Sunday, January 6, 2019

Part 6: Another Test


This paper by Jonathan Jong discusses two classic tests for religious definitions: 
  1. the football test and 
  2. the (atheistic Theravada) Buddhist test.


The football test analyzes whether hyper-zealous football fanatics, who are extremely tribal, get incorrectly classified as a religion.  This is a false positive test.  The atheistic Theravada Buddhist test analyzes whether a clearly religious group which lacks supernatural appeals is incorrectly missed as a religion.  This is a false negative test. 

Jong, and others, step around these issues by promoting a multi-factored cognitive science phenomenological approach to religious definitions. James Lindsay has done much the same thing.  Here is a rather long quote from Jong (2015)

CSR (cognitive science of religion) deals in specific hypotheses about specific features that often occur across religions traditionally conceived, but also elsewhere, in the secular world as it were. us, such phenomena as the belief in supernatural agents, ecstatic experiences, participation in causally opaque action sequences, formation of socially cohesive non- kin groups, obedience to moral codes, and so forth may contingently co-occur in different ways under different circumstances, in both ostensibly religious and nonreligious contexts. Furthermore, they are all products of different psychological mechanisms or cultural strategies, which themselves emerged to solve different evolutionary problems. Indeed, the causal relations between and among these phenomena are demonstrably variable and contingent.
This approach to religion entails that some previously apparently intractable research problems turn out to be meaningless because they were predicated on a mistaken reification of religion. Does religion lead to moral behaviour? Is religion an evolutionary adaptation? These questions imply that there is such a coherent, identifiable thing as religion, such that it can lead to moral behaviour (or not), and be an evolutionary adaptation or a spandrel or an exaptation. 


FOOTBALL FANATICS TEST
So let’s test if our original multi-factored behavioural definition of religion, which was determined to have a religious threshold value of 16 or 17 out of 27 passes the football fanatic test…
Football Fanatics

High 
(3)
Moderate (2)
Low 
(1)
Non-existent (0)
Moral Big Brother

x
x

Moral Big Brother’s embodiment level


x

Sacred values (volume)

x
x

Sacred values (significance lvl)

x


Common ritual (combo of significance & frequency)
x



Costly commitments

x


Clean hand actions


x

Avg degree of member’s identity fusion
x



Steepness of In-group out-group gradient
x
x


Sum = 18.5/27

Here’s my thinking
Moral Big Brother - Is supporting another team fundamentally wrong? For everyone? Does it make them evil? No. But there are actions that fans can take that might be wrong on a transcendent level.  Disloyalty is the main example.

Moral Big Brother’s embodiment level - Is there a group agent that is somewhat embodied? No. There is the team’s historical essence. Alignment to that history and its moral values plays some role in fans actions, and a large role in their football related actions. But, this historical essence, isn’t overly embodied. It is sensed, but minimally personified.
Sacred values (volume) - There are certain taboos that can’t be broken with respect to football. Wearing the wrong color. Cheering for the wrong team. Not being a mate. etc.
Sacred values (significance lvl) - What would happen if someone wore the opposing team’s colours to an event? They wouldn’t be killed, but they may be disfellowed.
Costly commitments - Travelling to other countries to watch and support matches is costly.
Clean hand actions - I couldn’t think of much here. The only obvious thing I could think about was having a weakly loyal fan carry in the group's historically significant banner.

Avg degree of member’s identity fusion - Their life and identity revolves around their team.
Steepness of in-group out-group gradient - Once you’re in the group, switching to another team would prevent future fellowship. But do football fanatics refuse to interact with agnostics? No. Do they refuse to interact with people who are ostensibly on the opposing team’s side but who minimally interested? A bit, but their degree of reservation probably falls off quite quickly with distance from a football event. The gradient is most steep for opposing team fans. Then it is high; probably as high as modern pluralistic religions, but not as high as medieval and older religions.

Conclusion
Football fanatics meet my threshold for religion. They are about as religious as more radicalized versions of Proud Boys are. Indeed, the two groups seem to have very similar dynamics. Football fanatics are higher on sacred values, while Proud Boys are higher on moral big brothers. It is interesting to note which religious features come out with each group. Proud boys have stronger Moral Big Brothers. Footballers have stronger sacred values. Holistically, I think radical Proud Boys would be more religious than football fanatics? Why? The moral big brother issue strikes me as more significant than the sacred values issue. Moral narratives matter. Sacred values can get teased together with loyalty issues. 
So, in general, I think my rating scale works fine with the Football test. I would consider them quasi-religious. It’s just that their religiosity gets turned on and off depending upon the social situation. I don’t have a problem with that. I think turning on and off religion based upon context is a very interesting “religious” innovation. It makes for a very neat pluralistic solution.
Whitehouse’s imagistic versus doctrinal categorization of religion is probably highly relevant to football fanatic and Theravada Buddhism tests. He proposes that imagistic incarnations of religion make up for ritual frequency via rarer episodes with correspondingly large emotive depth.



