April 14, 2019


Robert Salpolsky

Dear Professor,
I have finished reading Behave with great interest and pleasure.  Thank you for writing such a splendid book on such an important topic, and on a more personal level thanks for responding to my earlier note; that puts you into stratospheric levels of prosociality.  I do have a question so let me put it into context.  

I am a Southerner, and I see you rate us as an honor-based society.  You generally soften things you say about bad actors, but not so us.  “Honor” killings ring no bells with me nor vendettas, although there had been one in Rosewood not so far from Gainesville.  My only classmate who mentioned it was in total condemnation.  Honor systems rate low on IQ and prosociality.  Have it your way, but I think that means you can cut me a bit of slack on that basis.

I grew up in an authoritarian household.  The rules were few, reasonable and invariant.  Once you had them, total freedom was yours within those bounds.  I know you favor the more touchy, feely authoritative style.  My feeling is that I was happy with the arrangement.  Rules in the wide world are squishier and thus harder to use.  My parents loved us boys with a reliability equal to the rules.  Happy childhood led to happy life.  In fact, I am essentially immune to depression, which has come in quite handy.  Nonetheless if more slack is needed, I’m sure you will hack out more. 

I am high status.  For example, when I was in college (up north) there was a tradition that if the visiting football team won, they’d break down the goal posts.  We were pathetic at football, and one day after a typically bad showing a bunch of guys from the other side started to break down a goal post.  A friend and I watched amazed at how the goalpost whipped back and forth without breaking.  I told my friend to follow and went to the pack belaboring the nearer upright, maybe 15 guys my size.  I laid hands on the shoulders of the first one I reached and said, “Let go.”  He didn’t.  I put a little muscle in it and pulled until I ripped his arms and hands free, saying, “You’re going for a ride.”  (A bluff.)  He turned around and asked, “Why?”  “You’re tearing down the goalpost.”  “No, I’m holding it up.”  “Ok, then.”  He made his way to safety while I turned my attention to the next and the next until the bottom half dozen, almost crushed to death by the pile of meat on top of them, were only too ready to melt away.  I glanced at the other upright, where the lads were already scattering.  I went back to my friend and turned my palms up.  I’m glad I did it.  When the wood snapped somebody might have got hurt.  And I imagine they went home and laughed about how stupid I was.  But if you want me to think somebody else has status as high as mine, find one who has faced down thirty aggressive young men his own size and age.  I could multiply examples, but you get the point. 

The issue at stake is that a human population of well shy of 2,000 adults with random mating will die out in ten or 11 generations or less.  So any population that fails to maintain a Them-Us perspective will have selection coming down like a hammer on a walnut.  Like many statements, there are ambiguities (probably although I don’t know what), unknowns like whether humans have a mechanism for limiting folate effect better than fruit flies and how big a population needs to be neither to grow nor decline and how you get there, and exceptions, pretty much fantasies like cloning, cryopreservation with resuscitation and transhumanism.  But the bottom line is the same.  If you have that DVD I gave you, you will find proof beyond all doubt.  One of the workers I cite, Calhoun, you cite yourself.  (If you have chucked the DVD, of course I’d be happy to replace it.)  Don’t wish Them-Using to die.  We’d die with it.  In fact it may already be too late since the families that produce bright, productive people like you will die out first … ta, ta high tech society … here come the seven or eight billion to find food in a world that could feed two billion under the best of conditions, and things won’t be the best … doom and gloom, doom and gloom.    

By the way, I like your homunculus idea.  Ah that we could chat about it, but the present topic is urgent. 

So let’s say I, as I have done hundreds of times, find somebody who has published something related and send that perdaughter, the information.  There is no gainsaying it, so what is the reaction?

My reaction has been over the past thirty years and more to dedicate myself to warning the world.  If there is anything better to do, more prosocial, less hostile to Them, I’d like to know it.  

Over the years I have got two scientists to publish supporting material.  I am most impressed, although neither will answer my messages any longer.  (Like hostile Them-Ussary this subject gets more bitter over time.) 

At the very least people who care about anything should toss the idea about.  I think that has happened a couple of times. 

Moving from best reaction toward worse, somebody might drop by and shoot me dead on my own threshold, snarling, “Racist,” (total lie   – after you pass 9th cousin all strangers are alike) over the carcass.  This would be bad, but maybe it would make me a martyr.  It hasn’t happened. 

The most antisocial reaction possible is to do nothing at all.  And that is what I get 99% of the time.  How could anyone be so vile?  If I fail, everyone’s life is meaningless.  This is an idea the time for which has come; look at the rise of populism.  Populism won’t save us.  It can only move us a couple of orders of magnitude toward safety.  Five more orders of magnitude to go.  They need but look into the eyes of anybody born this safety to see somebody who will be a cannibal, be eaten by cannibals or both. 

Do they think I’m beneath notice?  It would take a pathological inability to read social clues.

Do they think it’s not their field?  It’s everybody’s field.

Can they not follow the reasoning?  It’s dead easy, and I’m here to help. 

Did they have a touchy-feely childhood and regard everything as relative?  I can’t see it.

Can they not remember from one step in the reasoning to the next?  By and large these are published scientists. 

Does abstract reasoning fry their association centers?  Surely they know how to grab a snack and a nap. 

Is the truth too terrible to contemplate?  They managed to survive learning they will some day die. 

Once a population has undergone outbreeding to the point it is doomed, selection must perforce eliminate it as fast as possible as it is a threat to the whole species.  Is part of this selective pressure an inborn urge to choose a biologically unsuitable mate?  I know of no data to work with.  Is part of that self-destruct mechanism an inability or a refusal to comprehend the truth?  I don’t see how selection could have done that.

Do they think God would never let it happen?  He sure lets a lot of bad stuff happen.  You could make an argument that this message is the one the Old Testament prophets hammered on, but I don’t know what to do with the idea. 

So I am baffled.  My question should be obvious: what should I do to get this out to the world?  Get them to do the prosocial thing.  Put a pair of eyes on my letterhead?  Point out that I’m going to post the letter on YouTube? 



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