Skip to main content

The birth of radical rationalism

... and its utilisation for the justification of political failure

In 1967, a strange and brilliant man came to London from America. He was called George Price. By chance, in a library, Price discovered a scientific paper written by Bill Hamilton. It was full of equations that show that human goodness and altruism were really survival strategies devised by our genes. It had been ignored by the scientific establishment.

As Price looked at the equations, he had a sudden shock of recognition. He realised that what he was looking at was a description of machines he already understood – computers. Price had worked originally as a chemist on the Manhattan Project, but then in the 1950s, he had gone to IBM, where he helped design the graphics for early mainframe computers.

Price was an obsessive rationalist and in his spare time, he became a freelance science journalist and he specialised in attacking the myths and superstitions in society. Because he believed that rationality could explain everything.

Above all, Price loved the cold logic of mathematics and computers. He believed that computers gave scientists like him a new power to analyse the world in a completely rational way. He wrote an article proposing that America could mathematically measure unhappiness levels among populations in the world. This would allow them to spot where Communism might take root and so prevent it.

Price's ideas were part of a powerful belief that had grown up in the electronic laboratories of the Cold War - that computers could be the salvation of humanity. The godfather of this belief was the man who had done more than anyone to create the modern digital computer, the mathematician John Von Neumann, who had also built the H-bomb.

And when, in 1967, Price found William Hamilton's paper, he realised that what Hamilton had discovered was a new rational way of looking at human beings and their behaviour. They were simply soft machines, controlled by on-board computers.

Price took Hamilton's mathematics and developed it. But as he did so, he realised that the equations also worked in reverse. That it was not just logical to be good, it was also logical to be spiteful. It made sense to kill yourself, if in the process you also killed people distantly related to you and allowed those closely related to survive. Price's mathematics explained murder, warfare and even genocide as possibly rational strategies for the genes controlling your behaviour.

James Schwartz, George Price's biographer states: “Well, because it meant that you could have genes that were evolved that were coded for murdering people. Such a gene, even if it was bad for the possessor of the gene, as long as it was worse for distantly related people, it could evolve and we might be genetically programmed to be murderers. This was actually what George had been wondering and he sort of proved that in a mathematical sense, it could exist. It grew out of Hamilton's theory because Hamilton had seen that you could harm yourself as long as you helped your relatives. But this was different, you could harm yourself as long as it harmed distantly-related people that we had genetic ways of recognising our closer relatives and our more distant relatives and we were programmed to hate and kill our more distant relatives. These are the implications of the theory. [...] The genes would grow in the population. That's what this was all about.

Price showed his equations to Hamilton. Hamilton was fascinated and together they developed their theory. It would become known as the Selfish Gene. They also became close friends. What Price had done was an incredible piece of mathematics. As Von Neumann had predicted, what Price has also done was bring rationality and a clear logic of mathematics into a new field, into the heart of being human, but with the strangest of consequences.

20 years before, as computers were being developed, Von Neumann had dreamt of the future where machines would be able to replicate themselves. He had written out a description of what would be needed for what he called self-reproducing automata to be invented.

The extraordinary breakthrough that Price and Hamilton had made was to discover that self-reproducing automata didn't have to be invented. They were already here, they were us. The equation has had enormous implications because if everything we did, whether good or bad, was actually a rational strategy computed by the codes inside us, then religion with its moral guidance was irrelevant. And it demolished the Enlightenment idea that human beings were above the rest of nature. In reality, we were no different from all the other animals.

All this had a very strange effect on George Price, the convinced rationalist. He decided that the discovery was so powerful, it must have been a gift from God. In 1973, George Price decided to devote his life to helping the homeless of London. As a result of the equations he had developed, Price had been given a job in the genetics laboratory of the University of London, but he had also converted to Christianity. And he had done so in an extreme way.

Price decided that he was going to follow the teachings of Christ as if they were an exact code. He set out to help the poor and destitute to give them all his worldly goods. He also walked the streets, offering the homeless a place to stay in his flat near Oxford Circus.

William Hamilton became desperately worried about Price. He was convinced that his religious belief was a mad superstition, and pleaded with Price to give up trying to help the homeless and do more work on genetics. But others believed that Price had been so shocked by the implication of his and Hamilton's theory that he was in some desperate personal way trying to disprove it.

Hamilton was by now one of the most famous scientists in the world. He was given the highest honours by the scientific establishment, but his theories had led him into a very dark place. He had written a series of books called Narrow Roads Of Gene Land. In them, Hamilton followed the logic of natural selection to its extreme conclusion. The idea that we should use western science and medicine to prolong the lives of those who would otherwise die, he said, was wrong. It would allow the genetically inferior to survive, and so would weaken society. Nothing should be allowed to interfere with the strategy of the genes.

Then, Hamilton heard a story from a journalist. The journalist believed that the AIDS virus had been accidentally created by American scientists in the Congo in the 1950s when they were testing a polio vaccine. The Americans had set up a laboratory to make the vaccine by growing it in the cells of chimpanzees. And the journalist's theory said that by doing this, the vaccine had become mixed with the chimp version of HIV, which then entered human beings when they took the vaccine.

