biology

Lisa Rogers EQDOMAIN.EQWQ.LROGERS at email.state.ut.us
Thu Sep 14 08:55:32 MDT 1995


Scott:
Please keep it coming. But keep in mind that I got as far as
disecting the  frog in high school and have not devoted a great deal
of time to the  subject. And Stalin just didn't write much about
genetics or  evolution....<deadpan>

Lisa: I was once [and always] a science teacher, please just ask
questions or tell me if I'm losing you, so I can adjust accordingly.

Scott: One concept that really got me going was in the Mismeasure of
Man, where  SJ maintains that really the Civil War could have gone
either way and  that if the South had happened to win all progress
would have simply  stopped and gone off in a different direction etc
etc. And he backs this  up with examples of mutations that have been
'backwards' and led to  deadends etc.

Lisa:  Well, maybe Gould is even odder than I thought.  I suppose one
can draw analogies between anything, but what was the point - that
"progress" is not inevitable?  Defined how?  He's not the only one to
explore parallels between Darwinian evolution and social/cultural
evolution, but I'm not very impressed with any of them.

I never read Mismeasure of Man, but I have recently read _Vaulting
Ambition_ by Kitcher, a philosopher of science.  He does a fairly
decent job of trying to distinguish between real, bad, wrong, genetic
determinism and the rest of biology and behavior, which may hold
promise of development of normal science, growth of knowledge and
understanding, etc. [Kitcher's concepts, paraphrased.]  He does a
very good job of summarizing Darwianian evolution in ch.2.  For the
rest of the book, I have some quibbles, but it was _much_ better than
the usually non-informed critique of all biological approaches to
behavior as simply evil.

I think this corresponds to what Justin Schwartz [formerly of this
list] once called "bad sociobiology" and "good sociobiology".  But
I've sworn off the use of the word sociobiology altogether because it
has been so thoroughly demonized that I think it is beyond
rehabilitation.  It's not in much use in my field either, partly
because it is under-descriptive anyway.

Lisa Rogers
evolutionary/ecological anthropology grad stu UUtah



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