Chapter 10 - Two Obstacle Memes
The search-for-happiness meme shares with many other memes the condition that it exists in the minds of great numbers of people, if not all of them. It is maintained by the rich and the poor, by holders of the most different ideologies or beliefs, equally by the well-educated person and the dropout. Illiterate peasants have their own idea of happiness, as well as the philosophers who have contributed to refine and spread the meme over centuries and millennia. Philosophers from classical antiquity, from Socrates to Plotinus, contributed with important ideas still palpitating into its most elaborated versions. Focusing on the perspective of ordinary people, we find that it mostly consists of the simple and unsophisticated conviction that human beings strive for one and the same thing, namely, trying to be happy, or as happy as possible, or –at the very least– as less unhappy as they possibly can. Such simple-minded conviction is perhaps shared by the vast majority of people. However, if we ask them what it is to be happy, we will get the most diverging answers. Some will just smile and noncommittally say:
–We all know what happiness is; there is no need to explain that.
Unfortunately, it is not so. As we start reflecting about it, the concept becomes less and less clear and the panorama gets confusing. We cannot identify happiness with any special type of satisfaction, for we often deprive ourselves of whichever of them in favor of another which, at certain times, we consider more valuable. Some may think that it is the absence of pain and the largest quantity of pleasure, but they will have to admit that we frequently accept small and large pains in order to secure other ends, and that the abundance of pleasure provokes boredom, over satiety, or even bad conscience. Philosophic and moral treatises, and even literary writings, are filled with this kind of labyrinths.
Personally, this author prefers to say, with G. E. Moore, that happiness is nothing simple. On the contrary, it is something extremely complex: a well-balanced combination and equilibrium of all the small and big organic wholes which satisfy each of us (1903). Let me identify my own good things one by one. First of all, a clear conscience (absence of serious complaints against oneself); health (absence of illness or physical pain) comes second, together with a sense of security (not to be in danger); absorption in some interesting activity (absence of boredom); harmonious interaction with other human beings (absence of conflict), and –finally– contemplation of beautiful objects, including people, nature, works of art –music, novels, movies or plays, good jokes, elegant mathematical demonstrations or scientific theories. Remarkably, only this last group of goods has no negative version (“absence of ugliness” does not fly). However, I dare to believe that if one enjoys all the listed absences (or similar ones), one could be experiencing nothing in particular and feeling happy just for the fact of being alive and free of mishap. Surely, most human beings would not embrace my specs for a happy life without alteration. I must even confess that each time I have attempted this exercise I ended up drawing a different list of libidinal objects.
In any case, whatever its specific content, it is a fact that a powerful meme does exist, shared by millions and millions of people, asserting that human beings pursue, above and over all, their own happiness. In its very strong version, the meme adds that we have a right to find it or at least to strive for it. In its delirious one, that we have been created precisely to enjoy it, with no other mission in life. This latter version of the meme is not just a concept of happiness or the enumeration of the goods it comprises. It is rather the concept that happiness, whichever way we define it, is something which human beings (at least the free males of the species)305 have a right to fight for, having been created precisely for that purpose.
The meme variant that supposes happiness is a reachable aim in this life has ancient roots in Western civilization. The Greek philosopher Aristotle already identified it as the irresistible drive of each being to carry out to the fullness its potentialities. In the case of human beings, such fullness was identified with the supreme enjoyment associated with the practice of virtue, “virtue” meaning originally “intrinsic force,” what for humans was developing fully as rational and social beings. A virtuous man would then be the one who acts in accordance with what his reason dictates, and endeavors not just for his own well being but also for that of his fellows. Such conduct would ensure his happiness. Aristotle's conception came to supersede the notion of his predecessor Plato, intended only for a more reduced sector of society, namely people versed in mathematics. It consisted of acknowledging that our world was only a poor reflection of a higher and previously experienced one –in some sort of abstract heaven– in the contemplation of perfect geometrical figures. Thus, our virtue and happiness in this life consisted only of vaguely remembering those visions through the practice of mathematics and dialectics (philosophical discussion).
