On finding one’s opposite.

“Nameless One – ‘Then this is my final question: What can change the nature of a man?’
Transcendent One – ‘THE QUESTION IS MEANINGLESS.’
Nameless One – ‘Nonetheless, before there is an ending between us, I will hear your answer.’
Transcendent One – ‘THEN THIS IS MY ANSWER, AND YOU ARE THE PROOF. *NOTHING* CAN CHANGE THE NATURE OF A MAN.'”
–Dialogue from Planescape: Torment.

It is an odd thing, to read the thoughts of your opposite. In my readings of conservative blogs, I have come across a blogger who calls himself “OneSTDV”. I am not quite sure of the meaning of this name but I believe it has something to do with his belief that blacks are inherently inferior to whites intellectually. He calls this idea “Human BioDiversity” or “HBD”. I call it “racism” myself, and I believe it to be false.

 

This is not the only area where we differ. OneSTDV is also quite anti-feminist. While I would call him a misogynist, he himself would probably claim he is not, so we’ll compromise and say he is openly and extremely sexist. On every political issue that I have ever seen him address, his views appear to be the complete and total opposite of mine.

The differences do not stop even here. Our tastes are also completely opposed in the realms of literature, film, art and what qualities we find attractive in women. I am a vegetarian, OneSTDV is a carnivore, and quite proud of it–and more than that, he is openly hostile to vegetarians.

So, why do I read his blog? I admit it can be quite upsetting–his ideas strike me as terrible. When reading him, I always think of the line in P.G. Wodehouse’s story Comrade Bingo, when Bertie Wooster says to the Communist revolutionary: “The whole hub of the scheme seems to be to massacre coves like me; and I don’t mind owning I’m not frightfully keen on the idea”.*

But I read his blog anyway, because I believe it is very useful to expose yourself to thinking in total opposition to your own. It clears the mind, and allows you to focus on what you really believe; and through testing your convictions, you make them stronger.

I tried for some time to analyze my visceral dislike for his ideas, to comprehend what it was that made us different. It seemed to me that perhaps there was some underlying principle from which all our differences logically followed. I believe I found it when OneSTDV wrote in one post:

“In the end, we just can’t escape biology.”

That may be the key. It is to some extent true, of course, and those who would arrogantly try to escape fundamental facts of nature often end up like Icarus. But there is a way in which OneSTDV seems to revel in this fact, as if he is perfectly content with seeing everyone as just “moist robots”, as Scott Adams would say.

It is perfectly true that we cannot escape biology–but it is my contention that this doesn’t mean we ought not to try. For in trying, we become more than just biological entities–we achieve something more meaningful. It is this desire, I think, which underlies all Art and Literature.

Again, my favorite quote from Ayn Rand applies here:

“The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories—with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington. The liberals see man as a soul freewheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe—but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread.”

Now, Rand believed we could have our cake and eat it too; be free in both the physical and psychological realms, where as I see it as more of a trade-off. But in essence, I believe that she was right in that quote above. Liberalism means freeing the mind to do mental work, Conservatism means freeing the body to do physical work.

And that, I think, is what OneSTDV is striving for. He wants to obey his herd instincts–not a bad thing necessarily, as they got to be instincts for a reason–and this is what most of his ideas are directed towards. The vegetarian issue is a perfect example: as I recently noted, I am a vegetarian because I want to be different, OneSTDV is not a vegetarian because he vehemently does not want to be different.

It may be that I am wrong in my assessment. This is just my feeling from reading his posts. No doubt he would be quite annoyed to learn I was doing even this much armchair psychology on him–especially as I suspect he finds psychology in general to be a web of liberal lies. I confess I find it odd as well, but the truth is that I am actually trying to understand myself by understanding him. (He is welcome, should he ever read this, to perform the same sort of analysis on me.)

The larger point here, beyond the strange (and sort of humorous) disagreement between two pseudonymous bloggers, is that sometimes there is something to be gained from reading views alien to your own. It may help you keep your own mind sharp, and prepare you to defend your beliefs.

