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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  June 2009

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE June 2009

Subject:

Re: Evolutionary Psychology and the Public Media

From:

herb fox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 09:49:31 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (52 lines)

    In the recent discussion, until Phil's post and Charlie's response,
there was no discussion here of the role of consciousness in determining
human behavior. To the best of my inadequate knowledge Lions do not
call a meeting, have an informed discussion and then decide to form a
Pride. Neither do they evaluate historically and in terms of other Lion
values the effectiveness of the practice. It seems to me, then, that to
place great weight in understanding human behavior on the scientific
study of non-conscious evolved behavior patterns in other species
including our closest mammalian relatives (and even our own) is to
diminish the role of the very attributes that distinguish humans from
other species. The overriding adaptive characteristic of our species is
that we can through conscious decisions do whatever we rationally
determine to be wise and effective. When we do foolish things such as
make war, base our social exchange on profit, etc. we can use highly
evolved language and historical reference to argue whether these are
what we should be doing. One of the common criticisms that we make of
these behaviors is that "we are acting like animals."
    For the same reasons that we deplore the wide-spread belief in
astrology in determining the course of events we should be very cautious
in using studies and analysis of other animals and of our own early
development as fundamentally determining the contemporary behavior of
our species.
    Herman Melville's description of Craggart in Billie Budd as pursuing
irrational ends by rational means seems to me metaphorically relevant
here. Science is a rational pursuit; but its application is not
necessarily rational. Phil's remark:/
/

    /We're biological creatures, so trivially there is a biological
    basis for everything we do, because everything we do is compatible
    with our biology. Lions forming prides has about as much to do with
    US imperialism as aphids living with ants has to do with the
    transatlantic slave trade.
    /

is not just clever. It is a profound affirmation that we humans, as
evidenced by the very discussions we have on this list, can exercise our
highly evolved rational processes to determine our behavior and evaluate
both our processes and behavior irrespective of, and often in
contradiction to, our or other animals' histories.
herb


Michael Balter wrote:
> This is the kind of balanced and open-minded discussion that one would
> expect from David Sloan Wilson, thanks to Phil for posting it. The
> piece is notable for its refusal to grind ideological axes from either
> side of the political or intellectual spectrum, but also for its
> acknowledgement that the issue is not whether evolutionary biology
> plays a role in human behavior and psychology but what role it plays.
> ******************

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