Ev. & Blogs

Evolution & Blogs:

Grim's Hall is not a popular blog. It ranks reasonably high in the Ecosystem, where we are a Large Mammal at #408; but we have never had anything like the traffic the big blogs get. I've been idly considering the issue, and I think this is why:

1) Evolution: For fourteen thousand years or so, before civilization but during an important period of development for mankind, small bands of hunter-gatherers depended very closely on each other for survival. There are some lingering effects that touch on how blogs operate. Two of them are that the majority of people are extroverts; and that there is a strong, evolutionary drive in most people to desire agreement. Both of these drives developed because they kept the social networks of hunter-gatherer groups strong, which would tend to ensure survival and reproduction.

Most people are extroverts, which means among other things that they get their opinions from other people. That is, they decide what to think by talking to their social circle, feeling out what range of opinions is acceptable in that circle, and then staking out a position in the center of it. They don't approach issues by thinking about them in the sense of applying logic to principles; people who do that, who arrive at conclusions based on private thought, are quite rare. Such people are the only sort who will be comfortable here, because anyone who stays here long (including me, on many occasions) will have their ideas challenged and be forced to defend them on merit. The only merit most people are accustomed to seeking is 'it is commonly agreed.' Such people, most people, will not remain here because they will eventually be hit and be unable to reply.

The second drive is agreeability: the desire to find yourself in agreement with others. This has two expressions. The first is a willingness to yield on your own ideas in order to 'go along' with the crowd. The second is the desire to be a gatekeeper: to force others to go along with you. Most people express both tendencies strongly. You can see the results in any clique, from teenage girls to academics. People who have opinions outside the range of acceptable ones submit, or they are punished by the rest of the group. Either they themselves exercise agreeability by yielding, or others enforce it. Some people, I have noticed, feel it so important to enforce agreeability that they are happy to resort to the most ugly and brutal insults in order to silence people who are saying something they don't want to hear.

That kind of agreeability is simply forbidden here. The rules of the Hall are designed to promote the exact opposite: a place where people disagree, strongly, but with mutual respect. The weight of human evolution runs entirely against such an attitude.

That is not to say it is unnatural. Just as the great majority of humanity has brown eyes, there is a minority which naturally has blue. There are introverts, people who think carefully about things, and people who don't feel any particular need to have others agree with them -- or not much of one. They are something of a minority in the world, but they do exist. They will be happy here.

I think this will preclude us from ever being the next Kos, say. These two drives that are so important to most of humanity will not be satisfied here. Those for whom they are important will drift away. But there are other things that will be found, for those who are of that special few. You will find your thinking is improved by disagreement. If your interest is in truth, rather than social acceptability, you will find it here -- either someone will bring it to you, and you will discover it while trying to attack it; or you may bring it yourself, and find that your confidence and faith in it is reinforced by seeing honest, wholehearted failures to refute it; or we may find it together.

If that is what you want, welcome. If it isn't -- well, you were fairly warned.

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