Tuesday 20 February 2024

What is RaGa's vichardhara?

Rahul Gandhi gave an in depth interview to Chatham House in March of 2023

Rahul Gandhi-...When I joined politics in 2004 [pause] the democratic contest in India used to be between political parties,

At that time no party was big enough to form a Government. There was a contest between two broad coalitions- one anchored by Congress and the other anchored by the BJP. It would be true to say that one side considered the RSS to be 'Fascist' while the BJP was founded by that organization.  

and I had never imagined at that time that the nature of the contest would change completely. It was – I mean, if you had even told me at that time, I would’ve said that it was a ridiculous thing to say, but the nature of the democratic contest in India has completely changed, and the reason it’s changed is because one organisation, called the RSS, fundamentalist, fascist organisation, has, basically, captured pretty much all of Indian – India’s institutions.

The BJP has a majority in the Lok Sabha by itself since 2014.  This majority has increased. By contrast, Congress hasn't had a majority since Rajiv Gandhi won by a landslide 'sympathy vote' in 1984. 

On the other hand, Congress had no qualms about taking Shankarsinh Vaghela, an old RSS man, as its leader in Gujarat after he rebelled against the BJP's choice of Keshubhai Patel as CM. 

Ben Bland And maybe for those who don’t know, can you explain what the RSS is? 
Rahul Gandhi RSS is a – you can call it a secret society.

It isn't. However, during Indira's Emergency, some RSS workers went underground.  

It’s built along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood

The RSS was set up by Dr. Hegdewar on the pattern of his college friend, Dr. Hardikar's Congress Seva Dal to which he and Nehru were members. Unlike the RSS, the Seva Dal acquired an unsavoury reputation. It was responsible for much of the anti-Sikh violence in 1984.  

The Muslim Brotherhood was started after both the Seva Dal and the RSS. It has been actively persecuted whereas though the RSS was briefly banned, it has been part of the political mainstream ever since the formation of its political wing- the Jan Sangh- back in the early Fifties. 

and the idea is to use the democratic contest to come to power and then subvert the democratic contest afterwards,

It is the Dynasty which subverted Congress long ago which is why this moon-calf remains its Prime Ministerial candidate. Since he doesn't want that job, Congress will continue to decline- at least at the National level.  

 

and it’s shocked me at how successful they’ve been at capturing the different institutions of our country. The press, the judiciary, Parliament, Election Commission, all the institutions are under pressure, under threat, and controlled in one way or the other.

The Dynasty achieved that but, it turned out, assassination tempers autocracy. Currently, the BJPs ace in the hole is the moon-calf. Modi is very good at his job but he wouldn't win with such big majorities if Rahul wasn't the alternative.  

So, the conversation, the voice that was free flowing, the debates, those have all stopped. You know, some of the biggest decisions taken, demonetisation, which is demonetisation of the Indian currency, we were not allowed to debate in Parliament, right?

Demonetization can't be debated. It must take the country by surprise. Otherwise it is a self-defeating measure.  

The Farmers’ bills were – large numbers of farmers were out on the street, we were not allowed a conversation in Parliament.

The Government pushed the bills through without a debate because it had a majority in both Houses. To be fair, Manmohan pushed through a lot of bills without a debate. This has been a continuous trend. The first Lok Sabha spent the maximum time of 48.8% on debating legislations. By the eighth Lok Sabha, the time devoted by both Houses to legislative business had shrunk to 24.9% and the figure dropped even further to just around 20% by 2009.

The GST, we were not allowed. When Chinese troops entered our territory, we were not allowed to have a conversation in Parliament. So, that stifling made us ask ourselves a fundamental question, how do we communicate with the people of India when the media is biased, when the institutions are captured?

The Farmer's agitation got Modi to do a U-turn. Sadly, it was Kejriwal's party which reaped the benefit in Punjab.  

And the answer we came up with in the Congress Party was this walk across the country,

The BJP's Rath Yatra was a success because it focussed on a single issue- the Ram Temple. Rahul's Yatra doesn't focus on any single issue. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi could make political comebacks by highlighting the incompetence of the ruling coalition. But, this was because they had themselves shown they were willing and able to take the top job. Rahul, as he himself says, could have become PM at age 25, 35, 40 or 44. He refused each time. Now he is 54 and has never held a Ministerial portfolio. His 'organizational work' has been counter-productive. His continued visibility hurts Congress and pisses off its potential allies. 

which has a tradition. The word is Yātrā, it’s journey, but it’s not simply a journey, it’s a Indian idea of walking, of persevering, of listening and of questioning oneself, and so, we decided to do this. It was 4,000 kilometres, and it was quite an experience. It was a fun experience, painful at times, but we all learnt a lot, and it placed on the table a different narrative of India, right, not an angry, aggressive, violent narrative, which is currently deployed by the BJP, but a peace-loving, Gan – almost Gandhian, non-violent, open, accepting narrative.

But Mahatma Gandhi refused to hold office. This was fine because he accepted Nehru- a charismatic Hindi speaker from a prestigious pan-Indian caste. But who is Rahul promoting as PM candidate? This is the crux of the problem. One could say that JP, too, was a political failure because he didn't have a good alternative to Indira. True, Indira fell but JP & Kripalani erred grievously in anointing Morarji- whom everybody hated. But, at least Morarji had been a Cabinet Minister. Currently, the Opposition has no Prime Ministerial candidate. Two possibilities, Gehlot and Nitish are now off the table- indeed, it is doubtful they have much of a political future. Rahul's Yatra appears to have pissed off not just Mamta but also Akhilesh.  

And I think that was the biggest success of the Yātrā, that it clearly placed on the table a different vision of the country.

One in which either India has Modi or it has nobody.  

... I realised that, as a Politician, before my walk I was not actually listening properly, right?

The people wanted him to take charge of the Commonwealth Games as his father had taken charge of the Asian Games. After that he should have entered the Cabinet and then shouldered Manmohan aside leading his Party to victory in 2014. Congress could have had a majority on its own. True, like Rajiv, Rahu's administration might have fallen apart because of corruption and in-fighting but, because of his youth, Rahul would have been forgiven and could have made a comeback at some later point. But Rahul was gun-shy. He would only lead the Congress Party if, by doing so, he could make it unelectable.

As Politicians, we always – we start by telling you what we think, and we have a narrative in our mind and, you know, whenever somebody says something, that narrative is shaping our conversation. Maybe we want to impress a little bit and say, “We understand, you know, what you’re trying to get at.” So, that instinct went silent. It went silent because, frankly, I had no choice. One, I had a knee problem, so my mind was, like, trying to calm my knee down, and second, the number of people was so big that there was no point. So, I – after some time I just went silent and I started listen properly, and it was a very powerful experience for me, taught me patience, and there was huge pressure. I mean, to give you an idea, six people died in the walk, many people broke their legs, arms, ‘cause there’s huge pressure of people, there were thousands, at times 50/100,000 people walking, so the physical experience. The other thing I learnt is that no amount of exercise makes you lose weight. It’s, like, completely a myth. I mean, at the end of this thing, 4,000 kilometres, I go on the scale, and I’ve put on a kilo. I mean, some – okay. So, it’s totally diet, it’s nothing to do with exercise, that’s the other thing I learnt, yeah.

So, Rahul may have started off with a narrative but then he got tired and stopped pushing that narrative. In the South, where people did not understand either his English or Hindi, he was well received. But it is in the North that Congress needs to win seats to remain in the game. Otherwise it will lose ground to regional politicians who form their own dynastic parties- e.g. Mamta or YSR.  

Ben Bland And how has the walk been received politically? I mean, obviously, you did it for the reasons you said, but you’re also a Politician, you’re seeking to win public support. There are national elections coming up in India. What’s your sense in terms of how it’s been received in terms of your own political position and Congress’s position in India?

The original plan was for the Dynasty to step aside and let Congress hold elections. True, 'the fix was in'- Gehlot was supposed to win and go on to be Modi's challenger. Rahul's walkabout was supposed to be a sort of grand farewell tour. Rahul could have morphed from a conventional politician into some sort of celebrity social campaigner- like Greta Thurnberg. 

Rahul Gandhi- It’s transformational. It’s transformational, certainly, for the party, because it gave tremendous energy to our party workers, but it’s also – it was also transformational for a lot of the people who were coming. And the powerful thing about it was the physical contact and the scale of the physical contact, and it was something – you know, I’ve been to thousands of meetings, public meetings, conversations like this, it’s a completely different thing. Because when you’re walking and you’re walking with, say, a Farmer, or you’re walking with a young woman, there’s a struggle going on, particularly if you’re walking 25/30 kilometres a day. There’s a struggle going on, and you, sort of, are jointly going through that thing, right? So, it’s a completely different conversation that happens. The other thing I did, which I think helped a lot, was right in the beginning, I got the guys I work with, and I said, “Look, what is my responsibility here? Well, you know, what is mine and your responsibility here? We are walking 4,000 kilometres, and that’s all fine, but what is it that we will not accept in this walk?” And I told them that, “Look, what I want” – and there was a rope there, so – I don’t know if you saw it, did you see the video? You didn’t see the video? 
Ben Bland Yeah, I’ve seen.
Rahul Gandhi Yeah, there’s this rope there, and there’s quite a lot of security around the rope, so I told the guys, said, “Look, whoever comes into this area to talk to us” – and there were 125 of us walking, so it wasn’t just me, I was in front but there was 125, and these conversations were going on with everybody, and I said, “Look, whoever comes in, he – doesn’t matter who he is, who she is, that person’s got to feel at home, right? And the feeling I want us to generate is that when they leave this place, they feel that they’ve left home.” So, in my mind it was not a political exercise. In my mind it was a personal exercise where I was wellpa – welcoming people, like, into this room and giving them a space to feel comfortable and talk, and also making it a personal talk, not a political talk. And we were successful at doing that, because there was a lot of pressure, security people pushing and pulling, and so, we created this, sort of, cocoon there where anybody came in and felt comfortable. And then some magic started to happen, because the moment they started to see this, that there is this connection in the 21st Century, where, you know, we’re not going through the WhatsApp or we’re not going through Facebook and all that, and there’s this gentleman who’s come here, and these people who’ve come here, and they’re talking to us, then it – the nature of the conversation changed completely. And more shocking conversations started to happen. Like, the most personal things, suddenly people were discussing with a stranger, really, you know. So, it became almost like a – either a friend or a brother, you know, that was the type of conversation, so a lot of stuff came out.

So, the walkabout was a type of group therapy. I suppose, it could have been a transformational experience. Rahul finds a new empathy, a new style of communication, a new method of organizing and motivating local activists. Sadly, nothing of the sort happened. When Rahul entered politics- and his entry helped the Congress coalition to win in 2004- he said he would concentrate on organizational work rather than enter the Cabinet. But he was shit at organization. What was he not shit at? Walking. Sadly, walking and talking was more than he could handle. Anyway, for his second Yatra he decided to omit the walking and just stay on the bus while stopping occasionally to talk bollocks.  

Ben Bland And you’ve talked a lot previously about the attacks on democracy in India, at a time when I guess there’s a sense that, globally, democracy is under pressure. I mean, do you see any linkages there? Do you think there is some, sort of, global shift against democracy that’s affecting, or partly driving, what’s been happening in India, or do you see the challenges in India as being pretty endogenous 

Democracy does mean that power gets redistributed from time to time. Entrenched elites can lose popular support. They may feel this is 'populism' or 'majoritarianism' or 'Fascism' and complain about 'authoritarianism' once they are out of office, but they too were once accused of the same thing.  

Rahul Gandhi They’re linked for sure, but each country has its own history, its own philosophy, its own way of thinking about these things. So, definitely, there are two, sort of, visions of the planet emerging, I mean that, to me, is clear. There’s a sort of, pre-democratic open space idea, and then there’s a sort of, more controlled, coercive idea, and that is visible.

Rahul is a dynastic politician. The 'coercive idea' triumphed under his great-grandfather who centralized power in the PMO.  

India has – there are some nuances to it in India, right? First of all, it’s not a battle between political parties anymore.

It is. The RSS set up the Jan Sangh as an alternative to the Hindu Mahasabha which had split off from Congress. The Communists too had cadre based parties. The Socialists tended to be caste based and dynastic. There also were regionalist parties based on linguistic/religious sub-nationalism- e.g. DMK, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal etc. Mamta's TMC split off from the INC when the latter allied with the Communists. 

It’s a battle between two old ideas of India

one is Dynastic. After the House of Windsor came the Nehru/Gandhis. Sadly, they kept getting shot or blown up and thus preferred to rule by proxy. But, by tearing up an ordinance of Manmohan, Rahul made the proxy model unviable. 

and philosophical ideas of India which are diametrically opposed, different, and the BJP represents one

the BJP is a proper political party. Merit can rise to the top.  

and we represent the other. In India, also, there’s the matter of caste, right, which is – which doesn’t exist, for example, in England or the United States, it’s a very particular aspect of society. So, it’s – it plays out differently, but it’s, sort of, informed by what’s going on in the rest of the world.

India has more affirmative action- but this is a zero-sum game. Manmohan and Modi want a positive sum game where people can rise by private enterprise not getting a Government job.  

Ben Bland And I mean, obviously, you know, you’re a Politician, you’ve pinned a lot of the blame for what’s happening on BJP and Narendra Modi’s government, but would you – are there bottom-up drivers, do you think, in India as well?

Obviously! Urbanization and higher participation for women has created a space for new parties like Kejriwal's 'Common Man party'. The BJP's social origins was in the urban areas and the mercantile communities whereas the Congress machine had a lock on the rural masses till the 'dominant' agricultural castes began to rise up from the mid-Sixties onward. 

Rahul Gandhi I don’t – it’s not that I pin the blame on them, it’s that I feel they operationalise it, right?

The BJP and other parties- like Kejriwal's AAM which has taken Delhi and Punjab from Congress- have more appeal to the rising middle class which is more urbanized and aspirational. Congress in 2004 and 2009 had a similar appeal because people did not know that Rahul was utterly useless. 

So, they are the mechanism through which it’s happening, but I said in my Cambridge talk that I think the problem – well, when we walked with – we heard, basically, three things, well four things: unemployment, price rise, inequality, and violence against women. Those are the broad themes that came up, but the real problem is the unemployment problem, right?

Nehru's solution was to expand the bureaucracy. But that was inflationary. There is no alternative to letting the private sector expand. 

I suppose Rahul is right to worry about unemployment. He will probably lose his seat in Parliament. Congress may begin to revive.  

And that’s generating a lot of anger and a lot of fear, and I think the unemployment problem is happening because earlier, if you look at the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, there was a concept of production in the democratic environment, right?

Not in India. There was the concept of getting a Government job on the basis of a caste quota and then doing nothing till you retired.  

Countries like Britain, countries like India, America, they produced things,

not India. Nehruvian policies strangled manufacturing. There was shitty subsistence agriculture and shitty low productivity jobs in the informal sector. Being unemployed was a luxury for those who had been to College.  

and there was manufacturing, there was production going on, and then, for whatever reason, that was parcelled out to China, right?

It could have been parcelled out to India. Manmohan wanted to make the necessary reforms but Sonia's chums opposed him.  

And today we live in a world where there is a production model in the coercive environment, but there is no production model in the democratic environment.

Rahul seems to think that the US and UK have high unemployment but both have lower unemployment than China. India has the same rate as France. No doubt, both would have lower rates if they were more laissez faire. 

So, the result is that it becomes very difficult for democratic countries to give their youngsters employment. I don’t believe that a country like India can employ all its people with services. I just don’t believe it. It doesn’t work, right? It doesn’t have the connectivity, it doesn’t have the structure that can deliver you those jobs. So, for me the question is can a democratic production model be rebuilt, and what does it look like, right? And I think that’s at the centre of what is creating the problem, and the problem is manifesting in different places differently.

Manmohan hoped there could be consensus on labour market reform. In practice, some States could let manufacturing hubs come up without too much disruption by trade union activists.  

