Darwin-L Message Log 10: 1–20 — June 1994
Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences
Darwin-L was an international discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences, active from 1993–1997. Darwin-L was established to promote the reintegration of a range of fields all of which are concerned with reconstructing the past from evidence in the present, and to encourage communication among scholars, scientists, and researchers in these fields. The group had more than 600 members from 35 countries, and produced a consistently high level of discussion over its several years of operation. Darwin-L was not restricted to evolutionary biology nor to the work of Charles Darwin, but instead addressed the entire range of historical sciences from an explicitly comparative perspective, including evolutionary biology, historical linguistics, textual transmission and stemmatics, historical geology, systematics and phylogeny, archeology, paleontology, cosmology, historical geography, historical anthropology, and related “palaetiological” fields.
This log contains public messages posted to the Darwin-L discussion group during June 1994. It has been lightly edited for format: message numbers have been added for ease of reference, message headers have been trimmed, some irregular lines have been reformatted, and error messages and personal messages accidentally posted to the group as a whole have been deleted. No genuine editorial changes have been made to the content of any of the posts. This log is provided for personal reference and research purposes only, and none of the material contained herein should be published or quoted without the permission of the original poster.
The master copy of this log is maintained in the Darwin-L Archives (rjohara.net/darwin) by Dr. Robert J. O’Hara. The Darwin-L Archives also contain additional information about the Darwin-L discussion group, the complete Today in the Historical Sciences calendar for every month of the year, a collection of recommended readings on the historical sciences, and an account of William Whewell’s concept of “palaetiology.”
------------------------------------------ DARWIN-L MESSAGE LOG 10: 1-20 -- JUNE 1994 ------------------------------------------ _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:1>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Wed Jun 1 00:18:51 1994 Date: Wed, 01 Jun 1994 01:18:41 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: List owner's monthly greeting To: email@example.com Organization: University of NC at Greensboro Greetings to all Darwin-L subscribers. On the first of every month I send out a short note on the status of our group with a reminder of basic commands. Darwin-L is nine months old, and we have more than 575 members from nearly 30 countries. I am grateful to all of you for your interest and your many contributions, and for helping to make Darwin-L one of the most cordial, professional, and successfully interdisciplinary discussion groups around. The Darwin-L gopher archive is open to all subscribers on rjohara.uncg.edu (numeric address 22.214.171.124); it contains the logs of our past discussions, several bibliographies of interest to historical scientists, and gateways to a variety of other interesting network resources. Feel free to pay a visit and bring your friends. The following are the most frequently used listserv commands that Darwin-L members may wish to know. All of these commands should be sent as regular e-mail messages to the listserv address (firstname.lastname@example.org), not to the address of the group as a whole (Darwin-L@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu). In each case leave the subject line of the message blank and include no extraneous text, as the command will be read and processed by the listserv program rather than by a person. To join the group send the message: SUBSCRIBE DARWIN-L <Your Name> For example: SUBSCRIBE DARWIN-L John Smith To cancel your subscription send the message: UNSUBSCRIBE DARWIN-L If you feel burdened by the volume of mail you receive from Darwin-L you may instruct the listserv program to deliver mail to you in digest format (one message per day consisting of the whole day's posts bundled together). To receive your mail in digest format send the message: SET DARWIN-L MAIL DIGEST To change your subscription from digest format back to one-at-a-time delivery send the message: SET DARWIN-L MAIL ACK To temporarily suspend mail delivery (when you go on vacation, for example) send the message: SET DARWIN-L MAIL POSTPONE To resume regular delivery send either the DIGEST or ACK messages above. For a comprehensive introduction to Darwin-L with notes on our scope and on network etiquette, and a summary of all available commands, send the message: INFO DARWIN-L To post a public message to the group as a whole simply send it as regular e-mail to the group's address (Darwin-L@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu). I thank you all for your continuing interest in Darwin-L and in the interdisciplinary study of the historical sciences. Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner Robert J. O'Hara (email@example.com) Center for Critical Inquiry and Department of Biology 100 Foust Building, University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A. _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:2>From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Jun 1 01:37:58 1994 Date: Wed, 01 Jun 1994 16:34:24 +1000 From: John Wilkins <email@example.com> Subject: Re: Cultural Evolution Lamar To: firstname.lastname@example.org Gary Sziko wrote: >Could you point me to where Mayer says that cultural evolution can be >Lamarckian? > >Surely he can't mean (and you can't mean) the knowledge one acquires from >living in a culture becomes incorporated in one's genome and thereby >inherited by one's offspring. What can be meant be saying that Lamarckian >mechanisms are involved in cultural evolution? and Nicholas Gessler replied: >Biological evolution is often defined as a change in allele frequency in >allele (gene) frequency in a population over time. I will make a parallel >statement for culture, using biological evolution as a metaphor, by saying >that cultural evolution may be defined as a change in trait (artifacts, >fashions, ideas, styles, themes, etc.) frequency in a population over time. >I do not mean to imply that cultural traits can be inherited as biological >alleles. I do mean to imply, that applying the Lamarckian and Darwinian >modes of evolution to culture can be a fruitful way of looking at cultural >change. > >We could call this adapting a biological metaphor for the social sciences, >or alternatively we could expand the concept of evolution to include >non-biological (that is cultural) phenomena. Many anthropologists choose the >latter. Among those who do, most argue that cultural evolution is entirely >Lamarckian. I would say that it is both Lamarckian and Darwinian. Ernst >Mayr made the same statement (for both) at a presentation to the Center for >the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life at UCLA a few months back. The following comes from a draft of a paper I'm writing. I'd be interested to receive responses. I think it is germane to this topic, as science is (perhaps) an instance of culture 8-): ===================== Even before Darwin and often since, "evolutionary" models of change in science have been proposed, usually as flawed and ultimately merely suggestive metaphors. In any event, they have not given rise to influential schools of thought in the interpretation of the development of science, with the possible exceptions of Whitehead and Collingwood, both of whom seem more effective in theological than philosophical contexts. Some of the major proponents of elements of evolutionary epistemologies include Mach, Pierce, Dewey, Quine, Kuhn, Toulmin and most influentially Popper. However, none of these full or partial systems of evolutionary epistemology are strictly analogous to Darwin's model of biological evolution through natural selection (as ensconced in the so-called neo-Darwinist "New Synthesis"). Each exhibits some kind of disanalogy of the kind that, if its analogue appeared in a biological theory, would be dismissed as "Lamarckian" (with all kinds of historical injustice to Lamarck and generous charity to Darwin, cf. Mayr 1982: chapters 8, 9, 10.). For each of the current debates in evolutionary biology -- the units of selection debates, gradualism versus saltationist or punctuationist views, cladism versus phenetic taxonomy -- there are analogous problems about conceptual change in science, and generally the least Darwinian+ view is taken to represent the patent truth about science. Scientists purposely hypothesise in order to solve problems. In biological evolution, selection is decoupled from the mechanisms generating variation (Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman 1981, Sober 1984, Eldredge 1989, Campbell 1988); that is, variants do not arise in order to solve ecological problems for a species. Theoretical variation always results from an eye to the main chance on the part of a theorist, who is more or less anticipating the selective regime applied to scientific hypotheses. Science, it is said (Popper 1972), is the process of *intending* to solve problems, while evolution in biology is not in any way intentional. Hence the analogy fails. [+ Using "darwinian" and "lamarckian" to denote generalised theoretical models of processes that do not necessarily apply to biological evolution. Where the terms are capitalised, they refer to the biological theories.] While science may evolve, say the critics, it is not through darwinian processes of undirected variation and natural selection, for science clearly is directed. Variations made to existing theories are said to be analogous to "soft-inheritance" genetics models: they are acquired after, not at, replication, for experience is a teacher, and a single individual may transmit a number of mutually exclusive theories over time. They are, in effect "lamarckian". =================== I ultimately disagree with the propositions either that culture is lamarckian or that it is _necessarily_ progressive in any sense, and so it matches both darwinian criteria. I hope this is of interest to someone. Bibilographical references Cavalli-Sforza L L and M W Feldman 1981 _Cultural transmission and evolution: A quantitative approach_ Princeton U P Campbell D T 1988 "A general 'selection theory' as implemented in biological evolution and in social belief-transmission-with-modification in science" _Biology and philosophy_ 3 Eldredge N 1989 _Macroevolutionary dynamics: Species, niches, and adaptive peaks_ McGraw-Hill Mayr E 1982 _The growth of biological thought: Diversity, evolution and inheritance_ The Belknap Press of Harvard U P Popper K R 1972 _Objective knowledge: An evolutionary approach_ Oxford U P (1975 revision) Sober E 1984 _The nature of selection_ MIT Press (1985 reprint with amendments) _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:3>From mhinelin@polar.Bowdoin.EDU Wed Jun 1 04:55:08 1994 From: mhinelin@polar.Bowdoin.EDU (Mark L. Hineline) Subject: Re: Questions, problems, Jardine, and Collingwood To: email@example.com Date: Wed, 1 Jun 1994 05:55:56 +119304128 (EDT) I am most grateful to Lynn Nyhart, Mary P. Winsor, and Bob O`Hara for sustaining a discussion of problems as historical entities. Bob`s reference to Dewey is especially germane, and while Dewey may have gotten it right (that we 'get over' some problems rather than resolve them), the historically interesting question -- a question to be answered through recourse to interdisciplinary effort -- is *why* it takes so long to get over certain problems. Lynn's reference to N. Jardine is appropos. In addition to `legitimate` and non- 'legitimate` questions, there seems to be a category of super- legitimate questions or problems. The species problem seems to be one of these. A problem whose history I know somewhat better is the "coral reef problem," seemingly resolved by Darwin's account of the development of coral reefs and atolls with subsidence of the seafloor as the primary cause. Darwin's account had few serious challengers in the late 1840s through the mid-1860s, but thereafter a variety of alternative causes for coral reef development were argued (by Guppy, A. Agassiz [about which M. P. Winsor may have more to say], and numerous others. William Morris Davis devoted most of his mature years to resolving the problem in favor of Darwin's explanation, and published his monograph, *The Coral Reef Problem* in 1928. Over thirty years later, Darwin's original theory was reprinted with an introduction by Menard, who pointed to stratigraphic cores from borings at Eniwetok as "proof" of Darwin's theory. (This brief summary hardly does justice to the duration and complexity of the problem). What can be learned by examining the coral reef problem *as a problem*? First, and almost dismissively, it makes mincemeat of a Kuhnian account of science, and of other philosophical accounts that suggest simple choice between theories. More important, however, is that it illustrates the pecking order of the sciences; and this is where sociology of science comes in and does important work. *If* the coral reef problem was solved by stratigraphic evidence (the thickness of the column at Eniwetok), is this because stratigraphic evidence is more dependable than Davis's geomorphological evidence? Or is it because stratigraphers are (or were) the final arbitars of questions in the earth sciences? By analogy, then, what sort of evidence and argument might there be that would resolve the species problem? Mark L. Hineline (A historian in the) Department of Physics Bowdoin College Brunswick, Maine 04011 firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:4>From OMARTI@TIFTON.CPES.PEACHNET.EDU Wed Jun 1 07:34:32 1994 Date: Wed, 01 Jun 1994 08:23:21 -0400 (EDT) From: "Orville G. Marti" <OMARTI%TIFTON.BITNET@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU> Subject: Is Anthropic Principle Circular? To: email@example.com Organization: COASTAL PLAIN EXPERIMENT STATION During a religious discussion, a physicist made the comment that ..."no scientist has successfully challenged the weak anthropic principle...". The weak anthropic principle, he explained, is the view that cosmological parameters are perfectly arranged for man. This was then offered as "evidence" for intelligent design in the universe. If one looks at the argument as a syllogism: P Man exists. P The universe is arranged for man. C Therefore, man exists. At best, this seems to be circular. Is it? Or have I oversimplified the argument? I am interested in references to and refutations of the Anthropic Principle. And how does the 'weak' principle differ from the 'strong' principle? ************************************************************************ Orville G. Marti, Jr. P.O. Box 748 Microbiologist Tifton, Ga. 31793 Phone: 912-387-2328 (office) BITNET: OMARTI@tifton Phone: 912-387-2350 (lab) INTERNET: OMARTI@tifton.cpes.peachnet.edu Fax: 912-387-2321 <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> The more books you read, the more stupid you become. ... Mao Tse Tung Read your Bible every day. ...Jerry Falwell ************************************************************************* _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:5>From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Jun 1 08:20:06 1994 Date: Wed, 01 Jun 94 08:17:31 EDT From: email@example.com (Peter D. Junger) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Is Anthropic Principle Circular? In message <01HD0Q9TI74I921QG1@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU> Orville G. Marti, Jr. writes: >During a religious discussion, a physicist made the comment that ..."no >scientist has successfully challenged the weak anthropic principle...". >The weak anthropic principle, he explained, is the view that cosmological >parameters are perfectly arranged for man. This was then offered as >"evidence" for intelligent design in the universe. That sounds stronger than the way that the weak anthropic principle is normally stated. The weak principle is that if or portion of the universe (viz., the planet eartyh) were not pretty much the way it is then we could not survive here, so we should not be overly surprised that the environment in which we find ourselves seems fairly suitable for our existence. >If one looks at the argument as a syllogism: > P Man exists. > P The universe is arranged for man. > C Therefore, man exists. That isn't much of a syllogism since the second term is unneccesary: it reduces to : P Man exists. P Therefore, man exists. The weak anthropic principle suggests at the most that either we are adapted to our environment or that our environment is adapted to be suitable for us or both--how that adaptation takes place, whether as an act of god or as the result of Darwinian processes or as the result of something else, is not hinted at by the weak principle. As I recall, the strong version of the anthropic principle is mixed up with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. It runs something like this: according to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, nothing exists (_in esse_, as opposed to _in posse_) unless and until it is observed by an observer (and the wave function collapses or whatever). Now it follows that, since we are the ones who observe the universe as existing, it is our observation that brings the universe (including ourselves and all of its history) into existence. Thus the universe could not have come into existence if it were not certain that we (or some other observer(s)?) would come into existenc to observe it. In the strong version, the universe _has_ to be fit for us, because it couldn't exist without us. >At best, this seems to be circular. Is it? Or have I oversimplified the >argument? I am interested in references to and refutations of the Anthropic >Principle. And how does the 'weak' principle differ from the 'strong' >principle? The weak version doesn't have much, if any, circularity. The strong version exhibits triangularity more than it does circularity: we are supported by the universe's being as it is and the universe is supported by our being as we are. And whatever circularity there is, it isn't vicious. From an historical point of view both principles suggest a coevolution of ourselves and our environment. At least that is what they suggest if one is not very open to teleological explanations. Peter D. Junger Case Western Reserve University Law School, Cleveland, OH Internet: JUNGER@SAMSARA.LAW.CWRU.Edu -- Bitnet: JUNGER@CWRU _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:6>From email@example.com Wed Jun 1 09:07:12 1994 Date: Wed, 1 Jun 1994 10:09:24 -0400 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (Jeremy Creighton Ahouse) Subject: Re: Cultural Evolution Lamarckian? "If the analogy between genetic and cultural evolution holds, the same theories and concepts should explain both."