Fwd: Re: Oh My Darwin! (Back to May/December)

Charles Brown CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Tue Nov 30 09:01:51 MST 1999



This is an interesting article

>>> Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at osu.edu> 11/30/99 04:00AM >>Like Fodor, Lewontin and
>Gould argue that the EPists have it wrong:
Language, consciousness, and most of our distinctively human mental
capacities are side effects of the fact that our brain grew big for other
reasons. Furthermore, they caution, these reasons cannot be reconstructed.
Our extraordinary human abilities are epiphenomena of "all those loose
connections with nothing to do," explains Lewontin. As an example of a
nonadaptive trait, he offers the uniquely human ability to use recursion in
language, that is, to make sentences of the form: "I say that Noam Chomsky
says, when people say..." Though chimps can be taught to compose simple
sentences of the form "I want" or "I see" on a computer, they cannot be
taught to use recursion.

Does Lewontin have a theory about the origin of this unique linguistic
ability of humans? "You could invent a story," he explains with distaste.
"You could say it was an advantage to early human beings in being able to
say, 'I saw Joe doing that,' but that's just yak!"

(((((((((((((

Charles: Isn't it true that biologists don't know the actual Darwinian mechanism for
the origin of almost any traits of ANY life forms ( except for that experiment with
moths in England; but somebody said even that experiment was flawed) ?

Seems to me the best hypothesis for the adaptive advantage of language , but more
completely all culture and symbolic conduct, is that it allows the experiences of dead
generations of the species to be shared to some extent by the living generation.
Culture's advantage is that it is a LaMarckian (i.e. super-Darwinian) mechanism. I
mean an extrasomatic, non-genetic mechanism. Culture is a superexpansion of the social
realm to include dead generations in the sociality of the living generation.

(((((((((


-clip-

Even if God were to descend on Cambridge and part the waters of the Charles
River at Lewontin's feet, it would still be unthinkable to imagine the
skeptical biologist embracing religion. Gould, on the other hand, has
recently been evincing a new sympathy for the realm of the unscientific. In
his most recent book, Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness
of Life (1999), he not only sets out terms for a peaceful coexistence with
the obdurate religious believers among us but seems to offer another
defense against the sociobiological threat. His thesis is that it makes
perfect sense to see science and religion as distinct and complementary
forms of human endeavor: Science addresses the "factual character of the
natural world"; religion is concerned with spiritual meaning and morality.

(((((((((((

Charles: The rational kernel I see in religion is in ancestor worship. It is an overt
form of what I say above: messages from dead generations to the living generation in
the form of complex symbolic and pnemonic systems. Contra Engels, who only focuses on
the superstition and fear and awe of uncontrollable forces in ancient religion,
ancestor worship is a LaMarckian, super-Darwinian adaptive mechanism (extrasomatic,
non-genetic).  Of course, new discoveries are made superceding the ancient knowledge,
and the tough thing is to know when "to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em". That is
the eternal challenge of human culture.

(((((((((((((

This dualism stands in stark contrast to the views of Wilson, Dawkins, and
Pinker, who categorically deny the existence of a soul or spirit. Indeed,
from the outset, it was Wilson's goal to deny the existence of an
independent moral realm. In On Human Nature, he says, "Human behavior...is
the circuitous technique by which human genetic material has and will be
kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable ultimate function."
Consilience (1998), Wilson's latest and most ambitious statement to date,
takes an even more radical position, arguing that "there is intrinsically
only one class of explanation." He goes on to make the bold assertion that
"all tangible phenomena, from the birth of stars to the workings of social
institutions, are based on material processes that are ultimately
reducible, however long and tortuous the sequences, to the laws of
physics."

((((((((((((((

Charles: A form of ultimate vulgar materialism. Arch reductionism. Anti-dialectics. No
levels of organization of reality.