In India, it’s manifesting along caste lines, along religious lines.

I don't understand this. the 'democratic' way of creating jobs is to let the private sector expand If you reduce property rights in jobs, you have a bigger official sector. If you featherbed workers, you have 'jobless growth' as capital is substituted for labour in high value adding fields.  

Rahul understands that India is urbanizing. What he doesn't get is that he and his sister could have represented that aspirational, urbanized, India. I

The biggest change is that India’s moving from a rural country, rural, yeah, country to an urban country, right, and that changes the nature of the political discourse. That changes the nature of the structure, and we were focusing a lot on the rural space, and we missed the ball in the beginning on the urban space, and that’s a fact, right? So, those things are there, but to say that now the BJP’s in power and, you know, the Congress is gone, I mean, that’s actually ridiculous, ridiculous idea. And as far as the coercion, the violence that is concerned, it’s not the Congress that’s saying it. Congress is saying it, but you’ve just got to travel in India and see it. I mean, you can see what’s being done to the Dalit community, or you can see it – what’s being done to the tribal community, you can see what’s being done to the minorities.

Sadly, the majority approves of the 'peaceful' minority getting thrashed if it starts any trouble. Anti-Dalit violence is a serious issue- in Congress or DMK ruled States. The BJP wants to recruit Dalits and STs. 

It’s not that the Congress is saying it and objectively it’s not being seen. There are articles all across – in the foreign press all the time that there is a serious problem with Indian democracy, right? It’s also the way the BJP responds, right? The – it’s not interested in a conversation. They have decided that they know what’s going on, nobody else in the country understands what’s going on, and that’s it, and this is visible, I mean, you can ask any opposition party. You can see for example how the agencies are used. You can ask any opposition leader about how the agencies are used. My phone had Pegasus on it, that simply was not happening when we were in power. So, there are things that are very obvious and are apparent to everybody.

This is hilarious. Manmohan defended his government's policy of tapping the phones of everybody- including Ratan Tata, lobbyist Nira Radia, the BJP's Arun Jaitley, & even a Cabinet colleague of the PM from the DMK, which was an ally. Rahul himself is an accused in various scams and his phone may well be being tapped under the rules that were in place under Manmohan. 

Ben Bland- And when we go beyond, kind of, the next election or the election after that and think a bit bigger about India’s future, I think you described India really nicely, as, sort of, “Ongoing negotiation between different states and peoples.” And obviously the intercommunal tensions are not a new phenomenon in India, but how does India move beyond that to a kind of, a better, more peaceful, smoother, kind of, negotiation in the next decades?

There is no need for 'negotiation'. There is need for cooperation so everybody can get on with their lives and rise up economically.  

Rahul Gandhi Yeah, so, I mean, one way of looking at India is that it’s a country, and another way of looking at it is that it is a negotiation between 1.4 billion people, right?

India is actually a country. It isn't a negotiation at all.  

And that negotiation, if you imagine India in terms of numbers, it’s probably three times Europe, three times the United States. It’s probably got as many languages as Europe does. It’s certainly got as many histories as Europe does, and that negotiation is a complex negotiation, and that negotiation happens

The negotiations stopped in 1947.  

– it doesn’t happen out on the streets. It happens through institutions, it happens through the Parliament, it happens through assemblies, it happens through the courts, it happens through the Election Commission, right?

No. There can be negotiations when a coalition government is formed. But the BJP has had two simple majorities and is likely to get a third.

Courts and Constitutional bodies like the Election Commission don't negotiate. They make judgments on the basis of the law of the land.  

And my worry is that the architecture of that negotiation is being attacked and broken,

Negotiation only happens when there is a coalition government. Rahul doesn't get this. I suppose there is some negotiation between Opposition ruled states and the Centre. But, there also are rules about revenue sharing etc.  

right, and you can see, sort of, the symptoms, right? The Prime Minister one day turns round and demonetises the entire currency, right?

A large portion of it- sure. But the same thing happened in 1978. Both were done by Ordinance.  

The Reserve Bank doesn’t know about it, and it’s – everything has been bypassed, on something as fundamental as the currency of the country. That’s an example,

Rahul was 8 years old the previous time it happened. What he still does not understand is that the BJP benefitted at the polls from demonetization. Also, it killed off the anti-corruption movement- which had helped Kejriwal to rise up.  

and it’s the same way the GST was worked out, right?

Unlike demonetization, which was done by Ordinance, GST was implemented through an amendment to the Constitution passed by both Houses, ratified by the States, and signed into law by a President appointed by the Congress Party. 

So, you can see that the reliance on those institutions is reducing, and that, to me, is very, very dangerous, right?

This cretin can't tell the difference between an Ordinance and a fucking amendment to the Constitution! 

So, certainly there’s repair work that needs to be done, right, on the idea of freedom, on the idea of independent institutions.

Independent institutions don't have to negotiate with cretins.  

There’s a whole bunch of repair work that needs to be done, and then, I think fundamental to a successful India is the decentralisation of power.

Why not decentralize power in the Congress party?  

So, what – exactly what you see – the trend you see is massive concentration of wealth and power, right? And that’s – if you really look at the BJP and see what’s the one big thing that they’ve done, it’s huge concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s office

this happened under Nehru. Manmohan, it is true, was not allowed by Sonia and her chums to use that power to unshackle the economy. Once this became apparent, the country turned to Modi. 

and then, huge concentration of wealth in the hands of two or three people, right? And that to me – a country the size of India simply cannot be run like that, right? So, that to me, the decentralisation, supporting small and medium businesses, starting or re-imagination – reimagining production, manufacturing, in a modern way, in a decentralised way, in a technological way,

that's laissez faire, dude. Infosys and Wipro were once small just as Microsoft and Apple were once small. Rajiv Gandhi, to his credit, did help India's software industry get off the ground- by dying. Rahul is enabling India to get infrastructure- by making Congress unelectable.  

and I think there linkages between the West and India are critical. 

The Presidency cities- Bombay, Calcutta, even Madras, were once even more part of the West than Singapore or Hong Kong. Congress under Nehru ensured this would cease to be the case. Rajiv may have wanted to reverse this but it was Rao, heading a minority Government who used the excuse of national bankruptcy to embrace reform.  

Ben Bland-I want to pivot a bit here to foreign policy and start with India and China, and I know you’re a keen follower of China, and obviously, in the last few years we’ve seen these flare-ups at the border, seemingly driven by China.

China was worried about encirclement. But, Biden & his Blinken idiot have reassured them  

There was a trajectory previously where Xi Jinping and Modi seemed to be getting on well. They had their, sort of, tea meeting in Wuhan. Why do you think in the last few years Beijing has decided to antagonise India, because it seems to have really pushed India towards the West?

America could have got India in its camp if it had both bought and sold military equipment to India. But America is an unreliable partner. China and India tested each other at the border. India has the demographic advantage and can afford to play a waiting game. 

Rahul Gandhi- Antagonise is, sort of, a benign word. I mean, they’re sitting on 2,000 square kilometres of our territory, right? I mean, I don’t know, that – antagonise doesn’t quite capture it, right? No? I mean, yeah, it doesn’t quite capture it, and the interesting thing is that when they did it, our Prime Minister said, in a meeting with the opposition where I was there, that “Not a single inch of Indian territory has been taken,” right? Now, what message does that send to the Chinese, right? The Chinese know they’re sitting on 2,000 square kilometres of our territory, our military knows it, and our Prime Minister says, “Well, we’re not there.”

Modi sent the right signals. Ultimately, China doesn't really have any real beef with India. Let them invest in the border region. As their population ages, immigrants from their Southern border will change the picture of Han domination.  

So, it encourages them, right? So, that’s one aspect of the problem. As a country, our ethos and our DNA is democratic, right?

Democracies don't have dynastic political parties.  

I mean, you – there’s the book, “The Argumentative Indian,” by Mr Amartya Sen.

It is foolish. The Bengalis may be verbose. But they have fucked up their own State and nobody listens to them any longer.  

We Indians like to talk and, you know, you spend a lot of time talking and discussing things, and that’s the way we build consensus, because it’s very complex.

There has never been any consensus. There is nothing complex about a situation where an Italian lady is running the country with a puppet of a Prime Minister.  

And so, we in the Congress are pretty clear that whatever is going to be built, whatever is going to happen, has to be in a democratic, in a open structure, and that, of course, that’s not China, right?

Chairman Xi isn't the great-grandson of Chairman Mao.  

So, we are much more comfortable with the democratic idea, that open idea. Of course, at the same time they’re our neighbour and we’re in competition with them, and frankly, if we’re going to talk about production, right, we are the biggest game in town,

Sadly, this is far from the truth.  

and so they see us as a problem, right? So, my approach is, they’re offering a vision of productivity, of prosperity. Well, we should have a vision of prosperity too, and that includes the West and India, but that’s missing, right?

Rahul doesn't understand that Westerners are much much richer than the Chinese.

So, to me, that’s where the work needs to be done.

Modi has done that work. Rahul has only recently found out that people in India are worried about unemployment and inflation and violence against women. The one thing they are not worried about is the RSS. 

Ben Bland It seems to me that, as someone who’s, you know, lived a long time in Asia and watched the politics, that it’s going to be very hard to have a successful, productive Asian century if India and China are at loggerheads.

This isn't really a big worry. In a land war, India will do well. But why would two bald men fight over a comb? India's strategic importance to the West lies in its being able to tie down Chinese troops. India's 'Agnivir' scheme means that it will soon have an absolute manpower advantage even before it uses 'force multiplier' techniques to arm local people and foster insurgencies.  

So, how – can you foresee a rapprochement between India and China, and how might that happen, how could that happen?

Don't ask Rahul. The boy is a moron.  

Rahul Gandhi- I mean, I don’t know about a rapprochement, but I do think that we have to have a vision for production, right? And I don’t think it’s going to look like the Chinese one. It can’t, structurally we can’t do that, right? So, it’s got to be a decentralised one, and I think you are going to have a level of competition between the two countries. There is going to be – on the margins, there’s going to be a little bit of tension, a little bit of hostility, but I think it’s very important that the lines are clear. I mean, they’re sitting on 2,000 square kilometres of our territory, right, that’s the fact.

Rahul is trying to make out that Modi is as shit as his great-grandfather. But nobody is buying that.  

Ben Bland So, what would a Congress government do about that?

 Rahul doesn't know what Manmohan did. He has no clue what an Indian PM needs to do. 

Rahul Gandhi Well, I mean we’d have to – we’ll have to see when we’re there in power, but I think making things clear and certainly not denying that they’re sitting in your territory, to start with.

So, Congress would say 'Chinese are fucking us in the ass! Eeek! It hurts!' but do nothing.  

Ben Bland- And so, you spoke earlier about, sort of, different visions of the world, and I guess a US-led vision, you were implying, and maybe a China-led one, but what’s – what would an India-led world look like? Is it very similar to the, sort of, Western democratic ideals?

India has no interest in going around doing 'regime change'.  

 Rahul Gandhi- I don’t know if it’s – I don’t know if – I don’t quite like the word ‘led’, right? I think it’s a joint effort, right? And I think there are components that the United States has, there are components that Britain has, there are components that India has, and they’re valuable, right? So, I think – I don’t like the idea that, oh, that’s being led by that person, this is being led by that person. I like the idea of a bridge. So, how can we imagine a bridge of prosperity between these systems and these ideas, where we have a role to play, we bring a lot to the table, you bring a lot to the table, right? And let’s have a conversation about what those things are and how we could put it in practice, right? Yeah, I think the world is – in the 21st Century is connected enough, where, you know, the word led is problematic, yeah.

Fuck bridges. Just don't do regime change or other stupid shit.  

Ben Bland So, is it then – are you’re envisioning some sort more – sort of, more multipolar order where...?

A multi-polar world will have proxy wars.  

Rahul Gandhi Of course, United States is more powerful, right? So, one cannot deny that the United States is powerful. Everybody is required. You can’t, in the 21st Century, say, you know, “We’re going to exclude you,” that’s not a possibility. So, now, what would an Indi – what would the Indian elements of that bridge look like? Successful, in my view. It would invoke the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, it would be non-violent, it would be sensitive, it would stand for some of those values, which India is very good at doing

India gave up that type of chatter after China took down Nehru's pajamas and made fun of his puny genitals.  

. It would respect other cultures, it would not be aggressive, it would try to listen to other perspectives. We’re good at doing that. I mean we have – in our philosophical structure, we have these ideas, you know. We have this idea called śūnyatā, right, zero, non-existence, so that can absorb everything.

India is big fat zero.  

So, those are the type of ideas that I would say that India brings to the table.

Why not just get up on that table and take a great big dump on it?  

Ben Bland- And I want to ask about Ukraine, because it’s obviously a massive issue, yeah, in Europe. I think by and large, Congress has supported, if I’m right in this, the Modi government’s position of neutrality at the UN when it comes to the War in Ukraine. I mean, how do you think that stands with India’s position as a democracy and wanting to provide democratic leadership and upholding, you know, the ideals of freedom and sovereignty?

India's position is that it is a democracy. It doesn't give a fuck if other countries- like the UK or the UAE or Japan- want to be Monarchies or anything else.  

Rahul Gandhi- I mean, I would agree with the foreign policy on that issue, and there’s also an element of national interest. There are, you know, there are interests, we have to look after our interests, so they’re there, but I am against any type of war, I’m against any type of violence, and the sooner it ends, the better it is. And as far as the 21st Century is concerned, a war like Ukraine, with the potential for unlimited escalation, is just downright dangerous, and we should be very careful that it’s playing out in Europe, and everybody should try and do their bit to stop it.

Biden should go on a very long walk.  

Ben Bland And could you see a time when India does start to move away from Russia? Obviously, that’s one of the reasons why, yeah, India is wary of criticising Russia, because it relies on Russia for, you know, a large part of its military equipment and technology, but obviously at the same time, the West has been courting India, in part because of, you know, the issues that you have with China and we see the existential threat from China. So, do you – could you foresee this shift happening over time?

No. America is unreliable. France is a possible partner but ultimately India has to go it alone.  

Rahul Gandhi Self-interest is important, and then, you know, you’re saying ‘courting’, I don’t know, how well are you courting? It depends. I mean, that’s up to you, you know, how well you court India.

Why bother? Just do a mutually beneficial trade. 

Ben Bland And could you ever envisage an India that does move away from multialignment or non-alignment to, kind of, harder lines?

No.  

Rahul Gandhi I don’t know, I don’t think about it like that. I think – what is it that we’re trying to achieve? Right, start from there, what is our problem? Our problem is we’ve got a huge population and we need to give them jobs, we need to give them livelihood, we need to give them an imagination, and that’s our primary job.

No. The government's job is to get out of the way of people who want to work and those who want to employ them.  

Now, we will do whatever it takes to make that happen, and the best route to make it happen is what we’ll be doing. We’re not going to do anything that will damage the aspirations of our own people. We’re not going to do something that is going to, you know, damage their employment prospects. So, every country looks at itself, looks at the problems it’s trying to solve and then, works from there, right?

Rahul has been an MP for twenty years. He has led his party. Yet his head is completely empty.  

Ben Bland I’m going to come to audience questions in a minute. I’ve just a couple more. I mean firstly on the economy, I mean, it seems to me that the model of industrialisation and manufacturing, export-led growth that, you know, was very successful for Japan, Korea, Singapore, in driving them to rich country status, doesn’t really work anymore, because of changes in, you know, the rise of automation, potentially ‘cause of the fracturing of global value chains and some, sort of, shaving away of the benefits of globalisation.

Nonsense! Urbanization- getting rural girls into giant factory dormitories so demographic transition is achieved- is the only way forward.  

So – but India, as well, which is such a big country with such a big domestic market and big challenges to employ its young people as well, what is the model, do you see, going forward for India to achieve the, sort of, rapid growth, but also more equitable growth that your country needs?

