Calling a deer a deer

We all know that most people are pretty good at calling a deer a horse – pretending that the Emperor really is wearing uncommonly fine clothes that are only invisible to stupid or unfit people, etc.

Most of the time, the penalty for calling a deer a deer is not as drastic as that exacted by Zhao Gao. Most of the people saying instantly falsifiable things about current issues are not doing it because someone is holding a gun to their head. Sometimes negative career consequences are a possibility, more often social penalties, but it seems to me that most people want to go along – outside threats are not the biggest drivers.

Now we all know that going along with horseshit can be a bad thing for society as a whole, sometimes even at the individual level. It is good for society to avoid marching off a cliff, and that is also good at the individual level, even if everyone else is doing so.

But being right when nearly everyone else is wrong does not necessarily confer a net benefit.

Sure, you avoid walking on air – but the penalty for conformity is not always that dramatic, while the penalties for _nonconformity_ are almost always there. They happen even if you’re proved right – maybe especially if you’re proved right.

Still, there are some people that prefer the truth to the trend and have enough mental horsepower to get there fairly often.

The question is, is this a bug or a feature? Is it bad for fitness, or is it some kind of minority genetic strategy? Sure, it has some social utility, but that doesn’t pay the genetic bills.

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69 Responses to Calling a deer a deer

  1. People who are remorselessly truthful and honest are effectively anti-social and cause a big stir. Women like anti-social men who cause a big stir; so there’s a decent chance to pass on your genes before you’re executed or banished by the community.

    • ASR says:

      I disagree with your assertion that “Women like anti-social men who cause a big stir” My personal observations and reading of history suggest that when heretics are being burned at the stake or stoned women are the first in line for good seats. Monty Python makes the point rather well:

      • Stand-up comedians, especially observational comedians, basically tell unacceptable truths for laughs. In the recent past, they ended up incarcerated or socially reviled by respectable opinion—today they get cancelled. They always have loads of groupies, because they cause a stir and are the centre of attention and that, to women, equals a high-status and influential mate who sways other men. It’s just, unlike a more stable leader, the radical truth-teller may have a short lifespan.

        • yatusabe says:

          This is also why women aren’t viewed as funny, and those who try to be are seen as unfeminine.

          • Pierrepoint says:

            Young men are funnier than young women while older women are funnier than older men. You’ll see.

            • yatusabe says:

              I can agree with this to some extent, but it only proves our point: the women who are viewed as funny are those that are past what it means to be a woman in the first place, that is, their reproductive age.

              • texan999 says:

                The author of “The Gift of Fear” posits that men are primarily worried that women will laugh at them, while women are worried that men will kill them.

      • Unirt says:

        The thing is that women of course have vastly different preferences and maybe strategies in choosing the males; the women who approve of executing heretics are different women than the ones who are attracted to them (or to “bad boys” in general). I’m almost totally sure that these are not the same women, being a woman myself.

        • LOADED says:

          Some people are inclined to choose gender fluidity over strict gender roles but thats because there are a lot of environmental factors affect how people perceive things. Ancestry is the same way as well.

          • LOADED says:

            Affecting how people perceive things. This is done by making the irrational aspects of identity more rational and giving it a strong sense of purpose in our lives.

            For example someone who is very masculine will do so to compensate for their behavioral struggles or successes. For whatever reason this works because people are guided by their dependency on people to be predictable and prepared for the fight against their injustices.

    • savage says:

      They’ll end up like Jim Watson.

  2. ASR says:

    I suspect that the genetic advantage of calling a horse a horse arises when a group is ravaged by a foreseeable disaster. Afterwards a larger proportion of those who saw what was coming are more likely to survive than those who pretended there was no problem. Laocoon and his sons died for daring to suggest that the Trojan Horse was a scam but those Trojans, who quietly heeded Laocoon, left town that night and lived to breed another day. Back in the day, catastrophes like the sack of Troy were probably not all that uncommon.

  3. yatusabe says:

    It is fundamental to humans. We are mimetic beings. If one crosses the street on the red light, the other immediately and unconsciously does so, too. If one introduces a certain word to his vocabulary, the other does so too. Similarly, our ‘reality’ is socially constructed.

