monotone value in biology, Scott's comments on Danny's review

Mike Lieber (U28550@UICVM.BITNET)
Tue, 7 Mar 1995 08:01:06 CST

Scott Holmes's comments on Danny's review are well taken. The monotone value
in biology is one of the more opaque references in Bateson, and I thank
Scott for running these down. The very long, fruitful, and frustrating
discussion on brain size, intelligence, and tools on anthro-l is a good example
of the monotone value--in this case brain size. For discussion purposes, the
corrlations with brain size and cold climates, intelligence, tool use, and
(yes friends, I'm tracking the research references right now) what kind of
music children listen to are all fascinating and productive of lots of ideas.
Unfortunately, all of the ideas and possibilities are speculative precisely
because brain size is a monotone value. If we had some hard data on the
components of increased brain size, e.g., more neurons, more fluid, more
neuronal insulating material, etc., and THEIR values, some of the possible
explanations for these correlations would be eliminated, leaving others for
research foci. When monotone values are vectors but are treated as if they
were not, as Rushton does, one can posit any explanation of a correlation that
suits one's purposes, as Rushton does. Any theory that explains a correlation
is as good as any other theory, thus any explanation is as good as any other
explanation. In the world of monotone values, anything can be true, but so can
its opposite. What we call the incremental progress of scientific research is
the conversion of monotone values into vectors and the subsequent analyses of
first the components of the vectors and then the relationships among them.

Mike Lieber