In contrast to Plato's strange conception, Aristotle's much more pragmatic vision was suited to be accepted by wider circles of the population. Ironically, the realism of this commonsense philosopher would not remain in vogue for a long while. As early as in the Roman-Empire era, Neo-Platonists were able to resurrect the elitist theories of their master, wielding them with an even stronger emphasis: if for Plato the fundamental assertion was the soul's falling into the lowly world of matter, his later-day disciples would insist on the return trip toward the contemplation of pure ideas, through a gradual ascent back to the lost paradise of pure abstractions. Such difficult ascent would have to be performed by means of ascetic and purifying rituals, fitting to overcome the weight of the flesh, warden of a soul originally destined to contemplate the unpolluted beauty of abstract concepts. The Fathers of the (Catholic) Church inherited this ethereal idea. The Aristotelian happiness-in-this-life meme was dethroned, displaced by the very different meme ruling throughout the entire Middle Ages: life as a painful pilgrimage toward eternal happiness. The Aristotelian idea of happiness in this life was to remain entombed for a millennium, under the headstone of the opposite meme, wielded by clergy and preferentially applied to Eve’s descendants: terrestrial life as a valley of tears.
In spite of the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who tried to Christianize Aristotle, and diverse attempts to resurrect pagan humanism on the part of Renaissance thinkers, a consistent modern version of the meme of happiness in this life would have to wait for the works of British empiricist philosophers. The utilitarians, in particular, would proclaim the maxim “greatest happiness [in this life] for the greatest number” as the fundamental ethical criterion. In the New World, this meme would come to be enthroned as political ideology with Thomas Jefferson’s work, whose principle of the “pursuit of happiness” was captured in marble in his imposing memorial surrounded by cherry trees on the banks of the Potomac. From then on, and up to our own days, the search for individual happiness (base of the collective one) would prosper as the most popular moral philosophy in the United States. It would give rise to consecutive revolutions of liberation of –men's and women's– customs, spreading as burning lava throughout the world since the end of World War II. Naturally, it would crash with the religious culture, inheritance of the medieval age, represented by the Catholic Church, especially in Ireland, Spain, and Latin America. Such a collision would produce only a few sparks, though, the erosion of Puritanism progressing continuously in all Catholic countries. Protestantism, on its part, would offer little resistance in European countries. In the United States, in contrast, it would entrench itself in its fundamentalist versions, although –oddly enough– almost exclusively concerning the abortion issue. Virulent on that subject, fundamentalists would stop neither before terrorism nor assassination, in the name of the “sacredness of life,” at the expense of women’s right to own their own bodies.
The strongest reaction of religious tradition against the pursuit of happiness in this life, and especially its Anglo-Saxon generalization to include women –in spite of the fundamentalist American reserves concerning abortion– would come, in a ferocious and insidious way, from the Muslim culture. It should not have surprised us: Islamic countries currently live under the same meme of search for happiness in another life which dominated the Middle Ages, with all the misogynism, double moral, obscurantism, and intellectual dictatorship characteristic of that theocratic period. Not in vain Mohammed’s death occurred six hundred years after Jesus’ death, placing the current aggressiveness of the Muslim world at the same boiling point wherein the Catholic world was positioned at the beginning of the 15th century: the religious bloody wars were then only starting, Joan of Ark had not yet been born, and the massacre of Protestants –to the call-to-arms of Paris churches' bells– during the fateful Night of Saint Bartholomew, had still to happen.