    A Soviet psychological experiment:
    There are two pyramids on the table: black and white. Three children, by agreement with the experimenter, claim that both pyramids are white. The fourth child is tested for suggestibility. Most children agree and repeat that both pyramids are white. However, when a child is asked to take a black pyramid, he takes a black one, despite the fact that he just called both white.

    We copy each other even on muscular levels. We have mirror neurons. I’ve heard about studies which show that depression is contagious. Shouldn’t surprise us.

    Where does disagreeableness come from? It seems to me, and also perhaps approximately supported by anthropological data, that in order to control all this flock one has to be somewhat outside of the network, no control could come from within. This is what psychopathy essentially is: transcending morality in order to climb the ladder, as one who is controlled by the social order couldn’t control the social order. This goes along with Xenopol’s comment. David Graeber notes that the kings in sacral kingship orders had to transcend morality in such a vein. These ‘psychopathic’ kings obviously would’ve left more descendants. This is why women have a lust for anti-sociality: what they lust for is power, and the first step to get to power is to stop being controlled by the social order of whatever scale.

    • JB says:

      Have you read Rene Girard?

    • Wency says:

      Another way to put this: disagreeableness is a high-variance strategy. Men are more disagreeable because the median woman was, in most places, a breeder, and the median man was not.

      If the social status quo has you set up to be a eunuch (whether literally or figuratively), then the prudent thing, for the sake of your prospective progeny, is to disagree strongly, up to and including overthrowing the whole system. Maybe 9 times out of 10 you’ll be hanged for your trouble, but it’s worth it for the odd chance that you get to keep and make use of your balls.

  4. jamesbellinger says:

    How often do the “go-alongs” hedge their bets? Something makes it easy for people to switch from fad to fad and side to side without obvious embarrassment.

  5. New Ledford says:

    It’s an advantage to listen carefully to the truth, even if you don’t tell it. Honest Uncle theory?

    • New Ledford says:

      Scratch that. A microbial origin. Honest germs. Cassandracoccus or something. Requires open flames for propagation.

  6. Polymath says:

    It’s certainly an advantage to notice that emperors are naked and to tell people about it, if you tell the right people in the right circumstances.

    If you are simply of a personality type for whom it is too difficult and stressful to tailor messages in this way and who simply wants to tell the truth as he sees it, this may be maladaptive individually but adaptive at the group level for the same reasons generally given for the “stayer-roamer” theory: without any of the annoying minority tendency, the group is more vulnerable to a catastrophic wipeout. If group selection exists at all, these are the kinds of things that show it.

    • Woof says:

      Conformity has huge benefits and one simple loyalty test is to publicly agree with obvious lies, the more outrageous the better. The Spartans, SS and the Imperial Japanese army believed some insanely warped things but it made them very formidable opponents. I think the utility of a lie lies in a simple cost benefit calculation. If it unites and indirectly leads to positive outcomes then it’s good. If it leads you off a cliff then it’s obviously bad. Most people aren’t smart enough to know the difference so it’s up to the elites. Elites loyal to their people will generally do well by their societies, and then there are the poor, unfortunate ones like us in the west today, with a hateful, destructive “elite” who wants to destroy their society and people.

  7. magusjanus says:

    I’d guess that diff environments might have selected differently for conformity to group standard and independence of mind. In densely populated rice paddy fields with large populations living in close quarters and a powerful state hanging overhead demanding loyalty, presumably keeping one’s mouth shut and going with the flow was selected for. Potentially explaining the paradox between high East Asian IQ and yet not the corresponding number of large discoveries we’d expect.

    Meanwhile, in Western town, the selection for conformity may have been less intense, and selection for other traits (talking oneself up at a meeting or gathering, arguing one’s point of view, etc.) and generally just doing your won thing was stronger, on average.

    It’s possible the above are just cultural, but I do see them a LOT In the both modern East and West and I don’t think ‘culture’ explains it entirely, so it does make me wonder.

    • Ilya says:

      Well, if that was the case, in the West, it has certainly been changing. I recently lost my job for talking myself up (and showing supporting evidence of said achievement), publicly. Apparently, it is no longer something that’s considered proper — perhaps, it puts the big bosses in an awkward spot of either giving you want you want (a promotion) or looking bad for not doing it. But even if they do the former, and not the latter, they will still look bad, mostly in the eyes of the HR, because they screwed with the payscales of the company, which HR considers to be its own prerogative, as well as being “weak.”

