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Thread: Does culture set up society to be prejudice?

  1. Top | #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post

    There are massive countless variations in culture between groups of people and changes of culture within a single group over time, without any comparable differences/changes in biology. This shows it that culture is largely distinct from biology, even if it is partially influenced by it.
    Also, plenty of aspects of culture can and do work against and harm our biology. They may not last long, but that is beside the point. And even when culture works in favor of our "biology" in reproductive terms it can work against the stability of a society and the well being of its members (b/c evolutionary success doesn't give a shit about those things).




    Agreed that we are naturally "prejudiced" in the sense that we prejudge and react to objects (including people) in accord with the expectations created by our previous experience with other objects with perceptual similarities. In general, it is vital to our survival that we do so, because we rarely have the time and resources to delay judgment until after all information about that specific object has been obtained.

    But cultures can and do operate to either reinforce/enhance/increase those prejudices or to inhibit/decrease certain ones.
    In fact the same person with the same biology has different prejudices across their lifespan, proving the limited role of biology. The change because their experiences change. Some experiences are random events, some are created by the contextual conditions, and culture is a word for the social conditions we design to impart experiences that will tend to produce particular psychological states and thus behaviors.

    In addition, our biology and evolution only respond to what has net utility at the aggregate level. It is largely unresponsive to that net-useful thing being harmful and destructive in some situations. In contrast, culture can and should care about those harmful manifestations of biological dispositions, and can and should seek to reshape our psychology and behavior to not merely apply default tendencies.
    What do you think of this post:

    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Sarpedon View Post
    It's better to apply the meme theory, in that cultural traits (aka memes) that are good at propagating themselves tend to dominate. In this way they are analogous to biology and genetics but not the same. They are also not an extension of biology in that they do not 'care' about the biology, up until the point where they interfere with the survival and propagation of the people involved. (i.e. their hosts) A good example of that is the Shakers. Good at furniture, terrible at creating a lasting society.
    I wonder if there is any aspect of culture that can't be somehow tied back to our physiological reality, which is why I call it an extension of our biology. Culture existing implies people creating the culture, and people create culture based on their needs, whether reproductive, material, stimulation, psychological.. etc.

    Along the lines of the meme theory, culture would be quite plastic, but in theory there should always be a permanent center revolving around our basic qualities: need for food, fun, reproduction, instincts.

    As far as prejudice goes, I'd say this is a natural part of human biology and instinct, which precipitates it's emergence in larger systems.
    I think it pretty much adheres to your post above, except one would need to decide what the definition of 'distinct' from biology is.
    I certainly agree with that argument more than your prior post. Your basically saying that we are living in a material world and we are materical girls (and boys).

    But it's critical to keep in mind that people (and therefore some aspects of culture) constantly chose to do things that not only harm aspects of their biology but cause net harm to their bodies and their reproductive/evolutionary success. Also, we don't have a single "biology" that drives behavior. We have countless aspects of our biology that often work against each other, such as the fight between our desire for short term personal happiness and our desire to either procreate or to increase our long term security.
    If our preference for "bareback" sex is biological but our decision to use a condom to prevent an outcome that would reduce our future happiness are both "biological", then what is it that determines which behavior we engage in.

    IOW, what you are saying is true in the sense that materialism is true (or that particle physics is true as Jokodo points out), but it has no explanatory power.

  2. Top | #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    IOW, what you are saying is true in the sense that materialism is true (or that particle physics is true as Jokodo points out), but it has no explanatory power.
    Depends on how you look at it.

    Do unchangeable aspects of our physiology always precipitate themselves in our outward culture? Or in other words, can we always boil cultural elements back to some aspect of our biology?

    If so, the question becomes whether prejudice has an essential genetic component, or is completely environmental. If the former, then we can assume that prejudice can't be vanquished from culture. It can certainly be minimized, changed, and evolve, but it will always be there.

    So I think that gives us a fairly firm answer to the question in the original post. Culture may influence people's prejudices, but ultimately those influential elements stem from our genetic reality.

    If you take away the negative connotations of 'prejudice', it becomes just a normal, functioning part of a healthy human being. Unfortunately, in practice this leads to unwanted effects, but that's what it is. No one said people were supposed to be pretty.

  3. Top | #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    IOW, what you are saying is true in the sense that materialism is true (or that particle physics is true as Jokodo points out), but it has no explanatory power.
    Depends on how you look at it.

    Do unchangeable aspects of our physiology always precipitate themselves in our outward culture? Or in other words, can we always boil cultural elements back to some aspect of our biology?
    That's not "in other words", that's a different and independent claim. It's entirely possible and indeed plausible that, for some definition of "precipitate" and "culture", the first claim holds while there are still gazillion cultural elements that can not in any meaningful sense be traced back to biology.

