Unto Others

I post because it makes me feel good, not because Officer Scott told me to

“Originally, when I saw all of the horrible things that the Nazis did to other humans without even thinking twice about it, I thought: how could I get this sort of power?”

— Pixel’s friend Frank Jagear on the Milgram experiment

Psychological Egoism: the belief that every action is fundamentally driven by egoistic motives. No act of altruism or benevolence will ever be judged as good, because on some basic mental level, we’re just doing it because we’d feel better doing it than if we didn’t.

Unto OthersPsychological egoism is very intuitive. People, when they hear the description, generally assume it obviously is the case. However, reading “Unto Others: the Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior” by Elliot Sober and David Sloan Wilson has finally settled the issue for me.

Psychological egoism is the intelligent design of psychology. The proof is in the ubiquity of its explanatory power, but the poverty of its predictive ability. Any action you can propose can be explained egoistically, yet you cannot predict a future action with psychological egoism any better than you can without it.

Since it’s not really scientific, it doesn’t make sense to seriously consider it until it can predict something. As long as there is another, equally appropriate theory, it makes no sense to discard it for this one.

That is one idea I had today. The other is that people seriously need to question authority. Check this out. It’s about the Strip Search Prank Call Scam (say that three times fast) that happened in 2004. Apparently, people will do anything when confronted by an authority figure (see Stanford prison experiment). These people, just because they thought they were talking to a cop, were willing to force an 18-year-old girl to strip and perform sexual acts on them:

The final prank call in this scheme was made to a McDonald’s restaurant in Mount Washington, Kentucky on April 9, 2004. According to assistant manager Donna Summers, the caller identified himself as a policeman, ‘Officer Scott’, he described an employee whom he said was suspected of stealing a customer’s purse. Summers called 18-year-old employee Louise Ogborn to her office and told her of the suspicion. Following the instructions of the caller, Summers ordered Ogborn first to empty her pockets, and finally to remove all her clothing except for an apron, in an effort to find the stolen items. Again following the caller’s instructions, Summers had another employee watch Ogborn when she had to leave the office to check the restaurant. The first employee she asked to do so refused, so she phoned her fiance Walter Nix, asking him to come in to ‘help’ with the situation.

According to Ogborn, after Summers passed off the phone to Nix, he continued to do as the caller told, even as the caller’s requests became progressively more bizarre. A security camera recorded Nix forcing Ogborn to remove her apron, the only article of clothing she was still wearing, and to assume revealing positions. As time went on, Nix, per his instructions, began to spank her and had her perform oral sex on him.

Those are my 2¢ for the day…. thanks for stopping by and sorry about making you lose faith in humanity.

p.s. Oh, and APixelatedMind.com redirects here now… in case it’s easier for anybody to type that in rather than what I have now.

p.p.s. I’m going to start linking all of the idioms I use to their description as I, apparently, have international fans now. Whoo!

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