reply to Bowles

Thu, 12 May 1994 09:35:40 CDT

In most respects, I have to agree with Nancy's point. But isn't science
getting charicatured here? Why identify scientific ideas of evolution with
linear models? As I read Lewontin, Stebbins, and some of the older thinkers
like W. M. S. Russell (and J. Z. Young), I am hard pressed to find anything
that looks terribly linear. Bateson's ideas of evolution, with their
clear emphasis on hierarchies of communicative circuitry, look anything but
linear. A linear argument for cultural evolution is precluded by two things:
(1) cultural evolution is an essentially Lamarckian process, and (2) because
that process is a communicative one, it is hierarchically ordered in a
potentially infinite regress, any level of which is open to new information,
which inevitably results in recombination of symbols and meanings at lower
levels of logical type included as subsystems or components of the higher
level that got new information as input. Put in another way, if you demand
a rigorous description of the context of change in the description of a
system at Time 1 and at Time 2 (such that the description of the system at
time 2 is different from that at Time 1), you have precluded a linear
argument. The argument about the nature of cultural evolution is productive
to the extent that it proceeds without charicatures of the theoretical
positions with which we have to contend. So can we drop the charaicatures?

Mike Lieber