    Your logic is a bit like saying "Planets have, as a part of their definition, a roundish shape. In other words, it could be said that roundish objects are planets. If so, I have 6 planets of the egg type and 5 of the tomato type in my fridge."

    No one said people were supposed to be pretty.
    No one said the relationship between biology and culture was going to be simple and straightforward either, real as it is.

  4. Top | #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jokodo View Post

    That's not "in other words", that's a different and independent claim. It's entirely possible and indeed plausible that, for some definition of "precipitate" and "culture", the first claim holds while there are still gazillion cultural elements that can not in any meaningful sense be traced back to biology.

    Your logic is a bit like saying "Planets have, as a part of their definition, a roundish shape. In other words, it could be said that roundish objects are planets. If so, I have 6 planets of the egg type and 5 of the tomato type in my fridge."

    No one said people were supposed to be pretty.
    No one said the relationship between biology and culture was going to be simple and straightforward either, real as it is.
    The nit-picking over slightly loose language at this forum is getting pretty tiresome. Every time I write a post someone ends up picking out a series of words that don't quite sound right, ignoring the substance of the post, then I end up spending two days arguing semantics, which always somehow just ends up leading to some new semantic argument.

  5. Top | #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    IOW, what you are saying is true in the sense that materialism is true (or that particle physics is true as Jokodo points out), but it has no explanatory power.
    Depends on how you look at it.

    Do unchangeable aspects of our physiology always precipitate themselves in our outward culture? Or in other words, can we always boil cultural elements back to some aspect of our biology?
    No, because the environment is just as important. The exact same biology will lead to different cultures depending upon the environment that interacts with. So, while our biology is always playing some role, culture cannot be accurately predicted based on biology, and changes in culture are rarely preceded by changes in biology.

    So, the general notion that biology informs culture has no explanatory power, and even if we knew everything about human biology we would be unable to explain most of culture.

    If so, the question becomes whether prejudice has an essential genetic component, or is completely environmental. If the former, then we can assume that prejudice can't be vanquished from culture. It can certainly be minimized, changed, and evolve, but it will always be there.

    So I think that gives us a fairly firm answer to the question in the original post. Culture may influence people's prejudices, but ultimately those influential elements stem from our genetic reality.
    Only if by "answer" you mean something incapable of predicting or explaining any of the variance in prejudice. There are instances where prejudices occurs and where it doesn't. There are situations where the probability of prejudice is near zero, near 100% and every value in between. Your "answer" cannot differentiate any of those and is no better than a random guess in predicting where and when prejudice will occur.

    IOW, it is an "answer" only in the same useless sense that "Everything is a result of particle physics." is an answer to every possible question about anything.


    If you take away the negative connotations of 'prejudice', it becomes just a normal, functioning part of a healthy human being. Unfortunately, in practice this leads to unwanted effects, but that's what it is. No one said people were supposed to be pretty.
    Only if you are going to apply the same conclusions to child rape, genocide, and every possible action any human could ever engage in. They are all manifestations under various conditions of biologically-based attributes that under other conditions lead to actions that are "normal" and "functional".

    IOW, your answer neither explains any variance in objective events, it also explains zero variance in how we should feel about or morally judge anything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post

    No, because the environment is just as important. The exact same biology will lead to different cultures depending upon the environment that interacts with. So, while our biology is always playing some role, culture cannot be accurately predicted based on biology, and changes in culture are rarely preceded by changes in biology.

    So, the general notion that biology informs culture has no explanatory power, and even if we knew everything about human biology we would be unable to explain most of culture.

    If so, the question becomes whether prejudice has an essential genetic component, or is completely environmental. If the former, then we can assume that prejudice can't be vanquished from culture. It can certainly be minimized, changed, and evolve, but it will always be there.

    So I think that gives us a fairly firm answer to the question in the original post. Culture may influence people's prejudices, but ultimately those influential elements stem from our genetic reality.
    Only if by "answer" you mean something incapable of predicting or explaining any of the variance in prejudice. There are instances where prejudices occurs and where it doesn't. There are situations where the probability of prejudice is near zero, near 100% and every value in between. Your "answer" cannot differentiate any of those and is no better than a random guess in predicting where and when prejudice will occur.

    IOW, it is an "answer" only in the same useless sense that "Everything is a result of particle physics." is an answer to every possible question about anything.


    If you take away the negative connotations of 'prejudice', it becomes just a normal, functioning part of a healthy human being. Unfortunately, in practice this leads to unwanted effects, but that's what it is. No one said people were supposed to be pretty.
    Only if you are going to apply the same conclusions to child rape, genocide, and every possible action any human could ever engage in. They are all manifestations under various conditions of biologically-based attributes that under other conditions lead to actions that are "normal" and "functional".

    IOW, your answer neither explains any variance in objective events, it also explains zero variance in how we should feel about or morally judge anything.
    I don't disagree with any of this. As Jokodo also mentions, yes the relationship is more complicated and needs more nuance, no argument there.