The country needs to raise female participation rate and greatly reduce the proportion of the population engaged in agriculture and low value adding work- e.g. brick making or rat-hole mining.  

Rahul Gandhi In my walk, I walked past a town called Ballari in Karnataka, and I literally walked past it, and some people over there said, “Look, this is a jeans-producing centre, okay, and please come and see what we’re doing.” So, I spent half a day walking around Ballari and looking at this jeans production that they were doing. It used to employ five lakh people, so five lakh is half a million, right? Today it employs 40,000 people.

Ballari made poor quality jeans in small workshops during the festival season- i.e. June to February. It may have employed 100,000 at maximum on a part time basis. But frequent load-shedding and low margins meant that it stagnated compared to Bangalore. Rahul promised that if Congress came to power it would invest 500 million pounds to create a Jeans Park. Needless to say, nothing came of that promise.  

It’s essentially a network of skill, right? Whenever you walk in there, there are people who have huge amount of skill sitting there, and they’re doing nothing, right?

No. Ballari didn't have much in the way of skill. The 'merchant-manufacturers' were too small to build brands. Gujarat took market share because the Government there helped the industry. The local manufacturers were supposed to get an industrial park but, at the last moment, the land was given to rice mills. I suppose the locals thought getting Rahul to visit would help them. He promised a lot but, once elected, the Congress party gave them nothing. 

So, the question is, how can we take their skill and make them produce something, right, and then make that accessible to people, right? And those centres exist all across India. There’s Ballari, Moradabad, everywhere, the – almost every district in India has a skill base that is profound, right?

No. The skill base will remain shitty if you aren't climbing the value chain. 

But then, what do we do, or what is happening today? A huge concentration of wealth, huge concentration – complete control of the banking system by three or four large industrialists, and the skills just lying there wasting away.

No one can accuse Rahul of having any skills which are 'just lying there wasting away.'  

Those four and a half lakh people today are unemployed, right? That Ballari itself, if it’s aligned properly, if the banking system is made accessible to them, if you inject technology into that skills base, that thing – you’ll be able to produce a million jobs there, right?

No. Gujarat, which is a big exporter, employs only about 26,000 in its textile parks. In the country as a whole there may be 400,000 in the jeans sector because of the extra labour- done in low wage hubs- involved. Rahul thinks a city with half a million population could suddenly have 'a million jobs'. This is a lad who attended Harvard and Cambridge!

So, I don’t agree that manufacturing per se is dead, right? I look at it by saying, “Okay, here is the skill, what do we need now to make sure that the skill translates into jobs?” Right? And then there’s the – there are different areas, I’m not saying that there is no space for large business. Absolutely there is space for large business, but the level of monopolisation that is taking place today is seriously problematic. It’s problematic if you want to transform India, if you want to give Indian people jobs.

The Indian people wanted to give Rahul the top job. Then they discovered he had shit for brains. His Dynasty's monopoly of power was broken. The sad truth is you can't give people jobs. You can give them money but you can't make them productive or useful if they are useless tossers.  

It’s problematic if you want to have a productive vision for the country, right? So, also, there’s a huge scope for agriculture, right, building a cold chain, modernising the agricultural struc – system, it’s – huge potential. It’s wasted right now.

Manmohan wanted to go in for this but by then he had run out off steam. Modi's Kisan Sampada Yojana, however, has made some strides. But, farmers would prefer to take loans and then have their loans forgiven. You have to greatly shrink the number of farmers to get higher output or value adding.  

So, those are the type of things that one would look at.

It's the type of thing Modi can implement because he has a majority.  

Ben Bland Right. The last question I have, before I go to questions from the floor and online, you talked a lot on this trip, and probably before as well, about listening, and I agree with you, listening is an underrated quality in politics and diplomacy, where most people prefer talking. So, given we’ve got you here and we’re all keen to listen, and you’ve been in the UK, I think, for a week or so now, what do you think we in the UK get most wrong about India? What don’t we see that we should know to better understand India?

Modi is a Hindu. India is 80 percent Hindu. Attacking Hinduism is not going to get you elected in India.  

Rahul Gandhi [Pause] Oh, I’m going to give away the secret. You know, it’s like the quote I saw in your room, right, the Gorbachev quote. The Gorbachev quote was to the ex – to the effect of, “We are at a very important time in history and there are two options. One option is this one, and the other option is this one.”

Gorbachev said the choice was between force and an acknowledgment of interdependence. Then the nutter surrendered Party control of the Economy and a 'Scissors crisis' caused the collapse of the Soviet Union.  

That’s just not how the Indian mind sees the world, right?

No. The Indians see that you either have the Dynasticism or else Meritocracy.  

The Indian mind just does not see the world in a binary way.

Which is why Rahul sometimes gets confused and puts on a saree.  

So, for the Indian person, number one, we are not at a critical point in history, right, and number two, there’s thousands of options standing right in front of us, right? That’s just how the Indian mind works, and it translates – if you look at – if you just go to Delhi and you look at the street, and you look at the lanes, you’ll see Indian drivers making their way through this thing, right, they’ll go this way, they’ll go that way. Now, that’s – that looks like chaos, right, but in the 21st Century, that chaos is very powerful, but that chaos has to be managed effectively.

No. Delhi needs to improve road quality. Cars would not need to swerve this way or that to avoid potholes. Chaos is what happens when you don't have management or management is utterly shit. The 21st century isn't about driving on the wrong side of the road.  

Ben Bland Thanks, that’s a very good answer. 

No it isn't. It is all very well to say that we should welcome 'disruptive' technologies and enterprises. But that just means competitive 'creative destruction'. It doesn't mean driving sometimes on the left and sometimes on the right of the road.  

Rahul Gandhi Okay, I’ll tell you something else. Ben Bland Yeah. Rahul Gandhi If you can – this is a concept that’s difficult... Ben Bland Hmmm. Rahul Gandhi ...and I’ll try it. Broadly, there are two philosophies in India. One believes in infinity, right, that says you will live forever, right, and the other that says you don’t exist, concept of śūnyatā or anattā in Buddhism, right, and India operates between these two, right?

No. India is not Buddhist. It is Hindu. Hindus say the soul is immortal. Buddhism babbles some crazy bullshit but its message is give money to Buddhist monks. That way you get to be re-born as a Buddhist monk. Buddhist monks are super-cool. Did you know that Steven Segal is a 'tulku' or reincarnated Buddhist Abbot?  

The idea of non-existence, or anattā, as in Buddhism, is the essence of listening.

But there is no self to do the listening. The sad truth is that people often want to talk before or after handing over cash to Buddhist monks. Remember you don't really have a self. Go to your happy place till they just hand over the cash and fuck the fuck off.  

So, if I’m sitting here talking to you and I don’t exist, right, that is absolutely the perfect way to listen to you. What do I mean by “I don’t exist”?

You don't have a fucking brain.  

It means my aspirations don’t exist, it means my fears don’t exist, it means, you know, I am sitting almost in silence, almost as if I’m dead, and I’m listening to you.

Don't kill me. I'm already dead.  

That’s something Indian people can do, a very powerful thing, right?

No. It is useless.  

And if you look at our, so to speak, the grandmasters, people like Gandhi, that’s actually what they’re doing, right?

No. Gandhi talked and wrote a lot. But, what was important was, he was a great fund raiser. Non-Violence means using money to get what you want- provided you don't want anything really desirable.  

And that’s a – it’s a philosophical thing, but it’s the power of Indian civilisation. It’s why – it’s where, you know, the West got zero from.

Will the West want this fucking zero? He could be the next Greta Thurnberg.  

Ben Bland- Yeah.
Rahul Gandhi- Right, and then, that – no, you’re laughing, but then when that zero arrives in the West, it completely transforms and does something that it can’t do in India, right?

Zero came to the West and got a job in the Kwiki-mart. It couldn't do that in India because Ambani and Adani are monopolizing everything.  

Because when it comes into contact with your philosophy, the sum of both those things is much bigger than either of them.

No. The zero didn't matter very much. The Sumerians and Mayans had it before the Indians.  

So, to me, that’s how I see it. I think – I mean, I used to sit on a table when I was small and my grandmother and my mother’s father

a Fascist who didn't want his daughter marrying a darkie. His wife and her brother supported Sonia's decision and came to India for the wedding ceremony. Sonia remained close to her mother as did Rahul. 

used to sit there at lunchtime and they used to speak to each other, and I would just look at them and there were two different worlds, right? My grandmother would be speaking something else, saying something, meaning something else, and my grandfather would be understanding something else.

To be fair, Sonia's dad worked hard and raised beautiful daughters of good character.  

But the conversation was going on, and that, to me, is the essence of the thing, which is that I look at you and I say, “He has ideas that are actually powerful and useful for me, and in turn, I have ideas that might be powerful and useful for him.” And I think that’s the – that’s what’s important in the 21st Century, hmmm hmm?

Rahul has no useful ideas. What's important in the 21st century is what was important in the 20th century- viz not electing brain dead nutters who do stupid shit.  

Yeah, I totally agree. Listening is great, and we’re here... 
Rahul Gandhi As a final thi – sorry. 
Ben Bland …to… 
Rahul Gandhi As a final thing, I am a practitioner and I’m, sort of, in the – I deal in power, right?

Rahul's stock in trade is losing power.  

And I can tell you that – and this is something, it’s a bit hard to grasp, listening is much more powerful than speaking.

Rahul should try listening to himself. Why not get a speech-writer? His Dad read out speeches. Nothing wrong in that.  

There’s no comparison between the two, but for some reason, people are convinced that speaking is more powerful, right?

Modi is a good speaker. I suppose he listened carefully to good speakers and practiced speaking in their manner before finding his own voice.  

Even if you’re speaking to me and I’m listening to you, I understand what you’re going to do, right? I can predict what you’re going to do if I listen carefully.

India has listened carefully to Rahul. Indians can predict he is going to do stupid shit.  

Ben Bland Yeah, so many questions. The gentleman at the front, if you can tell us who you are, and any affiliation, and yeah, the mic’s coming to you, and please, keep it to a question, not a statement. Thank you. Hanif Adeel Thank you very much. Hanif Adeel, former Advisor, British Parliament, British Government. The question – I’m going to come to the question. I just want to make one point. Ben Bland No, but – sorry, just a question. Hanif Adeel Okay. Ben Bland Just a – other people have questions. Hanif Adeel It’s contextual, okay. Rahul-ji, thank you very much for your very sobering analysis. Clearly, the comparison between the RSS and the Muslim Brotherhood is an interesting one. The fact is, the BJP have captured the narrative and the institutions in a way that most people would’ve thought that they could not have.

When Atal became PM he gave the lie to the notion that the RSS would impose a Fascist Dictatorship.  

So, clearly, listening, all the things you’re doing, are great, but in terms of a clinical approach, what would be your short to medium-term plan in terms of projecting what you stand for, what your party stands for, what you want to achieve with the grassroots? And – ‘cause you’re taking on somebody who is a populist, who clearly has support, who’s captured the whole state effectively. That’s my question, thank you.

What a shitty question!  

Rahul Gandhi I think the walk that we did in the last four and a half months is a powerful model, and I think it brings in a lot of the ingredients of a response to what you’re talking about, and I think it works for most of the opposition in India. It’s acceptable to most of the opposition in India.

We now know that Rahul's walkabouts aren't acceptable to the opposition. Mamta claims it is her reason for breaking with Congress. Now even Akhilesh has turned his back on it. So, this is a solo trip.  

So, reaching out to the people in interesting ways, and making sure that you’re having a direct connect with people, and building a new imagination, I think is central to fighting the BJP.

A party gains power by identifying a key issue and focussing on it. Thirty years ago, it seemed possible that that key issue was 'RSS is Nazi!' but once Atal became PM it was obvious that crying wolf was pointless. Anyway, Congress was happy enough taking RSS people like Vaghela and promoting them as CM candidates. Rahul's Aunty and cousin joined the BJP. It was as respectable as the Christian Democrat party.  

Also, don’t underestimate the resistance, you know? Authoritarian people try – like to demonstrate how powerful they are and how strong they are. The resistance in India is also very strong and very powerful, and can do wonders.

Modi was part of the resistance to Indira's Emergency. There is no anti-Modi resistance. There is merely a disunited and corrupt Opposition.  

Ben Bland And the lady in the cream jumper just behind the person.. 
. Rahul Gandhi- But you know, what – if we step back from the BJP-Congress conversation, what – India is – what’s actually happening is a huge transition in India, right, a huge migration of people. And India is now searching for a new model with which to engage with its people and the rest of the world, right? And what’s pretty clear is that the BJP model is not it, because it’s creating much too much turbulence, much too much resistance.

No. The BJP is getting bigger majorities. 

So, the real challenge that people like me and other leaders in the opposition have is, what does that thing look like?

It looks like the Dynasty dying nasty.  

Member Thank you. Mr Gandhi, thank you for your candour and your plain speaking. You’ve spoken about democracy in trouble, you spoke about it just now, you spoke about it yesterday and you expressed some surprise at the fact that Western European countries don’t seem to notice that large chunks of democracy were falling away. So, here’s my question, two-parter. One, what are you, the Congress Party, but you, also the opposition, planning to do about this, and part two, what would you like London, Paris, Berlin, all the other capitals, the governments and the people, to do about this?

Large chunks of democracy aren't falling away.  

Rahul Gandhi No, look, first of all, this is – it’s our problem, right? It’s an internal problem, it’s an Indian problem, and the rela – and the solution is going to come from inside. It’s not going to come from outside. However, the scale of Indian democracy means that democracy in India is a global public good, right? It impacts way further than our boundaries.

Nonsense! It doesn't even impact Bhutan or Bangladesh or Burma. How the fuck is it going to impact Belgium or Belarus? 

If India – If Indian democracy collapses,

as it did between '75 and '77, without any fucking global consequences whatsoever

in my view, democracy on the planet suffers a very serious, possibly fatal, blow. So, it’s important for you, too, it’s not just important for us. We’ll deal with our problem, but you must be aware that this problem is going to play out at a global scale. It’s not just going to play out in India, right? And what you do about it is, of course up, to you, but you must be aware that in what is happening in India, the idea of a democratic model is being attacked and threatened.

Rahul is attacking India while on foreign soil. This is what Indians understood.  

Ben Bland- I’m going to ask an online question, quite a pointed one, from Syed Badrul Ahsan,

so far, two questions have been asked by Muslims. I wonder why?  

who says, “Would Mr Gandhi agree that dynastic politics has, by and large, impeded the growth of democracy in South Asia, in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh?” 
Rahul Gandhi I mean, I think – impeded the growth of politics? 
Ben Bland Of democracy. Democracy in South Asia. 
Rahul Gandhi No, I think the structures that are playing out and are impeding democracy are much more structural and way beyond dynastic politics, I mean.

And yet, in Pakistan, Imran- who is not dynastic- has been jailed while the Bhutto and Sharif dynasties have been permitted to share power. Bangladesh's leader is the daughter of its founding Premier.  In Sri Lanka, the nepotism and incompetence of the ruling family tanked the economy. In India, on the other hand, a 'backward caste' roadside tea-seller has risen to the top first in Gujarat and then the country as a whole.  

Ben Bland Okay, gentleman at the front, here. Bharat Ramanan [Pause] Thank you. Hi Rahul. I had a question around China. Ben Bland Introduce – tell us who you are, sorry. Bharat Ramanan Sorry, my name is Bharat. I’m from Rio Tinto, and the que... 
Rahul Gandhi Bharat? 
Bharat Ramanan Bharat, yes. The question I had was around China, and I think you’re on record saying that, you know, “This government doesn’t quite understand the nature of the risk that China poses,” and I’m just curious to understand what in your estimation is exactly the nature of that risk, and fundamentally, what are these guys not getting? Thank you.

