Re: SoCalic Biophobia

Fri, 9 Dec 1994 01:54:34 +0000

>[stuff left out]
>Only two coherent theoretical alternatives have been offered to explain why
>organisms are adaptively constructed. There's the theory proposed by Darwin,
>and there's the one preferred by Jerry Falwell et al. If anyone has come
>up with a third alternative, it has not been made generally known.

Hmmm... creationism or evolutionism, that's it. Nifty & spiffy, eh? Boy,
talk about an "excluded middle." What about Lamarckism? Yes, it may be
discredited, not true, and all kinds of other bad things, but it is a
"third alternative" to creationism and Darwinian evolutionism, so I am
curious as to why it doesn't even merit a mention.

Not to mention that the "second alternative" right now consists of lots o'
warring camps, arguing about the relative importance of natural selection
versus, say, genetic drift... and that it kind of became neo- when it
picked up a little Mendel, and then some Watson n' Crick...

>Why are reinforcement
>mechanisms organized in such a way as to produce adaptive out comes? The
>only available answeres invokd either natural selection or divine intervention.

I would amend that second alternative to "design," which might or might not
require omnipotent intelligences, but hell, people will just think me to be
my usual crazy self for making this non-point.

> Mere survival is no criterion of
>success; what selection favors is traits that contribute to the lon-term surviv
>al of the trait-beare's genetic materials.

And, I would add, perhaps once again out of my own sense of meaningful
difference, their MEMETIC materials also. (Oh crap. I'm opening the MEMES
can of worms again. Are any sociobio types going to stand up FOR memetics
this time?)

>A popular, though inane, slogan among sociobiolgy's critics is "genetic determi
>nsim." If "determinism" is a meaningful accusation at all, then it must be lev
>eled at all scientific approaches to the study of behavior.

> As scientists, we
>are committed to the belief that the phenomena we study have knowable causes...
>. Those who accuse sociobiologists of "determinism" commonly go on to attribut
>e causality to social and economic factors (which, ironically, are also the
>favorite proximate causes invoked by sociobiologists), but they do not explain
>what makes their own causal thories "nondeterministic."

Ummm... seems to me that there are things that CAUSE human behavior besides
simply social and economic factors OR biology. I would add the physical
(including electromagnetic, but that's just me being ornery again)
environment, the cognition of the organism (whoops, this is me trying to
sneak free will or 'rational choice' or something like it in here, but
MEMES also), and emotional reinforcement, among others. (The last two owe a
little bit, but not everything, to the genes.) The accusation in "genetic
determinism" is not emphasis on the determinism but on the GENETIC. I think
anti-genetic determinists would say that those people they accuse of being
genetic determinists simply elevate the genes above all these other
factors, which are clearly synergistically (dare I say, even
cybernetically) multicausal and, more trickily, correlated...

> Fitness is
>measured, in principle, as success in genetic replication.

Yes. But what are you measuring. How much, how far, or how long the genes

> [Sorry for the length of this posting. I hope that those who bother to
>read this are a little less phobic about biosociology and perhaps a little
>less ignorant too.]

I'll plead innocence to phobia, the 5th amendment to ignorance, and as
usual admit to orneriness in the 3rd degree.

>Rob Quinlan


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