Re: On Mechanisms and Behavior (was: Re: Adaptationism again)

Len Piotrowski (
Mon, 16 Sep 1996 20:58:13 GMT

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


>So what we have here is adaptationist psychologists positing that the
>brain is a collection of task-specific information processing,
>behavior producing mechanisms, and critics like you (apparently) proposing a
>general-purpose computing model of brain, with no learning or functional
>biases, just sitting there, tabula rasa, waiting for culture
>("superorganic" culture, no doubt) to come scribble on it.

I think the "critics" have proposed no such tabula rasa. On the contrary, the
problem has been with the genetic determination behind specific "tasks" in the
information processing mechanism, not whether or not such a mechanism exists,
or is represented a general-purpose computing model.

>At the very least, you surely must concede that there's *some* kind of
>learning mechanism in place, no? Operant conditioning mechanisms, perhaps?

Doesn't follow from the existence of any mechansim that specific tasks are
genetically determined.

>Are we to conclude that until you establish the exact molecular genetic
>nature of such a mechanism, you are unable to begin to account for any
>behavior at all?

By your method you can't account for task-specific behavior unless it's
already been adapted! Emergent, unique, and spontaneous human action is beyond
your model's comprehension. At any rate, models do exist to model this brain
mechanism which do not necessitate a deterministic theory of behavior.

>That's the logical conclusion of your assertions, quoted above.

That is, following the logic of *your* paradigm. It is patently not social in
it's design, and cannot possibly account for the simplest of day-to-day human
social encounters.

>I prefer the scientific approach of allowing you to test the predictions
>derived from your hypothesis, even if that hypothesis is based on an
>assumption that the trait in question was once heritable. If you're
>wrong, your falsifiable predictions will, after all, be falsified.

Worse yet is the assumption that human behavior is a trait with a genetically
determined loci. The basic premise is unverifiable.



"If you can't remember what mnemonic means, you've got a problem."
- perlstyle