You may as well ask such a question of a pussy cat. A guy from Rio Tinto- which sells a lot diamonds to Gujarat- wants to know if Rahul had some reason for this claim that Jaishankar- who is hella smart- doesn't understand China's true design. But Rahul merely meant that he thought Jaishankar may not have known that China is a big country- right?- and if you have a big country- right?- and there is another country- right?- then that big country may kill some of the other country's soldiers and try to take its land. That's what happened when my Grandpappy was Prime Minister. I read about it in Skool. This Jaishankar dude may not have gone to skool. That's why I say it is important to listen. I used to listen to my grandpappy talking in I-talian to my granny. That's how I became so very smart. Did you know I scored zero in IQ test? This is because of Buddhism.  

 

Rahul Gandhi If you look at what has happened in Ukraine, right, the basic principle of Ukraine, the basic principle that is being applied in Ukraine, is that the Russians have told the Ukrainians that, “We do not accept the relationship you have with Europe and America, and if you do not change this relationship, we will change your territory. We will challenge your territorial integrity,” right? In my view, that is what is happening on the borders of my country. What China is threatening – China does not want us to have a relationship with the United States, and it is threatening us by saying, “If you continue to have this relationship with the United States, we will take action,” and that’s why they’ve got troops in Ladakh and that’s why they’ve got troops in Arunachal Pradesh. So, in my view, the basic idea behind the troops in Arunachal and Ladakh is similar to what is happening in Ukraine. I mentioned this to the Foreign Minister, he completely disagrees with me, and he thinks this is a ludicrous idea.

It is. The Chinese know that America came to Nehru's aid in 1962. India built up its defences subsequently whereas the fighting ability of the PLA declined.  The Chinese are trying to signal that their troops have high morale and are fighting fit. However, there has been no real test of their resolve. India can afford to play a waiting game. 

It's fine, we have a difference of opinion.

Jaishankar is a highly experienced former diplomat. His opinions are listened to. Rahul, very foolishly, is reminding us of Nehru's Himalayan blunder. 

Ben Bland Yeah, the lady in the third row in – brown jumper. 
Malini Mehra Hello, thank you very much. Yes, no, it’s me, thank you very much. My name is Malini Mehra and I run an international parliamentary organisation that works on climate change, but my question is raised to you as a citizen of India. There are many of us in the international diaspora, there is something more than 20 million Indians in the international diaspora. You spoke about the need for India to address these issues by itself, not within its own borders, because you have the international diaspora, and many people, like myself, no longer... 
Rahul Gandhi No, sorry, I didn’t – which issues, the environmental issues? 
Malini Mehra No, the issues facing India, the democratic despair that the country is in.

India is very sad that Malini fucked off to London. It is crying like anything. Did you know Malini has launched a 'teach a girl to swim' campaign? OMG! She is so talented. Whatever will India do without her?  

So, here is my question, and I ask it as someone who is one of possibly millions who no longer recognises the country that they were born and raised in. And we would like to know what your message is...
Rahul Gandhi I mean, what a – is that a bad thing or a good thing?

Environment is very nice. So is Democracy. They should get married but need not have sex. They could become Buddhist or turn into nice Zeroes.  

Malini Mehra What do you think?

Malini, dear, you are actually stupider than Rahul. That's what we think.  

Rahul Gandhi No, I’m asking you.

 

Malini Mehra Why am I here?  
Rahul Gandhi I don’t know, may... 
Malini Mehra I’m here because I’m feeling wretched about the state of my country.

Without me, my country has probably just curled up and died.  

Rahul Gandhi- Yeah. 
Malini Mehra- Absolutely wretched. My father was an RSS man, proudly so. He would not recognise the country, bless his soul. So, for those of us who are outside of India, how can we engage? How can we re-empower our democracy?

Teach a girl to swim and then tell her to swim to India if she loves it so much.  

20 years ago, I worked with Professor Amartya Sen, and Amartya didn’t let go of his passport.

He ran away from India with his best friend's wife.  

Ben Bland- Okay, can you get to the question, please?

 Darling, don't make this about you. 

Malini Mehra- I’m not getting rid of my passport,

which means she can inherit agricultural land in India.  

and I want to know what can we do to reanimate our democratic institutions?

Mehra could join the Indian Overseas Congress.  

Rahul Gandhi- Well, I like your energy. No, I – it’s very important, it’s very important, and it’s – it goes to the point of the resistance. You see, the resistance is sitting here. No, I meant that the battle for the democratic institutions of India is, frankly, India’s responsibility and no-one else’s, right? And it’s something that we’re doing, but you, of course, are Indian, so it’s your responsibility as well and you’re part of that discussion. I think when you express yourself, I think what you said about your father being in the RSS and about him not recognising our country, in this conversation itself, is a very powerful thing,

it would be if Malini was doing lots of voluntary work in rural India rather than living large in Lon-fucking-don.  

because for me to say it, people might feel, ah he’s fighting the RSS, he’s fighting the BJP, he might be biased, right? But for you to say it, it has a totally different impact.

No. We get a picture of a decent chap who did genuine voluntary work for his own country where he actually lived. Malini is a virtue signalling narcissist.  

So, you’re already – you’re – by expressing yourself and by making your position clear, you’re already helping in a big way, right? I think by telling people the values that you stand for, the values that are Indian and that you protect, by telling everybody in the rest of the world that India needs to go back to those values, you’re doing the service. So, thank you.

You are such a flake, you make me look good. Thank you for that.  

Ben Bland- I’m going to go to a question right at the back, the gentleman in the corner in the glasses, just behind the door. Thank you, and then I’m going to come to this side next, one at the back. 
Shuhib Hi, my name is Shuhib. I’m just a keen follower of the Indian politics.

But changed my passport first chance I got.  

First of all, Rahul, thank you very much for giving someone else the opportunity to become the President of your party.

Rahul gave his Mummy the chance to go back to being President of Congress in 2019. She is getting old and isn't in good health. But only Kharge, who is even older, would take that job.  

And the second question is, do you think in – yes, to implement your philosophy and your vision of the Indian politics, probably you need to win the elections, and for – to win the elections you need to defeat BJP, but do you think with Mr Kharge in – as the Party President you’re well equipped to defeat BJP in the next elections?

No. We wanted Gehlot, but he wouldn't budge from Rajasthan. Kharge's punishment for failing to recruit Gehlot was to take the job himself.  

Rahul Gandhi Look, Mr Kharge was elected as President in a election that took place in the Congress Party, and he is the President of the Congress Party. We’re all working together to fight the BJP, and I’m extremely confident in Mr Kharge’s capabilities and his expertise. I don’t know if you know his history. Do you know his history? I mean, he’s been

very corrupt. He is worth half a billion dollars.  

– he was a Congress worker – he’s been a Congress worker for many, many years and he’s come up the ranks and he’s an extremely capable, dynamic person. So, I’m very confident in his leadership. 
Ben Bland I’m going to come over here. Maybe the gentleman at the front, in the hoodie. 
Sriram Yeah, I’m Sriram, I’m from – I’m a Chatham House member. I just wanted to ask you, sir, like, is there any type of new policy, like how Jawaharlal Nehru-ji introduced a Non-Alignment Movement policy? Like, is there any changes that you want to introduce in the Indian foreign policy?

No.  

Rahul Gandhi As I said, the principle of foreign policy is, unfortunately, self-interest, right? And any Indian Government would pay attention to that. So, in answering the question, [pause] the first step is, what is important to us as a country, and what are we trying to do? And what we’re trying to do is, we were a rural country and we are making a transition into an urban country. And this transition is – has a huge amount of energy, right, potential for violence, but also, potential for prosperity, potential for transformation, and we’re trying to manage this energy as it’s moving, right? If you look at our policies, they’re all – or the UPA policies, they were all about trying to manage this transition from a rural to an urban, connected country, right? So, our foreign policy will follow that idea, right?

India wanted to industrialize under Nehru. It just went about it the wrong way.  

Our foreign policy will reflect that, right? What is – what are – what would we like to do? We would like to build a society that’s productive, a society that allows our people to have an imagination, to live happily, to be educated, to have a certain amount of healthcare. Those are things that we would – that’s what our imagination is, and our foreign policy will align with that. 

Other countries have foreign policies which aim to make their society less productive and much more unhappy- right?  

Ben Bland I’ve got a question online about climate change from Arita Sehgal, who says, “What is your vision on decarbonising India when China controls so much of the supply chain, I guess, for renewable energy?”

Indian scientists have developed a low cost perovskite solar cells with superior thermal and moisture tolerance. That's the sort of thing Varun Gandhi could talk about till the cows come home.

Rahul Gandhi See, I mean on the climate change issue, interesting thing I noticed in the walk was that pretty much everywhere we went, they were speaking about climate change, but they were speaking about it locally. So, they were saying, “Look, you know, it’s terribly polluted, the water’s very bad, you know, it’s got fluoride in it,”

Water with fluoride is good for you. What Indians object to is water with high sewage content.  

but they were not making the connection between their local problem and the global problem, right? So, I was thinking that it’s important in India that we start to push that idea that this local problem is connected to the global problem.

Why? People want better air and water and soil quality. That's all that matters 

So, that’s one thought, one aspect of the Yatra that came up. On, you know, what is the vision for carbon, these things are not things that one person visualises and suddenly says, you know, “This is my vision for carbon,” I mean that would be insanity, right? The way to do it is you have a conversation with people, you have a conversation with stakeholders, and you say, “Okay, so what is the best way forward?” and that’s an evolving conversation.

Very true. If you want to have a conversation about how to boost production of indigenous wind turbines or solar cells, you need to listen to guys you meet on a walkabout.  Don't bother conversing with scientists and Green entrepreneurs. 

A lot of people, sort of, they think that leadership is about, you know, sitting there and just coming up with these ideas and it doesn’t work like that. It’s about talking to people, understanding, you know, what the best, most optimal outcome is, and then, heading slowly in that direction, yeah.

Rahul started off talking to people like Obama. Now he is listening to dudes on walkabout.  

Ben Bland Gentleman here in the glasses, at the third row, in the middle block. 
Zed Arun Thank you. My name is Zed Arun and I’m just a member here, but what I wanted to ask you was I know there were a lot of conversations about the narrative being taken over by BJP and RSS views, and you spoke about the challenges India – China is bringing about. But I wanted to ask you, how does – would your views or Congress’ views differ from BJP’s on Pakistan, and if there’s any difference?

No.  

Rahul Gandhi- I mean, [pause] my personal view is that it’s important that we have good relations with everybody around us, right, but that also depends on the actions of the Pakistanis. Now, if the Pakistanis are promoting terrorism in India, that becomes very difficult to do, right, and that does happen.

Pakistanis curb their export of terror if they are attacked in retaliation. Also killing terrorists on their soil discourages the fuck out of them.  

Ben Bland And we’ve got time for one more question. I think the lady here in the fourth row, in the – this block, yeah. Last question, yeah.  
Varcia Vargus Hi, my name is Varcia Vargus. I recently graduated from SOAS University of London, and I come from Kerala. So, my question is, during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, you mentioned you listened to many people, and as well, I just value the importance of listening, when people come to you, they look at someone who’s – who has a possibility of changing their lives or improving their lives. So, as someone who has a possibility of, like, becoming the future Prime Minister of India, what do you think, what actionable plans would you undertake?

Rahul makes promises he knows he won't have to keep even if his Party comes to power in the state- as they did in Karnataka. Kerala isn't going to make the same mistake. In 2019, there was a bit of a 'Rahul wave' in Kerala. It is unlikely that Congress will keep many of the seats it gained. Rahul himself will lose Wayanad. Tharoor, however, was re-elected.  

Rahul Gandhi I mean that’s a – okay, that’s a very white canvas you’ve given me. Alright, in what space? 
Varcia Vargus “I could possibly improve,” or, “this is something that I should do.” If there is an incident that has touched you, or anything. 
Rahul Gandhi In the Yatra? 
Member Yeah. 
Rahul Gandhi [Pause] In the walk lot of women came up to me, and quite a few of the women spoke about violence that had been done to them, and in one of the cases, well, actually in many of the cases, but in one particular case, I won’t go into the details, but in one of the cases I asked the girl, “Listen” – she’d been attacked, she’d been more or less raped, and I asked her, “Listen, should we call the Police?” And she said, “No, don’t call the Police. I don’t want you to call the Police.” And I said, “Why don’t you want me to call the Police? You’ve come here, you’ve told me this, and now you don’t want me to call the Police.” And she says, “Yeah, I don’t want to call – you to call the Police because then I will be shamed,” right? So, to me, that was a very striking thing, that here is this young girl who suffered this violence against her, and now she cannot act on that violence because she’s scared that she’ll be shamed.

Also, she knows Rahul is useless. He won't send his goons to castrate the rapists.  

So, I was thinking to myself, this poor girl is now going to live the rest of her life never telling anybody this, and it’s going to multiply the pain of what happened to her. So, that is something I think I would like to change, that the violence, the level of violence against women reduces, and particularly, this idea that – of shame, which is a completely ridiculous idea, is changed.

Why not change the desire to rape?  

Ben Bland Right [pause]. Thank you, everyone, for joining us today. Thank you, Mr. Gandhi  for your time and taking all the questions. I’ll certainly do my best in future to not exist, in the right, kind of, way and listen better, but, yeah, please join me again in giving another round of applause to Rahul Gandhi.

There are plenty of vacuous politicians who can't string two coherent sentences together. What makes Rahul exceptional is that his aim is to make his party unelectable. Assassination tempers autocracy. Nobody bothers to kill utter cretins.  

Saturday 17 February 2024

Bertrand Russell's nonsense

Why was the Tractatus bound to be nonsense?  The answer, obviously, was that Wittgenstein was as stupid as shit. Consider the following

5.5422 The correct explanation of the form of the proposition, 'A makes the judgement p', must show that it is impossible for a judgement to be a piece of nonsense. (Russell's theory does not satisfy this requirement.)

This is a stipulation that no one can make a nonsensical judgment. Yet anyone can give an example of a judgment that is nonsense. But that is itself a judgment.  However, it may be a wrong judgment. It may be found that the nonsense judgment makes sense in some other context- for e.g. as an example of nonsense. 

Witless had said, a few years earlier-

Every right theory of judgment must make it impossible for me to judge that this table penholders the book. Russell’s theory does not satisfy this requirement.

If 'this table penholders the book' really is nonsense then the judgment that it is so is right. How can it make itself impossible? I suppose Witless meant that if you make a judgment then the proposition expressed in the judgment must follow immediately without any further premise. But, in that case, no judgment is empirical or capable of verification. But, in that case, it must have an infinite number of premises ruling out all false or nonsensical propositions. Alternatively, it must have access to a possibly finite set of all true and meaningful propositions. But if there is such a set, depending on the syntax, it might be a member of itself.

There is also the problem that there may be a novelty book which is also a pen and a novelty table which is also a penholder. Depending upon the syntax of the language in question, it may be perfectly sensible to say that currently that table is penholdering that book. 

Russell's multiple-relation theory of judgment, which is fine for pragmaticism or intuitionism, is problematic for logicism but only because logicism is nonsense.

In 'On Truth & Falsehood' Russell had written-

...we have to seek a theory of truth which (1) allows truth to have an opposite, namely falsehood,

only because you reject Pragmatism which only looks at whether a proposition is useful 

(2) makes truth a property of beliefs,

in which case the intensional fallacy arises. You can't do logic with stuff which isn't identical with itself because it is epistemic and changes when the knowledge base changes 

but (3) makes it a property wholly dependent upon the relation of the beliefs to outside things.

which can be done well enough for any particular purpose by a protocol bound juristic system. But, in this case, there would be a distinction between matters of law and matters of fact. In the case of the latter, there would be verification protocols wholly independent of juristic protocols. Indeed, determinations of fact might be made by an different body- e.g. a Jury or a panel of experts.  

The necessity of allowing for falsehood makes it impossible to regard belief as a relation of the mind to a single object,

there would still be the problem of strategic beliefs- e.g in Newcombe problems.  

which could be said to be what is believed. If belief were so regarded, we should find that, like acquaintance, it would not admit of the opposition of truth and falsehood, but would have to be always true.

it would admit this opposition for a particular person or point of view.  

