Re: Joel and Bryant /talk/ about Sociobiology and other stuff

Len Piotrowski (
Wed, 21 Aug 1996 15:52:12 GMT

In article <> Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax <> writes:


>[gratuitous snub snipped]

>> > Culture is chaos. If you
>> >return to the example I gave of guessing who is going to turn up
>> >in what house, you will see that cultural anthropology probably
>> >is never going to be much of a predictive science for certain problems.
>> This is an example of the vacuous appeal of Chaos Theory to the study of human
>> behavior. I would hazard to say that anthropologists aren't concerned with
>> "predicting" "who is going to turn up in what house." Makes about as much
>> sense as physicists wasting intellect on "predicting" what detector an
>> elementary particle will fly into. The "house guessing" example is just as
>> pointless. Anthropologists are simply not concerned with such "problems"
>> because they have no significance to understanding meaningful human actions.

>Yes, Len. I think you get *my* point then. Thank you for finally seeing
>the relevance of what I am getting at. There's no point in attempting
>to predict human behavior.

You're off *the* scope, Joel. Anthropologist's *are* interested in human
behavior, to the point of understanding. You're own reaction is becoming
evermore predictable, counter proof to your own belief system, by the way.

>> >I've never said, as you've implied, that biology has no role. What
>> >I have said is that we should understand that biology does not
>> >determine as much as it enables. The human brain is wired for flexibility.
>> >Part of the oddness of this flexibility is that sometimes it can act
>> >in manners which are contrary to its own interests.
>> The brain can't "act" at all. It has no self "interests." It can't be "wired"
>> in any way other than it's nature. Declaring it's "flexible" mechanism "odd"
>> due to it's purported contrary "manners" is simply anthropomorphizing a human
>> organ.

>I have to declare exception to this. My brain in particular does generate
>thoughts and self-interests, even as I write this.

Who are you then if your brain is a self?

> In fact, my brain very
>devotedly manages the affairs, both consciously and unconsciously, so that
>the rest of the body devote much of their time insuring its survival.

Then the rest of your body should re-consider the consequences of abdicating
control to your brain. <g>

> If
>my brain were to find a way to satisfy its pleasures, think, and just
>survive without the body, it might happilly do so -- after, of course,
>weighing out the consequences.

I'm so sure!

>What is "odd" is that you take exception to the very center of the
>consciousness -- the organ without which there is no awareness that
>there is such a thing as a human life -- anthropomophizing /itself/.

Don't be silly. I take exception to your simple reductionist tack to
understanding human behavior.

>>This reductionist trick of creating a metaphor between the "behavior"
>> of the human brain and human behavior creates the illusion that we can
>> understand process at higher levels by appealing to the action of Chaos at
>> lower levels. Putting aside the problem of how the affects of lower level
>> processes are unknowable by any other means except Chaos, human behavior and
>> meaningful social interaction are knowable in their own terms.

>Reductionist? Hardly. Reductionism is when you say that you have utter
>predictability, that all things can be summed up by one thing.

... like Chaos Theory?

> It is hardly
>reductionism to state that our knowledge of the universe and the means we
>use to predict things in it is probabilistic.

Propensity for the obvious in your case!

>The probability of a fire-eating
>dragon eating me is nil.

Some people have another experience. Would you deny them Being-in-the-world?
An interesting incongruity with your position on Christian and Buddhist
"illusions" below.

>The probability that I will be hungry in the morning
>is higher.

Eat something, Joel, wouldn't want you to pass out in the middle of your

>The probability that house number nine is going to be a two parent
>family can also be established based on other data.

I don't think it's a house at all, Joel. It's a warm and fuzzy brain!

>But it can't be predicted
>with certainty.

Who cares?

>> If culture is only chaos, there is no Being-in-the-world to know.

>It seems to me that your reaction is to what I call the inherent uncertainty
>of human interaction.

All depends on how you look at human behavior and social interaction.

> What I object to is probably very similar to what
>you object to, namely the idea that we can categorize away and be perfectly
>serene in doing so.

I doubt it! Boggles to imagine. Can't quite figure out, though, "the idea" to
"categorize away" while being "serene." Is this your brain or you talking?

>To note that categories are only artificial constructs,
>models, tools like a stone axe or a slide rule or a computer is to open up
>interesting questions for thought and research.

Been opened already. Maybe your brain hasn't realized it!

>>There is
>> nothing to know since everything is already - chaos.

>This sounds to me more like fear than rational thinking.

Glad you agree - now convince your brain.

>What transpires as
>> meaning (even science) must only be a maddening dream, coalesced from chaos
>> into an illusion of meaningful reality. I think most thinking beings would
>> find this metaphor for their everyday life quite "odd."

>There have been religions founded on this concept and the adherents have
>gotten on quite fine.

What happened to your analysis of dragon human eaters? All of a sudden
alternative realities are suitable subjects for understanding human behavior?

>The Christian idea of this earth only being a proving
>ground for the "real thing" in the next life is still alive and kicking in
>some souls.

Do you predict this, or is your brain overworking again?

>Buddhists tell us that this life is a life of illusion and they
>still get up and go to work in the morning. The world hasn't fallen apart
>just because some people-enclosed brains choose to believe that things aren't
>quite as stable as they look.

Gosh, golly! Learn't sometun' new taday!

>> >[snip]

>Have one on me tonight!

I shiver to think what! : )



"If you can't remember what mnemonic means, you've got a problem."
- perlstyle