(1) Those who would allow the inheritance of acquired characters in culture are presumably layering this idea over a framework of differential survival of characters (a selectionist frame). One challenge to analogizing cultural "traits" and their changes over time with any of the definitions of biological evolution (change in gene frequencies, change in fitness, change in form,...) is in defining "trait." This is a challenge for Darwinist thinking as well. (I suspect that part of the reason for the popularity of "evolution = change in gene frequencies" is that it gives the impression of firm ground.) Mark Ridley addresses this kind of difficulty when dealing with "memes" (Dawkins' cultural gene analog) in a recent essay in New Scientist (1). Ridley wonders aloud how we are to tell the difference between memes and everything else in culture. I think this caution extends to current discussion of cultural evolution of "artifacts, fashions, ideas, styles, themes, etc." I recall having a similar reaction to reading papers in evolutionary epistemology (scientific theories competing with each other in their struggle for existence). It was never clear to me what the specific analogs in biology were (what is the playing field for the struggle?). Another way to say this is, "What are the vehicles?" and "What are the replicators?" Even if this notion of vehicles and replicators seems to straight-jacket me into a narrow view of "evolution" there are other abstract decompositions of the core of biological evolution (heritability, fitness, & selection) whose terms should be strongly represented in the cultural or epistemological context (Sober's Type III models (2)). Having said this, I am drawn to the suggestion that differential survival happens at every level, in every discourse, and in each tale we tell. But the details are still a challenge. I also want to acknowledge that I am not comfortable with the glib "evolution = changes in gene frequencies" so I don't want to insist that cultural evolution find its "genes" and become caricature sociology the way that much molecular evolution has become caricature biology. thank you all for a wonderful discussion forum. - Jeremy (1) Mark Ridley, _Infected with Science_ New Scientist (12/25/93 p22-24). Ridley suggests that rational thinking is invading a backdrop of religious oriented "brains." As fun as this suggestion is (the letters to the editor left folks squirming about how their religious beliefs _were_ rational). I was left wondering how centered on a Judeo-Christian style of religion this argument was. (2) Elliot Sober _Philosophy of Biology_ 1993 Westview Press. Sober discusses sociobiology and Evolutionary Theory in Ch 7 of this book. He breaks down selection models into 3 groups. Type I the behavior is inherited via genes and the fitness is a function of number of offspring. Type II the relevant phenotypes are no longer genetically transmitted but fitness is still measured in reproductive success. In Type III models transmission is not genetic and fitness is not measured in number of babies. ____________________________________________________________________ Jeremy Creighton Ahouse (firstname.lastname@example.org) Biology Dept. Brandeis University Waltham, MA 02254-9110 (617) 736-4954 _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:7>From LKNYHART@macc.wisc.edu Wed Jun 1 09:30:00 1994 Date: Wed, 01 Jun 94 09:29 CDT From: Lynn K. Nyhart <LKNYHART@macc.wisc.edu> Subject: Re: Cultural Evolution Lamar To: email@example.com I am frustrated not to know who wrote the piece excerpted under the RE: heading "Cultural Evolution Lamar..." (at least, it said something like that on my screen). Anyway, it discussed analogies and disanalogies between cultural evolution, Lamarckism, and Darwinism. I realize this was just an excerpt, but how can you discuss various evolutionary philosophies of the development of science and not bring up David Hull's _Science as a Process_? He goes through evolutionary analogies (and disanalogies) quite carefully, and should at least be on the list, whatever one thinks of the details of his analogizing. Lynn Nyhart firstname.lastname@example.org Dept. of History of Science University of Wisconsin-Madison _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:8>From email@example.com Wed Jun 1 13:13:28 1994 Date: Wed, 1 Jun 1994 11:13:22 -0700 (PDT) From: Mark Madsen <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Cultural Evolution Lamarckian? To: email@example.com On Tue, 31 May 1994, Gessler, Nicholas (G) ANTHRO wrote: > alternatively we could expand the concept of evolution to include > non-biological (that is cultural) phenomena. Many anthropologists choose the > latter. Among those who do, most argue that cultural evolution is entirely > Lamarckian. I would say that it is both Lamarckian and Darwinian. I agree that the second course (expanding evolutionary theory to include culture as a mechanism for the transmission of heritable variation) is the appropriate option. I think, however, that the issue of Lamarckian versus Darwinian modes of evolution is far from solved, principally due to the lack of explicit discussion of the units upon which selection etc. act in the cultural case. If I understand the Lamarckian mode of evolution correctly, we are discussing situations where phenotypic variants acquired by an individual during ontogeny are incorporated into heritable variation passed on to new "generations" of individuals. *If* one argues that the fundamental unit of evolution in Homo sapiens is the biological organism, then it is clear that cultural transmission can appear Lamarckian, yet also be subject to Darwinian mechanisms of evolution. On the other hand, if the units of evolution are, following Hull, Sober, Lloyd, and others, defined on the basis of explaining changes in a trait T, by applying Lewontin's three criteria for selection to occur, then an entirely different picture is possible. Selection for a trait that happens to be culturally transmitted need not require the death or reproduction of the biological organism -- merely the continued cultural reproduction of the trait. A useful parallel is the evolution of clonal organisms, in which the line between "development" and "reproduction" is extremely blurred. Leo Buss argues that there is no distinction between germ-line and soma-line cells, and thus no distinction to be made between somatic replication and germ-line replication. Thus *all* replication of genetic material and its translation into phenotype is "reproduction" and is subject to selection. Weissmann's doctrine and the "central dogma" of molecular biology cease to be meaningful distinctions, and thus the distinction between Lamarckian and Darwinian modes of evolution disappears -- all evolution is Darwinian, what differs is the mode of inheritance. The parallel to cultural transmission is striking, in my view, and I strongly recommend Jackson, Buss and Cook's edited volume "Population Biology and Evolution in Clonal Organisms", 1985, (or some title close to that) for its radically different view of the overall "shape" of the evolutionary process. In searching for an expansion of evolutionary theory to include cultural modes of inheritance, sexually reproducing vertebrates with germ-line sequestering of heritable information probably aren't the best models to use. The distinction between Lamarckian and Darwinian modes of evolution may not be very relevant to much of life on earth, including cultural inheritance in humans. ----------------------------------------- Mark E. Madsen Dept. of Anthropology, DH-05 University of Washington Seattle WA 98195 (206) 543-5240 FAX 543-3285 Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:9>From email@example.com Wed Jun 1 14:25:22 1994 Date: Wed, 1 Jun 1994 14:24:46 -0500 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Culture & Science Not Lamarckian In response to commenst on the Lamarckian nature of culture, I have appended here two extracts from a book I am completing entitled WITHOUT MIRACLES: UNIVERSAL SELECTION THEORY AND THE EVOLUTION OF KNOWLEDGE to be published (I hope) by MIT Press next spring. I'm just throwing this in the pot now. I hope to get back to some of the specific points already raised later. Comments and criticism (i.e., selection pressure) on these blind variations of my own are most welcome--Gary P.S. Readers of Darwin-L might find Plotkin's new book of interest (perhaps it has already been discussed here? I am a new subscriber). It is in many ways consistent with mine, although I believe he also slips a bit into the "culture as Lamarckian" error. Plotkin, Henry. (1994). DARWIN MACHINES AND THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. =================================================================== Extracts from WITHOUT MIRACLES (sans footnotes & references): I. Differences in the transmission of accumulated knowledge between biological (genetic) and scientific systems has also been emphasized by opponents of selection-theory epistemology. It has been suggested, even by such internationally recognized experts in biological evolution as Stephen J. Gould and Richard Dawkins, that the cultural transmission of ideas (including scientific ones) is a type of Lamarckian, instructionist process since the knowledge discovered by one individual can be promptly passed on to another. In this sense there appears to be a type of inheritance (or at least transmission) of acquired characteristics, of a type that simply does not seem possible in biological evolution. However, such a Lamarckian, instructionist view of scientific and cultural knowledge encounters severe difficulties. Certainly, a strict Lamarckian interpretation of the growth of scientific knowledge is untenable since "in order for sociocultural evolution to be Lamarckian in a literal sense, the ideas that we acquire by interacting with our environment must somehow become programmed into our genes and then transmitted to subsequent generations." But even if a less literal interpretation of Lamarckism were applied to human knowledge, there are still imposing problems. As we have seen in Chapters LANGUAGE and EDUCATION, knowledge cannot simply be transmitted from one individual to another, either by language or any other means currently known. Instead, the very process of understanding the ideas of another, whether expressed in oral or written language or other signs or gestures, requires the active generation of a variety of candidate ideas on the part of the "receiver" and the subsequent selection of the best ones. Virtually all modern theories of learning, education, and knowledge acquisition emphasize the active role of the learner in the construction of meaning, even if these theories do not explicitly embrace a selectionist account of communication. So