This may be made clear by examples. Othello believes falsely that Desdemona loves Cassio.

No. He genuinely has this belief. It turns out that his belief was wrong as Othello himself admits.  

We cannot say that this belief consists in a relation to a single object, “Desdemona’s love for Cassio,”

yes we can. The object either existed or could have existed but didn't.  

for if there were such an object, the belief would be true.

No. It would be false. There was no such thing in actual existence.  

There is in fact no such object, and therefore Othello cannot have any relation to such an object.

Yes he can. He can believe it exists.  

Hence his belief cannot possibly consist in a relation to this object.

It does relate to a 'Meinongian object' one which does not exist but which can be specified- like the 'present King of France'.  Russell hadn't wanted any such beasties 'To suppose that in the actual world of nature there is a whole set of false propositions going about is to my mind monstrous.'

Yet, to other minds, there might be all sorts of monsters prowling around in the natural world. I suppose, Russell means that the assumption is 'too big' to serve the purpose. But purposes are heterogeneous. Something one believes for one purpose may be incompossible with something else one believes for some other purpose. 

'I cannot bring myself to suppose it. I cannot believe that they are there in the sense in which facts are there.'

Sadly, facts aren't 'there'. You have to spend money to find out about them and get them certified till somebody smarter comes along and decertifies them. 

Russell, however, wants one logic- an atomic one, at that- to rule all other logics. But that logic can only exist in a universe where everything has been turned into a logical monster, albeit of an elementary sort. 


It might be said that his belief is a relation to a different object, namely “that Desdemona loves Cassio”;

Othello acts on the belief that Desdemona is fucking Cassio. That is his motive and one may say it is something he objectively believes about the world. Suppose Othello has a different motivation- viz. to have peace of mind that he is not being cuckolded- then there is no tragedy. Even if it was impossible for Desdemona to love any but Othello, still he had put the issue beyond doubt, peradventure or infirmity of suspicion. If he was beforehand in murdering possible rivals, he would become a King respected for his sagacity, rather than a mere vassal of the Doge.  

but it is almost as difficult to suppose that there is such an object as this, when Desdemona does not love Cassio, as it was to suppose that there is “Desdemona’s love for Cassio.”

It isn't difficult at all. True, Russell wanted to reduce math to logic and though for any given mathematics, there may be 'univalent foundations', speaking generally, we can't be sure this is the case.  

Hence it will be better to seek for a theory of belief which does not make it consist in a relation of the mind to a single object.

That theory was not far to seek. It is possible that X loves Y and there is some probability associated with it. This probability changes if we find what we believe is evidence they are fucking incessantly.  


It is common to think of relations as though they always held between two terms, but in fact this is not always the case. Some relations demand three terms, some four, and so on.

Sure. Relations can be based on multiple contingencies- Desdemona loves Cassio if she has grown bored with Othello and her best friend is a slut who encourages her to have an affair and Cassio is not to particular about where he takes his pleasure.  

Take, for instance, the relation “between.” So long as only two terms come in, the relation “between” is impossible: three terms are the smallest number that render it possible. York is between London and Edinburgh; but if London and Edinburgh were the only places in the world, there could be nothing which was between one place and another.

and yet some place, or phenomena, may be deemed to be 'between' them for some particular purpose. The semantics of a 'relation' is its pragmatics0. 

Similarly jealousy requires three people:

Nope. There are plenty of stories of a guy getting suspicious that is wife is seeing some other bloke when it actually turns out that she has been making herself pretty for him or earning money to buy him a nice anniversary gift 

  there can be no such relation that does not involve three at least.

Who can all be imaginary. Jessica Rabbit isn't a real person.  

Such a proposition as “A wishes B to promote C’s marriage with D” involves a relation of four terms;

No. There are only two terms. The guy and the thing he wishes would happen. It may be that he wants B to piss off C and doesn't give a shit about D. But that is irrelevant.  Equally we could say there are an infinite number of terms. A has a wish regarding what he wishes he wishes etc. 

that is to say, A and B and C and D all come in, and the relation involved cannot be expressed otherwise than in a form involving all four. Instances might be multiplied indefinitely, but enough has been said to show that there are relations which require more than two terms before they can occur.

If what occurs has a cause we may speak of there being a causal relationship. But  we don't know if we can carve up the world along its joints when it comes to what truly causes what. It may there is just one big cause of everything. It may also be that there are non-denumerably infinite causes for everything including themselves. 

The relation involved in judging or believing must, if falsehood is to be duly allowed for, be taken to be a relation between several terms, not between two.

only in the sense that it could be taken to be a relation between no terms or an infinity of terms or both or neither or both neither or neither both and neither.  

When Othello believes that Desdemona loves Cassio, he must not have before his mind a single object, “Desdemona’s love for Cassio,” or “that Desdemona loves Cassio,” for that would require that there should be objective falsehoods, which subsist independently of any minds;

We know that Othello has a vivid image of his wife having sex with Cassio in his mind. This is what he believes is actually happening. He is wrong. 

As for 'objective falsehoods'- they exist independently of any minds if objective truths do. I suppose one could say 'our judgement that x is true is only truly a judgment if x is true' but this is not itself a  judgment. It is merely a pious wish or else a sly way of evading the issue. Thus if I am called on to condemn Hamas atrocities but don't want to have my throat slit, I might say 'if there was any credible proof that Hamas did not treat everybody at all times in the kindest, most courteous, way then and only then would I judge their actions to have been wrong always provided it was in fact wrong.' 

and this, though not logically refutable, is a theory to be avoided if possible. Thus it is easier to account for falsehood if we take judgment to be a relation in which the mind and the various objects concerned all occur severally;

judgment is something which occurs. It isn't a relation though a particular judgment may relate to a particular justiciable matter.

that is to say, Desdemona and loving and Cassio must all be terms in the relation which subsists when Othello believes that Desdemona loves Cassio. This relation, therefore, is a relation of four terms, since Othello also is one of the terms of the relation. When we say that it is a relation of four terms, we do not mean that Othello has a certain relation to Desdemona, and has the same relation to loving and also to Cassio. This may be true of some other relation than believing; but believing, plainly, is not a relation which Othello has to each of the three terms concerned, but to all of them together: there is only one example of the relation of believing involved, but this one example knits together four terms.

That is an arbitrary assertion. Othello also has various misogynistic beliefs about how wimmin are totes randy and enjoy cuckolding their boring husbands. Also, I suppose the fact that he is a Moor means he might have some prejudices against Europeans whom he might think are oversexed and promiscuous and disloyal and so forth. But, there is a more basic problem. In anything 'epistemic'- like belief- there is a vast amount of 'background information' which it would be difficult to specify which are part and parcel of one's beliefs about possible states of the world. The intensional fallacy arises with a vengeance in Belief, or Preference, or other such 'Relations'. 

Thus the actual occurrence, at the moment when Othello is entertaining his belief, is that the relation called “believing” is knitting together into one complex whole the four terms Othello, Desdemona, loving, and Cassio.

not to mention many other terms to do with biological gender and prevalent social mores etc., etc.  

What is called belief or judgment is nothing but this relation of believing or judging, which relates a mind to several things other than itself.

This is not true. Belief and judgment are words in common usage. They may relate 'a mind' to itself. We can have beliefs about our own beliefs and then judge those beliefs to be wrong.

An act of belief or of judgment is the occurrence between certain terms at some particular time, of the relation of believing or judging.

When did we come to believe there was an external world? By what act did we judge Mummy and Daddy to be separate from ourselves? These are the sorts of questions logicism could not answer. It could merely get hoist by its own ipse dixit petard. Perhaps, if Russell had never met Wiltesstein or if Frank Ramsey had lived longer, Anal-tickle philosophy wouldn't have been such a fucking waste of time. Or perhaps philosophy is merely a displacement activity indulged in by smart people tackling open questions in STEM subjects. Now we have Expert Systems and AI, I suppose we will have much greater heterogeneity in the field. Instead of meticulous nonsense, we may have a useful messiness. 

It is sometimes useful to distinguish truth from falsehood regarding certain propositions. 



 

Friday 16 February 2024

Amartya Sen on Evolution

If we are speaking of equality, we might ask equality of what? Economic Equality? Political Equality? Spiritual Equality? I suppose, even if we narrow things to Economic Equality, we might ask whether it is equality of opportunity or equality of income which should concern us. However if we are speaking of Darwin's theory of Evolution, we can't ask what sort of Evolution we are talking about. Darwin was a biologist. He was talking about the evolution of the various species people could see around the world. His thesis was that species compete with each other for scarce resources in the same way that people compete with each other. Those who are more productive, efficient, or 'robust' in the sense of being able to tolerate adversity, prevail. We may say that 'the fittest survive'. The world is like an obstacle course where some species fail and go extinct while others burgeon. In this context 'fitness' means navigating the 'fitness landscape' and reproducing. Any species which is flourishing is fit enough for its landscape- unless some competitor (e.g. an invasive species) suddenly turns up. This does not mean we can't imagine a species which is even more fit- e.g. a race of Supermen who can fly and who are invulnerable to bullets- its just that which is imaginary doesn't really compete with that which actually exists.

Amartya Sen does not understand this. Some 30 years ago he wrote in the LRB  

On the Darwinian View of Progress

Darwin saw that economic competition had resulted in his country progressing greatly. It had become the richest country in the world. Its Navy ruled the waves. It had a vast and growing Empire. The reason for this was its superior efficiency, productivity and adaptability. His race was flourishing in Australia and Canada. It ruled a large chunk of South Asia. Sooner or later, it would take over vast territories in darkest Africa.

Darwin was saying that certain species- including the one to which he belonged- had progressively taken over more and more terrain while other species- e.g. the Mauritian dodo- had gone extinct. This was progress, from the point of view of the species which survived and expanded. As for the point of view of the losers- they simply didn't exist because they had gone extinct. Thus Darwin's theory was objective, not subjective. It was positive or alethic, not normative or subjective.  


It is now a century and a third, almost exactly, since the publication in 1859 of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. In this period the view of evolutionary progress introduced by Darwin has radically altered the way we think about ourselves and the world in which we live.

It would be fairer to say that Darwin reflected the spirit of his age rather than that he caused it to change very radically.  

There are very few events in the history of ideas that can be compared in terms of power, reach and impact with the emergence of the Darwinian analysis of progress through evolution.

Progress had already occurred. More powerful than Darwin was the notion that God was an Englishman or that Providence or 'Manifest Destiny' had specially favoured the Anglo Saxon race. Darwinian ideas suggested that Indians, being sheltered from war by Pax Britannica, would degenerate and become more incapable of ruling themselves even if they belonged to 'martial races'. One result of the spread of Darwin's 'dangerous idea', along with those of Herbert Spencer, was that Indian intellectuals turned away from Religion and, in Bengal and Maharashtra, embraced muscular nationalism. Evangelical Christianity took a big hit. Darwin was compatible with karma but not bodily resurrection.

There are, however, several distinct components in the Darwinian understanding of evolutionary progress,

There is no notion of 'evolutionary progress'. There is adaptation to a changing fitness landscape but no 'telos' or arrow to evolution. It isn't the case that man will give way to the Superman and the Superman will give way to whatever shite it was that Aurobindo believed in. Abhijit Guha would point out Sen's errors shortly after this essay was published. 

and it is possible that the profundity of some of the elements may make us less conscious of the dubious nature of others. In particular, Darwin’s general idea of progress – on which his notion of evolutionary progress is dependent – can have the effect of misdirecting our attention, in ways that are crucial in the contemporary world.

This is nonsense. Darwin's generation had seen great progress in science and commerce. But Darwin was aware that mankind had stagnated or degenerated in many parts of the world. The Whites would not necessarily replace the stupid darkies- not to mention the feckless Irish- because the latter might just breed faster and become more tolerant of deprivation. Indeed, perhaps Whites needed to be protected from wage competition with mentally stunted brown people, not to mention Catholics, who, however, fucked like rabbits. 

It can be argued that there are three distinct components in the Darwinian analysis of evolutionary progress: an explanation of how evolution works;

Darwin could not give any such explanation. Mendel's work inspired the current neo-Darwinian synthesis.  

an idea of what constitutes progress; and a substantiation of the way evolution brings about progress. Of these three, the first is thoroughly profound both in interpreting what is going on in the world and in opening up a powerful general line of reasoning, viewing change and transformation in terms of evolution and natural selection. Exacting questions can, of course, be raised about the aptness of the particular processes on which Darwin himself concentrated, and there are other divisive questions as well. For example, an important issue concerns whether the analysis should be conducted in terms of selection of species (as combinations of phenomenal characteristics) or of genotypes (as combinations of genetic features). It is often more convenient to talk in terms of species (as Darwin did),

because he didn't know about genes or genotypes. 

but natural selection is transmitted through inherited characteristics

no. Natural selection occurs at the level of the phenotype. Animals which do stupid shit die off. This can reduce the species population to a point where reproductive failure occurs. 

and that relates to genotypes. Though species and genotypes are closely related, they are not congruent.

A species is a bunch of genotypes which can inter-breed. But what matters is what organisms do. If it is maladaptive phenotypes get killed off and once a certain threshold is reached the whole bunch of genotypes constituting the species goes extinct- i.e. ceases to be able to reproduce. 

But these are secondary differences within a shared approach, and the power and far-reaching relevance of evolutionary analysis in general are hard to dispute.

But such analysis still comes down to the common sense proposition that if a high enough proportion of members of a species do stupid shit- i.e. fail to adapt to the fitness landscape- then the species as a whole may go extinct- i.e. cease to be able to reproduce.  

Similarly, it is possible to have reasonable disagreements on the extent to which these evolutionary ideas can be used in other, particularly ‘social’, areas, such as the selection and survival of institutions and behaviour norms – fields of application which Darwin himself had not identified.

It was obvious that institutions and behaviours which are stupid and mal-adaptive can lead to the people clinging to such institutions or behaviours being conquered or otherwise swamped by others who are less fucking stupid.  

But there is little doubt about the general usefulness of adding evolutionary lines of reasoning to other methods of social investigation (even though the more extreme applications have attracted some not entirely undeserved criticism).

There is little point criticizing those who say 'stop doing stupid shit!' unless, obviously, you are a Bengali buddhijivi.  

These issues have been much discussed already, and I shall not take them up here. In the threefold classification of elements in Darwinian analyses of evolutionary progress, I shall not grumble at all about the explanation of how evolution works. My focus is on the idea of progress underlying Darwinian lines of analysis.

Darwin, as a mid-Victorian, expressed a mid-Victorian creed. Then the fucking Irish started rising up not to mention the fucking Welsh and the fucking proletariat. Even women started demanding the vote. 

Our Characteristics and Our Lives

Darwin had a clear conception of what he saw as progress, and he judged the achievements of evolution in that light. ‘And as natural selection,’ he wrote in the concluding section of On the Origin of Species, ‘works solely by and for the good of each being,

because guys who jump off cliffs in the belief that they can fly are being done a favour by 'natural selection' when they go splat on the ground 

all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.’ Progress was seen in terms of the production of ‘endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful’. Darwin took ‘the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving’ to be ‘the production of the higher animals’.

Darwin accidentally set off a literary revolution- initially among Protestants like Synge & Shaw- in Ireland which would lead to what we have now- viz. the Republic having twice the per capita GDP of the United Kingdom.  

It is easy to agree with Darwin that ‘there is grandeur in this view of life,’ as he put it in the concluding sentence of The Origin.

He later put in the word 'Creator' to appease the Christians. 

The question is whether this way of seeing progress points us in the right direction.

What's wrong with seeing progress as involving greater perfection and beauty rather than greater imperfection and ugliness? 

One distinguishing characteristic of this approach is its concentration on our characteristics and features, what we are, rather than on what we can do or be.

What we are is what we do. Yoneda's lemma applies. No doubt, I could be Narendra Modi but I prefer to be a useless tosser.  

