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

Len Piotrowski (
Mon, 26 Aug 1996 20:04:49 GMT

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


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

The "dialog" never seemed to be a critical item with you, Joel.

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

That's only fair, eh? I hope this means your boisterousness is running out of

>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?

Now I'm laughing. Would it make and difference to you to deny this
characterization, would it. I suppose you mean your un-neat little scheme of
things is superior to all other schemes of things, neh? Don't let me stand in
the way of your Chaos parade. Just get the facts straight when you tell the
final tale.

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

>going to be very sick.

... fuzzy belly, Joel?

>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=
>> =

It would help if you downloaded one of those non-chaotic editors, Joel.
Reading your "gems" in this manner distracts somewhat from the hilarity
content your trying so hard to generate. Now, what were you gibbering about ...

>Blthit de dog trot boi boi.

... oh, yea!

By the way, what school of anthropology did you say was interested in your
house guessing problem, and what class of predictive problems did you say were
worthlessly being pursued by cultural anthropologists? Was that a core course
or an elective at your institution?

>> >>[snip]

>> 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?

I'm trying to determine whether you are you or two? How many selves can a
Chaos Theorist be?

>> > 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's even more frightening is the thought of Joel's body "weighing out the
consequences" independent of his brain! Oh well, the consequence of Chaos.

>> >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? =

Because of your brain centric view of human behavior. You have no idea
what I mean by "self." In fact you have no idea what I mean by "meaning."
Simply two worlds talking passed one another.

>And if you are not a reductionist, why then are you so afraid of a theory =
>which includes randomness and disorder in its explanation?

Simply because you apply it to situations and contexts that I am
convinced are not random and disorderly.

>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.

... or instances of Chaos. What's the difference with respect to the notion of
reduction to underlying principles?

>[snip the dictionary reference]

>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=
> is
>reductionism. You, on the other hand, seem to be saying that everything ca=
>be reduced to these laws which I find suspect.

This is the big woof! You reduce human behavior to the chaos of brain
chemistry, and you describe me as the one who is "saying that everything can
be reduced to these laws." You're getting wonkier every minute, Joel. What I
said was ...

>> >>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.

The recommended method of evaluating social science at your school, I'm sure.

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

So what! You and Chaos Theory didn't invent this insight. Anthropology and the
human sciences aren't ignorant of it either.

>> Propensity for the obvious in your case!

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

I've learned enough to know of it's dubious value for the study of human
behavior. I would counter that Chaos Theory has something more to learn from
the study of meaningful human behavior.

>> >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....

I guess chaos is reality, eh?

>> >[snip]

>> >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. =

Anthropologist's don't establish social policy. Those that do don't make such
predictions "with certainty." So who else cares about it besides you?

>> >> 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.

No one but your straw man has echoed this trope about absolute predictability.
In fact, your only example for the validity of chaos in human action is of no
interest to human social scientists, or anyone else as far as I can determine.
Human behavior and social interaction are, nonetheless, meaningful.

>> > 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?
>> 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 up
>> >interesting questions for thought and research.

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

>Now I know you don't.

Proof: Joel knows all.

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

>> >[snip]
>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!

Proof: Len knows nothing.

>> >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

>If people believe and act on them, yes. Or do you hold with a
>reductionist view like it all comes down to the quest for proteins and sex?

I don't think so. What ever gave you that idea. I thought it was your brain
acting on it's own volition that was giving your body such a time of it. Maybe
you ought to re-read what you said previously.

>> >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!

Proof: Joel can see.

>> >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!

Proof: Len is Proof.

>> >> >[snip]

>> >Have one on me tonight!

>> I shiver to think what! : )

>Not the same stuff you are on.

Absolutely predictable there!



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