while scientific and cultural knowledge may appear to be transmitted from individual to individual and from generation to generation via a Lamarckian transmission of information from one human brain to another, this seems as unlikely as it is for biological evolution. For Lamarckian transmission of ideas to take place, there would have to be some way in which the knowledge contained in my brain could be transferred to yours in the same way that I can copy the computer file containing this chapter on my diskette to your diskette. While it is possible that a instructionist technique for copying the contents of one brain to another could in the future be developed (perhaps by reading the pattern of synapses in one brain and then rewiring part of another brain to match this pattern), until that time we must tolerate the rather slow (although still many orders of magnitude faster than biological evolution) and inefficient necessity of rediscovering the knowledge of others, using language and educational settings as facilitators of this creative, selectionist process. II. The argument against blindness in the variations of thought and theory leading to advances in human knowledge is that while in biological evolution the generation of genetic variations may indeed be blind, the growth of human knowledge is consciously and purposely directed toward finding solutions to specific problems. As philosopher of science and cognitive scientist Paul Thagard has argued: "Whereas genetic variation in organisms is not induced by the environmental conditions in which the individual is struggling to survive, scientific innovations are designed by their creators to solve recognized problems; they therefore are correlated with solutions to problems . . . Scientists also commonly seek new hypotheses that will correct error in their previous trials . . . " But, we must ask, how does the fact that scientists have purposes (which few would doubt) provide emancipation from the necessity of blind variations in pushing back the frontiers of knowledge? The fact that a young scientist may be spending almost all of her waking hours in pursuit of room-temperature superconductivity does not, unfortunately, provide her with any clairvoyance as to the final solution (if one does exist). Stating that these variations are "correlated with solutions to problems" begs the question as to how such prior guiding knowledge might have been achieved in the first place. Certainly, our scientist, unlike evolution, has a goal and the methodological and theoretical variations she generates are produced in an attempt to accomplish this goal. But to the extent that new discoveries are made for which prior knowledge did not exist, this growth of scientific or technological knowledge is possible only through the production and testing of new experimental variations whose outcome is unknown until tested. As Campbell has put it, "rather than foresighted variation, hindsighted selection is the secret of rational innovation." But we must be careful to make clear what is meant by blind in this context. First, blindness does not imply that all variations are equally probable. For this reason, the word random is probably not a suitable descriptor since to some it may well carry this connotation. Second, blindness does not mean that the process of producing variations of ideas, theories, and experiments for testing is necessarily unconstrained. Our superconductivity-seeking scientist is not likely to throw just anything into her concoction of chemicals, such as some of last night's leftover stew. Instead, she will rationally try out those substances in those proportions and under those conditions which she believes (based on her knowledge of previous research and current theory) have the greatest chance of success. So it cannot be denied that this previously achieved knowledge has an important role to play in constraining the variations to be investigated. Nonetheless, the new concoction is still a blind variation in the sense that the scientist simply does not know (and cannot know) if the resulting material will be an improvement over previous ones. It is in this important sense that the variation, although far from random and unconstrained, nonetheless remains blind. The manner in which you grope about in a darkened room to find the light switch changes significantly after making contact with the wall on which the light switch is located. What were three dimensional gropings now become two-dimensional ones. And as you encounter the molding along which you know the switch is located, your gropings become further constrained to just one dimension. But while your gropings may become progressively and usefully constrained over time, the fact of the matter remains that there is an unavoidable blind component to all these gropings until the switch is actually found. The same could be argued--although it is a much harder sell--about our use of vision to find objects and help us navigate around our environment. To the extent, however, that constraints are effective in advancing knowledge (for example, whatever it is that prevents our scientist from adding her stew to her would-be superconducting material), they also must be viewed as puzzles of fit. And unless we are to return to providential or instructionist explanations for the existence of these adaptive constraints, they can only be explained as the product of prior blind variation and selection. As such, they may be well suited to guiding research into new, unexplored areas. But their fallible nature must also be recognized, and the use of such constraints in finding answers to new problems may on occasion hinder progress rather than facilitate it. So, "it is not only the case that there is no prescience about which variations will lead to success, there is also no prescience about what part of the wisdom already achieved must be abandoned in order to go beyond it. In exploring new regions the cognitive constraint system is itself up for grabs." III. It has also been argued that the process of selection in the advancement of human knowledge is very different from the natural selection of organisms in biological evolution. Again, Thagard contrasts humans as intentional agents in their role as selectors of theories in the growth of scientific knowledge with the purposeless natural selection of organisms in biological evolution. "The differences between epistemological and biological selection arise from the fact that theory selection is performed by intentional agents working with a set of criteria, whereas natural selection is the result of different survival rates of the organism bearing adaptive genes." This certainly is a noteworthy difference between natural selection and the selection of theories by scientists. But we must again ask ourselves how this difference in any way invalidates a selectionist explanation of scientific advancement. In biological evolution, those organisms which by the luck of their genome are better suited to their environment leave behind more progeny (and therefore more copies of their genes) than those less well adapted. It is this winnowing away of the less fit organisms and not any foresightedness or clairvoyance on the part of the genetic variations that is responsible for the fit of organism to environment. And different environments result in the selection of different adaptations--such as wings and lungs for air, and fins and gills for water. Similarly, science progresses by the selection of those theories which better fit the criteria used by scientists--criteria such as explanatory power and parsimony. This is not to deny that there may be certain practices and criteria used by scientists and communities of scientists which may be irrelevant or even detrimental to the progress of science, such as the tendency to fund or follow a line a research due solely the prestige or popularity of its leading exponent. But insofar as science becomes progressively better at describing and explaining the objects, forces, and processes found in our universe, it must be because this universe somehow "reaches" into the experiments and thoughts of scientists and plays some role in determining which theories and hunches will be retained. It has also been noted that while biological evolution shows divergence leading to a great diversity of life forms, science in marked contrast ultimately leads to convergence. The biosphere is rich in many types of different life forms, but physicists the world over use the same theories of relativity and quantum physics to account for and predict the mechanical events of our universe. This difference has been taken by some as evidence that organic evolution and conceptual development must be fundamentally different. Thagard accounts for this difference by stating that: "survival of theories is the result of satisfaction of global criteria, criteria that apply over the whole range of science. But survival of genes is the result of satisfaction of local criteria, generated by a particular environment. Scientific communities are unlike natural environments in their ability to apply general standards." But then how is it that scientific communities are able to apply "general standards?" Is it not because the local criteria of modern scientists are much the same no matter where on the globe they may be located? The most obvious explanation for why scientific theories tend to converge is that they all share a very similar local environment. Light behaves very much the same in Sri Lanka as it does in Switzerland. So do falling bodies, chemical reactions, and cell division. Indeed, much of the technology and effort of scientific research is directed toward making sure that experiments are conducted under highly controlled conditions which can be performed elsewhere with the same results so that a successful experiment revealing a new regularity of nature should be replicable by other scientists with similar equipment