An alternative would be to judge progress by the quality of lives we can lead.

The quality of our lives is a function of what we do, not what we can do, but what we actually do. If I dined at a splendid restaurant after a night at the Opera, I have a high quality of life even if it was possible for me to spend my time getting gang-raped in a prison cell instead.  

That – somewhat Aristotelian – shift of focus would not only be more in line with what we have reason to value,

No it wouldn't. Either we are actually living well or we are being fucked in the ass in a prison cell. Aristotle is irrelevant.  

it could also draw our attention to issues that a concentration on the ‘highness’ of the species (or on genetic excellence) would tend to hide.

like what? Any way, nobody is concentrating on the 'highness' of any species though no doubt there are scientific researchers who are trying to work out how to 'improve' genes so that people with those genes don't suffer horribly.  


Our capability to lead one kind of life rather than another does not depend only on what we are, but also on the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Only because what we are depends on our circumstances. I am a man, not a female giraffe, because of the circumstances surrounding my conception.  

We can exert all sorts of influence on the nature of the world in which we live. How we view progress can, therefore, make a real difference to our decisions and resolve.

But our decisions and resolve make no real difference to anything unless circumstances grant us power in that respect.  

Anthropocentrism and Human Values

I shall try to examine the contrast between these two approaches, which – at the cost of some oversimplification – I shall call respectively ‘the quality of species’ view and ‘the quality of life’ view.

Does Sen mean 'eugenic' shit about promoting the marriage of alpha type people while ensuring that ugly tossers like me have a fucking horrible life?  

The former – Darwinian – perspective in its modern form might well have been better described as ‘the quality of genotypes’ view, since the characteristics that are naturally selected and inherited would be the genetic ones.

Modern science can directly change the genotype. But what matters is the phenotype. It may be that I have excellent genes. But, if I am a lazy sociopath who like stabbing people, Society is better off incarcerating me with those who might enjoy kicking my head in.  

While 1 shall continue to use the Darwinian term ‘species’, ‘genotypes’ would often be a better description, but the distinction is not central to the main theses of this essay.

I suppose 'eugenic' considerations do prevail. Smart and good-looking people prefer to marry each other rather than get hitched to rancorous retards like myself. 


It is not easy for the quality-of-life view to escape some anthropocentrism. This is not only because the quality of lives of other animals cannot be judged in the way that the quality of human lives can be, but also because that act of judging is a specifically human exercise.

Suppose I have a dog. It can choose to adopt my way of life- which involves lying on the couch watching Netflix and eating Pizza- or it can choose to become the companion of my flat-mate who goes jogging and enjoys throwing a frisbee around. I too may stop emulating my neighbour's cat- which leads a pretty sedentary like- and take up the active life-style of my dog. For any specific purpose, we might emulate animals or animals may emulate us. Quality of life depends on our style of life which depends on whom we imitate.  

These are genuine problems,

What are they? Sen won't tell us.  

and initially it might appear that they work strongly in the direction of endorsing the quality-of-species approach over the quality-of-life view. The picture, however, is more complex than that.

How? Sen won't say.  

A human evaluative framework is, in fact, difficult to avoid in both of these approaches.

because it is difficult for human being to evaluate things in the manner of a fish.  

Even in assessing the quality of species or of genotypes (for example, in judging what forms are ‘most beautiful and most wonderful’), our own judgments are inevitably involved.

No living being is tasked with 'assessing the quality of species'. Why not assess the sexiness of the law of gravity instead?  

It is, of course, possible to replace such judgments by the apparently ‘neutral’ criterion of purely reproductive success – the ability to outnumber and outlive competing groups.

Sen is under the impression that some bunch of Professors somewhere went around assessing all the various species and giving them gold stars or frowny faces.  

The evolutionary perspective has often been combined with implicit use of this apparently no-nonsense criterion.

When Sen first came to England, he met an old pal from Calcutta who said to him, 'Listen Amartya, I've just got back from the Labour Exchange. They have offered me a job as species evaluator in Aberdeen. The pay is very good and what's more I can expect rapid promotion to phylum evaluator. The trouble is, I don't have the train-fare to get to Scotland. Could lend me a couple of quid? I'll send you the money back with interest the moment I get paid.' Sen, being a good hearted fellow, handed over the cash. He was a little taken aback when this friend of his knocked on his door a couple of days later. It turned out that the job in Aberdeen had fallen through because of its implicit use of an apparently no-nonsense criteria. Still, nil desperandum. A vacancy had opened up in the Department for assessing the sexiness of Wheeler-DeWitte gravity. Could Amartya oblige with the loan of a couple of quid till pay-day? 

Experiences of this sort embittered Sen. He began to feel that the whole system of evaluating everything in the Universe was problematic in some obscure, perhaps occult, manner. He began to brood about the inequity involved in such assessments. Surely, there must be a better way of deciding which Galaxies should get gold stars and which species should get a report card saying 'must try to do better'? 

Species, Conservation and Animal Lives

It could be argued that since the Darwinian view takes explicit note of widely different species and genotypes, it has the advantage of broadness over the quality-of-life view, which would tend to be more closely focused on the type of life that human beings lead.

Who argues this? I suppose the answer is that if was Ken Arrow who came up to Sen and said 'from a Darwinian point of view, you are not a giraffe. This is because you are very short. Sucks to be you!' ? 

For example, it might be tempting to think

though it might be even more tempting to stink by shitting yourself  

that the species-oriented Darwinian perspective would be more helpful than the quality-of-life view in understanding the environmentalist’s concern with preserving different species that are threatened with extinction.

But actual environmentalists bring forward ecological arguments. They point to unintended consequences of eliminating a particular species from the food chain. Sen is under the impression that every time the Greens raise a hue and cry about some endangered species of lizard, David Attenborough turns up and says it is the most perfectly sexy and cute lizard ever. Also, it has recently been elected a member of the Garrick and thus a great quality of life.  


This, however, is not at all so. Natural selection is, in fact, choice through selective extinction, and the environmental interest in preserving threatened species must, in this sense, be entirely ‘non-Darwinian’ in spirit.

Nope. We benefit by preserving a particular eco-system. Darwin was cool with people doing things which improved their inclusive fitness.  

One of the most interesting and forceful theses of The Origin is that ‘it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes.’ Surviving beings, Darwin proceeded to claim, are ‘ennobled’ when viewed in the light of this process. Extinction is part and parcel of the process of evolutionary selection, and any anti-extinction view must seek its support elsewhere.

Darwin was a country gentleman. He knew that rural societies don't exterminate all predators- e.g. foxes- because they have a role in keeping down pests of various sorts. Darwin was writing for people familiar with 'game preserves'- i.e. artificially maintained ecologies. Sen is placing too much reliance on small rhetorical flourishes in Darwin's texts. 


In contrast, the environmentalist is likely to get some help in this field from the rival quality-of-life approach.

We must preserve the habitat of the crested newt because many newts had deprived childhoods. Also some have recently become members of the Garrick.  

The presence of a variety of species in the world which we inhabit can be seen as enhancing the quality of life that we ourselves can lead.

The Greens say that ecologies are fragile.  We don't know what chaotic consequences might arise from an extinction event. The regret minimizing course is to conserve what we do not fully understand lest disaster befall. 

More important, if human beings can and do reasonably value the survival of all the species that happen currently to be here

they don't.  

(even the ones that are rather ‘unfit’ and ‘unselected’), then that environmental concern is better understood in terms of human reasoning (and the values we live by) than by invoking the Darwinian view of progress through ‘the survival of the fittest’.

No. The relevant view is that of radical ecological interdependence.  

Furthermore, a general interest in the quality of life is more likely than the Darwinian perspective to direct attention to such matters as cruelty to animals.

No. The sort of people who get worked up about cruelty to our furry friends may have zero interest in the quality of life of those who are obliged to put up with them.  

Some sensitivity to the quality of lives that living beings can lead can make a real difference to the way we evaluate alternatives in our otherwise callous world.

Because that's what we are paid to do- right? This callous world employs millions of people to evaluate the sexiness of different Galaxies and the different levels of perfection displayed by various types of amphibians.  

Criterion and Comparison

How does the Darwinian approach to progress work?

It doesn't. It is mere rhetoric.  

What characterises the general procedure of judging progress by the excellence of the species?

If you find cows really useful, cows are excellent. The Victorians were creating vast herds of cows in Australia and other such distant places. There were plenty of agricultural fairs where the best cows or bulls or whatever won prizes. Markets for cows existed such that superior specimens cost more money. Wealthy people paid good money for paintings of prize cows.  

What is the evaluative basis of Darwin’s claim about the achievements of evolutionary progress in the world in which we live?

It is utilitarian. Darwin was as Victorian as fuck.  

It is not hard to see some plausibility in the claim that there has been progress over time in the history of living beings,

the Victorian upper middle class certainly felt it had progressed and prospered.  

or to find some merit in the way we have evolved from more primitive forms. For one thing, the intellectual or cultural sophistication and creativity of modern human beings contrast sharply with the world of primitive animals and vegetables, not to mention the earlier world of single cell protozoa. It is not wildly eccentric to see some glory in our world compared with a mute earth circling the sun with a specialised cargo of trillions of trillions of amoeba, or Cambrian mollusca and trilobites.

Darwin did a lot of painstaking work. He wasn't eccentric. We may object to the rhetoric he used to popularize his theory but there is really no reason for us to start congratulating ourselves on our superior cultural attainments when compared to molluscs.  


However, the immediacy of that recognition has to be tempered by asking two questions about the nature of the alleged progress through evolution: by what criterion?

Utility.  

And compared with what?

Molluscs. Try getting a mollusc to fix your toilet. Even giraffes are shit at the job. You need to hire a human problem.  

The Darwinian choice of criterion proceeds effectively in two steps – one more explicit than the other. The first step is to judge progress by the excellence of the species produced.

That excellence was utility. Darwin's neighbours were constantly gassing on about how much more milk they were getting from their cows thanks to scientific breeding and improved fodder provision. Humans too were becoming more and more productive because technology had improved. 

This is the basic Darwinian view of progress.

It was the Victorian view. 

It relates, as I said earlier, to Darwin’s sense of ‘the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving’ – to wit, ‘the production of the higher animals’.

The mid-Victorians- including Marx- saw that productivity could go on rising till almost everybody could live well. The proles would come to look as elegant as the leisured class. Some of their women might even learn to read book rather than just guzzle gin.  

The second step, which is much more specific, is implicit rather than explicit in Darwin’s own writings, though firmly stated and defended by many Darwinians. The excellence of the species (or of genotypes) is to be judged by reproductive success – the power to survive and multiply, and thus collectively, to outnumber and outlive the competing groups (other species, other genotypes). That complex set of achievements goes under the name of ‘fitness’, taking fitness to be reflected by survival and reproductive success. The thesis of ‘the survival of the fittest’ is indeed central to Darwinism, though the phrase itself was originally proposed by Herbert Spencer (and adopted – with some enthusiasm – by Charles Darwin). And the claim of progress, on that ground, has been developed and much extended by modern exponents of evolutionary optimality.

Darwin hoped that the higher fertility of the lower orders would be compensated for by higher mortality.  There are no 'modern exponents of evolutionary optimality'. Agribusiness does go in for genetic modified 'Frankenfoods', but this a matter of economic trade-offs. Because of licensing issues, optimality isn't a desiderata.                                                        

The recognition that fitness, thus defined, must have much to do with success in natural selection is obvious enough.

There is a fitness landscape on which some do better than others. There is no fitness as such. 

The question is whether it makes sense to assess progress in terms of increases in the fitness of the selected species.

This depends on what type of species we are speaking off. An invasive species may be super-fit but we may want to eradicate it to protect the native ecology. 

It looks like a neat criterion, but is it cogent and persuasive?

It may be depending on the context. 

Also, is it really so neat?

It is as neat enough as it is worthwhile to make it.  

Fitness: Coherence and Cogency

The criterion of fitness is widely used in the evolutionary literature in quite ambitious forms.

Not really. Essentially, evolutionary algorithms are a type of Monte Carlo method which, ideally, make no assumptions about the fitness landscape. They are only used at the micro-cellular level and thus have  nothing to do with 'species' or evolutionary fitness. They are just a metahueristic optimization algorithm which may or may not be useful in various contexts. 

Notions of ‘optimality’ are frequently derived from judgments of comparative fitness. In terms of fitness, a species or genotype is ‘optimum’ if and only if it can outmatch all its rivals.

this is merely a mathematical convention. It has nothing to do with biological populations. 

One difficulty in using this criterion arises from the fact that the comparative fitness of a given pair of alternative species would depend on the environment in which they compete for survival.

But, if you are being paid to evaluate 'comparative fitness'- e.g. deciding which breed of cattle to raise on a ranch- you study that environment and make a decision. This is purely an ideographic matter.  

There is no particular reason to think that if genotype x were fitter than genotype y in environment A, then it would be fitter also in some other environment B.

There might be. It depends. It may be worthwhile doing a bit of 'discovery'.  

It could, thus, frequently be the case that there would be no dominance of one alternative over another (independently of the actual environment).

It could equally be the case that there is such dominance because all the other alternatives involve dying immediately.  

Of course, one alternative might well be worse than another in all the different relevant environments, and such an alternative could be eliminated from the set of ‘efficient’ possibilities to be considered. But it is not unreasonable to expect that there would be many non-comparabilities among the ‘efficient’ alternatives: better in some circumstances and worse in others and therefore not generally rankable vis-à-vis each other.

Nothing is rankable- save arbitrarily- because the future fitness landscape is not known.  Sen is a pedagogue. In his line of work, it may be important to rank students in order of stupidity or sycophancy or whatever it is that his shitty subject selects for. 

There is scope here for using some broader mathematical notions of maximality that permit such incompleteness (as has been systematically done in applications of mathematical reasoning in other ‘unruly’ fields, such as social choice theory)

No there isn't. Social Choice is useless shite. Evolutionary algorithms can be useful in certain contexts.  

rather than the more full-blooded version – simple optimality – that seems to be currently favoured in the evolutionary literature.

because it is useful. The thing is merely a way to cut through computational complexity to get to a good enough approximation for a specific problem. 

Note may also have to be taken of possible intransitivities, alternative x may outmatch y, and y may outmatch z, but x may not be able to outmatch z.

One can't speak of transitivity if the alternatives themselves can't be properly specified. They are 'intensions' without a proper 'extension'.  

This type of possibility can arise from the plurality and heterogeneity of favourable conditions that the different alternatives may have.

In which case, the alternatives can't actually be fully specified. One can point at them but one can't say what they are.  They are not mathematical objects nor can they be terms in a logical calculus. 

The process is not altogether different from the way tennis player x may be able to defeat player y, and y may be able to defeat z, without it being altogether clear that x can in fact vanquish z.

But he may do so. So long as there is no 'Dutch book'- i.e. no way of placing a sequence of bets on players with an Expected profit- no scandal arises.  Arbitrage does the ranking for Bayesians. 

Intransitivity and incompleteness may be particularly liable to occur when there are inter-dependences in the competition for survival, related particularly to the simultaneous presence of different competing groups of genotypes or species.

In other words, in life Sen-tentious shite is useless shite. Ecologies are ideographic. Those with expert knowledge can suggest improvements or alert us to threats. They can't rank all possible alternatives or decide what is the optimal mix of bio-mass for a terrain.  

The criterion of fitness can be made coherent and congruous by dropping some of the deceptive neatness.

No. It will remain shit.  

The view of progress that would emerge from such a criterion would have ‘holes’ and ‘gaps’, but it would not, then, be based on such arbitrary assumptions as the environment-independence of fitness rankings, or the presumed adequacy of simple pair-wise comparisons.

No. The view that would emerge is that evolution isn't about 'progress' or 'optimality'. On the other hand, co-evolved processes tame complexity and so evolutionary algorithms can be useful. What Sen has been doing all these years has been utterly useless. 

Given the enormity of the task of finding adequate criteria for progress, that price might be well worth paying.

