Re: Biosocial Phobia

Tibor Benke (benke@SFU.CA)
Tue, 13 Dec 1994 02:47:50 -0800

Rob Quinlan wrote:

>[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. The creationist theory
>has no empirical implications (whatever turns up must be God's will) and it is
>not worth wasting our time on. Darwin's theory that evolution occurs as a
>result of natural selection is demonstrably true in particular cases, logically
>necessary in general, and is as close to certain knowledge as anything in scien
>ce. (Not to deny that there are many details to work out.) If anyone has come
>up with a third alternative, it has not been made generally known.

The "scientific" vs. "humanistic" approaches in anthropology have been
debated _ad nauseam_. From the humanistic side, the above sort of
statement practically typifies that which is objectionable about so called
"scientific" approaches. Darwinism and creationism ARE NOT the only two
coherent explanations available. How coherent Darwinism is in detail is
yet to be decided. Darwin's discription of the process of natural selection
is slightly one sided, favouring competition over co-operation, a bias
pointed out in the late nineteenth century by the Russian geographer and
naturalist (and anarchist philosopher), Peter Kropotkin, in his work,
_Mutual Aid_. The slight bias of Darwin's approach was exagerated by the
vulgar Darwinists in the slogan "survival of the fittest", a conception
which may be supportable when verefied in the long term, but is
demonstrably wrong in the short term, where it would be more correct to
maintain that in any given period, the distribution of genetic
characteristics follows the fitness at that time and evolution depends
precisely on the survival of the *not unfit*. The marginally fit may turn
out to be the genetic store of precisely those characteristics which enable
the population to survive as the environment changes. Homo Sap's fitness,
in particular, consists in being able to maintain members who are not fit
at some given time, but who can be called on in special circumstances, thus
allowing the population as a whole to deal with a wider spectrum of
environmental challanges then would otherwise be possible. In any case,
the way evolutionary theory is used in academic discourse demonstrates how
careful we must be when we are confronted with claims to truth on a
"scientific" basis, because, often times, "scientific" is just another
term for "orthodox". Many people imagine that neutral rhetoric is not
rhetoric. This is about as silly as denying that "0" (zero) is not a
number. Jonathan Swift demonstrated this fact in his classic essay, "A
Modest Proposal". At the risk of crudity, one might say, that Spencer
stepped into something that smells bad, and it will take a little more time
yet to get it off the boots of the sociobiologists.

>@> (*)%(^)%
>@> Tibor Benke / (^)%(#)
>@> Graduate Student (MA program)
>@> Department of Sociology and Anthropology
>@> Simon Fraser University,
>@> Burnaby, B.C., Canada. V5A 1S6 >@>
>@> Nota Bene: The opinions herein expressed are merely my own ! >@> ^^^^^^^^^^^