Re: An essay I just wrote on the Singularity.

From: Perry E. Metzger (
Date: Fri Jan 02 2004 - 15:06:29 MST

Lawrence Foard <> writes:
> On Fri, 2 Jan 2004, Perry E. Metzger wrote:
> [...]
>> So what sort of strategies does evolution favor? Quite a number of
>> them, actually, but none of them can be characterized as "pacifist".
> Not pacifist, but also not unreasoningly or overly aggressive.

If you think ours is not an extraordinarily vicious and aggressive
race, I direct you to the nearest factory farm or slaughterhouse. Most
people are fully aware of where their food comes from, and yet we (in
general) have very little compunction about continuing to eat it.

By the way, I will repeat a contention I've made pretty frequently,
with a new example. There are people out there that say "meat is
murder". There are people who enjoy a good steak. Which of them is
"morally correct"? What is the experiment we can conduct that will
answer this question? I contend there is none, and that there is no
answer because absolute morality is an illusion.

> Aggression tends to bring self defense,

Our race intelligently tends to stop being vicious only when self
defense is likely (as in when dealing with other humans) and tends to
be pretty brutal when dealing with life forms unable to defend
themselves effectively. Baboons can be pretty nasty creatures, but as
we've got the cages and they don't, guess who is used in who's vaccine

That's not to say, by the way, that I draw any sort of absolute
morality under which gluing the feet of geese to the bottoms of cages
and force feeding them to make their livers particularly tasty is
"evil". I don't believe there is an absolute morality, so I'm not
going to pretend that it is somehow "wrong" to turn geese into foie
gras. However, you would be pretty much incorrect if you thought the
geese weren't pissed off about the process -- it is very obvious that
they're miserable. (One might argue if animals can suffer, but the
arguments used to claim they can't could just as easily be applied to
other people -- I'm going to stipulate that if a cat screams in pain
when you stick it with a hot iron that it is in fact suffering.)

> You will often see that predators have evolved strategies to
> avoid actual aggression, instead resolving disputes with a proxy aggression
> to assert dominance and territory.

*With each other*, since two members of the same species have nearly
the same capacity for violence. It is rare that you will see
cheetahs negotiating with herds of antelope to try to non-violently
settle their "disputes".

Evolution is not, however, free of aggression even within species. I
would direct you to the latest data on the behavior of our nearest
relatives, the chimps and bonobos. They're pretty nasty when they feel
they can get away with it -- as, by the way, are people. It is just
that most creatures have evolved not to get into fights they will lose
if they can help it, and thus there are fairly few intra-species
combats compared to inter-species ones.

Perry E. Metzger

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