Hamilton was fascinated. He was convinced that the scientific establishment were trying to suppress the evidence because it was a challenge to the idea that modern medicine was always beneficial.

He decided to break the conspiracy of silence. So he set out for the Congo. He was going to track down the local chimpanzees, study their viruses and prove that modern medicine, in trying to save lives, had inadvertently caused the death of over 20 million people. Hamilton's journey was a vivid expression of what had happened at the end of the 20th century to the western dream of transforming the world for the better. Then, Hamilton died, by the freak accident of the aspirin lodged in his gut, that then caused a haemorrhage.

His theory about the origin of AIDS in the vaccination programmes of the 1950s turned out to be completely untrue. Subsequent research has shown that it had no factual foundation.

But Hamilton's ideas remain powerfully influential in our society. Above all, the idea that human beings are helpless chunks of hardware controlled by software programmes written in their genetic codes.

And the question is: have we embraced that idea because it is a comfort in a world where everything we do, either good or bad, seems to have terrible unforeseen consequences? We know that it was our actions that have helped to cause the horror still unfolding in the Congo. Yet we have no idea what to do about it. So instead, we have embraced a fatalistic philosophy of us as helpless computing machines to both excuse and explain our political failure to change the world.


  1. Order a Sparkling White Smiles Custom Teeth Whitening System online and SAVE BIG!
    * Up to 10 shades whiter in days!
    * Professional Results Guaranteed.
    * Better than your dentist, for a fraction of the cost.
    * Same as dentists use.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

MSNBC poll on Julian Assange backfires epically

globinfo freexchange
Frequently - if not always - polls set-up by corporate media aim to track public opinion on a specific issue. The results could be used by the deep state apparatus in order to justify an action, or, figure out how to handle a negative trend for the deep state agenda.
Of course, the question could be set-up in a very simplified and convenient manner, so that the results could be translated accordingly.
Yet, the results from the following MSNBC poll on Julian Assange are so devastating for the deep state planning that leave little room for any misconception and manipulation.
Specifically, you have two options to answer the following question: “Should Julian Assange be prosecuted for his involvement in WikiLeaks?
The first option is to answer that "Yes, he is a criminal."
The second option is to answer that "No, he is a whistleblower and deserves protection."
At the time we checked out the results, the second answer prevailed overwhelmingly with 95% (~1…

Trump's failure to start a civil war in Venezuela could be proved disastrous for the plans of the US imperialists

by system failure
Donald Trump and his bloodthirsty warhawks are about to break the record of failed attempted coups against a single country. Concerning Latin America, the US imperialists were setting the desirable conditions for their corporate beasts usually by overthrowing governments and supporting military dictatorships.
But Trump himself has already broken another record. The record of not keeping his promises to the American people - every one of them. The 'anti-interventionist', 'anti-establishment' Trump, has already started a war against Venezuela, which so far includes brutal economic sanctions, sabotage operations, attempted coups. Trump not only does whatever he can in order to satisfy the US neocon/neoliberal establishment and the deep state, but especially in the case of Venezuela, he follows the obsolete CIA playbook to the letter.
So, after a series of failed orchestrated coups, Trump's warhawks attempted to start a civil war in Venezuela by mobiliz…

Latest ridiculous attempts by the US propaganda machine on Gaza, Venezuela – enjoy

globinfo freexchange
Plenty of propaganda is manufactured by the US deep state apparatus to push for the imperialist agenda. Yet, some elements of the propaganda machine are still unable to realize that independent truth seekers and real journalists are watching, and therefore, these elements could be easily exposed.
Sloppy efforts immediately backfire in social media and the Internet. Most recent sloppy efforts are related to Gaza and Venezuela.
As the Newsweekreported:
Senior 2020 Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson used a 2015 video showing a Ukrainian rocket launch alongside comments about this weekend's deadly attacks between Israel and Gaza militants and a condemnation of congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Pierson, who was Donald Trump's 2016 campaign spokesperson and is a frequent cable news guest, shared the video—which was first posted online in 2015 and reportedly shows Ukraine launching dozens of rockets at Russian-backed separatists—on Sunday.

Fox clowns committed suicide by bringing Bernie Sanders inside their nest to destroy them

... and the liberal centrists must be really pissed off
globinfo freexchange
It was epic indeed. The moment where the crowd inside the Fox ultra-right nest enthusiastically cheers in favor of a government-run healthcare system, could actually be considered a historical moment, thanks to Bernie Sanders.
The moment clearly depicts and officially marks the end of controlled audiences in controlled MSM environments. It shows that the well-paid MSM pundits and their producers are finding increasingly difficult to set up the scene according to the desirable agenda. Therefore, audience reactions can't be directed, or predicted in many cases by the MSM 'experts'.
The shock for the MSM tools was inevitable. It shows that they are now completely detached from the ordinary people and their problems.
But the whole thing highlighted something even more fundamental. It was another loud evidence for the fact that the BS neoliberal narratives don't work anymore.
And even more remarkably, th…

Former top US official confirms: military action against Venezuela will become a Vietnam 2.0 for the US imperialists

globinfo freexchange
Former US Chief of Staff for Secretary of State, Lawrence Wilkerson, spoke with Sharmini Peries of the Real News about Trump's plans for a potential US military action against Venezuela.

