Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Immunological Ethnocentrism

A note I made some time ago, in quote marks, but I do not recall where I read it:

There is an analogy, according to Rosenblatt, between immunological reactions of the body and the ethnocentric reactions of the individual or of a society. Just as the body is better prepared to avoid destruction by foreign substances as a result of a generalised tendency to resist the impingement of foreign substances, so an individual or a society may be better prepared to avoid destruction by aliens as a result of a generalised tendency to distrust, avoid, or reject foreign-seeming individuals. The disadvantage of severe damage or destruction, whether likely to occur or not, is so much greater than whatever advantages contact with things alien confers on one that a psychological or biochemical paranoia is the preferred strategy for survival. Where one failure to anticipate the malevolence of an alien person or substance may be fatal, organisms that must acquire defensive reactions to each specific harmful person or substance are less likely to survive during a given period of time than organisms prepared to be defensive against all alien persons or substances.


[Update: Ah! This quote is from Johan M.G, van der Dennen, ‘Ethnocentrism and In-group/Out-group Differentiation: A Review and Interpretation of the Literature’ in Reynolds, Falger, Vine (eds.), The Sociobiology of Ethnocentrism (London: Croom Helm Ltd., 1987).]


Tanstaafl said...

Then there are those AIDS-like alien persons or substances which deliberately attack the defense mechanisms of an individual or society.

fellist said...

Your comment reminds me of something I think you'll enjoy.

Someone posted a sarcastic comment at MajorityRights to the effect that Jews would have to be supernatural all-powerful beings to do half of what they were (accused of) being accused of. James Bowery, modelling his answer on the complaint replied:

Those Human Immunodeficiency Viruses seem pretty smart. I mean they seemed to have subverted immune systems in every country in the world, control sexual behavior in all the major cities, make even fortune 100 CEOs scared to screw their secretaries without condoms, depopulate subsaharan Africa, ETC! For tiny little packages of RNA, of whom the vast majority are discarded in dead bodies, and without even most of them mean THAT is impressive.

Tanstaafl said...

That's a good one. Nature is politically incorrect.

E.O. Wilson made a solid argument for sociobiology in Consilience and the You-Know-Whos went apeshit over the prospect.