Re: Definition of Race

Gerold Firl (
24 Feb 1995 13:42:25 -0800

In article <> (Arun Gupta) writes:
>We humans are supposed to possess instincts that determine our
>societies, and in particular, "dominance hierarchies".
>Well, then, we humans seem to undergo periodic revolutions in our
>instincts. That is, there is nothing so constant as the inconstancy
>of our instincts.

Not at all. Culture changes very rapidly, relative to biolology, and very
slowly, relative to the ideas held by the most progressive individuals.
A "revolution" in our instincts would be one which occurred in a mere
century or so, which could only happen under the most extraordinary
circumstances. A significant change in our instincts which occurred over
the course of a single millenium is still very fast (50 generations), and
this is a more plausible, though still very rare, occurrance in
sociobiological evolution.

When a culture makes a transition from monarchy to democracy and then to
fascism, all over the span of 15 years (as germany did from 1918 to 1933)
this should not be seen as an indication that the german instinct for
status-grading did any flip-flops. No. These were cultural changes.

Humans are flexible creatures. We can adapt our instincts in an amazing
variety of ways. Of course, some serious re-programming must be applied to
impressionable younsters in order to force them to deviate very far from
biology, but it can, and is, done. Very successfully too, I might add, from
the perspective of the social entity, the tribe, nation, religion, etc.

Our social-status instincts, which produce our characteristic dominance
heirarchies, do not necessarily lead to any particular kind of social or
political structure. They make some more probable than others, depending on
the relationship between environment, technology, population, economics,
and the history of relationships with neighboring cultures, but this does
not result in a strict determinism (as far as I can tell).

It seems that the guardians of humanism, who get so up-in-arms about
sociobiology and the discussion of the genetic basis of human behavior,
labor under a strangely binary misapprehension. They seem to feel that
either we are totally deterministic robots acting under the direst and
unswerving command of our genes, or else we are a tabla rasa molded
completely by our environment. Consciously they will deny it, of course,
but in practise, this is the position they take. It is a very simplistic
attitude, which leads to unambiguously erroneous conclusions. Humans are
animals with typical animal instincts, and humans are highly intelligent,
rational beings with enormously flexible behaviors. Our attitudes are
formed by both our instincts and our experience. The development of human
culture is influenced by our genes and our environment. And finally, the
simple point made by sociobiology, and one of obvious validity to anyone
willing to examine the facts, is that our biological evolution is affected
by the cultural environment in which we live. There is a linked feedback
loop between culture and biology (socio - biology, get it?). It really is
preposterous that so many intelligent people get so defensive about this -
it's nothing to be scared of. It's ok, really, it is. You can be an animal
and a fine human being at the same time, and the fact that your
evolutionary lineage has been molded, to some extent, by the social
circumstances of your ancestors is ok too. You wouldn't be human

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf