Re: new review of memetics/sociobiology/EP

From: Derek Gatherer (
Date: Tue 07 Feb 2006 - 09:00:46 GMT

  • Next message: Robin Faichney: "Re[2]: new review of memetics/sociobiology/EP"

    At 06:19 07/02/2006, Dace wrote:

    >Gene selectionism fails to explain social ant communities because worker
    >do not pass on their genes.

    You're right, they don't. That's why selection at the level of the individual doesn't work. But the worker's genes do get passed on, by the queen that produced those workers. That's why the workers have to work so hard for the queen. As JBS Haldane said: "I'd be willing to die for 3 sons, 5 aunts, 5 grand-parents, or 9 first cousins" [not the exact quote - I might even have a few of his calculations wrong, but you see what I mean]. So mathematically, gene selection can explain the "altruistic" aspects of ant societies.

    > Sociobiology doesn't
    >seem to be a position by itself but extends either into gene-culture
    >coevolution (Wilson) or memetics (Dawkins).

    In those two, yes, but if you read Aaron Lynch on sociobiology, you can see how un-sociobiological (or even anti-sociobiological) memetics can get.

      then sociobiology becomes sort of the
    >dummy hand against which the three real hands play.

    Yes, I agree. For explanatory purposes, it's easiest to take the hardest position and show how the others soften it. There are in any case very few human sociobiologists these days as the emphasis has switched to EP. Sociobiology is now mostly confined to the study of non-primate and therefore reliably acultural societies.

    >"Sociobiologists acknowledge that there is probably such a thing as
    >Gotta love the word probably here. Yes, there's probably a nose in the
    >middle of my face...

    Yes, I know it sounds a little odd. But read the Alan Rogers article in the ref list (footnote 23) to see how this can be finessed. I think that anybody who really wants to refute sociobiology (meaning refute rather than dismiss it as inherently unlikely) needs to get to grips with Rogers' arguments, but I've not seen anybody try yet......

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