Re: what is a meme?

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 04 Feb 2004 - 02:58:44 GMT

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    At 08:16 PM 03/02/04 +0000, Douglas wrote:

    snip (Chris's posting)

    >Fine, this is fairly clear; glad to have got up your nose.
    >In a lot of words you set out in the above qualifications that maybe should
    >have been attached to your original statement in the first place. ("This sort
    >of thing makes clear why this area _should_ be left to biologists.") How
    >can biology possibly explain chauvinism?

    Actually, yes.

    >Would it want to? Don't take it
    >personally, it's common enough in any academic discipline, few of which make
    >these aspects of their culture an object of their own study. It's an area
    >of particular interest, maybe it would be in the remit of what you've
    >described as the 'dark side' of biology, an area that historically suggests
    >strong reasons for calling biologists - or any discipline to account at all
    >In your response, you provide a good account of how biology is nurtured by
    >other disciplines, has a rich history, has borrowed widely, is a very big
    >tent, collaborative. Thanks. So what exactly are we understand then from
    >your original statement that the field "_should_ be" left to biologists?

    As opposed to sociologists and related "soft" subjects.

    >Your qualifications take the statement in the opposite direction - suggesting
    >it would possibly be accurate to recast the original statement in the
    >negative. In this case, we either seem to be left with contradictory
    >messages or a problematic definition of the boundaries of biology.
    >There are a lot of takes on the meaning and usefulness of the idea of 'social
    >life' or 'society'. (Is it a leap on my part to conflate the two?)

    No. Bees, ants and termites figured out the advantages long time before humans.

    >You know
    >it's a perennial debate. You're welcome to your beliefs but within and
    >without academia it's perpetually unresolved, so your dismissal of other
    >approaches is on the absolutist side. Someone in a recent message referred to
    >a "dogma of biology," maybe the idea the social is just the sum of individuals
    >is one of these dogmas,

    Might be, but if so, it is bad dogma. Social is a lot more than the sum of individuals, and the bigger society gets, the more advantages it has. (Problems get bigger too of course.)


    >role of the biological. From my perspective of anthropology classing
    >anthropology under the biological umbrella would mean biologists have to
    >account for their individual selves in their work

    Indeed. But let me warn you all about this. *Admitting* you are a social primate with standard social primate drives--even if you are not consciously aware of them--will get in big trouble. In my case, a federal judge lambasted me in writing for admitting to having the very same kinds of status seeking drives that *he* had clearly displayed when he gave up a lot of income to become a (higher status) federal judge.

    Keith Henson

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