*Note that I mean this only as a humorous exaggeration. I do not mean to imply that OneSTDV actually intends violence.


UPDATE 1/20/2012: Mentioned this in the comments, but just to make sure everyone sees it: my responses to the comments on this post are collected here.

9 Comments

  1. The most glaring difference between you and One STDV is that you want to examine your life and to do that you compare it to an opposite to challenge your beliefs. You have an open mind.Those that I've encountered like this guy have closed minds and the last thing they would do is seriously consider anything you have to say as valid and attack everything you stand for. They believe in a closed set, not an open set, and they are much the more intellectually poor for such a mind set.

  2. He responded to your post, and I'm following the link from his blog. I'm a regular commenter there.I can't really speak for him, but I can speak for myself. To address a couple issues in your post:First of all, I am in significant agreement with the notion that "we can't escape biology". In many cases, the attempt to try is harmful. A lot of feminist and anti-racist thought is grounded on the "disparate impact" doctrine: that inequality of outcomes is mostly, if not entirely, the result of inequality of opportunity. But this notion, which is taken as axiomatic by so many sectors of society, is, in my opinion, rather dubious and unsupported. For example, I have come across claims that the social assumption that women are the primary caretakers of children is “oppressive.” But to me, it’s plain to see that this notion directly stems from biology, rather than being arbitrary. Women, physically, are more invested in the process of reproduction, and this extends to small children; a lot of cultures practice (or did practice, in the past) extended breastfeeding, sometimes up to the age of 3.Secondly, vegetarianism. Nutrition is not an area in which I consider myself an expert, but I am not as certain that vegetarianism is as healthy as advertised by proponents. As far as being counter-cultural goes, there are plenty of people who have some counter-cultural ideals but also eat a diet heavy with meat. Look up Joel Salatin, for example.

  3. Mysterious,If you want to escape biology and its constraints, first you have to acknowledge and explore those constraints. If you pretend that we are all equal DESPITE different genetic roles (like those of the 2 genders) or even "luck" on an individual as well as collective basis, you can never hope to achieve true equality. Natural selection has shaped not only the universals of human nature like language, but also the differences that inevitably arose between human populations from living in vastly different environments.Just a few examples: did you know that Tibetans living on the "Roof of the World" breathe faster than you and me? Did you know that most of the people of Europe speak Indo-European language, because the Indo-Europeans were the first population which evolved a gene for lactose tolerance and thus outcompeted the other ones? Did you know that Jews have a higher average IQ than any other known human population, which is why the have won a disproportionate number of Nobel Prizes? (they also have the largest incidence of Tay-Sachs and other brain diseases associated with BRAIN function, which could only have arisen if they had some sort of good side effect, like raising their intelligence). Did you know that Blacks are more predisposed to sickle-cell disease than Whites? Blacks who posess 2 alleles of the same type get sickle-cell disease, but having only one reduces the incidence of malaria? Given that Africa is a place where malaria is frequent, the evolutionary advantage of such a gene outweighs its drawbacks. However, European Whites had no need for it because there is low malaria risk in Europe.Obviously, there are some traits and behaviors naturally-selected that are suitable for surviving in an equatorial climate, and others that are suitable in the arctic tundra.I dream of a world in which all people have the same chance of success, which is predicted by intelligence (which is at least 50% genetic). You dream of a world in which anyone who discusses those horrible differences (which we know not how to fix ATM) is reviled as a racist, close-minded person.You should be open-minded and read some science books and explore the ideas which shape our "bigotry":- The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin- The Mating Mind, by Geoffrey Miller- The Red Queen, by Matt Ridley- The Blank Slate, by Steven Pinker- The 10,000 Year Explosion, by Greg Cochran & Henry Harpending- Race, Evolution, and Behavior, by J.Philippe RushtonAnd a few of the popular blogs:- Unqualified Reservations, particularly the series "An Open Letter to Open-Minded Progressives"- Half Sigma- Chateau Heartiste (Roissy)- Unamusement Park