      You can still argue your point of view, at a meeting, regarding technical merits of this and that, but you must make sure that you go about this “diplomatically…” or else you might be brought down, too. It depends on the company, of course, but in places where HR sets the tone, you may be out of luck for a lot of otherwise normal behavior.

      Speaking as a senior/principal level software engineer here.

    • Andrew Oh-Willeke says:

      Agree. There is a sociological/social psych measure of deferral to authority in a society that varies a lot. In a famous case, Korean Airlines switched from Korean to English in the cockpit (even though Korean was a shared first language of all involved) because it helped break down deferral to authority by junior crew members embedded in the language and mentality that went with it, when juniors deferring was found to have contributed to multiple plane crashes (similar examples of the same phenomena in Latin American airlines). Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t. Personality genes are probably in a balancing equilibrium that shifts in proportion on existing variation based upon past environmental pressures.

    • Garvan says:

      You are repeating rubbish about East Asians being selected for conformity, without thinking about it for yourself. Do you have any knowledge of EA or data to back up your position? We used to joke about Germans and Swiss being conformist when I was a kid, so maybe conformity (discipline) is correlated with IQ?

      And I am sure you are just talking about Southern Han. The Northern Han are more aggressive. If you really meant East Asian, then they are so diverse, that where I live the education methods and class size are adjusted by ethnic group.

      • Cat Rationalist says:

        Northern Han cultivate wheat (barley earlier) not rice so it fits into what he said

        • Garvan says:

          I don’t really believe Northern Han are more aggressive than Southerners. It’s just a culturally popular idea, and I regret repeating it. And there is no difference between eating wheat and eating rice. More rubbish. Unless you have data to back up your position, in which case I am interested.

      • Mike1 says:

        East Asians are not selected for conformity?! Your comment reminds me of the guy cowering on the floor during an Islamic attack in London lecturing another person on their knees about the need to avoid stereotypes about Muslim terrorism.

  8. marcel proust says:

    JM Keynes: Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally.

  9. Steven Wilson says:

    Isn’t “Wisdom consists of shouting with the majority” attributed to Napoleon. I’m certain he knew better and was counting on his listeners not knowing better or at least not acting against his pronouncement.

  10. Esso says:

    Making an explicitly Malthusian war must have seemed crass even in prehistoric times, so there would always be some irrational point of contention. There must be some way to determine the coalitions, it’s not a gym class where leaders pick teams or students form a line and count one-two-one-two….

    Likely the tactics (lack of political comissars, honest chain of command), loyalty (lies can quickly become obvious when tried) and quality tend to be that much better on the “straight” side to balance it out.

    I have picked my side long ago. To hell with blatantly lying bastards and adenochrome harvesters!

  11. Maciano says:

    I figured out the only thing I could do, was;
    – have more than 2 kids
    – become financially independent
    – cherish friends & family
    – start collecting un-PC books because it will be gone someday
    – slowly get rid of all the woke ppl & influenced in your life that are not necessary

    That sure helped me. I can’t change the world; I can’t change the culture or politics. I can, however, have a nice comfortable life w/ like-minded ppl

  12. Mitchell says:

    People jump on bandwagons. Don’t want to be left out. People get bored. It’s fashion. It’s fashionable. Why do we wear ‘good’ clothes? This would be a verbal signaling rather than a visual signaling though.

  13. James (above) sent this HG Wells story to my site in a similar context.

  14. Henry Scrope says:

    It would help if you could monetise your forbidden knowledge, but that depends upon the markets not being manipulated.

  15. jbbigf says:

    “The question is, is this a bug or a feature?”.
    Obviously, the jury is still out. The evolutionary jury only comes back in when it turns out to be a bug..

  16. Unladen Swallow says:

    I wonder if this ties in to what Geoffrey Miller has talked about in his book ” The Mating Mind “, that a lot of human behavior is designed to impress the opposite sex, he was arguing for certain parts of human culture like art, music, poetry, etc… Maybe silly philosophical and political ideas are like that as well, and there is a keeping up with the Jones’s element to it, you are trying to one up people that you view as your competitors, this might explain why some of these wildly silly ideas suddenly catch on like wildfire.

