Did the left lost the sociobiology debate?
nemonemini at cosmiverse.com
nemonemini at cosmiverse.com
Mon Feb 11 21:14:43 MST 2002
Below is an interesting review of two new books on sociobiology,
including the 'Trumph of Sociobiology', the third in a series
of 'Triumph' Books in the past two years, by Darwin defenders.
This triumph needs to be greatly exaggerated since without it there
is no such triumph at all, only the usual engineered paradigm shift
that keeps having a bumpy ride, to the consternation of those who
expected Darwin's easy success.
First, some the data of sociobiology is of great interest, the
problem is, and remains, the sawdust foundations of unverified
selectionism applied to culture, ethics, and behavior. Applying
evolution to culture was always the great next step, but it has
suffered demonstrable contradictions of fact and theory that will
remain after the steady refusal to acknowledge them in public. So
this 'triumph' looks like the tactic of suggestion in operation. And
student of the eonic effect has solid grounds for standing up to
these models, e.g. the mechanization of ethics via the theory of
games, and such. These are interesting models, but they are not
science. And they don't really work. They are too schematic at the
core, and are mocked by the heritiage of philosophy, however confused
itself, a heritage these Darwinists are trained to reject with a
false cockiness. Simple philosophy should cast severe doubt on such
things, but humanists are apparently paralyzed at all points. Partly
because of the successful suggestion there is a triumph of
The perception of 'triumph' springs from the confusion of the
triumph, so-called, of Darwinism, and that, also so-called, of
sociobiology, and the 'in house' opposition of agreed Darwinists,
left or right, over such issues as genetic determinism. Thus the new
discoveries of genetics tend to, or seem to, confirm the original
position of the first sociobiologists. Darwin triumphed, but that
didn't make his theory right, nor did it prevent him from retreating
from his claims even as the general public was none the wiser. Darwin
was disingenuous here, if not dishonest. Shall we expect the same in
the triumph of sociobiology?
The leftist view picked a difficult position here, defending the
Darwin basics, but trying to shave dissent off the edges on issues
like genetics and behaviourism. Such views are both essential, but
you can't be a crypto-hegelian Marxist on the antinomies of freedom
and 'genetic determinism' as one who believes in natural selection,
and not lose ground over the years. The basic point is that there is
a problem with Darwin's theory, and sociobiology, as a perfectly good
subject as to data suffers from that theory, and crashes with it,
leaving its interesting data behind for a better theory.
Thus none of this debate impinges on the real issue. As a persistent
Darwin critic I have never claimed that genetic determinism was false
(although I suspect it is and keep a close eye on the work of Steven
Rose and others here), only that the theory of natural selection was
inadequate to explain evolution, and more specifically the descent of
man. In theory then genetic determinism is compatible then with a non-
selectionist theory. In practice, the point is well taken, though
vague, and the issue of genetic deteminism will resurface in any
such 'other' theory, at the point where the evolution of human
freedom becomes a topic of discourse. Philosophy warns that it must
be so, whatever form it must take. That is, the nugget of insight of
the leftist critics is onto something. This confusion over freedom
and determinism is, as a matter of fact, as built into leftist theory
as sociobiology. It requires an entirely different approach
altogether. The resolution is obvious from the eonic model.
This polarization over genetic determinism arose through the
provocative dangers warned of by the original leftist critics. And
that critique, if it suffers some rebuttal from the genetic
revoution, requires reformulation at the point where we all know what
the racist implications will be behind the scenes. I learned this the
hard way, after a momentary lapse into genetic enthusiasm. So this
indignation and glee at the modest confusions of these leftist
critics is simply hypocrisy and the usual perfect poker bluff
ideological manipulation. Anyone who thinks otherwise is invited to
go down to a slum and start a discussion of the tenets of
sociobiology. So these leftists watchdogs deserve a little more than
E.O. Wilson's crocodile tears (they hurt my feelings).
At a time of explosive developments in genomic study, I don't think
this triumph is even a serious gesture, as the picture is simply
murky. How could we argue there is no connection between genetics and
behavior? But none of that justifies automatic impingement on the
cultural issues that must enter any theory of the evolution of man.
The problem those issues clearly refute selectionis assumptions, and
yet have no simple reification. Beware of those reifiers.
There is currently no such theory. It is simply improperly verified
to say that man's complexity arose through natural selection. And
even if they could demonstrate the required lucky genes and mutations
they simply assume into existence, the full evolution of man requires
something much deeper. Where's the proof in face of the clear
counterevidence of the eonic effect with its demonstration of a
distinct macro factor visible in history?
The problem with all this paradigm promotion is that it is too
successful for its own good and allows the installation of incorrect
views into universities. But they won't get away with it this time.
I think we can disregard this triumph.
The End of the Beginning by Daniel Jones*
Revolutionary Biology: The New, Gene-Centred View of Life
By David P. Barash
213pp, Transaction Publishers (2001)The Triumph of Sociobiology
By John Alcock
257pp, Oxford University Press (2001)Academic debates rarely attract
as much media attention as do those surrounding human nature and
behaviour, and much ink has been spilled in documenting the various
arguments and counter-arguments that pervade evolutionary approaches
to understanding what it is to be human. The scientists and
philosophers involved in these ongoing standoffs have themselves not
been shy in airing their views in the popular press, perhaps most
notably exemplified by the heated exchanges between Harvard biologist
Stephen Jay Gould, who has maintained a consistent resistance to
sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, and his detractors
philosopher Daniel C Dennett and cognitive psychologist Steven
Pinker, in the New York Review of Books1. In eloquent but vicious
attacks on one another, these writers have given good cause for
journalists to label these disputes as the Darwin Wars.
nemonemini at aol.com
jcl99 at columbia.edu
Website on the Eonic Effect
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