  4. "The most glaring difference between you and One STDV is that you want to examine your life and to do that you compare it to an opposite to challenge your beliefs. You have an open mind."I find it many times to be the opposite of what this commenter says. Liberals, very often, are the close-minded ones. Who are the ones who disrupt conservative public speakers at college campuses and elsewhere? Rarely does one see a liberal speaker bombarded with 60s era war chants with megaphones (think, we're here, we're queer, get used to it). When I talk to liberals, even amongst friends, I like to hear their take on topics, and am often shouted at because of my views. I will disagree, but I'm not so close-minded as to call them names and outright disregard them as human beings because they offer an opinion differing from mine. Being open-minded and tolerant does not mean acceptance of one's beliefs or behaviors; it's having the patience to listen to his side and acknowledging others have a differing viewpoint. In my experience, the Left is much less likely to keep an open mind. Liberals tend to hate the mere thoughts of those on the Right, whereas the Right tends to hate the actions of those on the Left. Disapproving of thoughts is much scarier than disapproving of actions.

  5. I am a fairly liberal HBD'er and I also frequently find OneSTDV's blogging distasteful. But don't let that turn you off from finding out more about this viewpoint, there is much evidence in support of some of the non-political tenets of HBD. You might want to look at this blog: http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/liberal-race-realism-where-we-are-coming-from/"He calls this idea "Human BioDiversity" or "HBD". I call it "racism" myself, and I believe it to be false."HBD is not racism, *even if it were false*, although HBD is sometimes used to justify racism. A quote I like from Lindsay: ""If the scientifically correct position is to be racist, then we need to think of redefining the word. I don’t want to live in a world where the truth is racist and the truth bearers are racist people. I want “racist” to mean something bad. I want to mean hating people of another race to one degree or another. If someone hates Louie or Tulio because they are Black and treats them differently, that’s what I want “racist” to mean. If someone implements a Black-hostile politics out of animus towards Blacks, that’s racist. If someone attacks Obama for being Black, attacks him in a racist way, I want that to mean racist.If “racism” means that there’s a hierarchy of races, and there is, obviously, then we may as well all be racists, and then the word loses all of its meaning. How to differentiate some decent person merely observing the obvious from a KKK or Nazi? You can’t."""It is perfectly true that we cannot escape biology–but it is my contention that this doesn't mean we ought not to try."Yes, for the longest time it was impossible to escape Earth's gravity, but it took great minds to send people to the Moon. Escaping biology may require the help of *actual biologists* just like escaping gravity required actual physicists. Right now the danger is in allowing fuzzy-thinking, political cliches and anti-science race activists to influence social and economic policy."For in trying, we become more than just biological entities–we achieve something more meaningful. It is this desire, I think, which underlies all Art and Literature."While I like might like what you have expressed in the context of the arts, this is not the proper context that HBD lies in. HBD itself is a scientific idea and the politics expressed at blogs like OneSTDV are responses to scientific data that question whether or not current social policies are doing more harm than good. Even if he is wrong about the politics it would not make him wrong about the scientific findings that he uses to support his position.

  6. "It is perfectly true that we cannot escape biology–but it is my contention that this doesn't mean we ought not to try."Why should we try? What purpose would be served? And how did you decide that you should try to serve that purpose?And what does that even mean? What would constitute an escape from biology? How would your attempt to escape biology not itself be a biological phenomenon? Is the brain that makes the decision to "escape biology" not a creature of biology? Do your ideas (including the notion that you should try to escape biology) not come from your own brain or the brains of other humans? Are you suggesting that you are an instrument of a God that is outside the realm of the biological?

  7. ***He calls this idea "Human BioDiversity" or "HBD"***I'd recommend that you read up on population genetics. It is quite plausible, indeed unsurprising, that groups may have different means for heritable quantitative traits. Why would you expect different environments (cultural & geographic) to favor the exact same physical/mental characteristics?See Professor Robert Weingberg's lecture in Biology 7.012 at MIT (2004), linked on Professor Steve Hsu's blog.http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2011/05/forbidden-thoughts.html

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