Re: thought-experiment

Len Piotrowski (
Thu, 19 Sep 1996 21:39:18 GMT

In article <51m76l$> (Ted) writes:


>Len Piotrowski ( wrote:
>: In article <51fo3i$> (Bryant) writes:
>: >In article <m-pg0123.842738796@mrslate>,
>: >Paul Gallagher <> wrote:
>: >The favored sociobiological/evolutionary psychological perspective, I think,
>: >currently is that species-typical evolved psychological adaptations
>: >generate a diversity of cultural elements in different ecological and
>: >historical settings. You describe a behavioral genetics view above.
>: How can there be an evolved generalized psychological adaptation for every
>: ecological and historical settings known for human culture?

>The ability to learn seems to be a good example of such a generalized
>psychological adaptation. Granted, an individual's ability to learn must
>be brought out and varies greatly with environment (including culture).
>However, the fact that all humans can learn, while many animals can't,
>indicates that the ability to learn is genetic.

I don't think the ability to learn is on the sociobiological agenda. If that
were the case, they would have no methodological or theoretical problems with
anthropology and modern social science. As the "jealousy trait" has
illustrated in other threads, the thesis is the exact mapping of particular
human behaviors to particular genetic loci. The prospect of a generalized
social-psychological process of human meaningful interaction threatens the
individual functional selectionist model of sociobiological adaptation. If
culture could also serve as a selectional nexus of cultural and behavioral
traits, the import of natural selection in human evolution would be quite
diminished. Thus, the kernel of disagreement.

>: >>I am suggesting that a
>: >>culture that is autonomous from the genes would better serve the
>: >>reproduction of the genes than a culture that is determined by the genes.
>: >Superorganic theory? Why would practices be adopted which do not reflect
>: >evolved individual strivings?

>Actually, such a culture would seem to better reflect evolved individual
>strivings. I don't see it as 'superorganic', but, rather, as being more
>flexible and responsive than a culture that is based, directly or
>indirectly, on genes. At least, if I understand Paul's post...

I think the term superorganic as applied to culture, sui generis, implied
emergent processes that reduce or even eliminate the efficacy of natural
selection in human evolution.

>The problem is, however, that this sort of culture could, by its very
>nature, be detrimentally unstable.

As well as any other emergent trait. However, culture, by it's very mode of
relationship, is much more flexible, durable to perturbation, and quicker to
respond to change than biological systems.

>Anyway, I'd write more, but work calls. Very annoying.

Maybe next time.