It should come as no surprise that the religious rage of Muslims should have focused on fighting Americans, the defenders of gender equality, open society, and democracy, but –above all– champions in making available happiness-in-this-life to the masses. In spite of the European nations being the most secularized, it has been in the United States where the happiness-in-this-life meme has assured itself the most resounding success. On that success, not on its military or economic power, lies the threat meant by the American society to the Islamic fundamentalists. For the Catholicism of six-hundred years ago, Pagan humanism –its cultural antipode– was just a relic of a knocked-down past empire. The current Islam’s antipode, in contrast, is a thriving and successful civilization, where large human masses can credibly say they are happy in this world. It is entirely comprehensible that, in the holy war against this Satan, a consistently pious Muslim can consider it worthwhile to sacrifice his own terrestrial life in order to guarantee eternal happiness in the celestial one.
It is common to equate the pursuit of happiness with a fundamental drive, branded as self-preservation instinct, programmed in our genes. Unfortunately, all biological data seem to point to the brute fact that we are not happiness-achieving machines. It is a real prodigy that the brain operation is able to produce a modicum of it (whatever its content), being as it is responsible for the coordination of so many important activities directed to sheer survival. Happiness, apparently, is not one of them. We can only go as far as admitting the tendency to avoid radical unhappiness (death, extreme pain) as an activity selected by evolution, since a radically unhappy fertile being would lack motivation to stay alive long enough to transmit its genes. Truth is that, ultimately, as machines go, we are only gene-replicating ones, and –surely– happiness as such does not necessarily help in that function. On the contrary, if we take literature as witness, unhappy people are prone to seize copulation as a way to soothe their distress. It is even possible that this characteristic may have been selected in order to multiply the species beyond the ordinary at difficult times (during wars, plagues, or famines). In sum, I consider very probable that the pursuit of happiness is not something genetic, is not inscribed on genes, ...at the most sometimes on marble! It might be just a cultural invention, a meme as so many others, even if as popular as none among Tyrians and Trojans, whether it is promised for this life or, unfortunately, only for another –ethereal– one.
The extreme popularity of the happiness meme is a clear proof of the bewitching power of symbolism. There is no doubt that symbolical thought has given us a definitive competitive advantage in our evolution. Nevertheless, to believe that we are meant to be happy seems nothing but a mistake of symbolic overstepping. Recall how the meme appeared in our Western culture: an excessive liking of mathematics led Plato’s school to postulate as “true reality” something just glimpsed with clearness by the minds of a group of professionals –numbers, abstract ideas, “pure” geometric figures. Beyond Aristotle's horse-sense parenthesis, Neo-Platonists did not resign themselves to the nostalgic lost paradise of their old teacher: they postulated an ascetic method of progressive ascent to his abstract heaven. They thus served on a silver plate the hollow but grandiloquent symbols needed by the subversive of the Roman Empire to build a respectable theology on the debris of a paganism who did love life. If we miss the overflown torrent of symbolism, who charms the mind beyond utility, we cannot understand how Platonic hallucinations gained the upper hand against such sensible philosophers as Aristotle and Democritus.306 The incontinent force of symbolism has still a way of showing itself up when commonsense prevails in our days over mythic delirium, leading many contemporaries to seek firmer grounds and abandon religion: most of those renouncing the illusion of eternal happiness do so only in exchange for a terrestrial memetic mutant of the very same. In some cases, the fewer, it is fame's spurious immortality; the majority, though, opt for an obtuse adherence to abstract ideas: either the mysterious force of history, or the welfare of humankind; the unwarranted steady progress of science, or the illusion of a planetary unitarian community; an ecologism unable to count beans, or globalized unfailing markets; the dream of a despotic world federation, or –at the highest of the ludicrous– a cadaverous personal hibernation waiting for the invincible progress of Medicine.
