nrude at Ballangrud.com
Mon Jun 6 15:32:10 UTC 2005
Steve Long makes some good points that no one has seconded--so here's my two
bits. Though we smuggle in teleology and function via natural selection, we
should not forget that epistemological materialism demands that every last
miniscule step of the way from non-life to you and me is complete and utter
and total accident. It's serendipity all the way. Before any innovation
can be selected it's got to be there, and the choice can only be provided by
chance. Selection cannot ultimately be responsible for that which is
Also I suggest we not forget that mathematical realism is the very
foundation of physics. Biology is by nature more an empirical
investigation, a cataloguing from observation and dissection and the
electron microscope, and therefore biologists may find it hard to understand
the role of mathematics in physics. Wild notions of cognitive adaptation
and metaphoric extension do not subtract from the fact that the contingent
laws of nature are written in the necessary language of mathematics.
Physicists find it profitable to study other possible worlds where the laws
of physics vary, all under the assumption that logic/math does not vary.
When you find physicists studying other possible worlds with a differently
evolved multicultural math, then you will know that they have acceded to
this rejection of mathematical realism and that postmodernism has finally
penetrated their domain.
Funknet cautions against extremism--be it rationalist or empircist. Surely
there must be room in our field for both pragmatics and Plato.
----- Original Message -----
From: <Salinas17 at aol.com>
To: <FUNKNET at mailman.rice.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 4:38 PM
Subject: [FUNKNET] Evolution
In a message dated 5/31/05 5:31:39 PM, tgivon at uoregon.edu writes:
<< With all due respect, taking evolution, especially of social species, to
be a matter of purely accidents (random mutations) is not the most
sophisticated approach to evolution,... >>
Nevertheless, it is the only defensible model of natural selection and
biological evolution. Up until humans are able to vary biological traits by
directly manipulating genetic material, the only source of biological
diversity is random mutation. Bio-geneticists may accelerate or prune
variation, but the basic mechanism remains random mutation.
The structure of social animals may select "social traits" instead of
solitary ones. But that structure is simply a piece of the selecting
The grist for the mill remains random mutation.
<<The late great Ernst Mayr said is best: "(adaptive) behavior is the
pace-maker of evolution". And adaptive behavior, a constant factor in
not random, but rather purposive, thus in a clear way 'intentional' (if
non-conscious). There is a wonderful recent book by Boyd & Richerson on
evolution "Not by genes alone"... >>
No question here -- although Dawkins and Pinker paint a different picture.
But adaptive behavior is most certainly never the initial source of biology
diversity. Genes are replicators. If they had their way, we would all
amoebas. The basic source of variance in biological evolution is always
random mutation -- against the conservatism of the gene. Viable adaptive
may advance the chance of survival where adaptive morphology would not
learning might overcome a physical disadvantage.) But that's down the line
The basic source of biological diversity is mutation. What follows --
selection -- is a different story.
<<This 'continuum' position is the most standard one in EP today--that
culture is an extension of biological evolution, that it is just as adaptive
obviouly more complex), and that it is much older than humanity. By the same
token, biology didn't cease with human culture.>>
And some of us feel that is precisely what is severely wrong with
"evolutionary psychology." Culture does NOT evolve in the same manner as
species do. Randomness gives way to intentionality. The ruthlessness of
biological evolution is a model of enormous waste and mindless expansion of
Mayr didn't go far enough. In fact, intentionality and learning are
a way is that is very different from random mutation and subsequent
adaptation or failure.
And -- going a step further -- human culture and language -- the ability to
store huge amounts of information over generations without storing it in
broke the continuum just as sexuality (the mixing of two genotypes) broke
singular replication continuum in the passing of genetic information from
generation to the next. There have been revolutions in evolution.
"Evolutionary psychology" is just plain using the wrong model. Cultural
"evolution" is not Darwinian. It is Lamarckian -- only Lamarck was applying
the wrong set of data. There are hints that bees and ants can pass on small
amounts of learned information from generation to generation. There is
definite indication of this among non-human mammals. But the quantitively
information-load-carrying of human language and culture across generations
created something qualitatively different. Human culture is
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