while lions forming prides, or having pride, may be at a much less complex level than human group dynamics mediated by language, the idea that they don't have consiousness or are doing these things unconsiously is 'a stretch' or controversial.  there are whole books on animals minds.  (this view does remind me of chomsky, who besides arguing for a 'language module' as do evolutionary psychologists for other things ('number sense', etc.)---which again is widely discredited because it can't be found---says chimps are not consciuous, or at least self-consious, because you can train them to ask for food from humans from the back, without looking at the human's eyes.  to me that just shows chimps have common sense, to defer to the authorities and do whatever ritual is required to survive (eg 'the spook who sat by the door'). 

i also imagine, despite chomsky and such, that lions do have some ('proto-)language even if its nonstandard.

schrodinger, who has an equation named after him, argued that actually consiousness is a property of matter (eg an extra degree of freedom). i am sympathetic to this view.  seperating what is consious versus some 'evolved' instinctual reflex is not easy since people can use biofeedback, etc. to control what are thought of as instincts.

the documentary 'planet of the apes' i think suggested actually that it is not humans in wars, but aliens (or humans taken over by aliens). so they arent acting like animals, but aliens.

i think studying commonalities between animal groups and human groups is fine so long as its not overdone (basically possibly because humans are almost as stupid as rocks in many sense).  also, i'd push it way past that, down to the level of atoms (and maybe even pre-atomic level).  

widely popular studies of the income distribution for example use statistical mechanics to show (despite the well known pareto's law) actually income distribution follows the boltzmann-gibbs (or canonical)  distribution quite closely for most people, so humans are a gas.

--- On Tue, 6/30/09, herb fox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> From: herb fox <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Evolutionary Psychology and the Public Media
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Date: Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 9:49 AM
>    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.
> > ******************