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

Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax (
Sat, 24 Aug 1996 11:39:06 -0800

My wife is looking over my shoulder as we read this and saying "I
don't think communication is happening here." I agree.

But just one /last/ flame before I ignore this loser for good.

What amuses me is that Len keeps accusing /me/ of reductionism!
This man wants to be able to predict every darn thing out
there, to have a neat little scheme of things, to deny that
anything can enter the equation that is random and unpredictable
and then calls /me/ a reductionist?

I am laughing so hard at his internal contradictions, I think I am =

going to be very sick.

Just read this, folks. It is a /gem/:

Len Piotrowski wrote:

> >> > 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 problem=
> >>
> >> 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 =
> >> "predicting" "who is going to turn up in what house." Makes about as m=
> >> sense as physicists wasting intellect on "predicting" what detector an=

> >> elementary particle will fly into. The "house guessing" example is jus=
t as
> >> pointless. Anthropologists are simply not concerned with such "problem=
> >> because they have no significance to understanding meaningful human ac=
> =

> >Yes, Len. I think you get *my* point then. Thank you for finally seein=
> >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=
> =

Blthit de dog trot boi boi.

> >>
> >> >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 flexib=
> >> >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 =
> >> in any way other than it's nature. Declaring it's "flexible" mechanism=
> >> 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 genera=
> >thoughts and self-interests, even as I write this.
> =

> Who are you then if your brain is a self?
> =

*arches an eyebrow* Are you trying to say that the brain is not
the source of consciousness?

> > In fact, my brain very
> >devotedly manages the affairs, both consciously and unconsciously, so th=
> >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 abdicat=
> 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!

That's what makes me afraid for you. =


> >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.

Then why are you arguing with me about the brain being the center
of consciousness? =

And if you are not a reductionist, why then are you so afraid of a theory =

which includes randomness and disorder in its explanation? Reductionism

An attempt or a tendency to explain complex phenomena or structures by =

relatively simple principles, as by asserting that life processes or mental=

acts are instances of chemical and physical laws.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition is =
licensed from =

Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright =A9 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. A=
ll rights =

Selected Illustrations from the Concise Columbia Encyclopedia. Copyright =A9=
1991 by =

Columbia University Press.

I don't see how saying that when I look at a phenomenon that absolute predi=
is nigh impossible due to many factors which can be best described as chaos=
reductionism. You, on the other hand, seem to be saying that everything ca=
be reduced to these laws which I find suspect.

> =

> >>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 Chao=
s at
> >> lower levels. Putting aside the problem of how the affects of lower le=
> >> processes are unknowable by any other means except Chaos, human behavi=
or 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?

When I saw the movie Jurassic Park, I laughed so hard at the notion that
there were actually scientists out there who didn't understand or hadn't
heard what Chaos Theory was all about. I shouldn't have laughed.

> =

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

> Propensity for the obvious in your case!

Then you have no objection to chaos theory. I suggest you learn something
about it.


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

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

Hardly. Human beings can believe what they like, even things that are agai=
reality. Take yourself for example....

> =

> >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
> epistle.


> >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?

It makes a difference if you establish social policy on the notion
that we can predict what will be in that house. =

> =

> >> 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 uncerta=
> >of human interaction.
> =

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

Yes, if you take a reductionist tack, you will believe that human behavior
can be absolutely predicted. But that doesn't make it reality.


> > What I object to is probably very similar to what
> >you object to, namely the idea that we can categorize away and be perfec=
> >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=
> Well, I now believe that you don't know what you are talking about.


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

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

Now I know you don't. =


> >>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.

Stop it Len. You've already proved to me that you don't know anything.
I don't need a single shred more of evidence. Really!

> =

> >What transpires as
> >> meaning (even science) must only be a maddening dream, coalesced from =
> >> into an illusion of meaningful reality. I think most thinking beings w=
> >> 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 behav=
>If people believe and act on them, yes. Or do you hold with a reductionis=
view like it all comes down to the quest for proteins and sex?


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

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

Len, again, you don't have to keep showing me that you don't know
anything. I can see it!

> >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 apa=
> >just because some people-enclosed brains choose to believe that things a=
> >quite as stable as they look.
> =

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

Enough Len! Enough! You proved yourself!


> >
> >> >[snip]
> =

> >Have one on me tonight!
> =

> I shiver to think what! : )

Not the same stuff you are on.

> Cheers,
> =

> --Lenny__
> =

> "If you can't remember what mnemonic means, you've got a problem."
> - perlstyle
> If you don't know what reductionism means and still you shoot your
mouth off, you are a problem.
- Joel GAzis-SAx

-- =

___ ___ =

/\ _|_ /\ Joel and Lynn GAzis-SAx
/ /\_|_/\ \
/ / /\|/\ \ \
\ \ \/|\/ / / "If we try to flee from our human condition into =

\ \/_|_\/ / the computer, we only meet ourselves there."
\/__|__\/ William Barrett