Re: Adaptationism's Lessons (was Re: Evolution, "adaptation")

Len Piotrowski (
Tue, 17 Sep 1996 16:28:53 GMT

In article <51me8n$> (Bryant) writes:


>In article <51l3v4$>,
>Robert Snower <> wrote:
>> (Paul Gallagher) wrote:
>>>It does not follow that Bryant is right that there is a gene for
>>>jealousy. Most genetic determinists are genetic reductionists and
>>>cultural functionalists.

>As I have pointed out before, genetic determinism is a meaningless
>phrase. As is environmental determinism. It is the epigenetic
>interaction of genotype with developmental environment that creates an

So much is obvious. The nature of this interaction is at the root of the
disagreement. Even so, the creation of an organism is different in kind
from the behavior of that organism.

>>>By the way, has there been a heritability study for jealousy?

>Not that I know of. I doubt there's much heritability for jealousy,
>although I'd be surprised if it is not environmentally facultative.

How would you know if your construct has no physical correspondence, unless
the definition of "environmentally facultative" is watered down to include
meaningful social interaction? But then, selection would no longer be natural.

>Traits which are species-typical have been driven to "fixation," meaning
>that there's no heritability in their expression.

"Jealousy" is not a "trait," so it's neither fixed nor heritable.

>>There is no gene for "jealousy." There might be a gene, or genes, for
>>an instance of jealousy, or instances of jealousy. There are no genes
>>for abstract concepts, including "altruism," or "selfishness."

>These abstract concepts are descriptors of behaviors which require,
>ultimately, information processing and behavior generating brain
>mechanisms, as I already explained.

The dualist reduction to mechanism doesn't make "behaviors" as represented by
"descriptors" anymore material. Information processing and brain integration
do not require gene determined task-specific behaviors retained through
functional adaptations in the past. Neither does a focus on the individual and
innate task-specific brain mechanism account for social behavior. "Jealousy,"
however it is described, is not a solitary act. Neither are other examples of
other human behavior. Any metaphor that hopes to account for human actions
must attend to the social-psychological and dialogic aspects of this processes.

>Interestingly, nobody has responded
>to that point, that even learning theory requires inherited behavioral

Perhaps behaviorism did, but, as you've ignored before, there is a body of
work beginning early in this century that views human social behavior as a
dialogic process. Of course, this approach to the central problem of cause
requires a holistic and non-reductionist point of view, one diametrically
opposite to the sociobiological paradigm.

>Since it blows away this silliness about sociobiologists
>making assumptions about brain that learning theorists don't--and that we
>should have to identify the molecular loci of "genes" for each behavior
>studied--I think it is rather central to this debate.

How does learning theory blow away the need for sociobiologists to identify
the loci of their purported subjects? The question posed was what is the
genetic basis of a purported behavior (jealousy), not how some "behavior" is
learned. If we slip focus to the evolutionary basis of learning, we've
substituted answering the original question for another one.

If everything that is learned is a trait, then, by this adaptive
learning model, everything learned is functionally adaptive. That's trivially
a false statement. If genes do not have a say in specific manifestations of
behavior (they address the learning system instead) then it is ridiculous to
speak of the fitness value of individual behaviors.

This learning model of functional adaptation has only shifted the burden of
significance from "behaviors" (as learned properties) to the learning systems
(as adaptive "traits"). The implication of all this for the maintenance of the
sociobiological framework for human behavior is to now argue for a difference
in the individual manifestations of the learning system. But we are still
faced with the same problem; just what is the loci of the learning system, and
how significant, if any, are the differences between individual learning

By the way, has there been a heritability study for learning systems?



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