Re: Gould, Science, Mistakes and .... {

Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax (
Fri, 16 Aug 1996 18:05:18 -0800

Bryant wrote:

> >enough of a documentary basis for embryology to make some of the conclusions
> >he has made above. His crimes, therefore, are no worse than that of
> >sociobiologists who do not conduct the fieldwork on ants or mole rats
> I see your point. I'll downgrade my evaluation of his lack of predictions
> from "sin" to "bad form." :)

I didn't realize that prediction played such an important role in your
version of what Science is. I would point out that before any predictions
can be made, there must be some observation either directly or via the
means of thought experiment or even a textbook. In my book, when someone
fails to describe for himself, if not also publically for others, then
that person isn't doing Science but is playing a guessing game.

I suspect you agree that you need to be looking at what is out there
before you start saying what it is probably going to do.

As for whether this is sin or bad form, I don't think it is either. As
I said, Gould merely asked some interesting questions about what the data
really means. The fact that we experience pleasure through orgasm is
certainly documentable -- at very least for ourselves. But whether this
connotes /function/ because people are more willing to do sex because
it is fun, that question can be opened to challenge. I won't deny that
great sex makes reproduction a lot more fun, but you can also have orgasm
without reproduction.

If great-feeling sex yields more children, then I will concede to you
that there are going to be evolutionary and population repercussions.
But to say that it developed so that humans would have a better
evolutionary advantage, that sounds to me like you are giving the gene
a consciousness that I can't buy it has. As I have said before, we
are here because of luck of the draw.

And I can sleep at night with that knowledge. :)

> >(If you think this is an evil practice, then the next time
> >Gerold or someone else goes on making assertions about how behavior of ants or
> >sticklebacks indicates thusly about human beings, please be sure to challenge it.)
> All of the sociobiologists I know would agree that testing a hypothesis
> (say, parent/offspring conflict) on one species does not speak to that
> hypothesis' applicability to other species.

Well, not all. You know Gerold and he tries. :) And I've seen a few
others try. But I will take your word and not damn all. Just join me
in damning those who do! :)

> Bryant

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