The West is Dangerously Weird

Had this piece from The Harvard Gazette bookmarked for a couple of weeks and still not fully digested:

“How the West Became WEIRD
– that is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic.”

It’s an interview of Joseph Henrich by Juan Siliezar.

Main thread in my own agenda that “western rational arrogance” is a disease that we suffer from and leaves us blindsided when it comes to understanding that there are alternative world-views held by those not subjected to western (mental) colonisation, via media if not physical via force of arms.


Follow-on beyond and unrelated to the above article, a topical example of why dominant Western reasoning is a problem for the world:

The alternate views of Covid19 “disease” on the one hand and Covid19 “response measures” on the other.

Prof. Sunetra Gupta – Oxford UK (theoretical) Epidemiologist – with alternate views on this balance of risk. (I’m pretty close to her position.) “Do the math” is the false step; easy, but false. Classic memetics.

Dr. Reiner Fuellmich – German lawyer – a bit too big-capitalism business-conspiracy focussed for my taste, but interestingly bringing in very early the idea of archetypal Germans being very disciplined in terms of rational logic representing a target for “the science” driving the Covid19 response. He goes as far as to say “there are no excess deaths anywhere”

If nothing else in a rational democratic society – popular consensus is not a great measure for scientific validity, not when the very basis is already biased to that kind of “Western” logic. The modern (post 1920’s) East is thoroughly contaminated with the same western mental virus.

The only “conspiracy” is that we are memetically trapped – complicit – in this reasoning loop.

And “economy” has nothing to do with the arithmetic of money either – that’s “autistic” to coin the phrase. It’s about living meaningful lives.

The only argument for lock-down is the delaying effect that prevents overload of health services. The delay in itself has no other value, yet has huge and profound downside “costs” in its own right.



Tricky part of this whole debate is what constitutes an “acceptable” level of death. Zero or minimal sounds reasonable but is in fact totally irrational.  As someone quipped on Twitter the other day, aiming for zero deaths shows a lack of ambition, we should aiming to raise people from the dead 🙂

Keeping “Excess Deaths” within normal expectations is the benchmark most settle on, but even here, the question of excess relative to what is still a political (ie policy) choice. The appearance of science and pre-school arithmetic is attractive, but nevertheless entirely political. Consider:

Expectations Alive in 2020
UK Pop 67,800,000
UK Life Expectancy 81
Average annual (all causes) 837,037
Average monthly 69,753
Average weekly 16,005
Recent 5 yr recorded average 11,000 – 12,000

Slightly scary is that formal stats of UK excess death rates being used in public stats on Covid progress are using weekly deaths relative to that 5 yearly average. Recent years have been exceptionally low death rates, life expectancy and population have been rising unusually rapidly recently in the UK. Policy is being set on keeping it rising at these rates. Peak levels of deaths during Covid 19 (22k/wk) have been barely as far in excess of the lifetime expectation (16k/wk) as the 5 yr average (11-12k/wk) is below it.

Given this is marginally significant, it is even more worrying when looking at actual Covid reported deaths (these are just England, not UK). Whatever the age group 95% of reported deaths coincide with pre-existing conditions over the whole Covid period since March.

I agree with the general “Barrington” position that Covid health risks are being greatly exaggerated in connection with Covid policy measures.

We should be living life, taking targeted precautions, taking extra care of the elderly and those with (known) pre-existing conditions, those in front-line human contact, etc. Just as we would with any infectious potentially life-threatening disease. Basic good manners.

In terms of my own longer-term agenda, simple arithmetic is being used as a substitute for sound judgement because simple arithmetic looks like following-the-science and absolves decision-makers from the responsibility of making judgements that could be challenged by such simplistic scientism as being “unscientific”.

(This has been well documented previously as The McNamara Fallacy. If you focus on what you can count – the body count, the case count – reality is distorted because uncountable, judgemental human factors are ignored and effectively rendered invisible. Even the apocryphal Einstein got it “Not every thing that counts can be counted“.) I say:

Simplistic scientism is killing real science and civilisation as we know it.

Wake-up folks. No conspiracies of skilled-incompetence needed, just natural laws of evolution, driving humanity to irrelevance until we recognise this fault in our modern rationality.


[Post Note 26th Jan 2021 – UK passing the 100,000 attributed deaths milestone since the outbreak has been recorded. That’s 6 average weekly normal expected death tolls – in a year! It’s only “significant” because counting in base 10 – as we do arbitrarily – it has 5 zeroes? We are conned by arithmetic. Every individual life lost or damaged is a tragedy. Socially, population, human-progress-wise it is still barely a blip. We need to get a grip on the future of humanity. And … Whitty knows it.]

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