Best Ever

I’m not sure I need to ask why people over-value things familiar to them. Is there such a thing and a Pangloss Syndrome: We all live in the best of all possible worlds? For most people, it seems, their nation is the best nation, the best county, province, or state, the best city, town, or village. Perhaps I’m over reaching, but we do tend to value these things as remarkably better than average, and isn’t it nice that we weren’t born somewhere else?

I’m not sure if this affinity runs stronger in different political mindsets, Liberals versus Conservatives or such. Anecdotally, I could see Conservatives hanging on the memory of the good old days, if only it weren’t for X, Y, or Z, this would truly be a great [insert geolocational reference]. Liberals, instead, hang on to the prospect of tweaking a nice foundation and progressively shaping it.

Our village is better than the adjacent ones—except for the ones out of financial reach, but those are populated with those wealthier people, and who could tolerate them; our team is the best team—better luck next year; our schools are the best schools—they try harder.

Behavioural economics demonstrates that people value things they own— endowment effect: even if they didn’t choose the item; even if they had valued it less just moments before they took possession of it. This might likely be explained as an product of evolution, but it feels to have gotten out of hand.

Humanism is Speciesism

Why is racism wrong but speciesism OK? Primarily, other species have no voice, and to have no voice is to have no say. This advert got my attention.

Joaquin Phoenix Advert

Humanism is part and parcel of specious Enlightenment tripe, where ‘coincidentally‘ humans put themselves at the forefront. Copernicus removed Earth from the centre — though to be fair, even Christians had elevated gender-non-specific-Man above other animals — , but Humanism makes it more poignant that it’s Man at centre not God. Gods be damned. In fact, it’s often an afterthought that humans are animals at all, despite only the slightest veneer of consciousness and, more to the point, language to separate us from them.

Otherness has proven itself to be an evolutionary survival aspects, one that has brought me tho a point where I can write this, so one can call it natural, another term fraught with connotational baggage. To be able to differentiate and discriminate appear to be valuable attributes, but how much is enough, and how much is too much.

Buddhism teaches that we are all one with the cosmos, that any distinction is an illusion. Buddhist Enlightenment — not to be confused with Western Enlightenment — is to understand this, to not be bound to the illusion.

But, if racism is wrong, why is speciesism OK? Humans do give some animals some rights, and some places give different animals different rights, whilst other give animals categorically more and fewer rights. Some places ascribe divinity upon animals, elevating them above humans.

Racism seems to be more wrong because humans are more genetically homogeneous — at least phenotypically. Other mammals and herptiles don’t look so much like us. In observation, when they do, we have an additional layer of empathy, so chimps and canines with expressive eyes gain sympathy not afforded crustaceans and pinnipeds.

I don’t have an answer save to say that it’s just convenient and some day we may see a world as portrayed by science fiction where some — mostly bipedal species — live quasi-harmoniously with humans. But even there, humans are always the start, front and centre to provide to moral POV.

Evolutionary Morality

Listening to the Robert Wright’s audiobook, Moral Animal, it’s become even more apparent that ethics and morality are the results of a later stage of an evolutionary strategy. Not that he’s saying that.

After cognitive abilities came language and then, presumably, ethics then moral proto-structures. Subsequently, gods and God came into fashion.

That morality is the result of evolutionary progression is not particularly controversial, but sociobiologists seem to view the evolutionary development of morals as a parallel to Chomsky’s theory of innate language and universal grammar. My modification is that morality (as distinct from mores, customs, and such) necessarily requires language and cannot exist independent of language.

Given the evolutionary perspective, it is obvious that this concept will not be popular for those who do not support this base position, but it should not much of a stretch for those who do.