Re: Biosocial Phobia

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Mon, 12 Dec 1994 13:56:22 +1000


> Only two coherent theoretical alternatives have been offered to explain why
> organisms are adaptively constructed. ... Darwin.

There is only ONE coherent theoretical explanation as to why organisms are
adaptively constructed -- physics.

> Some behavioral scentists seem to imagine that "learning" constitutes a third
> explanation for adaptation, a sort of ontogenetic alternative to natural
> selection.

Some biologists seem to imagine that "evolution" constitutes an
explanation for things, a kind of biological alternative to physics.

> Yet, to propose
> "learning" as an alternative to an evolutionary explanation is categorical
> nonsense, confusing the simultaneously valid questions of ontogenetic process
> and natural selective history. Developmental mechanisms, including learning,
> are *themselves* products of natural selection.

To propose "evolution" as an alternative to physical explanation is
categorical nonsense, denying the reality of molecular genetics and
chemistry. Evolution and natural selection are themselves products of
physical processes.


I think that's enough to get the point across.

Evolution may be the only explanation of biological adaptation BUT:

* not all adaptations are biological.
* there is more to evolution than natural selection.
* biology and evolution are not disconnected from culture and psychology any
more than they are from physics.

I'm with Mike Lieber 100% in this debate, not because I'm opposed to
the "biosocial" (I am just as interested in evolutionary biology as
in anthropology), but because I'm opposed to bad *biology*.

All that simple population genetics -- Hardy-Weinberg ratios,
ESSs, and so on -- is great stuff, but it's vitally important
that its limitations be kept constantly in mind. It is clear that
understanding evolution, rather than just being a matter of matching
genes to adaptations, requires knowledge of complicated ecological
relationships, multi-species geographical distributions, and any
number of other things (*) besides which allowing room for the "social"
and the "cultural" doesn't seem nearly so much of a shock.

Danny Yee.

(*) My current reading material includes John N. Thompson's _The
Coevolutionary Process_, which seems to be a good overview of some
of this stuff.