Behavior OnLine Forums  
The gathering place for Mental Health and
Applied Behavior Science Professionals.
 
Become a charter member of Behavior OnLine.

Go Back   Behavior OnLine Forums > BOL Forums > Evolutionary Psychology

Notices

Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Unread August 6th, 2004, 09:04 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
Forum Leader
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Philadelphia area
Posts: 1,143
Default Nets: Charles Murray, One of Selection's Children

"...Excellence exists and it is time to acknowledge and celebrate the magnificent inequality that has enabled some of our fellow humans to have so enriched the lives of the rest of us." (Murray, 2003, pp. 449-450)
------------

Hooray!

Murray, however, believes that we do great things because that's what humans sometimes do, especially when religion tells us that God values individual achievement. China, Islam, and Rome offer foils to Murray's explanation. China in 1100 provided purpose but handicapped individualism; Romans in 800 valued knowing how but not simply knowing. (They haven't changed!) According to Islam, scientific laws that limit Allah's power are blasphemy. Christianity, however, linked individuals with God in a way that God gloried in their individual achievements. There is, however, another view that makes us a part of nature rather than apart from it. I find that Michelangelo with a religion has his equals in creatures with more legs but no religion aside from flocking.

First, Camazine, Deneubourg, Franks, Sneyd, Theraulaz, & Bonabeau (2001) describe emergent products from termites, bees, ants, and fish. Termites mix feces and dirt and deposit their stucco where other termites have already done so. The first daubs are random but tiny variations in height attract more deposits that lead to mounds 30 feet tall, constructed over generations, and cooled by external ventilation shafts. Michelangelo's stuccos would not surprise the termites. Neither would our preferences for large art and for art that is up high, whether on ceilings or cathedral walls. It could be that the same sensory biases that led to tall giraffes also spun our childlike preference for looking upward and finding faces and angel skirts in clouds in the same manner that we once found our mother.

Second, many synchronized phenomena in insects, fish, and birds may arise from each participant's monitoring and copying his immediate neighbors (Camazine et al, 2001. See also Pinker, 2002; Sowell, 1987). The color and clutter in the nest created by a male weaver bird may be influenced not only by female standards but by the choices that other males offer. We sometimes find greater painting or writing when talented people clump together and we can predict faster NASCAR laps when there is a cluster of drivers with equal ability. Thus, greatness rests within one talented, driven, individual in a cluster of similar individuals.

Third, religion does for humans what flocking does for starlings and nothing more but there need not be anything more. Given the wide occurrence of mobbing, clumping, schooling, flocking, herding, and schmoozing in other metazoans and our common ancestry with all of them, we can expect our religions to have unrivaled power, especially in scarcity or crisis. 911 was only one demonstration of that power: sound the alarms for sex or death and we obsessively copy whatever works and punish anyone who doesn't. Three thousand people died and our nation stopped bickering about race.

A Transcendent Selectionism

I believe in our union with other living creatures. I find purpose and transcendence not in God or gods but in being one of selection's children: heir, guardian, and advocate for the emergents from 500 million years. I expect that secularists will make the same opportunities for our faith that Christians sculpted for theirs. My aspirations, thus, are the same that Murray admires: individual purpose, responsibility, and autonomy, an inner hunger for the ideas and choices that satisfy not only my peers and Murray but, most importantly, my parents' genes and examples as I, too, seek the good, the true, and the beautiful. I have my own form of personal rather than "free" will; I think, dream, anticipate my future, and pursue sometimes noble goals. But I think that my cat does, too, especially when we make parallel trails, separated by 20 feet, through a grassy field under a cool October moon. As to the excellence for which Murray and I hunger, we yet find it crafted by living forms, first here on Earth but some day in the stars.

References:
Camazine, S., Deneubourg, J-L., Franks, N., Sneyd, J., Theraulaz, G., & Bonabeau, E. (2001) Self-Organization in Biological Systems. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.
Murray, C. (2003) Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts & Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 NY: Harper Collins.
Pinker, S. (2002) The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. NY: Viking.
Sowell, T. (1987) A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. NY: Quill.

Note: This was abridged from "Magnificent Inequality: A Review of 'Human Accomplishment.'" The editor for an e-zine promised to have it published within a weekend. Two months passed and Alice Andrews rescued my paper when she included a revision in "Entelechy."

Copyright, James Brody, 2004, all rights reserved.

Last edited by James Brody; May 26th, 2005 at 06:13 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Unread August 7th, 2004, 04:55 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: networks: Michelangelo & JimB

JimB, you say that you find “purpose and transcendence” in being a product of selection, apparently a progressless selection, apparently occurring in a Dawkinian universe that has, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference…and yet you seek ”the good, the true, and the beautiful.” JimB, that is so….


Hey, man, you don't talk to JimB—you listen to him. The man's enlarged my mind. He's a poet-warrior in the classic sense. I mean sometimes he'll, uh, well, you'll say hello to him, right? And he'll just walk right by you, and he won't even notice you. And suddenly he'll grab you, and he'll throw you in a corner, and he'll say, “Do you know that if is the middle word in life?” If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you - I mean I'm no, I can't - I'm a little man, I'm a little man, he's, he's a great man. I should have been turtle dung settling on the floors of silent seas… (From Apocalypse Now, with modifications.)
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Unread August 7th, 2004, 11:03 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 174
Cool Re: networks: Michelangelo: One of Selection's Children

Quote:
My aspirations, thus, are the same that Murray admires: individual purpose, responsibility, and autonomy, an inner hunger for the ideas and choices that satisfy not only my peers and Murray but, most importantly, my parents' genes and examples as I, too, seek the good, the true, and the beautiful. I have my own form of personal rather than "free" will; I think, dream, anticipate my future, and pursue sometimes noble goals.
The folks that can't quite "get" the concept of progressivism involved in evolutionary biology seem to me to be as much as anything stuck in a rut with the unproductive assumption that purpose can't possibly arise through a historical or developmental process, but has to be built in to things from their origin.

They take a very difficult problem, explaining the purposiveness of living things, and prefer instead to make it a permanent mystery. For example, Fred has frequently ridiculed my attempts to address the difficult question of the natural origin of the kind of human agency that is worth having and trying to understand (vs. the empty philosophical notion of radical free will). Getting from genes and selection to personal responsibility is a tough road, but it is the best one if you aren't willing to accept the medieval verdict of permanent mystery. Human exceptionality can't be explained by gene frequencies, nor can it be explained without them.

kind regards,

Todd
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Unread August 8th, 2004, 06:47 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Exclamation Re: networks & Pine Sol

Oh dear Todd. Using progressivism, you conjure up purpose and good from a universe that has, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference. You spray Pine Sol on a turd and evoke a Christmas tree. Is not the tree an illusion? Does not the turd remain? Does not Pine Sol give me a headache?

As I see it Todd, it seems that you may have a need to invoke purpose and good from a universe that has none, and then are unable to acknowledge the absurdity of it all.

My advice: Be more succinct, and more brutally/intellectually honest with yourself. If your universe has no purpose, fine. But at least be tough enough not to Pine Sol the GD thing!

Sigmoid Fred
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 11:36 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright © 1995-2004 Behavior OnLine, Inc. All rights reserved.