Richard Dawkins and the Utility Good of Soul

Wait…wut?  Richard Dawkins, the famous “athorist” (intellectual atheist) believes in souls?  Then I saw the “Passionate Rationalist” part– of course he does!  As long as it helps sell books and win converts for “athorism” the “soul” has utility good.

The book isn’t out yet but it drew my attention by being mentioned in the recent Dawkins no-platforming on a Berkeley radio station, KPFA.

I view Dawkins as a defector from Science Tribe.  After all, he understands full well  the biological basis of behavior, and even co-wrote a chapter in John Maynard-Smith’s book Evolution and the Theory of Games.  JMS credits Dawkins with the invention of the term CSS, Culturally Stable Strategy, an extension of the ESS (Evolutionarily Stable Strategy) to cultures.  And humans are born with an inherited tendency to believe in the supernatural (Tomasello 2006)– athorism is the premise that somehow humans can magically overcome biology with “rationalism” and intellect.

So why has Dawkins switched from attacking Christianity to attacking Islam?  I think Dawkins has just switched from the soft target (ethnic xians–where he still can farm converts) to the hard target (where he gets no converts because Islam is a CSS).

Here is an excerpt from Dawkins letter to the KPFA radio station.

If you had consulted me, or if you had done even rudimentary fact-checking, you would have concluded that I have never used abusive speech against Islam. I have called IslamISM “vile” but surely you, of all people, understand that Islamism is not the same as Islam. I have criticised the ridiculous pseudoscientific claims made by Islamic apologists (“the sun sets in a marsh” etc), and the opposition of Islamic “ scholars” to evolution and other scientific truths. I have criticised the appalling misogyny and homophobia of Islam, I have criticised the murdering of apostates for no crime other than their disbelief. Far from attacking Muslims, I understand – as perhaps you do not – that Muslims themselves are the prime victims of the oppressive cruelties of Islamism, especially Muslim women.

?? What is islamism other than belief in Islam, theory and practice?  This is a riddickulous argument.  Dawkins IS attacking Islam.  All the practices Dawkins bemoans are set out in the theory of the Quran and transformed into islamic law via tafsir and isnad.  No, Dawkins is attacking Islam just as surely as Hirsi Ali is attacking Islam.  Dawkins and Ali are isomorphic– scaremongering.

However, while there is likely some whack rationalist argument why Islamism != Islam, the empirical fact is Islamism = belief in Islam.  Therefore deductively attacking Islamism = attacking Islam.

I’m sure my ex-commentariat at SSC can throw up an induction word salad to prove this only might be true, but watever.   I think social physics is going to be the stake in the heart of the rationalists, passionate or not.  And I can’t wait.

Is Razib Khan Cracking Up?

Roughly two years after the New York Times terminated Razib Khan’s contract after a single day, Khan has severed all visible connection with Unz and VDare, and shut down “The Secular Right” –the weblog he shared with John “Sun People/ Ice People” Derbyshire.  Quarantining himself has not led to the NYT proffering a new contract.  And Khan seems to be growing increasingly incensed over the treatment of conservative quasi-scientists like Charles Murray at American universities.  He claims that university students are acting like the “Red Guard” in China’s cultural revolution, showing a profound lack of understanding of the Cultural Revolution and Chinese history from that period.  And this presumes that Murray Racial IQ Theory is indeed science, when its actually a dusty 20+ year old hypoth that has been serially discredited and is of little contemporary value.  I have no problem with Murray speaking on behalf of AEI, a known white nationalist “think-tank”.  And Murray is a political scientist, not a social scientist or a geneticist.

But the craziest thing I saw today was this treatment of John Maynard Smith’s tremendous Evolutionary Theory of Games.  EGT is something that is very current today, in complex adaptive game theory and in the wonderful EGG research project, for example.

Right.  But if Khan “forces himself” to talk about JMS concept of ESS (Evolutionarily Stable Strategy) isnt he going to have to give up on “reforming” Islam?  Because Islam is actually a CSS (Culturally Stable Strategy), a term contributed by Richard Dawkins himself (mirable dictu) to JMS book.

If Khan actually understands the ESS/CSS concept of EGT, then he knows its not possible to “reform” Islam without rewriting the Quran, a book soon to be read by a quarter of the world’s population– and that doesnt seem possible.

An evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) is a strategy which, if adopted by a population in a given environment, cannot be invaded by any alternative strategy that is initially rare. It is relevant in game theory, behavioural ecology, and evolutionary psychology. An ESS is an equilibrium refinement of the Nash equilibrium. It is a Nash equilibrium that is “evolutionarilystable: once it is fixed in a population, natural selection alone is sufficient to prevent alternative (mutant) strategies from invading successfully.

I think he’s cracking up.