Phil + SB, reply to Rahul

Lisa Rogers EQDOMAIN.EQWQ.LROGERS at email.state.ut.us
Fri Apr 14 11:02:48 MDT 1995


Rahul, I did read your post, and it was one of the reasons I
mentioned these things.  I have also seen these arguments before, and
I though they were relevant to other things I wanted to address.

In my experience, attacks upon "objective science" (which I don't
practice or believe in) are coming from the left, and they are based
on the notion that science is irretrievably reactionary and
unavoidably supportive of the status quo.  (I know we get our money
from the gov. but I'd be happy to submit grant proposals to the
alternative as soon as one exists.)

I confess, I have not read Gould recently, as I have already had some
of that experience.  But then again, recent may not matter, because I
just got a big Gouldian harangue from an economist at UU last week,
which was based on Gould 1976, and which took no account of any
replies/rebuttals to Gould which have been published since then.  If
you'd like to cite your favorite When I have read him, I always read
carefully.  Biologists would like to ignore him, as we would like to
ignore "The Bell Curve".  But Gould is profound, more accurate, more
"scientific", more subtle, and therefore more misleading and more
popular.  He picks out the worst example of real crap that was
already rejected by biology and uses it to smear and besmirch a solid
body of theory and science which was doing nothing wrong at all.

I really don't find Gould as poisonous to society in general as the
BC, but he may have successfully but unfairly prevented many people
from even considering my entire field, and that bugs me.

Gould is thriving on the popular notion that humans are "totally
different", we are not just animals, we are special, blah, blah,
blah, which I think is just an up-dated pseudo-scientific version of
the medieval "Chain of Being" with God at the top, rocks at the
bottom and rich white christians "above" all other living things in
every way.  Or the anti-Copernican view of humans as the center of
the universe and the very purpose of creation.  I think it's just
species-chauvinism.

It was the infamous E.O. Wilson who wrote a book called "On Human
Nature", a best-selling little paperback, not a peer-reviewed piece
of hypothesis testing and theory building!!  He says so right up
front, that it is "speculative".  Some of us wish he hadn't done it.

But Wilson's done even worse with some quotes in interviews that were
published, he made his whole work look awfully bad, even though it's
not.  Now that incredibly stupid and non-scientific statement about
gender-differences in power being likely to continue is used to
punish us all.

Would I get more sympathy for my views if I repudiated Wilson?  Or
may I ask that an argument be examined on its own merits.

But, if you read Wilson carefully, you may find his speculation about
homosexuality to be different than you expect.  He was responding to
the conservative argument that HS is literally "unnatural" because it
could not result from evolution because it is non-reproductive (of
course they only use allegedly evolutionary language when they think
it suits their agenda.)

Wilson made the perfectly valid (although not original) point that
there are many ways to "reproduce" one's genes without making babies
- nieces, nephews and other relatives all count.  He also pointed out
that many HS do in fact make babies.  Therefore, the argument that
"any genetic contribution to HS would have been wiped out by
evolution" is not at all convincing.

I suspect that Wilson and I would agree that the accuracy of any
claim of actual genetic component to HS, is or should be totally
irrelevant to questions of law or social policy.  Because, it still
is a personal matter that "ain't nobody's business."

If that is not his actual politics, I say so what.  His argument
about evolution still makes sense, and his argument is thoroughly
compatible with my own politics.  If somebody else wants to twist it
to claim to justify some other position, I'll be there to fight them,
alongside other freedom fighters, I hope, but that still doesn't make
Wilson's argument wrong.  We cannot direct science ahead of time to
avoid any conclusions that might be abused by somebody.  (Yeah, I
know, that's probably another can of worms too.)

As for "just-so stories" - Gould says "adaptationists" can make-up a
story to explain how anything might be evolutionarily advantageous.
I say that a common alternative is a "cultural just-so" story, such
as "well, it must be for the good of the group (tribe, culture) or
else the culture would be here anymore" is just as bad.  Neither one
_is science_ by my definition.

So long for now,
Lisa Rogers


Lisa, I don't know if you read my post on the subject, but you
addressed certain questions that I mentioned. Comments below. Rahul
Mahajan
.....
Don't you see something more sinister than just the publishing mania
and self-indulgent narcissism of academia? It seems to me that the
case against science and against objective truth is largely directed
at the Marxist left, the only kind of left movement that can produce
viable modern societies...

>Which reminds me, Steven J. Gould and Richard Lewontin often do the
same >thing with so-called sociobiology - a lot of what Gould is
cursing DOES >NOT EVEN EXIST.  Nobody is claiming that there is
actually a gene for >altruism!!  Not any scientist!  Not in any
species!  Not ever!  That is >not at all what Hamilton was on
about....

Have you read Gould carefully? His arguments are often a little more
profound than that. And, in fact, some people have advanced such
ideas. There was a sociobiologist who came up with an argument for a
genetic basis for homosexuality, based on the idea that maybe they'd
help mom take care of the kids. Sorry, I can't remember the name.

>...Apparent "altruistic" behavior occurs in many other species, and
>we surely can't tell a "cultural just-so story" to "explain" it for
>non-humans!  (And group selection doesn't cut it either, more
later...)

Why can't we tell similar just-so stories about other species?
....
>And why do his readers not often look up the originals that he is
talking>about?  Well, why bother when one already knows that it is
crap, because>Gould said so, especially if he just reinforces some
previous prejudice>in the reader.

That's a good point, but when you read one or two things and see that
they're crap, it's hard to get excited about others that share the
same methodology and are directed at the same political ends.




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