Furthest Right

Unpacking Pynchon, Both William and Thomas

Samuel Huntington explained most of the religious wars in history: they are about identity, which tends to group together a religion, an ethnic group, and a culture, much like in Judaism or Sikhism today. You choose your religion to symbolize your group because this gives you a philosophy behind the behaviors of your culture.

For this reason, most of the distinctions between religions are semi-arbitrary and reflect cultural interpretations of the idea of religion rather than some scientific, objective, or literal absolute. The point of the religion is to protect the culture, and even if an organized religion, it gets adapted and modified for that culture through interpretation.

Calvinism took over Europe because it fit with what we knew: that some are born to sweet delight, and some are born to endless night, as William Blake said. Destiny exists, and large portions of it at least appear to genetic. This however had its detractors who emphasized choice over determinism:

Pynchon cared more for business for than war. He immediately established Springfield as a working community that carried on a brisk fur trade with the Indians. Because of his principles of honesty and fairness, his reputation spread with the native people and he prospered.

Percolating in the back of his mind, however, were questions about some of the beliefs of the Puritan religious leaders. He then brought them forward in 1650 in a fully-formed book: The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption.

He disagreed with the church leaders of the day on a crucial pillar of Puritan belief. Pynchon argued Jesus did not suffer the torments of Hell to absolve mankind of its past sins. Rather, he won a state of grace through his obedience to God.

This interpretation left open the idea that the way one behaved on earth could dictate whether one would go to heaven rather than a selected few reaching heaven by virtue of predestination.

The glitch with this viewpoint is that for people to have choice, they must have the ability to make that choice, and this is a range, not a binary. History refers to that viewpoint as esotericism, which essentially means that further pathways expand for the individual who has the capacity and wisdom to see them.

In everyday life, we know this through the variation in competence and specialization of tasks. Someone with skill for advanced mathematics, if he or she persists in that path, will come to know more than the average person, and similarly someone with mechanical skill who mucks around with engines will soon be more powerful than others in that area.

At the core of this is talent, and analysis itself — sometimes called “critical thinking” — requires a certain talent that most of the population does not have. The mental focus and judgment ability to understand religion is part of this talent and is unequally meted out by our Creator.

Thomas Pynchon two centuries later wrote about the Elect and Preterite, and how the one acts upon the other as if they were inert, offering up the standard distribution (Poisson distribution a.k.a. “Bell Curve”) as an example of how we face different paths as if determined by the cards of the tarot.

Hard genetic determinism — this is Darwinism taken to its logical extreme — says that our genetics code for traits, and clusters of those form abilities, of which frameworks are formed that define each genetically-distinct group. For example, the visual appearance of a group is coded as part of this framework.

Those of us who grew up in the forest tend to be hard genetic determinists because we see how other species behave according to inborn instinct. A forest observer also sees how within the same species, different animals have different levels of intelligence, which leads to different behaviors.

Somehow mentioning this in the context of humanity becomes taboo. It offends our notion of free will, something Thomas Pynchon wanted to defend through his promotion of egalitarian thinking, although this was in conflict with other parts of his belief system which were more ancient.

As it turns out, science has caught up with the Pynchons, and now shows us how personality traits are largely genetic and not a product of “free will”:

Consistent with some previous studies, we found significant correlations among some of the Dark Triad variables and between each of the Dark Triad variables and some of the Big 5. To the extent that these variables were correlated at the phenotypic level, these correlations were largely attributable to correlated genetic factors. At the univariate level, all traits showed the influence of genetic and non-shared environmental factors, with heritabilities ranging between .31 and .72; Machiavellianism alone also showed the influence of shared environmental factors.

“Machiavellianism” is often mistaken for sociopathy, but means people who are purely directed toward their individual benefit. It is not meaningfully distinct from the bourgeois outlook which denies any obligation of the individual toward anything larger than themselves (voluntaryism) but is usually less willing to conceal itself.

Everything else is largely attributable to correlated genetic factors, meaning that Darwin was right and genes code for traits and clusters of traits make up abilities, talents, and behaviors. If the organism is healthy, it has all the parts it needs and lacks many random parts, so it has none of these pathologies.

The exception is Machiavellianism, which we will probably find comes from instability. Once burned by the altruist crowd, people tend to become viciously self-serving as a matter of self-protection; almost all “rich” people fall under this banner, since they see an endless stream of people with sob stories and hands out.

It turns out that 1-5% of the population have inherited psychopathic traits:

The meta-analytical results obtained allow us to estimate the prevalence rate of psychopathy in the general adult population at 4.5%. That being said, this rate varies depending on the participants’ sex (higher in males), the type of sample from the general population (higher in samples from organizations than in community samples or university students), and the type of instrument used to define psychopathy. In fact, using the PCL-R, which is currently considered the “gold standard” for the assessment and definition of psychopathy, the prevalence is only 1.2%.