    I'm basically just stating that the ultimate source of prejudice isn't culture, and so the answer to the question: 'does culture set up society to be prejudiced'.. well maybe sort of, in some ways if we wanted to write an essay about it, but mostly no. Prejudiced people set up society to be prejudiced.

  7. Top | #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post

    No, because the environment is just as important. The exact same biology will lead to different cultures depending upon the environment that interacts with. So, while our biology is always playing some role, culture cannot be accurately predicted based on biology, and changes in culture are rarely preceded by changes in biology.



    Only if by "answer" you mean something incapable of predicting or explaining any of the variance in prejudice. There are instances where prejudices occurs and where it doesn't. There are situations where the probability of prejudice is near zero, near 100% and every value in between. Your "answer" cannot differentiate any of those and is no better than a random guess in predicting where and when prejudice will occur.

    IOW, it is an "answer" only in the same useless sense that "Everything is a result of particle physics." is an answer to every possible question about anything.




    Only if you are going to apply the same conclusions to child rape, genocide, and every possible action any human could ever engage in. They are all manifestations under various conditions of biologically-based attributes that under other conditions lead to actions that are "normal" and "functional".

    IOW, your answer neither explains any variance in objective events, it also explains zero variance in how we should feel about or morally judge anything.
    I don't disagree with any of this. As Jokodo also mentions, yes the relationship is more complicated and needs more nuance, no argument there.

    I'm basically just stating that the ultimate source of prejudice isn't culture, and so the answer to the question: 'does culture set up society to be prejudiced'.. well maybe sort of, in some ways if we wanted to write an essay about it, but mostly no. Prejudiced people set up society to be prejudiced.
    But your answer to is inaccurate. The OP question was not whether culture is the sole source of any forms cognitive pre-judgment.
    It was clearly about the particular type of pre-judgment where people make judgments of the traits and merits of other people based upon superficial traits, and whether the prevalence of that type of prejudice in society is influenced by culture. The answer to that question is "yes", and nothing that you've said that is valid indicates otherwise.

    Culture is not the same as biology, it is at least as much a product of environment and once created it has effects that are independent of and unpredictable from the biology of the people within that culture. Note that the idea that this form of prejudice is "negative" or undesirable is no more and no less a product of biology as the acts of prejudice themselves. So, biology doesn't determine how prejudice a society is, culture does, and biology has only a limited, partial, indirect impact on culture. IOW, culture is a far more powerful explanatory factor of the overall prejudice in a society than is biology.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    But your answer to is inaccurate. The OP question was not whether culture is the sole source of any forms cognitive pre-judgment.
    It was clearly about the particular type of pre-judgment where people make judgments of the traits and merits of other people based upon superficial traits, and whether the prevalence of that type of prejudice in society is influenced by culture. The answer to that question is "yes", and nothing that you've said that is valid indicates otherwise.
    I read it a bit differently, and just re-read it again now. This line stood out to me:

    Couldn't culture be the one overwhelming institution that could be called despotic or am I way off base here?
    To me it sounds like culture is being described as a major source of social problems. It also sounds like it's being overstated as a cause of tyranny. And I say this because some of the examples that were used in the post:

    Does it not dictate the standards of the way people act? The roles of men and women and such. would this work against men and women that don't fit the carbon cutout versions of male and female, such as the demure woman and the aggressive man. Doesn't that effect how we see gay people and transgenders, as a whole?
    These aren't things that were caused solely by culture, these are cultural artefacts created by people. These elements don't exist independently from those who made the culture a reality, but rather they stemmed from the people themselves.

    So yes people are born into and influenced by culture, but ultimately any despotic elements stem from those bringing forth the culture - people are despotic. That is the main distinction I'm making.

    At the very least you can't claim that humans are a blank slate being shaped only by the world they're born into. It's an interplay and evolution of the two.

    Culture is not the same as biology, it is at least as much a product of environment and once created it has effects that are independent of and unpredictable from the biology of the people within that culture. Note that the idea that this form of prejudice is "negative" or undesirable is no more and no less a product of biology as the acts of prejudice themselves. So, biology doesn't determine how prejudice a society is, culture does, and biology has only a limited, partial, indirect impact on culture. IOW, culture is a far more powerful explanatory factor of the overall prejudice in a society than is biology.
    No biology in itself doesn't explain the overall level of prejudice in a society, there are obviously many factors involved, but it does explain the plain existence of it in society. Even in Canada, one of the strongest economies in the world, racism, sexism, ageism.. etc etc, are all more than significant factors. Bottom line is you can't 'educate' away prejudice. By a combination of factors you can minimize it, but it's always going to be there.

    And I think if you dig deeper you will find that the labelling of prejudice as a negative does have roots in biology, in terms of power struggles between social groups.

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