The sober reality is that, despite its popularity as a meme, nothing ensures us that happiness be an attainable aim, either individually or collectively. Individuals, families, public or private institutions, in one word, all entities capable of setting ends for themselves, must work hard to obtain their goals in procurement of the satisfactory state alluded by the meme of happiness. The charm of symbolism often hypnotizes us, pushing us to the false hope that by just wishing our goals we are already on the way to achieving them. Nothing could be more wrong and harbinger of disappointment! It is regrettable that so much contents of religions, political ideologies, and popular folklore contribute to support the illusions of miracles, easy money, luck, or predestination based on dark and mysterious forces supposedly conspiring secretly on our behalf. Illusions gladly welcomed by our feelings, heavy errors entrenched in our culture, often encouraged by religious, political, and economic vested interests. The overcoming of these illusions requires enormous effort, to which human minds are not naturally adapted. We agree to abandon them –if at all– only after suffering many and painful frustrations. It seems unavoidable that this be so: the late appearance of what we call experience, associated with old age, is not easily selected by evolution, mainly because acquired features are not inherited. Even taking into account Baldwin effects,307 the facility to acquire a good portion of experience, the sharpness to foresee disappointments and try to avoid them, starts to bring benefits when people have long advanced into the procreation age or have exceeded it altogether, too late for natural selection to play its role in transmitting traits to the next generation.
The Spanish saying “the devil is wiser for being old than for being the devil” mentions a retarded trick contrasting with the acquisition of words, a timely one able to integrate itself with largess in the human genome. What we call wisdom is a belated commodity, governed by the scalded-dog effect rather than the Baldwin effect. It is probably good that it is so. Illegitimate generalization is part of the automatic reactions of the untrained mind; it is normal that disappointments may lead, on occasion, to toss the child through the window along with the bath water. The wisdom of the aged is often accompanied by fear to try, weariness to fight, loss of faith in human beings and their institutions. If it were possible to know beforehand the economic and sentimental problems which a couple is inevitably bound to suffer living together, few people would commit themselves to raise a family. If an entrepreneur could view on a mental screen the troubles resulting from his future struggle with markets and bureaucracies, he might probably never launch a new venture. Thus, the insouciance and impulsiveness of youth turns out to have high adaptive value: it promotes an exploratory creativity which the wisdom of old age, transferred to young people by an imaginary graft, would tend to drown in cocoon. An additional confirmation to the fact that we are not destined to happiness, but –if at all– to struggle, experimentation, and the productivity resulting from all that. When done with the struggle and –perhaps– assured of a certain minimum of security and family comfort, then but only then we might enjoy –in calm retirement– a sweet second-best to happiness: the tranquility of having lived justly and productively, having loved and been loved, and contributed in a certain measure to the quality of life of a society which, at great cost, has nourished and sustained us up to a decent old age.
Without denying an iota of the previous paragraph's contents, it is nevertheless possible to expect that new generations will benefit with another type of wisdom, available to all at an early age and in relation to which the Baldwin effect would be perfectly applicable. The conscientious study of reality, through the best methods of rational thinking and empirical testing, might lead us to overcome unfounded illusions, preventing us –at the same time– from taking refuge in a substitute fake happiness. It is precisely within that spirit that I have attempted the writing of this book. A philosophical anthropology based on as much scientific knowledge as possible, of the kind shown on previous chapters, has to contribute to the affirmation of a simple and healthy sense of reality, able to recognize the debits and credits of our condition. As the classic philosophers Democritus and Epicurus foresaw, the knowledge of reality is our best option to avoid the two greatest threats, parallel and antithetical, suffered by human beings: fear and wishful-thinking; the paranoiac fatalism that paralyzes our action and the messianic fatalism which makes us fall into a myriad of pitfalls. At the time of the Greek classics, this invitation to rationality was just a promise of some visionaries who imagined a world based on rational and scientific knowledge. Today, at the other extreme of written history, it is current affairs. The scientific method has been widely established and confirmed. Whoever does not use it to orient himself in life does it at his own peril, ignoring the best possible tool designed by humankind for its own security, comfort and well being.
