Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tragedy Of The Commons VI: Conscience Is Self-Eliminating




We can’t control population by an appeal to conscience. Hardin says the argument is straightforward and Darwinian.

* Some people will respond to the appeal to conscience more than others;

* Those who don’t will produce more of the next generation;

* Differences will increase with each generation, with more active breeders coming to dominate.

(I believe this is the case for other appeals to conscience. A polluter has an economic advantage over his more scrupulous competitor. Because people organize to defend and expand their interests the more successful competitors will be better able to codify their right to pollute -- and to increase their increasingly larger share of the commons -- and to persuade others of the propriety of their doing so. This would extinguish Homo greenus, replaced by Homo pollutus.)

I’ll quote the entire final paragraph of this section, but Hardin uses a word “exosomatically” which I couldn’t find in either my dictionary or college Biology textbook. He’s talking about attitudes that children acquire from family custom and other social conditioning. (Exo=Outside; Somatic=Body)

“The argument assumes that conscience or the desire for children (no matter which) is hereditary -- but hereditary only in the most general formal sense. The result will be the same whether the attitude is transmitted through germ cells, or exosomatically, to use A. J. Lotka’s term. (If one denies the latter possibility as well as the former, then what’s the point of education?) The argument has been stated in the context of the population problem, but it applies equally well to any instance in which society appeals to an individual exploiting a commons to restrain himself for the general good -- by means of his conscience. To make such an appeal is to set up a selective system that works toward the elimination of conscience from the race.”

(Once again, you don’t have to be a Darwinian to buy this. If you kept tall people from marrying, you would breed short people. If you kept literate people from marrying, you would breed illiterates. If you rewarded short or illiterate people for marrying, the results would be the same.)

1 comment:

Arindom Borah said...

Exosomatic memory is defined as memory stored outside or without the involvement of the brain. Thus, I think that Hardin is referring to the desire to have progeny of humans, whether they are conveyed through germ cells i.e outside influence or whether this desire arises exosomatically. Hardin is elaborating on the wish to have children, and he says that how this wish is transferred or brought upon on human beings is not a big deal. I don't think he is referring to "He’s talking about attitudes that children acquire from family custom and other social conditioning" as that doesn't make sense in this context.That's what I think. Will be happy to be proved wrong.