(((((((((((((

three cheers for Richard Lewontin,

Yoshie
((((((((((((

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From:         Charles Brown <CharlesB at CNCL.CI.DETROIT.MI.US>
Subject:      Re: Oh My Darwin! (Back to May/December)
Comments: To: lbo-talk at lists.panix.com
To:           MARXISM-AND-SCIENCES at LISTSERV.CC.EMORY.EDU

Yoshie,

This is an interesting article

>>> Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at osu.edu> 11/30/99 04:00AM >>Like Fodor, Lewontin and
>Gould argue that the EPists have it wrong:
Language, consciousness, and most of our distinctively human mental
capacities are side effects of the fact that our brain grew big for other
reasons. Furthermore, they caution, these reasons cannot be reconstructed.
Our extraordinary human abilities are epiphenomena of "all those loose
connections with nothing to do," explains Lewontin. As an example of a
nonadaptive trait, he offers the uniquely human ability to use recursion in
language, that is, to make sentences of the form: "I say that Noam Chomsky
says, when people say..." Though chimps can be taught to compose simple
sentences of the form "I want" or "I see" on a computer, they cannot be
taught to use recursion.

Does Lewontin have a theory about the origin of this unique linguistic
ability of humans? "You could invent a story," he explains with distaste.
"You could say it was an advantage to early human beings in being able to
say, 'I saw Joe doing that,' but that's just yak!"

(((((((((((((

Charles: Isn't it true that biologists don't know the actual Darwinian mechanism for
the origin of almost any traits of ANY life forms ( except for that experiment with
moths in England; but somebody said even that experiment was flawed) ?

Seems to me the best hypothesis for the adaptive advantage of language , but more
completely all culture and symbolic conduct, is that it allows the experiences of dead
generations of the species to be shared to some extent by the living generation.
Culture's advantage is that it is a LaMarckian (i.e. super-Darwinian) mechanism. I
mean an extrasomatic, non-genetic mechanism. Culture is a superexpansion of the social
realm to include dead generations in the sociality of the living generation.

(((((((((


-clip-

Even if God were to descend on Cambridge and part the waters of the Charles
River at Lewontin's feet, it would still be unthinkable to imagine the
skeptical biologist embracing religion. Gould, on the other hand, has
recently been evincing a new sympathy for the realm of the unscientific. In
his most recent book, Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness
of Life (1999), he not only sets out terms for a peaceful coexistence with
the obdurate religious believers among us but seems to offer another
defense against the sociobiological threat. His thesis is that it makes
perfect sense to see science and religion as distinct and complementary
forms of human endeavor: Science addresses the "factual character of the
natural world"; religion is concerned with spiritual meaning and morality.

(((((((((((

Charles: The rational kernel I see in religion is in ancestor worship. It is an overt
form of what I say above: messages from dead generations to the living generation in
the form of complex symbolic and pnemonic systems. Contra Engels, who only focuses on
the superstition and fear and awe of uncontrollable forces in ancient religion,
ancestor worship is a LaMarckian, super-Darwinian adaptive mechanism (extrasomatic,
non-genetic).  Of course, new discoveries are made superceding the ancient knowledge,
and the tough thing is to know when "to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em". That is
the eternal challenge of human culture.

(((((((((((((

This dualism stands in stark contrast to the views of Wilson, Dawkins, and
Pinker, who categorically deny the existence of a soul or spirit. Indeed,
from the outset, it was Wilson's goal to deny the existence of an
independent moral realm. In On Human Nature, he says, "Human behavior...is
the circuitous technique by which human genetic material has and will be
kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable ultimate function."
Consilience (1998), Wilson's latest and most ambitious statement to date,
takes an even more radical position, arguing that "there is intrinsically
only one class of explanation." He goes on to make the bold assertion that
"all tangible phenomena, from the birth of stars to the workings of social
institutions, are based on material processes that are ultimately
reducible, however long and tortuous the sequences, to the laws of
physics."

((((((((((((((

Charles: A form of ultimate vulgar materialism. Arch reductionism. Anti-dialectics. No
levels of organization of reality.

(((((((((((((

three cheers for Richard Lewontin,

Yoshie
((((((((((((

CB








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