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Nicolas, I second everything you wrote, so I'll just add two points:
- The aspect unique to mankind is that consciousness and intelligence have
made culture more important than biological determinism - so any theory
based on that sort of determinism and negating or ignoring the role of
culture (in the broadest sense) should be examined with great skepticism.
- I was mentioning Orwell's "1984" yesterday because Orwell made a wonderful
demonstration of the importance of language. Controlling language (Newspeak)
was a key aspect of totalitarianism, and history was constantly rewritten to
make the past conform to the reality-du-jour determined by Big Brother. I
leave it up to Len to make a connection with SGML/XML historical revisionism
There *is* another connection to XML... Controlling vocabularies and
ontologies - i.e. language - will give tremendous power to those who do, as
discussed in Clay Shirky's enlightening piece , so it "should" not be
done without democratic control in any domain that truly matters. Let's keep
our fingers crossed.
ObFrenchBookReference: Pierre Bourdieu's Language and Symbolic Power. A very
hard read that I just undertook, but this time it's available in english 
so there's not excuse to ignore it, right ? I'll check the Amazon Sales Rank
and see it get closer to the top, or at least higher than .
Alain (who just laid an egg)
----- Original Message -----
From: "Nicolas Lehuen" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "'Francis Norton'" <email@example.com>; "'Matthew Gertner'"
Cc: <firstname.lastname@example.org>; <email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, March 28, 2002 1:37 PM
Subject: RE : [xml-dev] Capitalism and XML
Sorry, I'm not a chicken, I don't lay eggs, and I'm not interested in
anyone trying to "improve" humanity with the perspective of making it
"lay more eggs", whatever this translates into for human beings. I don't
believe in so-called "social evolution" when the objective is only
Sociobiology is blinded by its motto that any human behaviour is
explained by evolution and genetics. This motto is highly dubious. I
really wish you could read this book  by Alfred Jacquard and Axel
Kahn, two geneticists, since they pretty well explain why this is
clueless (well, the book is in French and out of print, so I guess it
won't be easy for you to read).
It really annoys me when people in white coats try to build simplistic
models of human individual and group behaviour. They use statistics to
try to prove things and justify the current weird state of humanity.
This so-called "scientifical" approach is very impressive, and people
tend to listen to them, without ever thinking that there may (must) be a
big difference between the model and the reality.
Once again, I'm not a chicken laying eggs ; what you can prove by
experience and statistics with chicken and eggs can't be applied to
human beings with a free-will (well, at least compared to chicken, I
don't want to discuss about free-will now).
Like one of my old statistics teacher once told us, "statistics are like
bikinis, they show almost everything but hide the most important".
The human brain is a marvelous engine that allows humanity to escape its
animal condition and break the biological evolutionary rules. Nothing,
nowhere, ever told us that we should behave like chicken laying eggs. We
have brains, and we can change this.
Nothing, nowhere, ever told us that it was "bad" not to behave like
animals, that it was bad to refuse simplistic evolutionary doctrines and
help people with physical weaknesses to live instead of letting them
die, to help the people who are poor (as a result of the economical game
we wrote and forced them to follow) to live better.
Nothing, nowhere ever told us that social selection should be made with
regards to the ability of each person to gather wealth from its
environment, apart from people that have already placed themselves in a
good position in the economical game.
Nothing, nowhere told us that social evolution should follow the rules
of a capitalist market.
Some people feel confident in capitalism because "basing social
evolution on economical grounds is a natural continuation of biological
evolution". I don't think so, and I don't agree.
Either your concern is to stick as close as possible to biological
evolution, because "mother Nature made it this way, so it must be good",
and in this case you should forget about social evolution, forget your
brains, and live like animals.
Or, you reckon that humanity has a free-will with regards to its
evolution, and then you should not blindly follow evolution patterns
like capitalism without seriously thinking about it.
You have to ask yourself, "What if capitalism and its sociobiological
justification were wrong ? What are the consequences ?". The
consequences are the state of the world right now, with a small number
of people who wrote the rules and are living well with it, and billions
of people who suffer from it. From a satirical point of view, this is
what it looks like : .
De : Francis Norton [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Envoyé : jeudi 28 mars 2002 12:40
À : Matthew Gertner
Cc : 'email@example.com'; firstname.lastname@example.org
Objet : Re: [xml-dev] Capitalism and XML
Matthew Gertner wrote:
>There's an interesting article in the Economist this week
>a good reactionary I read reactionary rags) that points out that purely
>selfish behavior based on this principle can lead to altruistic
>the macro level. Good news for everyone, I say.
Excellent article. Anyone interested in a sociobiological explanation
for altruism that goes beyond kin-selection to explain the specific
circumstances where group selection *does* lead to altruism could take a
look at "Unto Others" by Elliott Sobers and David Sloan Wilson,
particularly the first half. The criteria are surprisingly simple - you
need group selection, obviously, to reward the altruism, but you also
need regular reshuffling of the groups to reduce the opportunity for
selfish units to squeeze altruistic units out of the group. They
illustrated this by an example where farms were able to increase
egg-laying capacity by selecting groups of chickens which chared cages,
rather than just the individual best layers. Turned out that selecting
only individuals was selecting those that laid the greatest stress on
their colleagues - err... I mean cage-mates - so didn't scale up as
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