anywhere in the world. In addition, the goals of scientists are much the same everywhere in their search for powerful yet simple theories with high explanatory and predictive powers. American Biologist and philosopher David Hull addresses this issue in pointing out that: "Conceptual evolution, especially in science, is both locally and globally progressive, not because scientists are conscious agents, not because they are striving to reach both local and global goals, but because these goals do exist. Eternal and immutable regularities exist out there in nature. If scientists did not strive to formulate laws of nature, they would discover them only by happy accident, but if these eternal, immutable regularities, did not exist, any belief that a scientist might have that he or she had discovered one would be illusory." So in spite of the differences between biological evolution and the work of scientists, one can argue that scientific theories, like organisms, develop as they are edited by the selection pressures of their environments, which, although local, nonetheless reflect both universal (as far as we know) regularities of nature and the shared practices, beliefs, and goals of modern earth-bound scientists. The unavoidable local nature of these apparently global criteria may some day be made quite clear when life is discovered on another planet which does not conform to terrestrial theories of life, or when it is revealed that the laws of physics in the vicinity of black holes have little resemblance to those that have been developed to account for phenomena closer to home. It should also be kept in mind that biological evolution, like science, also shows convergence when similar problems are confronted in similar environments, even by quite different organisms. The case of flight is perhaps the most striking example of this convergence, with the asymmetrically curved wing having evolved independently in insects, reptiles (the extinct pterosaurs), flying fish, birds, and mammals (i.e., bats). In fact, it is this phenomenon of convergence that makes it difficult for biologists to disentangle the phylogenetic relationships among organisms based on physical appearance alone; just because two organisms share a common feature, this does not necessarily mean that they are close to each other on the phylogenetic tree. Likewise, just because two scientists may come up with the same theory to solve some problem, this does not necessarily indicate that one of the scientists took the idea from the other. The independent discovery of natural selection to explain the origin of species by both Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace is a case in point. So while certain aspects of selection may at first appear different in biological evolution and scientific development, its basic function of eliminating the less fit and retaining the fitter appears very much the same. As Donald Campbell put it so simply, "rather than foresighted variation, hindsighted selection is the secret of rational innovation." And this "hindsighted selection" is as much a feature of scientific discovery as it is of organic evolution. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Gary A. Cziko Associate Professor Telephone 217-333-8527 Educational Psychology FAX: 217-244-7620 University of Illinois E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 1310 S. Sixth Street Radio: N9MJZ 210 Education Building Champaign, Illinois 61820-6990 ------------------------------------------------------------------- _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:10>From email@example.com Wed Jun 1 16:20:10 1994 Date: Wed, 1 Jun 94 17:20:56 EDT From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Kent Holsinger) To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Culture & Science Not Lamarckian In the course of his interesting post, Gary Cziko asserts the following: > For Lamarckian > transmission of ideas to take place, there would have to be some way in > which the knowledge contained in my brain could be transferred to yours in > the same way that I can copy the computer file containing this chapter on > my diskette to your diskette. Perhaps I have been misconstruing what is commonly meant by Lamarckian evolution all along, but I have never construed it in the way Gary is suggesting. Lamarckian inheritance, better called "soft inheritance" as Ernst Mayr is fond of pointing out, refers to the transmission of traits acquired by an individual during its lifetime to its offspring. The difference between Lamarckian inheritance and Mendelian inheritance is easiest to see if we consider the distinction between genotype and phenotype. In Mendelian inheritance the phenotype of an individual is the result of a particular genotype developing in a particular environment, but only the *genes* that individual carries are passed on to its offspring. The individual may acquire many different phenotypic traits as a result of exposure to a range of environments, but those acquired traits are not passed on to its offspring. The hereditary material is unaffected by the environments to which an individual is exposed. In Lamarckian inheritance not only may an individual acquire many different phenotypic traits as a result of exposure to a range of environments, those acquired traits are passed on (to some extent) to its offspring. The hereditary material *is* affected by the environments to which it is exposed. To my mind this last point is the critical distinction: does the acquisition of new characteristics by an individual or the modification of those traits in an individual affect their transmission to its offspring. If so, the inheritance is Lamarckian. If not, it is Mendelian. Using that distinction, there are ways in which cultural *inheritance* seems clearly Lamarckian. I *hope* that I am acquiring new knowledge and an improved understanding of the world through my work. Certainly, my understanding of the world is different now from what it was five years ago. When I teach a class in evolutionary biology, I transmit to my students what I believe to be the best current thinking about a range of issues. To the extent that I am responsible for their learning at all, they acquire *only* what *I* perceive to be the best current understanding. I transmit to them *only* what *I* have acquired. I do not transmit to them some Chomskian deep-structure (forgive me linguists if the analogy is inappropriate) from which they derive their own understanding, nor do I somehow alter the composition of their genes. Evolution by natural selection requires *only* that offspring resemble their parents. It does not specify what mechanism produces that resemblance. Perhaps the confusion arises from the term Lamarckian *evolution*. I think it would be better to talk about Lamarckian *inheritance*. Natural selection concerns the mechanics of which individuals (in a very broad sense) reproduce and how successful they are when they do reproduce. Inheritance concerns the patterns that govern how offspring resemble their parents. It is entirely conceivable (in fact, from my limited understanding I think it likely) that cultural evolution receives some of its directionality (I won't say progress) from natural selection, and that the transmission processes include some Lamarckian aspects. +------------------------------------------------------------------------+ | Kent E. Holsinger Internet: Kent@Darwin.EEB.UConn.Edu | | Department of Ecology & Holsinge@UConnVM.UConn.Edu | | Evolutionary Biology BITNET: Holsinge@UConnVM | | University of Connecticut, U-43 | | Storrs, CT 06269-3043 | +------------------------------------------------------------------------+ _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:11>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Wed Jun 1 19:45:46 1994 Date: Wed, 01 Jun 1994 20:45:38 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: Asa Gray To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro The following comes from a Darwin-L member who was having trouble posting it. Please reply either privately to him or to the list. Bob O'Hara (email@example.com) --------------------------------------- I'm writing a "retrospective" piece for -Reviews in American History- on Hunter Dupree's -Asa Gray- (1959). I am curious to know whether any of the members of the Darwin list know the book and what thoughts thay might have about it, or Asa Gray, for that matter. Chandos Michael Brown, Director Commonwealth Center for the Study of American Culture College of William and Mary firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:12>From email@example.com Wed Jun 1 22:51:11 1994 From: Prof Vince Sarich <sarich@qal.Berkeley.EDU> Date: Wed, 1 Jun 1994 20:50:51 -0700 To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Essences The recent dialogue about essences and essentialism gives me the opportunity to again wonder whether there is a good deal less here than Mayr, Gould, O'Hara -- and, of course, many, many, others -- would have us believe. Only this time I'm going to wonder in public. And what I wonder about is how it came to be that essences came to have the attributes <fixed, unchanging>? And thus anti-evolutionary, so that essentialism came to be a long four-letter word used to whip those who refused to get into ideological step with the populationists. My argument is that essence and essential, in ordinary English usage, do not connote fixed and/or unchanging. That was always my sense of their meaning, and a perusal of the various definitions and examples of usage for the two words in the Oxford Universal Dictionary: 1933/55 confirms that the compilers of that work would have agreed with me. There is nothing there about fixed or unchanging. But when I turn to the American Heritage Dictionary -- vintage late 70s -- I find as one of the definitions for essence <the inherent, unchanging nature of a thing or class of things, as distinguished from its existence>; and I