As he pointed out:
Elliott Abrams, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, and the administration’s approach to Venezuela, is as if they were Panama or they were Honduras. They are not. They’re very professional. That puts them above Argentina, above Chile, whose militaries are quite competent, too. 
Mr. Trump ought to be very, very careful about saying he’s going to send marines or soldiers to Venezuela because the Venezuelan military will be unified immediately. It will take to the hills and it will fight as the Vietnamese did during the Vietnam War, and as the Taliban are in Afghanistan right now: to the last marine, to the last soldier.
Putin is a smart man, probably told Trump 'you don’t want to get involved in those jungles. You don’t want to get involved in those mountains. You …

Updates for a possible coup against Jeremy Corbyn

 globinfo freexchange

In this episode of RT's Going Underground, former MP and author of A Very British Coup and The Friends of Harry Perkins, Chris Mullin, spoke about the history of MI5 and MI6 meddling in UK politics against Labour Party leaders. He also estimated whether a British coup is underway against Jeremy Corbyn.
The story of A Very British Coup was set in the 1980s when there was speculation about the possibility of a government led by someone like Tony Benn and the establishment conspired to bring it down. The establishment in this case being a sort of mixture of the security and intelligence services, the media barons, with a little help from the Americans. 
Tony Benn looked likely to become deputy leader of the Labour Party which at the time was strongly challenging the government of Margaret Thatcher in the opinion polls. Persistent rumours circulated over the years about attempts by members of the British security services, and other wings of the British Establish…

How GMO seeds and Monsanto/Bayer’s “RoundUp” are driving US policy in Venezuela

With Juan Guaidó’s parallel government attempting to take power with the backing of the U.S., it is telling that the top political donors of those in the U.S. most fervently pushing regime change in Venezuela have close ties to Monsanto and major financial stakes in Bayer.
by Whitney Webb
Part 3 - The AEI axis
Some of the key figures and loudest voices supporting the efforts of the Trump administration to overthrow the Venezuelan government in the United States are well-connected to one particular think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). For instance, John Bolton — now Trump’s national security advisor and a major player in the administration’s aggressive Venezuela policy — was a senior fellow at AEI until he became Trump’s top national security official. As national security adviser, Bolton advises the president on foreign policy and issues of national security while also advising both the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. As of late, he has been pushing for …

Chelsea Manning proves that she is a real hero

globinfo freexchange
Outside of an Alexandria, Virginia courtroom, Chelsea Manning explained to reporters why she would refuse to testify before a second grand jury investigating Wikileaks' Julian Assange, and as a result, face jail time once again. On May 9, Manning was released from jail because the term of the last grand jury she refused to testify before expired. She was immediately subpoenaed once again—for May 16.
Her following words clearly depict that Chelsea Manning is a person with strong and solid principles and a real hero:
I will not cooperate with this or any other grand jury, so it doesn’t matter what it is, or what the case is. I’m just not going to comply or cooperate. Facing jail again, potentially today, doesn’t change my stance. The prosecutors are deliberately placing me in an impossible position: go to jail and face the prospect of being held in contempt again, or, in the alternative, foregoing my principles, the strong positions that I have, that I hold dear…

Dear Ilhan: don't fall in the trap, don't play the game of the Western imperialists

globinfo freexchange

From the first moment we acknowledged the braveness of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to stand against Trump's war criminals and AIPAC lobbyists. Her general stance against the US imperialist agenda is putting her right at the top of the list of the authentic progressives.

The Western propaganda machine immediately mobilized and tried to smear her because of her stance.

Yet, Ilhan tweeted a link from an article coming from this propaganda machine, claiming that there is new 'evidence' of China's mission to raze the mosques of Xinjiang.

While we don't deny that Uighur Muslims may face some serious problems, we should bear in mind that Xinjiang and Tibet are two regions of high sensitivity. Both have been used for decades by the Western imperialists to destabilize China. There are strong indications that the US even orchestrated some CIA-type false flag operations to provoke another 'color revolution' in Xinjiang and create further destab…

There is something fundamental missing from Bernie Sanders' new ad

globinfo freexchange
Several progressives expressed their enthusiasm about Bernie's new ad. However, if we examine it closely, we will find that it is quite far from describing an effective progressive strategy that Bernie Sanders should follow.
The ad successfully highlights the complete failure of Donald Trump to secure the jobs of the American workers, and more specifically, his evident unwillingness to fight against the corporate beasts in order to protect workers' jobs and interests.
At the end of the ad Bernie tries to send a clear message to the corporations: “If you are not a good and responsible corporate citizen, do not think that you will get Federal contracts.

What's wrong here?
First of all, only through a miracle we could see the parasitic corporate beasts behave responsively. We know, and Bernie knows, that they don't care about workers' rights and working conditions. They don't care about giving decent wages. They only care about maximizing profits …