Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax (
Wed, 14 Aug 1996 14:23:47 -0800

Len Piotrowski wrote:

> >What my point has been all along is that you can take the same building
> >blocks and get some dramatically different results. My primary example
> >was the genotype and the phenotype distinction used in genetics to
> >explain why two individuals can have the same genes and yet turn out
> >quite differently. Vulgar sociobiologists (to use Sahlin's distinction)
> >want to reduce all human behavior to a black box. Forget culture.
> >Forget thought. It is all in the genes they say.
> >I happen to believe that the human mind can have quite an effect on the
> >phenotype and on nature itself if it can find ways to affect nature
> >within the framework provided. This isn't an "anything goes" like
> >Angeline so nicely accuses me and doesn't accuse me of. We have our
> >limits but the interesting thing is that within those limits there can
> >be a nearly infinite number of variations.
> >*scratches his beard*
> [snip]
> *scratching my head*
> The apparent connection between Chaos Theory as an explanation for
> "phenotypic" variations (problematic and questionable given structural
> constraints of real world ecosystems) and "nature" itself with the workings of
> the "human mind" are hard to swallow.

So you believe that you can expose any genotype to the world and precisely
predict what kind of phenotype it is going to end up as just by looking
at the genotype? I find /that/ hard to swallow.

>If somehow purposeful, meaningful, and
> directed human action is manifest in context through a chaotic process that
> creates structures (organized phenotypes, organized personalities, organized
> social types, organized cultural types, organized meanings, organized
> nature?) I fail to recognize it. The value of a universal explanation for a
> failure to create exact copies of anything in the human sciences is rather
> dubious.

If you take a look at most human societies, you will not find the complete
orderliness you think must be there. Let's take a simple example: what
constitutes a family residential unit:

House 1: A mother, a father, and two children. (Perfect!)
House 2: A mother, a father, and three children. (Still on the mark, slight
House 3: A mother and a father and one children. (Pretty much the same
House 4: A mother, a father, two kids, and a grandfather. (Hmmm. Well, the
grandfather still fits.)
House 5: A mother and two kids. (Where's dad?)
House 6: A father and his four children. A cousin of the father. Two people
who are friends of the cousin.
House 7: Two unrelated people who are just sharing space. One of them insists
that his ten-foot long Python is his baby. (Ah, throw out the python.)
House 8: A mother, a father, and two kids. (Whew! Back to the "right" model)
House 9: You tell me what is going to be in here....

Anthropologists run into this kind of pattern all the time. Note that pattern
is /not/ the same as order.

> In the area of human social-cultural life, meanings are emergent and sustained
> through contextual encounters in space and time, each of which has a potential
> for infinite and random outcomes. Yet what is surprising is not that
> structured relationships evolve within these auditions, but that they persist
> from encounter to encounter.

Again, this may work intellectually, but in real life, you can assess probabilities
but precise prediction is not possible. Every day, you gamble on your precognition
to be right. And sometimes you miss the mark.

It is on the basis of this realization that some serious rethinking is being
done by some of us at least.

>This is primarily what most students of human
> society and culture are interested in. How can Chaos Theory come to grips with
> this aspect of human social-psychology?
> Cheers,
> --Lenny__

___ ___
/\ _|_ /\ Joel and Lynn GAzis-SAx
/ /\_|_/\ \
/ / /\|/\ \ \
\ \ \/|\/ / / "If we try to flee from our human condition into
\ \/_|_\/ / the computer, we only meet ourselves there."
\/__|__\/ William Barrett