ANTIFA TEST
Where would Antifa fit?
Antifa

High 
(3)
Moderate (2)
Low 
(1)
Non-existent (0)
Moral Big Brother

x


Moral Big Brother’s embodiment level

x


Sacred values (volume)
x
x


Sacred values (significance lvl)
x
x


Common ritual (combo of significance & frequency)
x



Costly commitments
x



Clean hand actions
x
x


Avg degree of member’s identity fusion
x



Steepness of In-group out-group gradient
x
x


Sum = 23/27

Anita is clearly very religious. It is on par with most traditional religions. My rating scale does not seem able to reflect cult-like dynamics.  I would guess there it needs a non-linear weighting for extreme measures. For instance, Antifa’s cult-like social dynamics may be so extreme that the “steepness of in-group out-group gradient” may need an “extreme” column with a value of 6. But, as with the football case, it is hard to tease out what effect acceptance of casual associations have on group gradients. Footballers and Antifa seem fine with casual interactions with “unbelievers”. Many cultists are not. Such interactions stain.

ATHEISTIC THERAVADA BUDDHISM TEST
I admit to not knowing a lot about Buddhism or its Theravada branch. But, based on a few hours on online reading and a two month trip to Thailand….

Theravada Buddhism

High 
(3)
Moderate (2)
Low 
(1)
Non-existent (0)
Moral Big Brother

x
x

Moral Big Brother’s embodiment level
x
x


Sacred values (volume)

x


Sacred values (significance lvl)

x


Common ritual (combo of significance & frequency)

x


Costly commitments
x



Clean hand actions

?


Avg degree of member’s identity fusion
x



Steepness of In-group out-group gradient

x
x

Sum = 19.5/27

Moral Big Brother - There is a moral group agent, but it is not embodied. The moral big brother is more the inferred superpositions of this belief system’s various positions.
Moral Big Brother’s embodiment level - There are no supernatural agents. There is a historical Buddha.
Sacred values (volume) - Theravada Buddhism certainly has sacred values. Have you tried going to monastery in shorts or without a shirt? Just because people think one’s actions will produce its own consequences doesn’t mean that in practice things are operationalized in terms of taboos and sacred values. It’s just highly pluralized.
Sacred values (significance lvl) - What would happen if someone wore the opposing team’s colours to an event? They wouldn’t be killed, but they may be excommunicated.
Costly commitments - Travelling to other countries to watch and support matches.
Clean hand actions - I couldn’t think of much here. Perhaps the only act would be carrying in a banner by someone who is weakly loyal.
Avg degree of member’s identity fusion - Buddhists seem tied to a cultural group and tradition.

Steepness of in-group out-group gradient - I'm not sure on this one. I get the sense they are fairly pluralistic. But normal cultural affinities can't be denied.


Conclusion
Theravistic Buddhism is on the edge between quasi-religiosity and classic religiosity.  Its atheistic character does not result in a false negative reading. My amateurish model catches it as it should.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Part 5: Grand Conclusions




SERIES CONCLUSIONS

Social Justice has a lot of moving parts. Viewing it as a single entity unified by intersectional or Marxist ideology is an unsatisfactorily coarse a unit of analysis. Social Justice is composed of many different types of groups. Many of these groups have some, but not all of the characteristics of biologically adaptive groups or the sub-set of biologically adaptive groups we call religion. When you take a broad definition of religion it is hard not to see parallels between religion and radical activist social justice.

In exploring social justice sects from a religious lens, I have to conclude that social justice can be religious. But, any single sect on its own (other than Antifa cults) has a hard time at it. But, when moderately coupled, a number of sects can resonate a net religious like experience and belief system.

Analysis of this belief system is likely stymied by its unique component based formation. No single piece (other than Antifa cults) appears overly religious. Certainly radically zealous individuals within each sect can be religious, but one is hard pressed to say any group as an entity is fully religious. Many sects certainly signal religiosity, but I suspect no one will have an easy time winning an argument this way.

