Re: "Family"

Dwight W. Read (dread@ANTHRO.UCLA.EDU)
Fri, 19 Jul 1996 16:54:18 -0700

Snower replies:

>A cultural overlay does not have the ability to elicit transgenerational
>parenting behaviors whose origin need not have a biological basis anymore
>than it is possible to write an imaginary number without presupposing the
>real number.
Trivially, in some sense all behaviors have a biological origin. If I may
refer to Yee's review, natural selection implies that we accept the analogy
of cranes rather than of skyhooks for behaviors, with the foundation for the
crane of behavior in this case being biological when we dig deep enough.

One can also say that all biological phenomena have a chemical origin, all
chemical phenomena an atomic origin, etc. While this contintuity is valid,
it the continuity does not inform us as to how we can best understand
phenomena situated at some level. With the cultural level there is of,
course, controversy over whether or not reductionism is valid; is the
cultural merely an elaboration of the biological, or does the means by which
the cultural becomes possible also introduce structuring processes that need
to be understood in their own terms?

When we look at human behavior, we can ask whether or not we should search
for a biological origin as a proximal cause in a particular instance, or do
we look for a cultural origin as a proximal cause in that instance. I
assumed my comment would be read in this sense of asserting that parenting
behavior in male humans may very well be best understood in a proximal sense
by reference to a cultural process, not as an assertion that culture can act
as a skyhook.

We have only to look at our own society and the changing role of males with
respect to parenting to see some of the complexities introduced via culture
when trying to account for behaviors.

D. Read