Intellectual Incest

Via Skeptical Analysis:

Natural selection tends to avoid incest. Incest — more properly, inbreeding — allows recessive genetic traits to accumulate, often to the detriment of affected individuals. If a child gets a bad gene (doesn’t make a needed protein) from one parent, it’s best if the other parent doesn’t also contribute the bad gene.

Popular literature suggests wild populations, such as wolves, seek mates from outside their own packs. Also, primitive peoples may raid neighboring clans for wives, and friendly exchanges of eligible women between ruling European families provided genetic diversity while maintaining royal status.

Cultural and intellectual incest is a problem of a slightly different nature. Lack of cultural diversity can deprive a nation of the benefits of innovation and can also result in the development and retention of perverse cultural traits. Open societies are the fix. Honor killings within some European societies have lost fashion as a result of the cultural dilution that resulted from advances in communications and exchange of populations in the twentieth century.

Science deflects intellectual incest through a well-considered program of peer review. A small group of scientists working in isolation can develop wrong-headed theories through self-deception or an undeserved sense of self worth. Banging unworkable theories against contrary opinions and knowledge will often bring light and a better understanding of the true nature of things…

Read more here.

4 Comments on "Intellectual Incest"

  1. Liam_McGonagle | Jun 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm |

    There are any number of valid analogies to the current cultural lethargy.  Incest, the increasing entropy in closed systems, etc., etc.  Continuing to reward stale retreads of group think is literally killing us.

    • even just reading the title I can’t help but scream religion! it’s so sad so many religions don’t understand they’re all after the same thing. there needs to be a universal religion that takes all the shitty little religions the world over and merges them into one big vat of craziness.

      in the end everything would probably just summarize into “we don’t know” but it’d be better off spending a life pondering that truth with everyone than all the crap small bible groups regurgitate year after year without thinking about what they’re even after.

      • Liam_McGonagle | Jun 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm |


        But I still say there is some value in exploring the logical implications of some of the various specific possibilities.  They’re all almost certainly incorrect in some very fundamental aspects, but maintaining a contingent sense of ‘belief’ in one frees up the psychic energy you need to commit to a rigorous investigation.

        If you don’t believe at all in an idea, you give it up and leave it for dead.  If you believe too much in an idea, your focus becomes too narrow and you’re unable to see it’s actual contours and how it interacts with other ideas.

        A type of toleratant belief, maybe even a “serial commitment” to several religions, if not outright polytheism or pantheism, might be more adaptive than over dependence on monotheism or atheism.

  2. The only thing to get is money | Jun 14, 2012 at 12:45 am |

    Interesting spin on a biological disadvantage.

Comments are closed.