Psychopathy and sociopathy share a common root in that in both, the individual is not concerned with or not aware of the impact his actions have on others. Psychopathy adds something else, the paraphilia, or a desire that has symbolic value and does not directly benefit the individual but completes a psychological pattern.

As a broader point, however, this research means that intelligence is genetic, and some are born to be healthy normal people while others are born to mental health disorders. On top of that, some become bitter and self-pitying and end up as Machiavellians because they view the world through such a negative viewport.

Even more profoundly, science disproves equality, because all societies form hierarchies of ability, resulting in “inequality” that reflects the economic utility of each individual through heritable traits:

Today, Latin American countries are characterized by relatively high levels of economic inequality. This circumstance has often been considered a long-run consequence of the Spanish conquest and of the highly extractive institutions imposed by the colonizers. Here we show that, in the case of the Aztec Empire, high inequality predates the Spanish conquest, also known as the Spanish-Aztec War. We reach this conclusion by estimating levels of income inequality and of imperial extraction across the empire. We find that the richest 1% earned 41.8% of the total income, while the income share of the poorest 50% was just 23.3%.

In other words, some are born to be rich, and some are born to be poor. Unless something goes wrong or a freak mutation changes things, this path can be ascertained at conception. Darwin is correct and our genes reflect our traits and thus abilities, even the range of choices that we perceive, thus “free will” is an oxymoron.

Most likely we will find that the defectives — who have lost their sense of purpose, like parasites, and can only react to a host — are missing parts of what makes a whole healthy genome:

In a world full of bizarre animals, hairworms are some of the strangest: parasitic worms that manipulate the behavior of their hosts in what’s sometimes called “mind control.” A new study in the journal Current Biology reveals another strange trait shared by different hairworm species: they’re missing about 30% of the genes that researchers expected them to have. What’s more, the missing genes are responsible for the development of cilia, the hair-like structures present in at least some of the cells of every other animal known.

“Mind control” occurs through use of neurotoxins, hormones, and neurotransmitters to influence the behavior of the host. For a parasite to succeed, it must appear harmless to the host and then manipulate it to engage in self-defeating behavior. In doing so, it emulates useful organisms but is self-serving instead:

Clinical, epidemiological, and immunological evidence suggest that enteric microbiota extensively and profoundly influences the gut-brain relationship (ie, mental state, emotional regulation, neuromuscular function, and regulation of the HPA). Research continues to elucidate mechanisms of action to explain the effects of microbiota, both directly and indirectly, on emotional and cognitive centres of the brain and has demonstrated that fluctuations of the microbiota are linked to changes within these systems of communication.

For example, several mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and autism spectrum disorders now have well-established links to functional GI disruptions, whereas GI disease (eg, irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease) often involve psychological comorbidities associated with alteration of the gut microbiome. In addition, research has demonstrated that the composition of gut bacteria appears to be influential in fetal and neonatal neurologic development. And, not surprising, diet has also been shown to influence the gut microbiome’s impact on cognitive function.

The concept of “free will” dies in the realm of logic because it requires us to have full knowledge of all the possible options, and that is almost never the case. It dies in the biological world because microbiomes, microbes, and even environmental pollutants influence how we think, sort of like hunger, sleep deprivation, and emotions.

In other words, nature wins out over nurture, something exacerbated by environmental influences, but determined fundamentally by genetics. The idea that people have free will to be good or evil makes little sense; they are born as they are.

This does not mean that they cannot be damaged by environmental toxins which influence mood much as microbiota influence mood, but this does not change fundamental character:

Elaborating further on their study, Dr. Choi explains, “When faced with harmful pollutants, organisms undergo a stress response for survival. In fish, we witness this through activating their stress-regulating axis, the hypothalamus–pituitary–interrenal axis, and releasing hormones like cortisol. While this response is essential for short-term survival, prolonged stress can disrupt the organism’s overall health.”

The experimentation revealed that in addition to affecting the endocrine system, exposure to pollutants could damage the organism’s DNA. Both BaP and microplastics, when encountered separately, triggered abnormal effects in the goldfish.

However, on being exposed to both substances together, the goldfish experienced a stronger effect—more stress and DNA damage were observed compared to either substance alone.

William Pynchon argued for free will; Thomas Pynchon saw us more as actors in the grip of forces larger than ourselves, including the standard distribution. Most likely Thomas was correct in terms of everyday behavior, and William had a point about how too much going with the flow leads us to our lowest instincts.

A Calvinist says that “predestination” is a proxy for genetics, and spirituality arises from ability and will, both of which are genetically determined. Some are born to be kings, and some are born to be peasants. Until humanity gets over its stumbling block in accepting that, our future will likely be nothing but religious wars.

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