ask, what kind of English is this? What happened between 1930 and 1980? When did this <inherent, unchanging> bit come to be part of the <essence of essence>? Is it simply that the dominant schools of philosophy of the last 50 years given essence and essential meanings which people using the words before that time would not necessarily have associated with them -- and which most of us still would't? How did Plato come to triumph over Aristotle and actual English usage? I here refer to Phillipson's comment that: in disciplinarized philosophy this is the question of <universals>: whether such ideas as <virtue>, <chair>, or <arithmetic> belong to an independent universe of real Platonic forms, replicated in our experienced world with more or less accuracy, or are invented <Aristotelian> generalizations about the experienced world .... Bertrand Russell, in his Wisdom of the West, put it another way <The existentialist principle is sometimes expressed as stating that existence is prior to essence. Another way of putting it would be to say that first we know that a thing is, and afterwards what it is. Again, this amounts to putting the particular before the universal, or Aristotle before Plato>. So, I ask, why are we accused -- by Mayr, et al -- of seeing only Platonic essences, when, in fact, common English usage clearly leans much more toward the Aristotelian. Or are Aristotelian essences somehow not as <real> or <good> or <essential> essences precisely because they are not Platonic?? I think there is a real directionality problem here. When we thought of species, or the structure of the earth, as fixed and immutable, we of course, as good Aristotelians, then necessarily thought of their essences as also fixed and immutable. But note the directionality here. It wasn't that we thought that species were fixed and immutable because they had essences; it was that everything had an essence or essences, and if the thing itself was seen as immutable, then so was its essence. I am obviously aware that some would disagree with that logic -- going all the way back, as already noted, to Plato and Aristotle -- but isn't that, in a sense, the point? This is not something on which our species has come to any sort of intellectual agreement, and it seems to me that my way of looking at this is at least respectable, and, even, very likely the way most English speakers would look at it. So where am I wrong? Whom should read to get the correct message? Please don't suggest Mike Ghiselin. He and I long ago agreed to disagree on this issue. When he tells me that there is no essence of being human, then I turn off, because, even though it sounds as though he is speaking English, the message is clearly in a foreign tongue with which I have no familiarity. How many of you would agree that there is no essence of Homo, or of English? And if you do, what argument do you use to convince yourself, or, of even greater interest, your students? Vincent Sarich email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:13>From Kim.Sterelny@vuw.ac.nz Wed Jun 1 23:44:04 1994 Date: Thu, 2 Jun 1994 16:43:58 +1200 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Kim.Sterelny@vuw.ac.nz Subject: Re: Essences I agree with Vincent Sarich that the debate about species' essences has been put in very misleading ways. In particular, the idea of whether species are logical individuals (hence essence-free) or sets (in which case their essences are the conditions of set membership) is a rotten way of posing a real debate.Philip Kitcher pointed out in his species' papers that these approaches are intedefinable. Of course species have essences on the hull-ghiselin and mayr conceptions of species. The issue rather was whether the essences, the condions of species membership, were historical and relational (on hull's, ghiselin's and mayr's views) or intrinsic characteristics of the organisms in question, as on eg phenetic views. On eg the hull-ghiselin line, homo has an essence alright, but its a historical property or complex of historical properties; species are essentially historical. I know Hull is happy with this way of framing the issues, as he pointed out in his first species paper the the individuals versus sets is just a way of framing the critical question about the role of historical processes in defining species. I do though think we should see that there may have been a fair rhetorical point in framing the issue in the way they did, and that is to emphasize the naturalness of variation in species, and the unprofitability of seeing that variation as noise around an ideal archtype. Of course in principle its possible to have the right conception of variability and think of species as having essences. In pratice though, jumping up and down about variation was probably a good idea. kim sterelny philosophy victoria university of wellington _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:14>From email@example.com Thu Jun 2 00:10:57 1994 Date: Wed, 1 Jun 1994 12:11:11 -0600 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Re: Culture & Science Not Lamarckian Ken Holsinger said: >In Lamarckian inheritance not only may an individual acquire many different >phenotypic traits as a result of exposure to a range of environments, those >acquired traits are passed on (to some extent) to its offspring. The >hereditary material *is* affected by the environments to which it is >exposed. To my mind this last point is the critical distinction: does the >acquisition of new characteristics by an individual or the modification of >those traits in an individual affect their transmission to its offspring. If >so, the inheritance is Lamarckian. If not, it is Mendelian. I suspect part of the difference in opinion here is due to different meanings for terms like Lamarckian, Mendelian, and Darwinian. I am actually using "Lamarckian" as a synonym for "instructionist" and Darwinian for "selectionist" (but this is somewhat flawed since Darwin was Lamarckian as well). By instructionist I mean a process by which the environment somehow directly causes certain adaptive changes in the organism. I suppose getting sunburn would be instructionist. The (invalid) template theory of the production of antibodies is a better example of an instructionist theory. By selectionist I mean a process whereby the organisms creates variations of some sort which are unrelated to the effects of the environment. The environment serves only to select those variations which will survive. The currently accepted clonal-selection theory of antibody production is a selectionist theory. >Using that distinction, there are ways in which cultural *inheritance* >seems clearly Lamarckian. I *hope* that I am acquiring new knowledge and an >improved understanding of the world through my work. Certainly, my >understanding of the world is different now from what it was five years >ago. I don't doubt it. But I submit that the process by which you gain this knowledge is a selectionist process. The environment doesn't instruct you. YOU create ideas, theories, conjectures, etc. and the environment serves to eliminate some and not others. The latter are your best current understanding of how things "work," but this is probably wrong as well (although likely better than what you believed previously). >When I teach a class in evolutionary biology, I transmit to my students >what I believe to be the best current thinking about a range of issues. To >the extent that I am responsible for their learning at all, they acquire >*only* what *I* perceive to be the best current understanding. Most current psychological and educational theory (going back as far as Dewey and Piaget) suggests that you are seriously mistaken here. Your students don't acquire what you instruct (don't you grade their exams and read their papers?). They create their own knowledge with you as part of their environment to select which ideas stay and which don't. It may look like you transmit knowledge to them, but they are active constructors of their own knowledge. There is no direct link between the vibration of your words on your students' eardrums and the re-arrangement of their brains' synapses, in the same way that antigen does not instruct antibody and environment does not instruct the genome. Gerald Edelman, Jean-Pierre Changex, and William Calvin (and others) have argued that the brain itself is a Darwin (selectionist) machine. What I find so intriguing about recent developments in fields such as psychology, education, immunology, and neuroscience is the convergence that variation and selection occurs not only between organisms in organic evolution over phylogenetic time, but also WITHIN organisms in somatic time. There is very solid evidence for this in immunology, and fairly solid evidence as well in the neurosciences. Plotkin's book (mentioned earlier) provides a good argument from the psychological perspective. My book provides selectionist perspectives from many other fields as well. --Gary P.S. I am quite pleased to be able to have this type of discussion with individuals like Ken and others on Darwin-L who are certainly much more knowledgeable about biological evolution than I am. An interesting environment indeed in which to try out my ideas. ==================================================================== The question is this: is man an ape or an angel? I am on the side of the angels. I repudiate with indignation and abhorrence these new-fangled theories. - Benjamin Disraeli There is no more reason to believe that man descended from some inferior animal than there is to believe that a stately mansion has descended from a small cottage. - William Jennings Bryan One touch of Darwin makes the whole world kin. - George Bernard Shaw _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:15>From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Jun 2 07:02:40 1994 Date: Thu, 2 Jun 94 08:03:38 EDT From: email@example.com (Kent Holsinger) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Culture & Science Not Lamarckian Gary Cziko writes: > I am actually using "Lamarckian" as a synonym for "instructionist" and > Darwinian for "selectionist" (but this is somewhat flawed since Darwin was > Lamarckian as well). By instructionist I mean a process by which the > environment somehow directly causes certain adaptive changes in the > organism. I suppose getting sunburn would be instructionist. The > (invalid) template theory of the production of antibodies is a better > example of an instructionist theory. By selectionist I mean a process > whereby the organisms creates variations of some sort which are unrelated > to the effects of the environment. The environment serves only to select > those variations which will survive. The currently accepted > clonal-selection theory of antibody production is a selectionist theory. That clears up a lot. I think that we don't actually disagree (I suspected as much all along), we were merely using the term "Lamarckian" to apply to different aspects of evolutionary thinking. The tradition in evolutionary biology is to call an evolutionary process Lamarckian if it involves the inheritance of acquired characters, or at least that has been *my* tradition. Mayr has pointed out on many occasions that this isn't a very accurate way to talk about it since Darwin also accepted the inheritance of acquired characters and Lamarck's evolutionary theory had several components, but it is *still* the way the phrase "Lamarckian evolution" is commonly used within evolutionary biology in my experience. Gary refers to a different aspect of Lamarck's theory of evolution that evolutionary biologists commonly ignore, i.e., Lamarck's idea that the environment could directly induce changes in an individual organism that are adaptive. If I'm understanding him correctly, then Gary's assertion that cultural evolution is not Lamarckian boils down to the idea that the individuals are active constructors of their own culture through a selective process in which individuals advance possibilities unrelated to the environment in which they develop and the environment determines which of these possibilities are acquired. (I hope I'm paraphrasing that accurately.) In short, Gary's focus appears to be on the mechanisms by which *individuals* acquire cultural characteristics, and he presents what appears to me to be a convincing case that those mechanisms are Darwinian in the usual sense, i.e., variation arises without respect to its adaptive value and the environment in which that variation is expressed determines which variants are successful. Others who know more about psychological theory than I will have to assess the adequacy of his arguments for the role of selection, but it appears reasonable to me. My focus, to the extent I think about cultural evolution at all, is on the processes by which *populations* of individuals change through time. I think about it in Cavalli-Sforza & Feldman like terms. (Marc Feldman was my major professor, after all.) For these purposes, I needn't concern myself with the mechanism by which cultural traits are inherited, only with the pattern of inheritance. Although Gary may be correct that a selective mechanism is responsible for the characteristics individuals acquire, it's still the case I change my views about evolutionary biology over time, and I am an important part of my student's environment. As a result, the environment to which my students are exposed five years from now will be different, probably in some significant ways, from the environment to which they are exposed now. The knowledge they construct for themselves will be correspondingly different. Even if the mechanisms involved are *purely* Darwinian, as Gary suggests, the effect is *as if* it were Lamarckian, viz. characteristics I acquire are transmitted to my students. Perhaps that's the critical distinction. The underlying mechanisms may be purely Darwinian, but cultural evolution (at the population level) proceeds, in part, *as if* inheritance of cultural characteristics were Lamarckian. > P.S. I am quite pleased to be able to have this type of discussion with > individuals like Ken and others on Darwin-L who are certainly much more > knowledgeable about biological evolution than I am. An interesting > environment indeed in which to try out my ideas. I agree wholeheartedly. Thanks Bob for making it possible. -- Kent +------------------------------------------------------------------------+ | Kent E. Holsinger Internet: Kent@Darwin.EEB.UConn.Edu | | Department of Ecology & Holsinge@UConnVM.UConn.Edu | | Evolutionary Biology BITNET: Holsinge@UConnVM | | University of Connecticut, U-43 | | Storrs, CT 06269-3043 | +------------------------------------------------------------------------+ _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:16>From email@example.com Thu Jun 2 07:43:14 1994 Date: Thu, 2 Jun 1994 08:37:45 -0400 (EDT) From: "Kelly C. Smith" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Cultural Evolution Lamarckian? To: email@example.com On Wed, 1 Jun 1994, Jeremy Creighton Ahouse wrote: > Mark Ridley addresses this kind of difficulty when dealing with > "memes" (Dawkins' cultural gene analog) in a recent essay in New Scientist > (1). Ridley wonders aloud how we are to tell the difference between memes > and everything else in culture. I think this caution extends to current > discussion of cultural evolution of "artifacts, fashions, ideas, styles, > themes, etc." > I recall having a similar reaction to reading papers in > evolutionary epistemology (scientific theories competing with each other in > their struggle for existence). It was never clear to me what the specific > analogs in biology were (what is the playing field for the struggle?). > Another way to say this is, "What are the vehicles?" and "What are the > replicators?" Even if this notion of vehicles and replicators seems to > straight-jacket me into a narrow view of "evolution" there are other > abstract decompositions of the core of biological evolution (heritability, > fitness, & selection) whose terms should be strongly represented in the > cultural or epistemological context (Sober's Type III models (2)). > I can not resist a comment on the above remarks. There is no particular reason that the notion of "replicators" be restricted to genes (ala Dawkins) or even to genes and organisms (ala Hull). In fact, it is perfectly ameanable to a rather radical expansion to include even non-living entities (nests, etc.). Kim Sterelney, Mike Dickerson and myself have just submitted a paper ("The extended replicator") to Biol. and Phil. making this bizarre claim in case anyone is interested (we are pleased to note that Dawkins finds it positively perverse). Kelly Smith Philosophy, Georgia State Univ. firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:17>From email@example.com Thu Jun 2 07:58:52 1994 Date: Thu, 2 Jun 1994 08:47:34 -0400 (EDT) From: "Kelly C. Smith" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Culture & Science Not Lamarckian To: email@example.com On Wed, 1 Jun 1994, Kent Holsinger wrote: > In the course of his interesting post, Gary Cziko asserts the following: > > > For Lamarckian > > transmission of ideas to take place, there would have to be some way in > > which the knowledge contained in my brain could be transferred to yours in > > the same way that I can copy the computer file containing this chapter on > > my diskette to your diskette. This is just another version of the directness account of replicators (see Hull). I have argued elsewhere that the directness account is fundamentally flawed because 1) genetic replication (the paradigm replication in most accounts of evolution) is not as direct as is often claimed, in particular, it is unclear that it is MORE direct that certain phenotypic replication systems, and 2) the directness of replication is completely irrelevent to evolution. Evolution will act on any trait which is sufficiently HERITABLE (other provisos apply, of course) and heritability is often conflated with directness. In fact, genetic replication is uniquely accurate precisely because it is INDIRECT (in particular, because it involves complex error-correction mechanisms). Thus, cultural memes need not be copied by any particular kind of process, as long as they are reliably copied... > the difference between Lamarckian inheritance and Mendelian inheritance is > easiest to see if we consider the distinction between genotype and phenotype. > > In Mendelian inheritance the phenotype of an individual is the result of a > particular genotype developing in a particular environment, but only the > *genes* that individual carries are passed on to its offspring. The > individual may acquire many different phenotypic traits as a result of > exposure to a range of environments, but those acquired traits are not > passed on to its offspring. The hereditary material is unaffected by the > environments to which an individual is exposed. Explicating these notion in terms of the genotype-phenotype distinction is not all that helpful since this distinction itself is relatively unclear. It is NOT TRUE that only genes are inherited, all sorts of things are transmitted alongside the genome in the gametes (e.g., centrioles, parasites, etc.). These extragenetic factors may result in Lamarkian inheritance or not, depending on the specifics of the situation. Even if we restrict ourselves to talking only of genetic material, it is simply not true that genes can never be effected by environmental influences (e.g., immunity). I think I agree with the spirit of most of Kent's other remarks, I just wanted to tilt at a very persistent windmill or two... Kelly Smith Philosophy, Georgia State Univ. firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:18>From email@example.com Thu Jun 2 11:19:47 1994 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mary P Winsor) Subject: no subject (file transmission) To: email@example.com (bulletin board) Date: Thu, 2 Jun 1994 12:19:14 -0400 (EDT) On the issue of essentialism vs population-thinking: (warning, it is several pages long!) from Polly Winsor firstname.lastname@example.org Louis Agassiz seemed to be such a perfect example of essentialism that Ernst Mayr wrote an article claiming that Agassiz's commitment to that philosophy made him unable to see variation when it was right before his eyes. (This was an improvement over earlier historians who blamed Christianity for Agassiz's anti-evolutionism.) Mayr named several species of variable fishes which Agassiz split into species because he couldn't cope with differences. This seemed odd to me because I knew that Agassiz, as a museum director, had told his assistants to collect lots of specimens, since one of the characteristics he wanted to know about each species was its natural variation! (In Mayr's defense, his statement that Agassiz's "disbelief in the existence of `varieties' forces him to describe several `species' from schools of single species' was based on information given Mayr by a prominent ichthyologist.) Whatever the value of Mayr's larger argument (indeed my reading of the Essay on Classification substantially agrees with his main point) I think I demolished this fishy claim. (E. Mayr, "Agassiz, Darwin, and Evolution" in his Evolution and the Diversity of Life, Harvard U.P. 1976, pp. 251-276; M.P. Winsor, "Louis Agassiz and the species question" Studies in History of Biology, 1979, 3:89-117 [that was a journal published by Johns Hopkins which only went to 7 volumes, ed. C. Limoges and W. Coleman; I will supply reprint to anyone whose library lacks it]. We are dealing here with two separate (but connected) issues: the historical claim and the cognitive claim. The historical claim is that belief in essentialism inherited from ancient philosophy helps explain why it took so long for people to recognize the fact of evolution, the evidence for which is all around us (note how Darwin appeals to barnyard realities, not requiring microscopes much less DNA to make his case). Answer: religious and/or philosophical prejudice blinkered people's perception of nature. The cognitive claim is that if you start to analyze what words mean, how we define them, how we can have rational understanding of the world, you come to understand that there exist natural kinds, that they ought to be defined by their essences rather than accidental variations. The strongest version of the cognitive claim points to mathematics, especially euclidean geometry, as the purest example, and it makes no sense to think of triangles or circles changing: if the line deviates a hair it is simply no longer a circle. To investigate the historical question, it is not a bad starting point to notice where our "common sense" seems at odds with the "common sense" of people in the past. Our uniformitarian assumption is that people have not essentially (!) changed. But if we are talking about the views of educated people, what seems obvious to us and to them can indeed be very different. Mathematics, philosophy, and religion were central to education for hundreds of years but can be minor or even absent from 20th c. education. I agree that the "population vs essentialism" theme of Mayr has been overstated. Why was it so easy for Linnaeus to stop believing in fixity of species once confronted with hybridism and replace it with originally created genera? Likewise Buffon on even larger scale (Phil Sloan)? I would explain the centuries of blindness to evolution differently. One of the strongest supports for essentialism was not philosophy, but the other chief biological mystery: reproduction. An egg knows what to grow into. Even through the complexity of alternation of generations, living things seem to keep track of their own essential natures. And evolution is not right before our eyes, until we start travelling and digging, until we add the dimensions of geography and paleontology. It was exactly when these dimensions were added (museums were the instruments allowing that information to be ordered) that Lamarck, Geoffroy St. Hilaire, Darwin, Wallace could see the world differently. But the "common sense" view that there exist essences? Sure, an essence doesn't have to be fixed or unchanging, and recently Aristotle scholars have demolished the claim that his were. The idea that you can say what something essentially is does not only trace from Plato, it is recreated in the mind of anyone trying to make sense of the world through language. Whoever insists that they can "know" the essence of Homo sapiens can also know the differences between male and female, life and death. Of course we do act like we know these on practical level, statistically, and that rough-and-ready knowledge is fine as long as we do NOT delude ourselves into thinking the essence has some independent kind of reality (which Agassiz insisted it did = God's thoughts). Is this fertilized egg human or not? Is this lesbian a real woman? Morally and politically we have our hands full enough, without tying them (is that a mixed metaphor?!) by slipping back into the antique belief (or staying with the "common sense" belief) that just as we can define circles by recognizing their essence, we can all agree that there exists some essence of humanity which definitions are reaching for. The fact that humans, speaking English or any other language, must put things into categories in order to talk about them, does not prove that the core of their existence is a definable set of characters. What evolution shows me is that the essence of humanity is being a physical part of an historical lineage. I am with Bacon that this is one of the "idols" which human flesh is heir to, one which leads us astray. I am with Mayr that belief in essences, whether you allow them to change or call them fixed, should not survive the Darwinian revolution. Polly Winsor email@example.com _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:19>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Thu Jun 2 12:57:08 1994 Date: Thu, 02 Jun 1994 13:56:52 -0500 (EST) From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu Subject: May message log and member list now on Darwin-L gopher To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: University of NC at Greensboro The lightly-edited log of our discussions for the month of May is now available on the Darwin-L gopher (rjohara.uncg.edu). I have also mounted a copy of our current membership list in the directory Darwin-L Files, in case anyone wishes to browse it there. The most up-to-date membership list may always be retrieved by sending the message REVIEW DARWIN-L to email@example.com, but I thought some people might like to have a gopher-accessible copy available for browsing. If you haven't yet paid a visit to the Darwin-L gopher please feel free to do so. It contains logs of all our past discussions, as well as a small assortment of bibliographies and related files of interest to historical scientists, and also a collection of gopher links to other network resources in the historical sciences, from the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, to the United States Geological Survey, to the ArchNet American archeology server, to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. Gopher software, for those unfamiliar with it, allows you to explore a wide variety of databases and other resources scattered across the Internet. Most universities have it; try typing "gopher rjohara.uncg.edu" at your mainframe prompt, or just "gopher" (all without the quotation marks), and see if anything happens. If this doesn't seem to work, ask your local computer specialists for more information. Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner Robert J. O'Hara (firstname.lastname@example.org) Center for Critical Inquiry and Department of Biology 100 Foust Building, University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A. _______________________________________________________________________________ <10:20>From email@example.com Thu Jun 2 15:30:46 1994 Date: Thu, 2 Jun 1994 15:30:21 -0500 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com (CZIKO Gary) Subject: Re: Culture & Science Not Lamarckian Kent Holsinger writes: >Others who know more about psychological theory than I will have to assess >the adequacy of his arguments for the role of selection, but it appears >reasonable to me. Most psychologists that I know see nothing in Darwinian evolution that can be applied to learning and cognitive processes (most of them appear to know and care little about evolution). And many who know something about natural selection reject it as a useful model for psychology. There are exceptions (I, for one; Donald T. Campbell as a more important other), but not many. So if any type of a vote is taken, I will certainly lose. >Perhaps that's the critical distinction. The underlying mechanisms may be >purely Darwinian, but cultural evolution (at the population level) proceeds, >in part, *as if* inheritance of cultural characteristics were Lamarckian. I agree. It appears AS IF the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The view of the Illinois prairie from my office window makes it look AS IF the world is flat. The marvelous design of living organisms makes it seem AS IF some super-intelligent created them. Perhaps the progress of science can be characterized as distinguishing the "reallies" from the "as ifs." --Gary ------------------------------------------------------------------ Gary A. Cziko Associate Professor Telephone 217-333-8527 Educational Psychology FAX: 217-244-7620 University of Illinois E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 1310 S. Sixth Street Radio: N9MJZ 210 Education Building Champaign, Illinois 61820-6990 ------------------------------------------------------------------- _______________________________________________________________________________ Darwin-L Message Log 10: 1-20 -- June 1994 End
© RJO 1995–2016