Re: Anthropology and Religion

Gerold Firl (
12 Oct 1995 13:32:05 -0700

In article <45hko5$> (Scott Sellers) writes:

>Sociobiology doesn't merely state that human beings have instincts. It
>attempts to explain social structure based on said instincts.

Well, _explain_ is a little too sweeping; sociobiology doesn't *explain*
human social structure, it merely clarifies the biological influence and
evolutionary background of those structures. Our instincts influence our
social structure; simple, obvious, and undeniable, unless you have wrap-
around ideological blinders.

>I find this
>reductionist in the extreme, in that it reduces human history, human
>agency, and _human_ struggle to struggle for biological survival.

Many people do not have to "struggle" to survive these days, because of the
success of our culture, but for most of human history that wasn't true. Our
evolutionary past does not include grocery stores; we had to earn our daily
bread the old-fashioned way: like hunting it down and killing it. Or
digging it out of the earth with a pointed stick. All the while avoiding
other predators, including human ones.

The struggle for biological survival is *precisely* what formed our *human*

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

Are you suggesting that love is somehow different from our other emotions,
and did *not* evolve as a result of the selective advantage it conferred to
those who experienced it? That would be an amazing claim. Or are you
suggesting that sociobiology can cast no ilumination on the conflict
between the interests of individuals and their kin-groups, particularly
where reproduction is concerned? Such a conflict lies precisely on the
borderline of biology and culture, that blurry and fascinating boundary,
and sociobiology, together with anthropology, is the best way to understand
the nature of that conflict.

You seem to feel that a scientific understanding of the relationship
between biology and culture is somehow _demeaning_ to your dignity as a
human being; I say that your view is very similar to the judeo-christian
attempt to deny our animal heritage, to "elevate" man "above" the animal
world. Such a view is not only contrary to fact, but entirely unnecessary
to the construction of an ethical society.

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