If a commonsense vision about the possibilities of human life has always been available, at least since the works of the Great Greeks, that commonsense is nowadays mathematically sustainable on the basis of probability estimates308 and an elementary knowledge of the most important natural laws. Those laws are, in their fundamentals, widely known, and one is able to take advantage of them on one's own benefit in all manners of technical resources. We are currently in no need of miracles, or the hope of such, to conduct our lives. We do not have to fear interventions against us from either gods or demons. With respect to calamities caused by human or other physical agents, if we are careful, there is a low probability of being affected by them, although –of course– not equal to zero. What this means is that we should do well taking reasonable precautions to prevent them, but with no stopping the prosecution of our aims for fear of them. These healthy attitudes are teachable; educators have the responsibility of instilling them in our youngsters. It must be included in the alphabetization of the new age. At a long term, though, if humankind does not annihilate itself, the Baldwin effect will probably promote, as evolution hits, those genes that enable the rapid acquisition of the basic scientific perspective, in a parallel way as it selected good speakers hundreds of millennia ago, and it has already been favoring –in my opinion– good readers and writers since the not too faraway date when alphabets were invented.
As we begin considering this new meme, of similar importance to the meme of the pursuit of happiness just examined, the first thing we have to notice is that it is closely related to it, so much so that we could well consider it as its mirror image. In order to substantiate this appreciation, I will recall a phrase I read in my youth in one of the many books that nurtured my fondness at the time for Gabriel Marcel’s Christian existentialism. This phrase in particular, which I have not been able to locate retrospectively among the yellowish and brittle pages of my old library, greatly impressed me and, to a certain extent, directed my life for a couple of decades. As I remember, it said something like this: “I am convinced that, in the heart of reality, something is conspiring in my favor.” When, during my midlife crisis, I quoted it once to my psychiatrist, it had the virtue to make her loose her usual composure and exclaim:
–I'd never heard a more complete expression of absolute madness!
Madness? Well, after all, according to Eric Fromm, madness can be understood as the private religion of a patient, and religion as the public madness of a congregation. “Religion as Conspiracy Theory”? Not bad as a philosophy-article title. Positive conspiracy: At the core of the universe, something conspiring in my favor: the epitome of the optimism and wishful thinking. If we add the generalized fact that most religions, if not all, include beliefs on an evil spirit, parallel in some fashion to the good one, the conspiracy theory suits even better the religious meme. If we turn to the context of contemporary religious wars, the alleged conspiracy of the American Satan against Islam turns out exquisitely framed.
Negative conspiracy theories coincide with the positive ones in their being animist, that is, in attributing to nonliving beings such as social collectives or abstract aggregates (businesses, capitalism, globalization, etc.), a life of their own and, especially, a conscience, which we know they certainly lack. World events are attributed a teleology and premeditation which they surely are devoid of. Conspiracy theorists are in the habit of granting extraordinary powers to some class, party, sect, or society repudiated by them. A great power, a rival or neighboring country, are favorite candidates for incarnation. They are personified and attributed particular malevolent intentions and diabolically-engineered plans. The theorist systematically ignores the essential internal plurality of collectives, the little interest they feel for the theorist’s group, the contradictions existing among members of all populations and ruling rings, and the crushing commonsense evidence that most actions of a collective occur chaotically and not intentionally, or even in blatant contrast to their component members' intentions.
Negative conspiracy theories tend to be formulated, from the start, in a clearly defined form. Just as the pursuit-of-happiness meme is indefinite and vague concerning its object, the conspiracy meme coalesces in totally specified terms while upheld by the affected mind: this or that well-defined group is scheming to take over the world, this or that business organization is conspiring against the poor, this or that security agency of a very specific country is listening to all conversations of politicians from these or those other particular countries, this or that international bank is determined to exploit the popular classes of the Third World, or any other very concrete assertion of complot about which the theorist claims to have countless confirmatory pieces of evidence.309 These lucubrations, as well as the illusions over happiness, are related to a rooted tendency in the nature of symbolism: rounding up, in one sense or another, what is deficient in our information; giving some meaning to whatever lacks of it. In the absence of a careful application of the scientific method, the conspiracy theorist coarsely distorts reality. A concrete example, taken from a recent real-life conversation: A friend of mine intends to explain the obvious capital gains occurred in my country Costa Rica during the last few years, as the result of the single-handed action of two mafias: the Jewish and the Mexican ones. He ascribes to them the perpetration of all kinds of underground political maneuvers. My friend, despite being an educated person (to wit, a political scientist and a philosopher) who should know better, overlooked the most trivial laws of economics which teach us that an intelligent combination of capital, work, knowledge, and some business drive, within a free market and an environment of peace and normal law enforcement, cannot avoid producing genuinely new wealth.310
What we have written, however, does not mean in any way that real conspiracies to carry out harmful acts have not existed. The case of Hitler’s decision to exterminate Jews was real and terrifying, at an enormous scale. The catastrophe of September 11, 2001 in New York is also monstrously relevant. In both cases, there was a highly secret scheme which was put into practice in an effective way, through diabolically sophisticated means the former, diabolically simple the latter. Both, unfortunately, achieved success in their sinister intentions. They were, nevertheless, quite exceptional cases. More characteristic are fabulations with no more grounds than the feverish mind of paranoiacs or the projection of secret desires, conscious or unconscious. They come mounted on the tendency for symbolic closure typical of our species, the inveterate inclination to round up a picture based on pretended evidence, while the effective one could barely qualify as a weak clue in a professional detective investigation. As a third possibility, there are outstanding cases of historical events which, at first sight, offered all the appearance of having been the result of obvious conspiracies and, upon examination by historians, turned out to be the product of human mistakes, fortuitous coincidences of circumstances, or the inflammatory and chaotic power of human passions. The example best fulfilling this description, to my knowledge, is the infamous massacre of Saint Bartholomew, in late 16th century France. Briefly recounted, it seems a paradigmatic case of genuine conspiracy. Yet, carefully considered, it turn out to be a rather horrible fortuitous event never conspired for, or –if you will– a fortuitous confluence of several different conspiracies, all of which wretchedly failing to take place according to its own plan. A careful reader of the historical account will realize how the actors pursued different objectives from those they ultimately executed, being swept in a turmoil of sordid passions to one of the most shameful recorded events in the history of France, the Catholic Church, and humankind.
We have characterized two related memes, the pursuit of happiness and the conspiracy theory, putting emphasis on their similarities and differences. I would like to wrap up the subject by pointing out that the two memes can appear combined, and in fact they do, in a third derivative meme: the (in)famous theological theory of predestination. This meme is characteristic of Protestantism, but it is also present, in a latent or weaker form, in Catholic theology. It is also discernible in the Jewish doctrine of “the chosen people” and in the Jihad (holy war) doctrine of Islam. In simplistic terms, it consists of the fateful and anti humanist doctrine which maintains that God conspires in our favor (the believers) and against the nonbelievers (or alternately, that the nonbelievers conspire against God and us, the believers). This is equivalent to assert that there are two types of humankind: the chosen or predestined ones and the derelict, rejected and condemned ones. The methods to distinguish one from the other, or for “transmuting” one into the other, are several an variegated, but the common and central idea is homogeneous: believers are destined to be saved and nonbelievers to be damned, through some kind of active divine intervention or complicity.
Another component is addable to these two combined doctrines of positive and negative conspiracy, also deeply anti humanistic: the idea that, facing this divine predestination, human deeds or decisions have no importance whatsoever, or at least are of very little value –just as a grateful acceptance of a gratuitous gift from God. The wicked nature of such theories, based on profound contempt and mistrust on the potentialities of human beings, places them at the antipodes of the ideas of Hellenic humanism as well as of the contemporary scientific one.