    • LOADED says:

      Women who aspire for male-oriented success and prosperity generally are looking to impress other women either to signal social functioning or because they are actually lesbians.

      Either way I would say it has its negative consequences to the individual and the group when they do this.

    • LOADED says:

      Women are extremely incompetent due to constant impulsivity. Their stupidity is attributable to poor decision making due to acting on instinct the majority of the time and then making a bad decision when judgment comes into play.

      Men are rational but make stupid decisions due to impulsivity. Women are the opposite is what im saying.

      • LOADED says:

        Men are especially stupid when angry though. Nothing stupider exists in the known universe.

        • Anonymous says:

          Are you sure about that? If you are able to convince your opponent that if you are not rightly treated, you will become so crazy that you will fight regardless of personal safety or immediate advantage, you are at a much better bargaining place. It’s advantageous as long as you don’t actually needs to do it, but the worst thing would be to be publicly exposed as a not being serious about it, after that you are ripe to be exploited as long as your reputation follow you. The best way to convince others that you are bat-shit crazy when angry is to first convince yourself. What looks stupid is just the rare occasion where the act is called a bluff, and crazy shit ensure. Isolated, sure it it looks like stupid self-defeating act, but is it? I think our host wrote something about it for cold war. Same principle on the individual level….

          • LOADED says:

            Makes sense.

          • LOADED says:

            Overall I think youre just defending peoples stupidity and its irrational. Stop acting like a woman would be my advice to you because you dont sound confident to do anything you say youre doing in life.

    • Ilya says:

      Geoffrey Miller wrote that?!

      That humans want to upgrade their own social status, which, by proxy, gives them females would be a sane thing to say. But that, for instance, male behavior is “designed” to maximize “impressing the opposite” sex is a bonkers thing to say. American style bonkers, but still.

      Only in America and the postmodern secularized world, generally, lands that spread around the culture of cuckoldry/whiteknighting via “women rights” throughout the rest of the “unenlightened” world, a male has impress the opposite sex, in order to secure a partner for procreation.

      You know, in all societies from times immemorial — including the West — women barely had any right to choose to be impressed, whatsoever. They’d be married of by their father/owner/state, be it with the woman’s permission or not. (And if they weren’t so lucky, their lineage would simply not continue). A man had no need to impress her, just impress her guardian, instead.

      If Geoffrey Miller indeed wrote such a thing you claim, he is a far less impressive prophet than Moroni.

      • texan999 says:

        I always wanted to upgrade my social status, in the form of money and independence, but not because I wanted to acquire “women.” I’m human but female. Nor did I want to use my status to “acquire men.” I simply wanted, in my straightforward way, to be a little less vulnerable to crazy control. It’s a good idea to pick apart statement that begin “Humans want” and drift insensibly into what, strictly speaking, only men presumably want.

      • LOADED says:

        Conservatives are not, cannot be, and never will be open-minded. Who keeps telling them that they can is the main question.

        • Polymath says:

          Yes, there exists a definition for “conservatives” for which that is the case. But it’s not my definition. Perhaps you should specify precisely your definition of “conservatives”.

          • LOADED says:

            Are you thinking of Anonymous Conservative’s definition of “conservative” that describes them as being K-selected individuals who think of the world like wolves would?

            If so I dont think that would be correct. Conservatives are just traditional people because there are more countries than just the United States. Conservatives in other countries just pursue a traditional lifestyle that may envelop a K-selected strategy but lacks the resilience and other “soft” characteristics of K-selection.

  17. LOADED says:

    For anyone who reads Pumpkin Person’s blog I would highly encourage against it. He is a simpleton whose science is based on biases and implicit miscalculations. All of the data he finds has little to no reliability and the commenting section is filled with toxic back-and-forths between people trying to outsmart another.

    Really a waste of time going there though the bright side is that there were a lot of useful comments ive made about my observations of things that nay interest you if you enjoy the comments I make here and elsewhere.

