Re: War Gods?

From: Scott Chase (ecphoric@hotmail.com)
Date: Wed 10 Mar 2004 - 18:03:25 GMT

  • Next message: Danny Iny: "Re: War Gods?"

    >From: Chris Taylor <christ@ebi.ac.uk>
    >Reply-To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
    >To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
    >Subject: Re: War Gods?
    >Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 17:03:51 +0000
    >
    >The opposite of "no influence whatsoever" would be _total_ control, which I
    >quite deliberately didn't say at all (whence creativity?).
    >
    >What EPers need (to have a field at all) is genetically encoded behavioural
    >programs, _evolved_ (therefore _genetic_) to suit the purposes of our
    >ancient ancestors, and persisting because the time scale has been too short
    >to alter them (again reaffirming the hardcore genetic nature of their
    >argumentation) -- if the behaviours that emerge are just the result of
    >general design (for instance, all right-handers use scissors a certain way
    >because it's bloody hard not to frankly) then EP is essentially vacuous.
    >[N.B. I know hunter-gatherers didn't have scissors.]
    >
    >I would add that I find research on midbrain-related behaviours (some face
    >stuff etc.) to be pretty uncontentious, and if EP were to confine itself to
    >this sort of thing, and its implications, I would find it just as easy to
    >swallow. Consider the infamous Dawkins argument that genes producing strong
    >skin pigmentation makes you more likely to be less academically able,
    >because that gene expresses its product in a body that is in an environment
    >where skin pigmentation can affect social outcomes. So no I would not say
    >that genes have no behavioural consequences, but I have been waiting for a
    >long time now for the EP community to pull back to the much more defensible
    >position that nearly all of human behaviour is either wildly epigenetic, or
    >memetic (using my co-opted definition).
    >
    A pox on both your houses. Nothing like being a doubly contentious curmudgeon :-)

    My problem with EP is that beyond some very basic modularity, that could be explained by an EEA scenario, you wind up with the possibility of lots of nonaptive byproducts (spandrels in Gouldese). If there's a good deal of spin-offs not directly related to living in the EEA, then what use can EP be for explaining a majority of human behavior. It fits into the gee whiz it might be indirectly relevant to the EEA category. In that case psychology and anthropology can proceed as usual wthout consulting the EP-ers for their opinion.

    One bit of repect I happen to have for the memetic view is that it goes beyond the EP mindset and looks at cultural factors which could influence human behavior. My skepticism with memetics is the particular particulate approach itself. Its a substitue of one uberdarwinism for another.

    Of all the various books I've read relevant to the topic, I've finaly found an author who hasn't sent me into eye rolling fits when I read them. This author is Dan Sperber and his book _Explaining Culture_ has been rather rewarding so far. I'm almost finished. Not only does he depart from the collective representations of Durkheim (he does use the notion of representations though), he also holds memetics at arms length. For instance he argues for transformation over replication and attraction versus selection as alternatives to the memetic purist view.
    >
    >Cheers, Chris.
    >
    >Richard Brodie wrote:
    >
    >>Chris Taylor wrote:
    >>
    >>
    >>>My blanket loathing of all things EP (sorry) stems from the fact that if
    >>>these complex behavioural suites are under genetic control, then more
    >>>fundamental stuff like sexuality (and a string of nasty dysfunctional
    >>>behaviours) *surely must be*, which (apart from having been squarely
    >>>squashed through proper research) opens a rather ugly can of fascists.
    >>
    >>
    >>I think it's the word "control" that's getting you in trouble here. It's a
    >>rather extreme position to assert that genetic adaptations through the
    >>millennia have no influence whatsoever on psychology. I don't see the
    >>usefulness of such a position.
    >>
    >>Richard Brodie
    >>www.memecentral.com
    >>
    >>
    >>===============================================================
    >>This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >>Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    >>For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    >>see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit
    >>
    >>
    >
    >--
    >~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    > Chris Taylor (christ@ebi.ac.uk)
    > MIAPE Project -- psidev.sf.net
    >~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    >
    >===============================================================
    >This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    >For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    >see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit
    >

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    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit



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