I have repeatedly emphasized the tendency of the brain to close, round up, generalize without enough grounds, or find meaning in something which, by itself, has none. It seems to be something consubstantial to our nature. We are entitled to be surprised by it, given the quantity of errors to which it exposes us all. In cases such as these, the reaction of an evolutionist should be to ask himself what could have been the compensating selective advantage which led the organism or culture to select the corresponding gene or meme, despite the obvious disadvantages it conveys. Let us recall the nature of the selective force on which memetic propagation depends, according to the experts: it is a matter of the relative shortage of human minds and their limited capacity to house information. Due to these two factors, memes must compete with each other, such competition being what definitely determines which memes are reproduced and which not. The issue of logical closure induces me to add a third factor to those restrictions, namely that of economy of mental energy (whichever the manner in which this should be defined). It is understandable that, for instance, having learned to analyze the actions of specific people in terms of symbols concerning means and aims, we spare ourselves mental effort doing the same with conglomerates of people to whom we have also associated symbols as identifiers of their unitary totalities. The need to save scant resources would favor memes resulting of that mental closure against open memes with more elaborated structures, but much more realistic. It would be a sort of mischievous use of the principle of parsimony, where the Occam’s razor would be applied in the absence of types of information perfectly obtainable, if you went to the trouble of trying to find them.
Serious attempts to overcome those excesses began in Antiquity, with the emergence of Greek skepticism and Athenian democracy. Of these two healthy tendencies, the former prescribed reasoning and direct examination of nature as the preferred way to learn about reality, moving away from tradition and religious authority; the latter, recommended discussion and negotiation as the most tolerable style of political coexistence, as opposed to blind obedience to established customs or dictates from powerful masters. Interrupted for a thousand years by medieval obscurantism, they reappeared temporarily in the scene with the emergence of the commercial city-states of the late Middle Ages and the teaching of daring thinkers with the intellectual caliber of Copernicus and Galileo. They finally caught fire once again with the English, American, and French revolutions, and the institutionalization of modern science during the 18th century. In all these movements we find a phenomenon of rebellion against the comfortable tendency to maintain a single “truth,” gratuitously received from our parents and priests, a strong reaction against the doctrine that anyone who does not accept the established creed should be banished from society or physically eliminated. This ancestral way to react in the presence of symbolic messages made life easier and saved mental effort, and thus was probably advantageous for tribal societies with very limited resources for survival. As societies, their cultures and economies, became progressively more complex and creative, this traditional attitude became an immobilizing shackle for thought.
The overcoming of the symbolic inertia implied in the advent of democracy included, along with more laborious intellectual procedures for law approval and application, an abandonment of the outmoded meme of the king's sacredness. Royal people symbolized at the time the State, the Nation, or the Empire in a material sense: their body and garments had healing properties, the chairs where they seated on their journeys were removed from ordinary use and covered with a linen cloth, as a sign of veneration. It was even assumed that they had a direct connection with God, being themselves somehow divine. When much later, in the 20th century, due to circumstances still researched by historians, there was a return to tribal customs by totalitarian regimes, such re-installation of absolute truths and scepters came along with an extremely wide display of symbols, once more as a way to take advantage of the energetic economy implicit in the symbolic inertia, in this case reclaimed for to a fast and profound –malefic– re-engineering of society. A depraved and massive psycho-sociological regression to a primitive stage of the species! Its terrible memory should serve as constant reminding on the fragility of human culture that goes together with its most outstanding achievements.
Note 305: Come on! Do not pick on me. I am not the macho type, I am only assuming that most people –male and female– are.
Note 306: Contemporary of Plato who anticipated the atomic theory and the methodology of modern Science.
Note 307: See Chapter 8, THE BALDWIN EFFECT.
Note 308: An excellent presentation for laymen of the probability estimation, emphasizing commonsense applications, can be found in the best seller by John Allen Paulos, Innumeracy (Paulos, 1989).
Note 309: In this he behaves in a complete opposite way to a scientist: where the conspiracy theorist –in paranoiac rapture– attempts to find confirmations –up to the ridicule–, the scientist look rather for refutations –up to the obsession.
Note 310: The availability of a certain territory and the existence of adequate commercial opportunities (a free-trade environment) taken for granted.