Re: the G word, reply to Pinsker

Harriet Whitehead (whitehea@WSUAIX.CSC.WSU.EDU)
Sat, 17 Dec 1994 09:08:36 -31802

Cosmides call the "Standard Social Science Model" of human cognition and
learning, viz. that once a general purpose 'human cultural capacity'
emerges, extra-genetic blueprints (i.e. "culture") take over the job of
cognitive guidance. Tooby and Cosmides critique of this model is, IMHO,
devastating. In a nutshell, there is no evolutionary way in which this
'domain general' capacity could have evolved, there is no way in which it
could work (see Quine and others on "the scandal of induction"), and
there is no theory present in the social sciences specifying how it works.
In its place, the "mind design" trenders are suggesting a mind
composed of multiple, significantly contentful, "modules" or "domains"
that jointly enable a highly flexible, variable, diverse configuration of
"learnings" that underly the assorted array of human cultures.
Tooby and Cosmides (I'm citing their "The Psychological
Foundations of Culture" in *The Adapted Mind*) do not have it quite
worked out how we should think of "culture" once we have abandoned the
Standard Social Science Model. But after reading them, and others of this
trend (see my biblio in the earlier thread on Mutual Intelligibility), I
myself can no longer see "culture" the way I did before. It's gone... gone...

Harriet Whitehead
Anthro, WSU

On Sat, 17 Dec 1994, Dave Rindos wrote:

> On Fri, 16 Dec 1994, Mike Lieber wrote:
> > I agree with Eve's point that dogs cannot be used as a model of human
> > neurophysiology. I never said that they were, nor did I imply it. The
> > observational/experimental advantage of dogs is precisely that they have
> > wide intra-species variability, given selective breeding.
> There's an empirical problem to be faced here -- it seems possible that
> in dog breeds (as in human 'races') the genetic and phenotypic variability
> may well be greater WITHIN the breeds than BETWEEN them (save for that
> teensy bit which serves to 'define' the breed). Some studies have led in
> this direction, and in fact apparently include the wolf samples as part
> of the general dog clade. I am not familiar with the literature on this,
> but the general conclusion would appear sound. Breeds are phenotyically
> marked lineages, for sure. But presuming a significant difference
> between them may be incorrect.
> > For that reason,
> > it should be easier to examine the nature of genetic differences and trace
> > their neuro-organizational differences.
> of course, if there is not genetic differnce of significance, then not
> much useful will come out of this study, eh?
> > I think that Holloway is dead on
> > when he says that gross comparisons like brain sizes tell us nothing. The
> > major differences are more likely to be found in how the nervous systems are
> > organized.
> not quite sure what this is all about. It would seem that the nervous
> system organisation of Homo (minimally H sap sap) has to be presumed
> constant since the origin of the species. Yet, the IMPORTANT things we
> study as archaeologists and anthropologists seem to bear NO correlation to
> any observable changes in phenotype.
> > I'm waiting for Jerome Barkow or anyone else familiar with
> > "learning bias" to explain it to us. I don't think this thread will go any
> > further, except for reproductive humor of course, in our present state of
> > ignorance.
> "Learning bias" may be useful at one level -- when speaking of the origin
> of a human cultural capacity, it is certainly relevant. However (IMVHO),
> the REAL 'learning bias' AFTER such time as cultural processes are
> functioning will occur WITHIN cultures -- the cultural 'rules' and all
> that stuff ARE the biases in human culture. THe genetic/physiological
> underpinning are just that -- potentials. They carry no CONTENT (and
> bias is a kind of content if we are speaking in terms of comparing
> cultures in our species, their similarities and differences).
> Dave
> --
> Dave Rindos
> 20 Herdsmans Parade Wembley WA 6014 AUSTRALIA
> Ph:+61 9 387 6281 (GMT+8) FAX:+61 9 386 2760 (USEST+13)
> [you may also reach me on]
> Rabbits exist, hence we may speak meaningfully to the evolution of
> the rabbit. Some people attempt to study the evolution of
> human intelligence. We may well have a real problem here.