March 23, 2005


We actually have a little orange sit-on-the-top-of-the-plughole with a little arm and hand poking straight up. It was a gift, and has fitted two baths.

But also, the post is a reference to an article in New Scientist in which someone applies a new mathematical model to understanding generosity in human beings. The insight I was interested in is that generosity survives in groups bigger than 30 only if people punish others for not being generous, and will also punish people who don't punish people for not being generous.

So, if you want to live in a nice (and stable) group, you need to beat up the odd person (or at least carry a really big stick). There seems to be an inherant paradox in that position, one which I most often notice in 'enthusiastic punitive Christians'.

Secondly, enforced generosity would be required for human beings to gather in groups of more than 30. No other primate gathers in groups of more than 100, and most of them live in groups of 30 or less. Human beings ability to sustain bigger groups efficiently provided us with the advantage of large groups and therefore specialisation and all the modern things that has brought.

Other parts of this large groupiness seem to include language (so you can keep tabs on someone without picking fleas off them) and farming (higher birth rates and surplus food).

So, here is this paradoxical, hypocritical system which might be a lynchpin to human bigger-than-family-group behaviour.

How should a Minister of Justice (who is largely our delegated punishment representative) handle offenders if our sense of justice is actually a vaguely genetic driver which serves a amoral force?

(Incidentally, listening to random songs from your partner's music collection can lead to very odd moments...)

Posted by carla at March 23, 2005 10:50 PM
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