I’m led to believe that the uniqueness of Social Justice faith is not just as James Lindsay suggest, the re-invention of religion from within a secular modern paradigm, but also via an unique formulation of a full adaptive religious experience via a series of different components (sects) that are only weakly to moderately coupled.


This significantly aids the ability to co-opt state structures. No component (sect) on its own is overly threatening. But, state co-option fuels the fitness requirements adaptive group stability requires.  There are no hidden hierarchies at work. There are simply disparate groups of people each trying to “be on the right side of history” by helping disadvantaged groups. But each of these groups (sects) is highly likely to confer fitness advantages to its weakly coupled compatriots. 

That this fits with Peter Turchin’s structural demographic theory of intra-elite competition and quasi-elite filtering is an unexpected avenue of support.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Part 4: Do Social Justice Sects Match New Religious Movements

The first post in this series dealt with the behavioural categorization of new religious movements.  This was then validated against a multi-factored behavioural definition of religion based on Scott Atran’s work from “In God’s We Trust”. This satisfied me that there is a rough change point where things become religious. Classical religions are highly refined new religious movements which are optimized for a specific gene-cultural cognitive landscape. As James Lindsay has said, this landscape has changed as of late. Supernaturalism is now counter-fit (in the biological sense). Memes are optimized via slightly counter-intuitiveness (mixed with some behavioural and adaptive group factors). Supernaturalism is just too unbelievable now. Social Justice seems, at first blush, to fit a religious categorization, and has stumbled upon ways to optimize its memetic fitness within a modern landscape.

The second post in this series looked at Social Justice sects. Not all sects were equally as viable (as determined by adaptive group biology).  Access to resources really determined long term sect viability. The only fully adaptive group were Antifa-like protest cults. Other sects which showed near adaptiveness had one or two adaptive issues to fix.  Interestingly enough, some mutualistic support between sects solved most of the viable sect’s adaptive issues.

The third post explored Social Justice Sect Co-orindation. Co-option of state institutions via some sort of pyramid scheme was a possible solution to the challenge of group-provided benefits. This group-benefit solution enables sects to remain loosely-coupled via a vague underling ideological thread but with mutually supportive roles. A ritualized “coming of age” phase was an easy, and empirically validateable, solution to the mutualism issue.

This fourth post gets back comparing the sect types new religious movements usually operate within to those I’ve inferred occur within activist social justice.


Posts in this series




Part 4: Do Social Justice Sects Match New Religious Movements

Here are the sect categorizations my armchair theorizing produced

New Religious Movements
  • Millennial
  • Luddites
  • Cults
  • Evangelicals
  • Gnostics/Mystics
  • Revelatory


Activist Social Justice
  • Theorists
  • Protestors
  • Online mobsters
  • Puritans
  • Activist organizers
  • Structuralists
  • Equity at any cost’ers
  • Chosen people
  • Allies




Here is the pairing

Activist Social Justice Sect
Closest Religious Sect Equivalent
Degree of Fit
Theorists
Evangelicals
moderate 

but varies based upon zealousness
(antifa-like) Protestors
Cults

strong

Online Mobsters
Cults or Evangelicals

weak

Puritans
Luddites

extremely weak

Activist Organizers
Millenials
Cult (of personality)
weak

Activists aren’t ushering in a utopia, but they are adjusting the environment to produce more utopian-like pockets

They aren’t based around any single cult of personality
Structuralists

none


Equity at any Cost’ers
Luddites
strong in theory, weak in practice

Few equity at any cost’ers are extreme enough or articulate enough in their theory to even approach a Luddite behavioural transition
Chosen People
Revelatory
Gnostics/Mystics
Millenial
moderate

fit is slightly stronger when taken together
Allies
Gnostics/Mystics
Revelatory

moderate






ANALYSIS
After I had finished detailing religious sect categorization while writing the first post in this series, I expected the millennial categorization to most closely match Social Justice. Looks like I was wrong. It has the worst fit.

Cultish sects have the best fit. Clearly antifa-like protest groups are cult like. But that is low hanging fruit. Social Justice is not characterized by its most extreme affiliates. Antifa is also a negative not positive based organization (i.e. in theory it's based on a rejection of things rather than the support of things...)

Ludditism has a good theoretical fit but poor actual fit. I’d guess it is a potential avenue some radicals could take but most won’t. There are major scale issues. How can you get a group of people to reproduce nation state level organizations? You can’t. This pairing seems practically impossible (even though I am still really intrigued by the parallels!!!)

Let’s compare the rest of the sects to their previously inferred adaptiveness over time (see part 3)


Activist Social Justice Sect
Closest Religious Sect Equivalent
Degree of Fit
Social Justice Adaptiveness Over Time
Theorists
Evangelicals

moderate

strong potential

Missing: sacred values, common ritual, and costly commitments
Online Mobsters
Cults or Evangelicals

weak

Weak

Missing: freeloader detection & punishment, costly commitments and steep in-group out-group gradients.
Activist Organizers
Millenial
Cult of personality

weak

Strong

Missing: Freeloader detection & punishment
Chosen People
Revelatory
Gnostics/Mystics
Millenial

moderate

Strong
Allies
Gnostics/Mystics
Revelatory

moderate

Lots of potential, but weak in practice



Activist Organizers represent the most interesting row of information. 
  • Millennialism tends to work as a short-term solution for new religious movements, but not as a long-term solution.  
  • Activist Organizing is strongly adaptive over time, but has no equivalent religious solution. 
  • Activist Organizing isn’t based on millenialistic principles.
  • It is based on a unique formulation of personality cults. Rather than being based on single personalities, it is based on a system of personalities generated by formal post-secondary departments and quasi-religious political organizations. In this sense it is very much like non-denominational Evangelical landscape where people support preachers based upon their appeal.  This is a robust solution which is not characteristic of New Religious Movements (it induces too much splitting)

The alignment between Theorists and Evangelicals seems sensical. 

The Gnostic / Revelatory thread between Chosen People and Allies is also interesting. Are the intersectional insights various “People of Colour” produce sufficiently mystical to sustain orientation toward them? I doubt it, but this might explain why we’re seeing moves to ever finer grained and more obtuse identity celebrations. Is this an implicit response to psychological resonances toward certain level of quasi-factual /mysteriousness? Is it a way of signalling diversity’s (unfathomable) epistemological depth? I’m not sure. But, it’s an intriguing thought.

The strong potential adaptiveness of Chosen People and Allies suggest these groups have the potential to provide fitness enhancing benefits to their members. The rough religious connection suggests this might involve specialized knowledge (or specialized/hard-to-fake in-group signalling). Could this come about with resume filtering diversity statements? Via mystic probing "are you also in awe of native spirituality's amazing insights"? I’m not sure. I suspect so.





CONCLUSION
Matching Social Justice sects with New Religious Movement sects suggests there are a number of moderate fits between the two. This weakly supports the possibility that Social Justice is a modern incarnation of religion, or that it is a major evolutionary transition in religion itself. Social Justice can be considered a non-supernatural religion via multi-factored behaviour/dynamical analysis.

Sect matching also helps reveal which Social Justice sects have growth potential and which don’t.  While it may be coincidental, it seems like the Social Justice sects with the greatest growth potential (via adaptive group analysis) are those which also largely reside or are generated by post-secondary institutions. This includes
  • Theorist sects
  • Activist organizer sects
  • Chosen people sects
  • Ally sects

This certainly doesn’t hinder mutualism between these sects. This weakly supports the conclusions of the third post in this series - that social justice sects can mutually support each other via some “coming of age” protest ritual which then supports a pyramid like advancements and expansions within the overall movement itself.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Part 3: Social Justice Sect Coherence

Last post I went over an amateurish classification of social justice sects. The main conclusion was that the adaptiveness of viably adaptive sects was dependent upon their access to resources to reward group members. Co-opting state institutions was an easier way to generate resources necessary to sustain replication. This capacity was dependent upon the ability to create allies. 

Allies can be created by 1) sympathetic ideology and 2) ideology which frames attackers in Kafka-esque traps. New religious movement history shows costly commitment displays, such as 2nd century Christian crjuxifictions can also inspire broad-based ally-ship. Thus, allies can also be created by 3) costly commitment displays by a radical wing.

In this post, I’ll take a look at the confluence of these sects to explore whether these sects will balkanize, unify, or provide mutually re-enforcing benefits while remaining independent.






SOCIAL JUSTICE SECT COHERENCE


Adaptively Viable Social Justice Sect
Adaptiveness over time
Theorists
Strong potential

Missing: sacred values, common ritual, and costly commitment.
Puritans
Moderate, but strong potential

Missing: common ritual, freeloader detection & punishment, and in-group reciprocity
(Cult of personality) Activist organizers
Strong

Freeloader detection to prevent usurpation seems to be an Achille’s heel
Chosen people
Strong

Antifa-like protestors
Strong






ONE SOLUTION
The most obvious solution here is for mutual re-enforcement. Over time, this should produce a common set of beliefs. In some ways this is sort of similar to the slight unification that occurred within American Protestantism during the late 80’s and 90’s via the evangelical movement. Evangelical’s are now defined as much by what they are not (they are not Mormons, Anglicans, 7th day Adventists, etc.) as by what they are (they are Gospel tied, life-style based proselytizers).

