Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Part 2 Live Blog: Postmodern Religion & the Faith of Social Justice

Social Justice Institutionalized

This should be an interesting topic. I suspect James will try to show how University Critical Theory departments and Diversity offices supply the hierarchical web necessary for 
  • coherent sect replication
  • authorized hierarchal imprimatur
  • base level indoctrination and proselytization.

Guess we’ll see. I’m looking forward to be surprised. I have a feeling James may have some novel takes here….

I really liked the way James framed these first few sentences. In evolutionary lingo, organizational structure is niche construction. It is what adaptive groups do to tweak their environment so it is appropriately fitness enhancing. Adjusting the environment too much may be not worth the effort and hence counter productive. Bar-yam’s simulations on virus virility fit in nicely here.

One question this raises for me is, do religions, like viruses, have bounds for how much environmental manipulation is too little and how much is too much? Virility quotients probably only make sense in terms of long-term stability patterns. And, even then, pragmatics and Bar-Yam’s simulation both show periodic break-offs to high/low virile probes. As a new religious movement, Social Justice may be going down the cultish path of virile overshoot. But, if it is a long term social structure, chances are its just turning the corner on its cultish growth phase. If so, you’d expect to seem some fairly predictable changes in how it propagates.

One change I’d expect is more reliance on organizational structures. However, Social Justice as a religious evolutionary transition may do something radical here. I’d also expect more word of mouth propagation and expansion via physical segregation (i.e. majority SJW communities).

I think I’ve already mentioned how the intertwining between religion and governance is fairly foundational to their adaptiveness. The ability of a religion to grab state power is usually an extremely fit memetic solution. Think of how the Christian meme cluster benefitted from Constatine’s endorsement. Or think of how medieval Christianity fared when it co-opted European chiefdom governance controls.

Many people’s worry about social justice is precisely how new moral criminal law is functionally out of public control and firmly in the power of social justice religious ardents. I know my critiques back in the late 90’s were precisely about this possibility. Obviously these critiques were fully marginalized as slippery slope fallacies. It is interesting to see them come to fruition. It is more interesting yet to see just how far they can go. I expect they will go very far.

For instance, I very much doubt religions who pay priests for services will be able to discriminate in their hiring on any behaviour (like sexual mores) which touches any protected class status. For instance, I strongly suspect that in a decade or two you’ll see gender based priesthood exclusions challenged under human right codes. In Canada at least, these codes are very clear about which side the law is on. Similarly teachings that promote “traditional gender roles” is likely to be another hill upon which things will break. Expect selective prosecution to save minority’s from being challenged for their equivalent discriminatory practices. Thus, I think James’ point about tolitalitarian tendencies is very apt. How many religions that have co-opted state control have tended to pluralistic practice?

Again, I think this is an excellent point. I love how well Jame’s argument about the epistemological parallels between Social Justice religion and religion come back around to re-enforce his worries about university take over.  Universities are the meme’s main propagation and validation tool. To appropriate Dawkin’s viral interpretation of religion, it is as if the social justice religion virus has found the perfect host replicator. Not only does it propagate. It stamps an imprimatur of authority and validation. You couldn’t ask for more!

And, this gets back to the point I’m most interested in - is social justice religion a re-invention or a major evolutionary transition?  Did it stumble upon University as a replicator by random Darwinian processes (exploration of the adjacent possible), or did this landscape serve as part of the paradigm in which novel memes-clusters emerged and were winnowed out?

Another great quote. No commentary needed.

The Scholarly Canon
I’m expecting a bit of an overextension here. Guess we’ll see…

Having read this section, I’m glad James didn’t engage with the metaphorical / narrative truth claims now popular via Jordan Peterson. It would have been a pointless target. I’m a little surprised he didn’t delve into the self-referential citations circles that end up reproducing appeal-to-authority dynamics and virtue-based job progression (ie. the most “righteous” move from priest to bishop to cardinal). I think that would have been needless inflammatory. Glad he committed it.

Faith in Social Justice
From the title of the article, this should be the heart of the argument. I’m interested. I wouldn’t have considered faith the point around which I would centre my argument. That’s why it is always nice to listen to what other people say.

Just wondering how you would falsify this idea of faith. Could a transactional business that don’t leverage moral values “look to the assurance of things hoped for”? Perhaps the answer is only no if we define “hoped for” in terms of some moral outcome. But how do you tease an outcome which is moral from one which is not? That’s not very easy. It seems to revolve around intentions about the betterment of people ideological choices and intentions. “We want them to think better” (i.e. more morally correctly).

The Mythological Core of Applied Postmodernism

The idea that social justice isn’t just a couple of isolated memes, but rather a fairly coherent narrative is interesting. Most academic theories are not narrative in nature. Getting a good narrative that resonates with psychological cognitive wells is a strong sign that you’ve got something more than an academic theory. Again, I’d tend to look for Atran’s behavioural descriptors to assess the degree to which things are or are not religious. Jordan Peterson’s work is generally informative here (not in a prescriptive way, but more in a “get up to speed” in case you’ve missed out on being in the middle of non-simplistic religious theology).

Again, the parallel matching done in this section is probably useful for a general audience. I’d be more interested and moved by a falsifiable narrative feature analysis…. Religious stories fit a certain range of unbelievability within the slightly-counter-intuitive belief spectrum. You don’t need supernaturalism. You need memorability and a perception of layers of unending depth. Post-modernism gives that to you. The intersectional application reduces the level of unbelievability. And, I suspect, helps the narrative structure resonate at the right level of counter-intuitiveness / quasi-factuality.

It’s hard to judge if the result is any more or any less quasi-factual than most materialistically biased forms of supernaturalism. I would say, in terms of modern contexts, the unbelievability level is about equal. It’s just that now days, anything supernatural is automatically viewed as exceptional unbelievable. But a couple of hundred years ago, I’d suggest the level of unbelievability by a lay person would be about as similar as the level of unbelievability post modernism and intersectionality are to modern laity. But, again, this is hard to judge.

What does seem clear though, is that social justice religion is not shooting for believability within a supernatural paradigm or set of supernaturalistic believers. It is a re-invention for a set of secularists.

I’d also add that it appears that a number of radical social justice advocates come across as somewhat “flaky”. By that I mean that they more be more akin to flighty drama major that hard-nosed grounded engineers. Additionally the social supports many require hint at higher levels of neuroses and mental health issues, at least in some sub-set populations. Now this may simply be an artefact of groupings. But, it is certain that some of the sub-groups affiliated with these movements clearly have statistically above average risk factors. That is after all, part of why they are fighting for social justice! Our systems are structurally unfair as evidenced by disproportionate mental trauma rates…

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