has been revolutionized. 
  7. The central metaphor of biology, and therefore the metaphor we should use to understand ourselves, at all levels of organization, is the ecosystem.  
  8. Examples of old metaphors out-living their paradigm include the mix of Aristotle and Plato that lingers in "ladders" of life and the up/down dichotomy generally, and also reasoning from something’s essence or essential nature.
  9. During the Enlightenment, the science of Newton was consciously applied to our understanding of ourselves.  
  10. This wasn’t the triumph of science over superstition. Aquinas and other scholastics had removed superstition from the Church and replaced it with the most up to date science of the time: Aristotle.
  11. Newton applied to human behavior was the triumph of Newton over Aristotle. Note 1
  12. But Newton isn’t the science of living things, Newton is physics. 
  13. The word “science” in “social science” was synonymous with “Newtonian science.” 
  14. The term political science originally meant: Newton applied to politics. Political economy meant: Newton applied to money. History as a social science discipline meant Newton applied to history.  
  15. People introduced to a scientific revolution will (among other things) use the new language of the revolution to express their most deeply held OLD IDEAS in an effort to preserve those old ideas.
  16. Those marginalized in the current paradigm because they are wrong will be among the earliest adopters of new language in the hopes of reviving old wrong ideas.
  17. Thus, Aristotle and his hierarchies got expressed as "Social Darwinism" and "Cultural Evolution."  
  18. The mainstream of intellectuals when introduced to a scientific revolution will simply declare that their most deeply held views are not implicated in the revolution, or adequately addressed by some shallow correction.
  19. Unfortunately but predictably, the popular rejection of Aristotle (dressed up as Darwin) was not from the new (powerless) Darwinians, but from the established powers of academia: the Newtonians. 
  20. That is to say: the "Social Darwinism" espoused by free-martketeers arguing that those in poverty were simply losers in the process of natural selection was not defeated by actual Darwin applied to the social world. It was rejected in favor of the status quo: a Newtonian understanding of the human social world.
  21. The Newtonians are wrong about everything.  
  22. The Newtonians are scientific in that they engage with reality and make efforts to bring their theories in line with it. But these improvements make the theory less wrong, not more right (e.g., "rational actors" in economics becomes "bounded rationality;" oppression = class + force replaces “class” with “intersectionality").
  23. But less wrong never gets to right.  
  24. Making Newtonian approaches to understanding human behavior less wrong is what academics call “opening up a tremendous amount of possibilities for new research.”
  25. The right approach is basically that of E.O. Wilson.
  26. Human consciousness and free will mean that human cultural evolution will not be the exact same process as basic genetic evolution. But it is still evolution.
  27. Newtonians point out differences between the two and claim that means cultural evolution is wrong, only to go back to their Newtonian way of thinking.
  28. Four powerful institutions are the political system, the popular media including news, the academy, and the voters.
  29. The media and the academy have gotten stuck in the old paradigm.
  30. Media is stuck in the Post War mode and thinks that's the only mode there can be.
  31. They've especially confused themselves because they think doing it Post War style is fundamental to democracy.
  32. Media has an interface with reality: the market. The pressure is on to sell newspapers. They've tied themselves up in knots because they have an ethical rule that says they are not supposed to try to sell newspapers. But the flood is coming.
  33. Academy is much more protected from reality.
  34. Everyone is qualified for higher education. Everyone needs higher education. There is no reason to have separate funds for liberal education and practical education. The reason we still do is academics flatter themselves.
  35. Trump's core voters are non-college whites. 
  36. Non-college whites have very good reason to resent elites. They won't accept their children at their college, but they do have affirmative action which means black and Hispanic kids do get in. The fact that affirmative action does almost nothing to lift black and Hispanic communities is neither here nor there.
  37. Non-college whites treat academics as just a sub-set of Democrats. This is mostly right.




1. Voltaire, when asked, would have said “I am a Newtonian philosopher.” The most important book Voltaire wrote in his early days was an explication of Newton’s Opticks.  

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