Re: Anthropology and Religion

Scott Sellers (
Wed, 11 Oct 1995 23:41:27 GMT (Gerold Firl) wrote:

>In article <45ce57$> (Scott Sellers) writes:

>>People HAVE latched onto evolutionary theory to justify immoral
>>actions. Look at social Darwinism beginning in the 1800's or the
>>currently popular sociobiology. I don't think your religion really
>>provides an antidote, however. Christianity's evil-driven sinner and
>>sociobiology's biology-driven brute are two peas in a pod. I don't
>>accept either.

>Hmmm, sociobiology's "biology-driven brute"? Interesting choice of words;
>you may not be as far from the True Believers as you think you are.

>Christian tracts are full of exhortations to eschew the flesh, to abjure
>our brute, animal selves, and to seek the more rarified and ethereal joys
>of the spirit; a mind-body dichotomy based on a misunderstanding of
>biology, a lack of comprehension concerning the physiological basis of the
>mind. Your slant seems strangely similar.

I think the term "brute" fit my point, which was that sociobiology, rather
than being antithetical to the christian worldview, actually fits in nicely
with it. I used a christian term because I was speaking to a christian.

>You seem to assume that merely because human beings have animal instincts,
>we are also "brutes". What exactly _is_ a brute? Is it bad to be a brute?
>Does brutehood come with something like Original Sin; are you saying that
>brutes are Inherantly Evil? Sounds all very christian, to me.

So? You can mimic a christian. What's the point?

Sociobiology doesn't merely state that human beings have instincts. It
attempts to explain social structure based on said instincts. I find this
reductionist in the extreme, in that it reduces human history, human
agency, and _human_ struggle to struggle for biological survival.

Why don't you give me a sociobiological theory about Michelangelo? Or the
war in Bosnia? How about Coke vs. Pepsi? I'd say that man, simplified to
survival, is a brute.

>Sociobiology shows how our evolution has been influenced by our social
>structure, and how our social structure has been influenced by biology.
>It's really nothing to be afraid of. Instinct is not inherantly bad; our
>instincts have evolved to be what they are because they have helped us
>survive. If you see the history of man as one long tragic sequence of
>horror, then I guess you might think that our bio-logic _is_ evil. But I
>don't see what justification you can have for such a view. Human history
>does contain many tragedies, to be sure, but it contains an equal number of
>triumphs, and while our evolutionary heritage enables us to kill, it also
>enables us to love. Love was not created by deus ex machina, it evolved to
>enhance our survival probabilities. Even dogs feel love. Sure, it's
>biology-driven, but I don't think we should hold that against them.

Really, I'm not afraid of sociobiology's constructs. As far as they reach
scientifically, they are interesting. When they expand into the realm of
speculation about complex human behavior ( most of the time sociobiology is
discussed ), they become, if not utterly absurd, at least vacuous. See
your last paragraph above for a good example.

History as the playing out of our evolutionary heritage? As bio-logic?
That explains the Nazi's, I suppose. Not.

Love as enhancing survival probabilities? Wow. Now I can finally
understand _Romeo and Juliet_. Not.

A simplistic reduction leads to a simple understanding.
True for christianity (in its worst form).
True for sociobiology (in its speculative form).

>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

Wow. I didn't even get into the political implications.

Scott Sellers