Re: Adaptationism again

Bryant (
13 Sep 1996 09:55:12 -0600

In article <51br2c$>, Paul Gallagher <> wrote:

>The burden of proof is on the sociobiologist to prove that jealousy, or any
>aspect of human behavior or culture, can be usefully or meaningfully considered
>to be a genetic trait. Once you have done that, we can talk about the role of
>selection in forming the trait.

I asked that you present a single reference that supports Gould's (and
your) straw-man characterization of sociobiologists. Let's get through
that issue, first, and then I'll be happy to post references by Daly &
Wilson and others that address jealousy specifically.

In the mean while, please present even one ultimate (evolutionary)
hypothesis for the emotions which explains how they came to be without
resorting to natural selection.

>But since you ask: Gould and Lewontin don't accuse people of thinking that
>every single trait is currently optimal.

Helena Cronin has compiled quotes of them saying just that. Her book is
_The Ant and the Peacock_, and she patiently explains how the
adaptationist assumption that only natural selection creates
sophisticated traits (adaptations) is misunderstood by Gould et al. as
evidence that adaptationists generally see every single trait as not only
adaptive, but currently so, and optimally so.

>In the field of sociobiology, E.O. Wilson writes on page 22 of "Sociobiology"

It's natural that those ignorant of the field would think Ed Wilson is
the be-all, end-all of sociobiology (he wrote a book with that title,
after all). But he really isn't spokesman for the effort. Quote
Hamilton and Williams and Trivers, if you want to address the issues
close to sociobiologists' hearts.

Wilson may well, by the way, be guilty of pan-optimality thinking. He's
mistaken. On the other hand, is he *more* mistaken than those who see
adaptation nowhere?

>I'd assume that the human mind, if it is to be considered a genetic trait,
>is the product of many genes that interact in many complicated ways with
>each other and with the environment during its development. If
>this is the case, then there is no reason to assume that any aspect of human
>culture can be mapped backwards onto any unit of selection.

Neurobiological studies have profoundly supported adaptationist, "modular
brain" models of the mind as a collection of task-specific (cognitively
speaking) information processing organs. I highly recommend "The Adapted
Mind," a 1992 edited volume put out by Oxford Univ. Press.

>I saw the paper you recommended, "The Spaniels of St. Marx." It offered no
>arguments, just insults (and poems and songs and puns).
>Consider that "The Spaniels of St. Marx" is how sociobiology is argued.

That's tremendously ironic, Paul. Love it! He purposefully (and
explicitly) adopted Gould/Lewontin's style to make a point. It is *not*
typical of how adaptationists argue their ideas.

Your reaction to the other side adopting the unfair rhetorical tactics of
Gould (whose writings you've never objected to here) reveals a very deep
bias on your part against neo-Darwinism. Time to do some soul-searching,
I'd say.


I look forward to seeing those non-selectionist hypotheses for the
origins of emotions, Paul. Impress us.