  18. STEM Caveman says:

    In the USSR, as in the current USA, being a dissident strongly correlated with antisocial traits. Many who could not function once in the West without an enemy to compulsively fight against, or a Cause to self-destructively fight for. Autists, psychos, alcoholics, unemployables, wife- and child-beaters. Lots of mathematicians of course. “Aggressive high IQ objective-reasoner weirdo” checks most of the boxes needed for achievement in this category.

    • STEM Caveman says:

      Tiananmen Tank Man may be the most famous example of the autist ZFG phenotype.

      OTOH the Hong Kong democracy protests (like all US State Department color revolution schemes) are led by cleancut Establishment kids.

  19. Rich Rostrom says:

    “But being right when nearly everyone else is wrong does not necessarily confer a net benefit.”

    For instance, short-selling a stock because you’ve figured out the price is grossly inflated by popular enthusiasm, and should drop precipitously when the crowd figures that out. The crowd’s enthusiasm may just run right over your short position.

    • texan999 says:

      You can’t be “right” about a price: the price has its own reality independent of your opinion, being a composite of the opinions of lots of other people whose collective vote outweighs yours. You may believe they’re mistaken about the item’s long-term value, but the composite opinion of willing buyers and sellers is what it is. At most you can make a better guess than others about where the composite opinion will move in the future. Even then, if you guess wrong, it’s you who are wrong, not the price.

      • LOADED says:

        All of Pumpkin Person’s readers and especially the commenters are severely autistic. That site is pure garbage.

        Also Texas is the worst possible state to live in in all of America. For all those considering moving there please dont for your sake. So many better options out there!

  20. LOADED says:

    East Asians are indeed conformist. Yes they dont conform to the strategies of attaining success but they have the same success-based focuses as any other race and moreso.

  21. Chris Carson says:

    My deer have learned to eat out of my bird feeder. They sleep around my place, and don’t seem confused at all. 😉

  22. Anonymous says:

    Evolution of awareness of truth differed depending on category: 1) truth that related to social power (for which self deception was stronger because conformity advantage); 2) other truths (where were the good berries last spring, what clouds say about upcoming weather patterns, etc.)

    Rough parallel to humanities vs. hard sciences.

  23. Michel Rouzic says:

    Having a tendency to be socially contrarian and rebellious can have widely different consequences depending on how it’s played. It can make you a pariah and a low-status reject, or it can make you a sexy rebel who seems unbound to the rules of society and better off for it. Such traits should be looked at in combination with other traits because it’s a combination of traits that form an evolutionary strategy. Being socially slick and being resourceful enough to not be any kind of wageslave can allow you to attain sexy rebel status despite (or thanks to) saying things considered outrageous, being vulnerable to potential outrage (like your employer finding out you made a joke in poor taste about Asians on Twitter 12 years ago and ending your career just to be safe) can make such social rebellion very costly. Women love a man who successfully defies social gravity (or does anything with success really) and loathe men who always seem to get the short end of the stick. Someone who attains mild success through conformity is in the middle.

    I say that as someone who airs out colourful unnuanced controversial opinions (such as my desire to persecute all heretics, my hatred for democracy and human rights, my opposition to immigrants or my distaste for women who have jobs) in real life social situations frequently and has independent means, so far the only real downside is that neo-nazis and other far-right schizos love me too much. It hasn’t been a problem with women as being polarising gives you an edge with those of the right polarity, and a man only needs to be successful with one woman to find evolutionary success, so a strategy that boosts your chances with some women at the expense of others can be advantageous.

    Another aspect is the reaction of other men to it, they can approve of your stated opinions which is positive, they can quietly take it which makes your position dominant because they don’t dare to confront your opinions with their own, or they can confront you but usually the combination of disbelief and not having any experience debating such far-out opinions (people aren’t good at having debates they haven’t already had before, I’m used to debating my plans to cleanse society by gulagging millions, others aren’t which makes them very ineffective) only makes them seem angry and impotent, and they tend to adopt the rather feminine behaviour of using their outrage to make you feel guilt for your claims, which achieves nothing if you’re willing to double down and isn’t a good look for them. Therefore when played right saying outrageous things that you can easily defend can be a very easy way to socially dominate. So there’s a pecking order in common society (the strata of average joes, as opposed to the strata of famous and highly visible people), successful rebels > conformists > failed rebels, and like many other traits its fitness depends on other factors and traits.

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