The Bactra Review   The Cassini Division
OK, I can't resist talking about the true knowledge. It's one of the most seductive ideas I've run across in a long time. (I'm a sucker for neat, big ideas.) Why bother with all that lovey-dovey morality rubbish, this left-over rubbish of religious taboos? The alternative is ever so much cleaner.
Life is a process of breaking down and using other matter, and if need be, other life. Therefore, life is aggression, and successful life is successful aggression. Life is the scum of matter, and people are the scum of life. There is nothing but matter, forces, space and time, which together make power. Nothing matters, except what matters to you. Might makes right, and power makes freedom. You are free to do whatever is in your power, and if you want to survive and thrive you had better do whatever is in your interests. If your interests conflict with those of others, let the others pit their power against yours, everyone for theirselves. If your interests coincide with those of others, let them work together with you, and against the rest. We are what we eat, and we eat everything.

All that you really value, and the goodness and truth and beauty of life, have their roots in this apparently barren soil.

This is the true knowledge.

We had founded our idealism on the most nihilistic implications of science, our socialism on crass self-interest, our peace on our capacity for mutual destruction, and our liberty on determinism. We had replaced morality with convention, bravery with safety, frugality with plenty, philosophy with science, stoicism with anaesthetics and piety with immortality. The universal acid of the true knowledge had burned away a world of words, and exposed a universe of things.

Things we could use. [pp. 89--90]

I don't know whether MacLeod really believes the true knowledge; I rather doubt it, on the basis of his posts to rec.arts.sf.written. (His serious socialist ideas are more or less in line with Alec Nove's The Economics of Feasible Socialism.) I probably won't in a week, though I will keep it as a fail-safe position in ethics: any niceness which you can sustain within that is absolutely secure.

On the other hand, I would be more than half-surprised if something like the true knowledge doesn't develop, only I suspect the founders aren't going to be Korean indentured laborers with nothing to read but Darwin, Marx and Stirner, but western academic evolutionary game theorists and behavioral economists. You can already find socialist (or ex-socialist) economists like Sam Bowles and Herb Gintis arguing for egalitarianism on the grounds that there's a natural, demonstrable human propensity to go to great lengths to punish people who violate norms of fairness; we get something out of doing this. Anti-egalitarians have long said as much, but I think people like Bowles and Gintis are the first people to (1) show it experimentally, (2) show it's a viable evolutionary strategy and (3) turn it into a justification for "doing what comes naturally". A few more decades of similar tough-mindedness and heavy borrowings from evolutionary theory, and the true knowledge will look like common sense...