Provided the price is no more than one derisive fart.  

But whatever virtues there might be in the claim that increasing fitness is a good way of judging progress, neatness and simplicity are unlikely to be among them.

No. It is neat and simple to say that such and such hominid species had higher fitness because it spread over a wider geographical area and replaced older indigenous lineages. It is also fine to say that gene therapy can help some particular class of people. Progress means having a better life than your parents. 

The deeper difficulties with the use of fitness as a criterion of progress lie elsewhere, however. The most basic question is of course: why? Why should success in reproduction and survival be the yardstick of achievement?

Because not being alive means you can't achieve shit.  

But before I pursue this question further, I should say something on the second question related to the claim of evolutionary progress, viz. compared with what?’

being dead. Why do so few Neanderthals run Fortune 500 companies. It is because they died out long ago. Shame but there it is.  

Fitter than what?

Dead peeps. There are folk around today who may look pretty unfit. But our lineages may be wiped out while theirs thrive ten thousand years hence.  

There are two rather different ways of identifying rival species or genotypes for comparison of reproductive triumph. One is over time,

that's the only way to do it 

and the other across alternative possibilities.

we don't know what those are. One could make arbitrary guesses but anybody can do that.  

The first involves assessing the species or genotypes of each period compared with what obtained earlier. But since the respective environments in the different periods were also dissimilar, the historical success of victorious species need not tell us very much about their general superiority in fitness.

Sure they can. A species which is dependent on just one food source- e.g. Pandas- is less fit than one which can adapt to different food sources. Moreover, one which can change the entire environment to suit itself is higher up the chain than one which would go extinct if some minor change in its terrain occurred. Fitness is related to robustness.  

Presumably a species flourishing in one period would have had some specific advantages in the then environment, but this line of reasoning does not lead to any conclusion about general progress over time, going beyond advantage in the local and proximate environment.

unless that local and proximate advantage quickly turns into a global advantage.  

Darwin’s thesis about ‘all corporeal and mental endowments’ tending ‘to progress towards perfection’ through ‘natural selection’ is hard to sustain even when progress is seen entirely in terms of fitness.

But it is equally hard to reject because rhetorical terms mean whatever the rhetor had in mind.  Fitness is robustness and species which thrive all over the place have greater fitness than those confined to remote jungles and mountains. This may be because they are domesticated, or self-domesticated.

More can, however, be said in Darwin’s direction if we are ready to accept as our criterion, not fitness in general, but certain straightforward physical characteristics such as efficiency of mechanical design.

That is irrelevant.  

Indeed, in his Evolution in Action (1953), Julian Huxley

who was part of an active eugenics tradition which attracted interest from Indian statisticians 

used just such a criterion of mechanical efficiency to identify progress over time. For example, he noted the secular improvement in the running speed of horses and in the grinding ability of their teeth.

This has been happening for hundreds of years because of selective breeding programs.  

More recently, extending this type of argument further and much more ambitiously, Geerat Vermeij

a specialist in molluscs 

has proposed, in his Evolution and Escalation (1987), that there have been sweeping improvements over time

the last 600 million years 

in some generally favourable features for survival, so that modern organisms are better able to deal with a variety of environments going well beyond the particular one in which they happen to live. Vermeij has sought a causal explanation for this in his finding that ‘the biological surroundings have themselves become more rigorous within a given habitat’ over long spreads of time – a phenomenon which he calls ‘escalation’.

Complex eco-systems, with high diversity, are likely to be more efficient, that is productive, but may also be less robust. 

These empirical findings are illuminating and the related analyses are also significant, but the conclusions about evolutionary progress over time cannot but be tentative and relatively modest.

They can be as precise as it is useful for them to be.  

A species that survives and reproduces relatively better than another in a more ‘rigorous’ environment need not invariably perform better in less rigorous surroundings (or in an even more rigorous environment). In establishing evolutionary progress over time, the problem of variability of fitness with surroundings cannot be adequately eliminated by the postulate of increasing environmental rigorousness over time.

But it can be eliminated if less robust species can be shown to have died off. You can't argue with the fossil record.  

There is another basic problem in drawing conclusions about evolutionary progress from these over-time comparisons: the problem of what can or cannot be ascribed to evolution as such.

Everything can be ascribed to evolution. The alternative is to say God performed a miracle.  

It is obviously arbitrary to attribute all the developments that occur over time to the process of evolution.

No. It is arbitrary to attribute developments to God performing a miracle or Aliens showing up in flying saucers.  

In particular, some changes may be brought about by transitory natural events. Evolution, on its own, need not have resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs opening up a different line of development which eventually produced human beings.

The fitness landscape changed because of the transitory event. The dinosaurs evolved into birds or Professors of useless shite or some such thing. Some little rodent evolved into what we are now.  

We clearly owe a vote of thanks to the impacting asteroid – if that is what it was – which, some sixty-five million years ago, exterminated the dinosaurs, but helped us, at long last, to evolve. Even if we argue from our point of view (eschewing that of the dinosaurs) that there has been progress over time, we cannot conclude that evolution itself has brought about this progressive change.

Yes we can. What is the alternative? To say God sent the asteroid and then blessed a particular mammalian lineage?   


All this gives us reason to look not over time but across sets of alternative possibilities:

the fossil record actually exists. Alternative possibilities are not visible.  

in particular, to judge the species that have emerged in comparison with others that did not emerge or were eliminated. How reasonable is the claim that the ones which made it were ‘optimal’ in that environment?

We don't know the relevant constraints. The way things are may be optimal, they may not. We don't know. It doesn't greatly matter if some say 'we live in the best of all possible worlds' while others say 'by paying more attention to impartial observers on the Planet Pluto, things could be made more optimal or equitable or some other such shit.' 

Things are not all that easy here either. The ‘fittest’ to which Darwin or Spencer referred could be the top of a local class only – of the alternatives that happen to come up to compete with the particular species in question.

No. Fittest means fitter than the competition. It doesn't mean the fittest possible in the opinion of a cretin. It could easily happen that those 'at the top of a local class' aren't particularly fit, but if their employees or loyalists are fitter than their challengers, then this is still a case of the fittest surviving because the killed those less fit who tried to fuck with them.  

There are many factors – systemic as well as accidental – which could have prevented the emergence of other competitors.

That is irrelevant. The fittest soldier in the platoon is the one who did best in relevant competitions. It does not matter that if disabled lesbian goats had received the right kind of gene therapy then they would have been considered fitter by impartial spectators from the Orion Nebula.  

‘Development constraints’ – a topic in evolutionary biology – both scale down and complicate the optimality claims that can be made.

No they don't. There can be no talk of optimality save with respect to relevant constraints.  

The problem becomes even more complex when we consider not just variations of existing organisms, but altogether different organisms that could have emerged in some alternative scenario of world history with different development constraints and different draws on the lottery of nature.

This is utterly foolish. Those 'alternative scenarios' weren't fit enough to perpetuate themselves and thus   appear in our time line. 

The epic heroes with superhuman powers like Gilgamesh or Arjuna or Achilles, who did make the fictitious world more exciting (if not altogether peaceful), may well have been unfeasible creatures, but it is hard to rule out of consideration every counterfactual possibility that could have made us fitter even in the environment in which we find ourselves today.

It is easy to do so. For any such 'counter-factual' see if there is any evidence to back the claim. If there is, try to get in on the ground-floor by investing in it.  

Depending on circumstances and chance, many other alternatives could have come up. The evolutionary analogue of ‘all is for the best in the best of possible worlds’ badly needs a clearer identification of what can be taken as ‘possible’.

No it doesn't. Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists and clever scientists are working very hard on finding out what is or isn't possible.  


Thus the across-alternatives version of the thesis of evolutionary progression, when scrutinised, can at most claim some kind of local optimality – success with respect to a limited class of alternatives.

That is the only sort of evaluation we can make. Sen had to grade the papers his students submitted. He couldn't award a gold star to the paper the Plutonian Socrates who also happened to be a disabled Lesbian goat would have submitted.  

And even this small success depends on the acceptability of evolutionary fitness as the primary criterion of judging progress.

This is like saying that establishing who is the fittest soldier in the platoon depends on the acceptability of evaluating only actually existing beings, as opposed to characters in fairy stories,  

Why fitness?

It is clear enough that fitness is good for the survival and multiplication of a species – indeed that is exactly how fitness is defined. But why should it be, in itself, the criterion of progress?

Because progress involves continuing to exist. If more territory is occupied, or a species rises in the food chain, that is progress.  

Survival advantages may come from very different types of characteristic, and there is no particular guarantee that they make lives pleasanter or richer or nicer.

Yes there is. You have to be alive to have a pleasanter life. Being fit, other things being equal, is nicer than being unfit and feeling like shit.  


Consider, for example, Patrick Bateson’s pointer to the fact that ‘male polygynous primates that fight with other males for females have much larger canines than male primates that are characteristically monogamous’

Why consider any such thing? We slaughter primates easily enough and our canines are small. Some of us may fight others for females.  

 While the reproductive and survival advantages for those with better fighting teeth may be clear enough (I do not wish to venture an opinion on this delicate subject), one wouldn’t take it for granted that enormous canines were intrinsically wonderful – that monogamous primates which lacked them would necessarily be envious of their giant-toothed cousins.

Similarly we would not take it for granted that Sen eats only dog poo. Nevertheless, that is what we may choose to believe. 

The fact is we may envy a guy is unfit and who will die shortly because he has a marvellous singing voice. This does not change the fact that we are fitter than that person.  

It is not hard to think that Charles Darwin had a rather inadequate basis for taking natural selection to be the unambiguous promoter of what he called ‘the good of each being’, and for seeing it as the way to ‘perfection’.

It is easy to understand that Darwin benefitted by talking up his big idea. His point was that you don't have to believe in God to feel good about yourself. You could see yourself as the favoured child of Evolution instead. 

We recognise many virtues and achievements that do not help survival

unless they do. We can't be sure.  

but which we have reason to value, and on the other side, there are many correlates of successful survival that we find deeply objectionable.

No we don't. 

For example, if a species of vassals – some variant of homo sapiens – is kept in inhuman conditions by some tribe of tyrants and that species adapts and evolves into being not only very useful slaves but also dogged survivors and super-rapid reproducers, must we accept that development as a sign of progress?

This is an imaginary scenario. The fact is, humans have practiced slavery but that is a question for politics, not biology.  

An exact analogue of this is, of course, imposed on those animals on which we feed.

Either some people get by without feeding on animals or they get conquered or otherwise displaced. 

But such an arrangement would hardly seem acceptable for human beings,

Slavery may not have been acceptable for slaves. They had little choice in the matter.  

and it is not at all clear that it should be acceptable in the case of animals either.

It is not at all clear that life in this universe- as opposed to emigration to planet K-Pax- is acceptable to certain nutters.  

 

Valuing and Reasoning

There is need for reasoned evaluation in choosing our criterion of progress,

No there isn't. Any shithead is welcome to gas on about any sort of shit. I might say there is a need for such shite to be spouted only in a obscene manner whereas you may prefer the thing be done in a pseudo-reasonable manner by shitheads like Sen. But this is a purely subjective matter.  

and the job can hardly be handed over to natural selection.

Which is what does the job anyway. On the other hand, we might want some proper evaluative mechanism being used for 'gain of function' research on viruses or genetic modified foods just in case there are unintended adverse consequences.  

But how sound and reliable is our ability to judge?

Sen is useless. Others may not be.  

It can be pointed out that whatever values we may espouse and whatever ability to reason we may have developed are themselves results of evolution.

competitive pressure may winnow out certain types of reason which motivate social choices.  

Some argue from this that our reasoning ability has been specifically selected to give us survival and reproductive advantage, and its use for any other purpose cannot be justified.

Alternatively, one could say that no method of justification is justified if it leads to the loss of the ability to justify shit because you are dead or someone else is eating your lunch.  

Others argue that the selection of our reasoning abilities stacks the odds in favour of our endorsing the criterion of evolutionary success, since we ourselves are the product of that process. Do these arguments undermine the relevance of our evaluative reasoning? I believe they don’t.

Only because such 'evaluative reasoning' is useless.  

It is a non sequitur to argue that since our ability to reason may have evolved through survival advantage, it can be used only for that purpose.

No. We don't know what 'survival advantage' is. Thus there is no way to show that this argument is fallacious. While we are alive, anything we do may have survival value if not for ourselves then for our species. If we do stupid shit and die, maybe we are enabling the rest of our species to avoid that particular type of stupid shit.  

Our faculties are not, in general, specifically tied to a single purpose. Our sense of colour may have helped us to survive better (in locating a prey or avoiding a predator), but that is no reason why we should fail to see the beauty of Cézanne’s or Picasso’s colours.

Creating such beauty may increase reproductive success. We ourselves preserve certain species which are beautiful or whose behaviour has aesthetic value.  

No matter how and why our ability to reason may have developed, we can use it as we like, and scrutinising the criterion of reproductive success or survival advantage as a yardstick of progress is among its possible uses.

We can do stupid shit- that's true enough- but for how long before we are displaced by more sensible people.  

The other objection is not particularly telling éither. There might well be good reason to think that we are more likely to be favourable to the world as it is than other creatures, resulting from other scenarios and living in other possible worlds, would be.

There is no good reason to waste time gassing on about this.  

But that fact in itself need not undermine the relevance of our values.

What makes our values 'relevant' is their ability to evaluate themselves while being emotionally supportive of cats traumatized by their incessant sodomization of imaginary dogs from the thirty fourth dimension. 

The more interesting issue is whether this interdependence makes us approve of everything we find and endorse the products of natural selection in an uncritical way.

This isn't interesting at all. This is why nobody asks you if you endorse zebras in an uncritical way. On the other hand, you can always broach the subject yourself by saying 'my Uber driver asked me a really interesting question today. This had to do with whether I endorsed aardvarks which, as you may know, are the product of natural selection.' Sadly, it is this sort of conversational overture which causes people to shun you at cocktail parties. 

There is nothing to indicate that this is the case. For example, pain can have great survival advantage in acting as a signal to which we might respond, but that does not make us think that pain is a good thing to have.

For the same reason that people don't think it is good to be sentenced to jail for fraud. You should be avoiding jail or the horrible pain you will experience when you get gang-raped in the prison shower.  

Indeed, we may abhor pain, even in a context in which we readily accept its incentive role. Any incentive system can operate on the basis of the carrot or the stick, and while the two may be comparable in terms of signalling and inducement, we often have very good reasons for favouring a system of carrots over one that relies on sticks.

We may want girls to bake us a nice cake rather than kick us in the balls if we try to grab their tits but, sadly, have to settle for the latter as proof of reciprocated romantic interest- more particularly if we are married to the female in question. I'm not saying this is what happens to me. It is the sort of thing which could happen to anybody.  


When some twenty-five hundred years ago, Gautama Buddha left his princely home to seek enlightenment, he was driven by dismay at the misery of human existence, at the sufferings of disease, old age and death, and there certainly was no inability there to disapprove of the way we have emerged.

No. He was attracted by the figure of the renunciant sanyasi. He left home to become one such himself.  

Nor is there any incongruity in Buddha’s judgment that killing animals and eating their flesh is a terrible way to live even though nature has tended to favour the devouring of one species by another.

Indian vegetarians were doing well enough back then.  

Individuals and the Type

Aside from the general difficulty of there being many things which we value other than survival, there are also some more specific problems. One of the most important relates to the fact that evolution is not much concerned with individual survival at all,

Evolution is also not concerned with the survival of any particular species- or, indeed, of Life itself. It is merely the name we give to the process by which species evolve and go extinct.  

whereas we, as individuals, tend to take some interest in that subject. Tennyson got it right, when – about a decade before the publication of On the Origin of Species – he complained against nature:

So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life.
The previous two lines are 'Are God and Nature then at strife?. That Nature lends such evil dreams'. Tennyson was complaining that his pal had died. It was little consolation that his race continued to do very well. God was an Englishman, right enough- but He appeared to be more concerned with the expansion of the Empire than in safeguarding the life of Hallam. 
For one thing, natural selection shows little interest in our well-being or survival once we are past the reproductive age.

