Re: brief reply to Crapo and Quinlan

Fri, 9 Dec 1994 14:41:56 CST

On Fri, 9 Dec 1994 12:53:39 CST Mike Lieber said:
>Like Richley, I am bothered by the counterposing of learning (whatever that is
>supposed to mean) with evolution, as if they were mutually exclusive sorts of
>explanation. From a Batesonian cybernetic perspective (see "The logical
>categories of learning" in _Steps to an Ecology of Mind_), learning and
>evolution are identically organized. I have yet to see an attempt at
>refutation of this position.

Counterposing learning and evolution as if they were mutually
exclusive sorts of explanation is exactly what we evolution-and-
behavior types (I refuse to use the pejorative term "sociobiology"
for what I do) do not do and exactly what so many of our critics
do do (Lieber excluded, I guess). Of course they're not mutually
exclusive, because that damn expensive organ that we carry around
in our heads for the purpose of learning is clearly a product of
evolution. What people like me and Quinlan advocate is an appreciation
of evolutionary theory that would lead us to ask interesting questions
about learning, such as "what do members of our species find easy
or difficult to learn?" "Are there critical learning periods?" And
so on.

I repeat Quinlan's recommendation of Jerome Barkow's explanation of
"vertically integrated explanations" in his 1989 book, Darwin, Sex,
and Status.

I honestly think that if people were more appreciative of the idea
of levels of explanation and of the idea of the potential for
complementarity among explanations in general, _and_ more aware of
current theory and empirical research on evolution and behavior,
then more of us would be able to see the value of one another's


Lee Cronk
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-4352
Office: 409-847-9254
Fax: 409-845-4070