Salinas17 at aol.com Salinas17 at aol.com
Tue May 31 23:38:31 UTC 2005

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 variation or
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 environment.
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 selection, is
not random, but rather purposive, thus in a clear way 'intentional' (if mostly
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 still be
amoebas.  The basic source of variance in biological evolution is always
random mutation -- against the conservatism of the gene.  Viable adaptive behavior
may advance the chance of survival where adaptive morphology would not (i.e.,
learning might overcome a physical disadvantage.)  But that's down the line in
the process.

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 (tho
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 biological
species do.  Randomness gives way to intentionality.  The ruthlessness of
biological evolution is a model of enormous waste and mindless expansion of forms.
Mayr didn't go far enough.  In fact, intentionality and learning are adaptive in
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 DNA --
broke the continuum just as sexuality (the mixing of two genotypes) broke the
singular replication continuum in the passing of genetic information from one
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 it to
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 greater
information-load-carrying of human language and culture across generations has
created something qualitatively different.  Human culture is super-biological.

Steve Long

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