No. There is evidence that longevity of the parents or even the grandmother improves reproductive outcomes. Sen has not noticed that human infants are neotenized and require a lot of care for significantly longer than our primate cousins.  

For another, in the scale of selectional advantage, a lowering of the death rate even among the younger ages could easily get less priority than reproductive vigour, if the latter on balance contributes more to the proliferation of the species or the genotypes.

Again, there is no evidence for this view for our own species.  

There are, thus, two quite different ways in which natural selection is ‘careless of the single life’.

Only because people die, families may not do so for hundreds or thousands of years.  

It cares little about the length of the individual life, and it cares even less about the quality of that life.

It doesn't have feelings.  

Indeed, natural selection does not promote anything which we may have reason to value,

which is why we supplement natural selection with selective breeding and comprehensive ecological management.  

except to the extent that this coincides – or correlates – with propagational advantage.

Even here, we alter reproductive outcomes for our food sources.  Darwin's people already knew there was artificial selection. Was there also natural selection or had God decided what animals and plants should exist once and for all? 

Genetic Improvement and Eugenics

It is not unfair to say that the Darwinian perspective, seen as a general view of progress, suggests concentration on adapting the species rather than adjusting the environment in which the species lead their lives.

Nonsense! The English knew they had changed and were continuing to change their landscape. They had colonies on different continents which had introduced 'Old World' animals and plants which had displaced native species.  

It is therefore not surprising that this view of progress had the effect of directly encouraging one type of conscious planning, viz. that for genetic improvement.

Not at that time. All there could be was eugenic arguments for selective breeding or sterilizing imbeciles.  

The eugenics movement, which flourished around the turn of the century, was influenced by Darwinian arguments about the survival of the fittest. It championed the idea of lendliing a ‘helping hand’ to nature in breeding better genetic types, mainly by limiting the propagation of the ‘less fit’ variants. The policies advocated ranged from intellectual persuasion to forced sterilisation.

Such selective breeding had existed for thousands of years. Many countries had rigid 'caste' systems. The belief was that miscegenation was harmful. Marrying your cousin, on the other hand, had to be a good idea- right?  

The movement had many well-known advocates, from Sir Francis Galton (Darwin’s cousin) to Elisabeth Nietzsche (the philosopher’s sister). The advocacy of this type of genetic manipulation had much respectability for a while, but it ultimately came into disrepute, particularly with the chilling patronage of Hitler (who, incidentally, had wept at the funeral of Elisabeth Nietzsche in 1935). While Darwin never advocated genetic planning, the eugenics approach can co-exist comfortably with the view that progress should be judged primarily by the characteristics of the species.

No. Eugenics has always been advocated on the basis that better quality specimens will do better within any particular species. 

Those who see the Darwinian view of progress as providing an adequate understanding of progress in general

Progress occurs because of competition for scarce resources 

must address the question of the acceptability and the limits of genetic manipulation through selective breeding.

No. They only have to go in for the thing themselves if it appears that a rival has gained an advantage through it.  

As a worldview, this perspective on progress must come to terms with the contrary demands of values to which we give great importance, including autonomy and freedom.

Why? People who give importance to autonomy, freedom, sodomy, playing hockey, or whatever have to come to terms with whatever it is they need to do so as to survive. The reverse is not the case. 

Design and Resolve

Even though the eugenics movement derived its inspiration and some intellectual support from Darwinism, it is fair to say that Darwin’s own focus was on progress as spontaneous and undesigned. In the context of religious belief, the most radical aspect of Darwinism was its denial of the designed creation of all species simultaneously. But the general issue of spontaneous progress goes well beyond the question of the intentionality of an outside divine being. If evolution guarantees progress,

It doesn't. Competition may do so- if greater efficiency is possible.  

then the need for intentional effort on the part of insiders – us human beings – may be to that extent reduced.

Only in the sense that if Life guarantees respiration, we needn't bother to eat food or drink water in order to stay alive.  

Furthermore, it could be argued that by trying to bring about progress deliberately, through changing the world in which we live, we could endanger the spontaneous working of evolutionary processes.

there could be unintended consequences. But this is also true of deciding to fart.  

If we take the quality-of-species view of progress, and if we do accept that genetic selection makes us wonderfully adapted, then – it could be asked – why encourage unfit genes?

We might like a type of dog which has horrible genes. In this case, the relevant fitness landscape is aesthetic 

There are, thus, two rather different directions in which we may be pushed by the Darwinian view of progress.

There is no 'Darwinian view of progress'. There was the Victorian idea of progress which Darwin shared. Later there was an eugenic pessimism which held that humans would become stupider and weaker because they were more cossetted by labour saving technology. 

One suggests genetic manipulation,

which happens because it is potentially very profitable 

and the other indicates inactive reliance on spontaneity.

which is the same thing as just lying on the couch watching Netflix.  

The common element is, of course, silence on the case for adjusting the world to suit our needs.

This has been happening for over ten thousand years. Sen is not aware that when we build houses and cities we have adjusted the world to better cater for our needs. Perhaps he thinks houses evolved to have central heating and electric fixtures.  

That gap in attention

there is no such gap 

is the direct result of judging progress by the nature of the species, rather than by the kind of lives they can lead – which would have immediately drawn attention to the need to adjust the external world.

Sen's mummy adjusted the external world such that Sen didn't get eaten. On the other hand the University of Cambridge is actually a type of sentient stone forest which grew out of the earth and evolved into a place where cretins like Sen could be awarded sheepskins in silliness. 

From that common Darwinian point, the activist view proceeds towards genetic manipulation, whereas the more passive view suggests trusting nature. Neither directs us towards reforming the external world.

We were re-forming the external world millions of years ago. More than two billion years ago, cyanobacteria started pumping oxygen into the atmosphere.

Sen is mindlessly importing his stupid Capabilities shite into Biology.  

Darwin and Malthus

This issue links with a bigger one: the vast attitudinal difference between trusting nature in general and deliberately trying to counter its unacceptable effects.

Which is what all life-forms do.  

That dichotomy can be illustrated by the contrast between Malthus’s invocation of nature to recommend social inaction, in contrast with, say, William Godwin’s active interventionism.

Malthus was replying to Condorcet. But once Condorcet became a victim of the French Revolution, Malthus's argument prevailed. It was obvious that overturing everything to create a Utopia was a quick and certain way to get your fucking head chopped off.  On the other hand, in a well-run country, there was no great harm in earning a little money by writing modish shite. 

In fact, Malthus was a true guru of evolutionary theory. Darwin explains in The Origin that, in part, his theory ‘is the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole of animal and vegetable kingdoms’.

A population can grow in geometric progression if it eliminates other populations which compete for scarce resources. This is how you get extinction effects. 

In his famous Essay on Population, published in 1798, Malthus laid the foundations for a theory of natural selection by linking the issue of survival with population growth and competition for natural resources.

Malthus was saying that even if Condorcet turned France into an egalitarian paradise, population growth would ensure that mass poverty would soon reappear. 

While the work’s larger philosophical ambition was to dispute the radical progressivism of Godwin and Condorcet (as was stated in the original title of the monograph), its immediate aim was to oppose legislation to change the Poor Laws in Great Britain to make welfare payments proportional to family size.

Which would create a 'welfare trap'. One way or another, the working poor would be taxed to keep them in poverty. Emigration was a better option.  

Such tampering with a process of nature

of economics. Anyway, the threat of revolution was receding because the French had fucked up.  

appeared to Malthus to be a way of compounding the problem; it would be much better to abandon these deliberate endeavours to help those who could not be helped.

Charity was fine. But creating a poverty trap was foolish. In particular, subsidizing agricultural labour would reduce productivity in the economy. 

Malthus did advocate – but without much optimism – voluntary restraint as a method of cutting down population growth, and here again (as in the case of eugenics) the emphasis is on adjusting ourselves rather than adapting the world outside us.

Why did Malthus not suggest that human beings create more continents or planets?  

Malthus was consistently and thoroughly hostile to public action that would assist the poor, and to such public amenities as lying in hospitals for unmarried mothers and foundling hospitals for abandoned babies.

He was against 'indiscriminate charity'. But it was Rousseau who thought his duty as a father was done once he delivered his bastards to the State foundling hospital. I suppose this was patriotic of him. The orphans, if they lived, would serve in the military. 


The dichotomy between leaving the deprived and the miserable to nature,

Malthus thought it natural to give charity. He just didn't want the State to create poverty traps or to subsidize inefficient agricultural producers.

and using public action to try to help them, remains important in the contemporary world.

No. There has been a lot of progress since the days of Malthus- even in India. feeding the starving is economic because even very emaciated people produce more value than they consume. 

Indeed, the significance of the contrast may well have increased in recent years, with the growing tendency to let impersonal forces – the market mechanism, for example – have their way.

Sen doesn't know that Malthus's England had the market mechanism back then- as did his own Bengal.  

The bankruptcy of the Second World

he means the collapse of the Soviet Union 

has often been interpreted not simply as the failure of a particular system of intervention, but as the impossibility of designed improvement of all kinds.

Rubbish! Every detail of our lives has had plenty of 'designed improvements' because enterprises compete with each other to get our money. Sen didn't notice that things he owned- like colour TV, microwave, C.D player etc.- had been designed very carefully and were considerable improvements over what went before.  

Extinction and the Environment

The question of intervention relates

only to whether intervention is feasible and 'incentive compatible'.  

most closely to social matters (of the kind illustrated by the Malthus-Godwin differences), but there are environmental issues as well. Consider the problem of the possible depletion of the ozone layer. It is quite likely that left to itself, the ozone layer depletion would eventually lead to some genetic response through evolution. For example, genotypes with less vulnerable genes may survive the radiational changes better than others and become relatively more numerous. (I have heard that we coloured people would go more slowly than you whites would, but I am not taking bets on it.)

It turned out that an appropriate intervention was feasible. The hole in the ozone layer appears to be repairing itself.  

Natural selection may replace us with ‘ fitter’ people,

that is likely in any case. However, we can change some features of the future fitness landscape.  

and that is part of the progressiveness of evolution. But if we value our lives and condemn disease and extinction, we would wish to consider a course of action which would vigorously resist the unfavourable change in the environment.

only if it was feasible and worthwhile to resist it. Otherwise, why not vigorously resist Gravity?

From the point of view of human beings, as we are constituted, genetic natural selection may be a chilling prospect rather than a heartwarming one.

An even more chilling prospect is the inevitable destruction of the planet yet it scarcely bothers anybody.  


I don’t wish to press the contrast too sharply,

it is like the contrast between those who chop off their own heads to shove them up their own arses and those who chop off their own arse and shove it over their head. In other words, nobody actually corresponds to either type though both talk through their arse.                                                                                         

but a significant difference in attitude lies behind these two dissimilar ways of viewing nature, and more generally, viewing the surroundings in which we find ourselves. The dilemma was famously articulated by the Prince of Denmark: whether to put up with outrageous fortune or take up arms against a sea of troubles.

Most people just go to work though, no doubt, they might soliloquise when of strong drink taken.  

This formulation might not have appealed to Darwin, if only because in his later life Darwin had come to find the Bard rather sickening.

He lost his taste for music and poetry. Shame he didn't have Netflix.  

‘I have tried lately to read Shakespeare,’ Darwin says in his Autobiography, ‘and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.’ So I won’t insist on Shakespeare, but there is a point here on which, I would suggest, a Darwinian evolutionist could fruitfully reflect.

What is that point? Darwin was a biologist. A Darwinian evolutionist may be for or against a particular gene modification technique. But if the modification appears useful someone will do it

Darwinism and Our Lives

Darwin’s analysis of evolutionary progress was related to his attempt at explaining the process of evolution through natural selection and assessing its role in the genesis of species, including ‘the higher animals’. This explanatory purpose was extremely well served by Darwin’s analysis of evolution, even though, as I have tried to shffow, the idea of fitness underlying ‘the survival of the fittest’ may require more scrutiny.

No. Since species competed for scarce resources, those that won were fitter than those which went extinct. One can speculate as to the nature of the fitness landscape but fitness itself is objective and given. 


Darwin also presented a view of progress in terms of the quality of the species, and more specifically the fitness of the surviving beings. This approach concentrates on the characteristics of living beings rather than on the actual lives they can lead.

Sen is saying that what we can imagine may be better than what we have. Sadly, it is also wholly irrelevant. We can't live in alternate dimensions. It is not the case that we can decide to stop breathing with lungs and decide to use gills going forward.  

This aspect of Darwin’s work and influence is much more open to question.

Only in the sense that we could question the niceness of Gravity.  

It tends to ignore the quality of life of human beings and other animals;

Sen said Econ was very evil because it was ignoring the quality of life of animals. Now he is against Biology for the same reason. I suppose his next step would be to condemn the Theory of Relativity because it disregards the capabilities and functionings of disabled Guatemalan goats and fails to take into account the views of impartial observers in alternative realities.  

it under mines the importance of rationally evaluating our priorities and trying to live according to them;

No it doesn't. Smart and useful people are constantly doing such rational evaluation. They aren't writing nonsense for the LRB.  

and it draws our attention away from the need to adjust the world in which we live.

Not to mention the need to repeal the law of Gravity.  

This, in turn, tends to encourage activism in genetic manipulation (as in the eugenics movements),

selective breeding was occurring any way 

or a passive reliance on spontaneous progress (more in line with Darwin’s own pronouncements).

plenty of people were already as passive and fatalistic as shit. Darwin, however, wasn't one of them.  

But in neither case is much attention paid to the dependence of the quality of our lives on the nature of the adjustable external world.

'quality of life' is a subjective matter. It does not depend on something external to us.  

Ernst Mayr, the distinguished zoologist and Darwinian theorist, claimed in One Long Argument that the worldview formed by any thinking person in the Western world after 1859, when On the Origin of Species was published, could not but be thoroughly different from any worldview formed prior to Darwin.

He was wrong. Charles Darwin's worldview wasn't so very different from that of Erasmus Darwin who, in turn, wasn't hugely different in his thinking from his father. What was remarkable, to my mind, is that evangelical Christianity didn't curl up and die amongst Darwin's class. To my mind, it became saner and more efficient. It's fitness increased because it decided to achieve more in this world rather than bother too much with the details of the world to come. 

 That is indeed so, and it’s an important fact which deserves full recognition.

Why? What good does it do? Geology had already rocked the Theological boat as had the new philology and Biblical hermeneutics. As far as India or Islam was considered, the Xtian missionaries had been taken down a peg or two.  

But a worldview based on the Darwinian vision of progress can also be deeply limiting,

because biology changes slowly relative to technology, geopolitics, and global commerce.  

because it concentrates on our characteristics rather than our lives,

but a worldview which concentrates on our lives rather than our characteristics would be not just more limiting, it would be completely mad. It would not be able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. It would be incapable of accommodating a structural causal model of any part of the world. It would resemble some extreme and wholly disabling type of schizophrenia.  

and focuses on adjusting ourselves rather than the world in which we live.

Sen doesn't put on a sweater when it turns chilly. He raises the temperature of the globe.  

These limitations are particularly telling in the contemporary world given the prevalence of remediable deprivations, such as poverty,

which had been remedied in countries which had a falling proportion of the population engaged in involuted, Malthusian, agriculture

unemployment,

which is cool provided someone keeps you fed and clothed while you look for a job 

destitution,

is the same as poverty 

famine

B.R Sen had shown that the world could be free of this scourge- provided Uncle Sam was permitted to send food. 

and epidemics,

for which you need Sciencey guys coming up with vaccines 

as well as environmental decay, threatened extinction of species and persistent brutality towards animals.

What about the brutality lesbian cats show in sodomizing disabled dogs?  

We do need Darwin, but only in moderation.

We don't need Sen. He is useless.