One potential resonance is a coming-of-age type ideology based upon a chosen-people veneration. Theorists are energized and operationalized by activist organizers who feed people into various levels of protest movements (with antifa-like experimentation as an ultimate ideal). People then mature into a Puritanical sect that is supported by common experience and where freeloaders are detected by  ongoing commitment tests.

An ability to disavow radical protestors seems key. After all, radical cults, fail for good reasons. But, participation in such experiences should be nostalgic*. Furthermore, such participation should re-enforce the intentions behind such movements, even if other means are deemed more sanguine.

The big conundrum here is the role of the “chosen people of color”. As mentioned last week, this sets up a classic caste-based hierarchy. Will people of color really become a ruling class, or will these identities become flexible enough that they become a clear-cut ideological and commitment based test?

My reading of multi-level cultural evolution (especially work by Turchin) suggests intra-elite competition should produce filtering for potential elites but never produce full power turn-over to a particular group based upon their identity. The only time you really get identity based caste take-over is when the usurping group has a very elevated technological progress advantage on some dimension (reading, weapons, agriculture, group size solutions, etc.). North American and African colonization is an obvious modern example.

It would seem inevitable that this will produce some nasty conflicts between people of color who see themselves as the rightful heirs to power and “ally” elites who won’t give such power up easily. This will select for Stalin-esque sociopaths. The whole thing should blow-up.





OTHER SOLUTIONS
Unification
I just don’t see full unification as possible. This would require a significant authoritarian dynamic with clear hierarchical structures. This seems antithetic to all sect’s core values.

However, Sweden seems to show that I may be wrong. There you seem to have a fairly coherent set of moral principles that seem to be increasingly pervasive and backed by state authority and supported by a majority of the population. Right-wing backlash suggests an authoritarian trap is inevitable. Ideological authoritarianism has, at best, an uncertain track record in the developed world. Thus, unification may be possible, but seems incredibly unstable over time.


Balkanization
I’m not sure any of these sects can remain viable when isolated. Inter-group competition at the level of socio-political quasi-religion is very steep.  For example, could a “hate speecher” ever make much headway without theorists to support their game?  It is doubtful. Competition in this arena is just too fierce. Political and ideological foes are very motivated.






CONCLUSION
To summarize, my rough sense is that Social Justice sects should engage in a mutually supportive game that gradually brings the sects together under a general belief system. But, that belief system will likely be very loose. I expect to see unification occur via some idealized coming of age ritual.

Anabaptists have something similar. Young adults are given lots of leeway to "experience" the world before they lock into the demands of adulthood. In general, I expect Social Justice sects to encourage the attitude that  "extremist exploration of social justice values is needed". Its a great way to see just how far such waters can be taken. It also let’s people renounce such foolishness as they age either by an appeal to better methodologies or as a necessary experience of youth. 

Extremist connections are valuable because a small number of mobsters can have outsized effects on the Overton window. This is because of the value violence and intimidation have. And, because of the difference costly commitment displays bring to more moderate sections of the moral movement.

The net structure leverages people of color as an idealized platonic re-imagination of deity. Is this paganism on steroids, or non-supernaturalism ancient Christianity where the historical Jesus is as real as God gets (i.e. a normal mortal who happens, like everyone, to have the capacity to represent a platonic ideal people can imagine)? I suspect its a mimetically fit way to concretize an otherwise abstract moral big brother (group agent).

Problems occur on the leadership front. Do positions at the peak of power require certain types of identity? Or can a profession of ally-ship or request for “adoption” into such groups suffice? Both intra-elite competition and recruitment & retention concerns suggest the inevitable lure of an “adoption” solution over a “pure lineage” solution.  This also helps to justify the pyramidal nature of the enterprise. It also helps avoid a color/sex based caste hierarchy that likely wouldn’t survive modernity.






NOTES
* It might be wise to remember the experience of 70's era far left terrorists who were able to fully re-integrate into society via left leaning institutions like Universities. Their follies were often rationalized under the idea that these terrorists had good intentions but just picked very bad ways to implement. Usually behaviour was rationalized under "cultish" influences. Core ideology rarely had to be rejected.