• unenlightened
    5.3k
    These evolutionists' main business has been to show how conduct which does not benefit the agent can survive in evolution by benefiting his kin; they have worked out the arithmetic of 'kin-selection'. This way of thinking actually makes any dependence on individual selfishness as a motive unnecessary, and the term 'selfish' should not appear in their writings. For some reason, however, they are still devoted to it. Even the least romantic of them, W. D. Hamilton, has a paper called 'Geometry for the Selfish Herd', and Wilson takes enormous pains to show that a great range of obviously uncalculated altruistic human behaviour, such as impulsive rescuing, is really bargaining, and therefore concealed selfishness. They show a strong and unexamined tendency to assume both that individual I motivation must actually, despite appearances, be selfish, and that it makes i sense to talk of entities other than individuals as being selfish. R. S. Trivers, I closely followed by Dawkins, has inflated this bad habit into a mythology. — Midgeley
    my emphasis.

    It's clear her target is the supposed science being popularised as well as the populariser himself. and the unexamined assumption is that selfishness requires no explanation because it is metaphorically literally built into the genes.
  • Saphsin
    250
    And I've some sympathy for the aesthetics of Unweaving the Rainbow.Banno
    Oh I liked that Rainbow analogy he gives, quite a Nietzschean flavor to my tastes. But it's a small thing, and not particularly original.
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.4k
    It's clear her target is the supposed science being popularised as well as the populariser himself.unenlightened

    She does seem to have it in for genetics generally.

    and the unexamined assumption is that selfishness requires no explanation because it is metaphorically literally built into the genes.unenlightened

    I don't think that's the unexamined assumption she's talking about. Dawkins was not a social Darwinist and The Selfish Gene doesn't push a social Darwinist agenda, although she seems to mistake him for one. The entire article seems like a substitution fallacy, based presumably on reading very little of the book she was criticising. Dawkins himself has frequently marvelled that we are as altruistic as we are.

    The "selfishness" of the gene isn't built into the gene, but into also the environment, the selection laws that stem from them, and the process of hereditary reproduction. Midget claimed to be a Darwinist, so I don't think she can rationally take issue with heredity or reproduction. She does seem to have it in for gene theory though.

    Are you just going to continue to pretend you said something else? I'll remind you of your words and my question:

    Evolutionary biologists agree Dawkins is junk science.
    — frank

    Reference?
    Kenosha Kid
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.4k
    Haha! Midget! Politically autoincorrect...
  • unenlightened
    5.3k
    The "selfishness" of the gene isn't built into the gene, but into also the environment, the selection laws that stem from them, and the process of hereditary reproduction.Kenosha Kid

    This is the same equivocation I was complaining of in Dawkins. If its built into something, it cannot be a metaphor. the scare quotes prevent me from taking it seriously, but the continuation of the sentence does exactly that. No. It isn't built in. Selfishness cannot be built into anything that does not have a sense of self. On the contrary it is projected onto the inanimate in a gross anthropomorphism.
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.4k
    This is the same equivocation I was complaining of in Dawkins. If its built into something, it cannot be a metaphor. the scare quotes prevent me from taking it seriously, but the continuation of the sentence does exactly that.unenlightened

    The thing that the metaphor is a metaphor for is what is built in. It sounds like you're saying that unless the metaphor is continuously restated, it somehow ceases to be a metaphor.
  • unenlightened
    5.3k
    The thing that a metaphor is, is metaphorical and thus not literal. I'm not taking it literally, but you are.

    Let us suppose, if you like, that genes behave in some ways as if they were selfish. What is the explanation for this curious fact? Because we agree, certainly, that genes have no self, and no interest in survival or anything else, because they have no brain, no awareness. So this would be something that stood in need of an explanation just as much as if it turned out that genes behaved as if they were altruistic. (Which of course they do all the time -cooperating in vast numbers to produce complex organisms.) But on the contrary, the selfishness of things without selves is taken as - what shall we say? - part of the natural order, and in need of no explanation but the explanation of everything else.
  • frank
    5.7k
    you just going to continue to pretend you said something else? I'll remind you of your words and my question:Kenosha Kid

    You're demonstrating cluelessnes. Stop being so belligerent and learn something.
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.4k
    But on the contrary, the selfishness of things without selves is taken as - what shall we say? - part of the natural order, and in need of no explanation but the explanation of everything else.unenlightened

    But it is explained, quite thoroughly, in genetic theory. Of course, genetic theory has assumptions, all theories have. They're far from "unexamined" though.

    Stop being so belligerent and learn something.frank

    I've specifically asked you to teach me about your particular claim. You seem very intent on avoiding that. Is there a magic combination of words? Pretty please with a cherry on top? No? Well, if you can't...
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    What did she say about Nietzsche? Didnt see that.frank

    " The first and slightly more respectable idea is the one which seems chiefly to attract Mr Mackie, because it fits in with traditional egoism. Mackie approvingly cites Dawkins's exposition of it in terms of three imaginary genetic strains in a supposed bird population. They are: Suckers, who help everybody indiscriminately, Cheats, who accept help from everybody and never return it, and Grudgers, who refuse help only to those who have previouslyrefused it to them. These 'strategies' are supposed each to be controlled by a single gene, and the help in question is assumed to be essential for survival.

    In this absurdly abstract and genetically quite impossible situation, Dawkins concludes that Cheats and Grudgers would exterminate Suckers, and Grudgers might well do best of all. Mackie comments with satisfaction that 'a grudger is rather like you and me' (p. 410), and reproves Socrates and Christ for supporting Suckers in telling us to return good for evil. 'As Dawkins points out', he goes on, 'the presence of Suckers endangers the healthy Grudger strategy . . . This seems to provide fresh support for Nietzsche's view of the deplorable influence of moralities of the Christian type' (p. 464)... "
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.4k
    But it is explained, quite thoroughly, in genetic theory. Of course, genetic theory has assumptions, all theories have. They're far from "unexamined" though.Kenosha Kid

    It's worth going into this a bit more. Midgley is a Darwinist, so accepts that characteristics which benefit the individual are more likely to be inherited by the next generation. If she does not accept at least this degree of "selfishness", she's confused about what she believes. In genetic theory, biological characteristics are coded for by genes, therefore sequences of genes that yield characteristics beneficial for survival will be passed on to the next generation, thus perpetuating the genes. This is the "selfishness" of genes: a metaphor for how survival characteristics of individuals act as media for the longevity of the genes that encode them.

    There is nothing truly social about this metaphorical "selfishness", and Midgely's beef that Dawkins presents human altruism as arising from elementary social selfishness is dim. The fact that she knows this and does it anyway all the more so. The more I read, the more she strikes me as being quite happy to knowingly misrepresent her subject for the sake of tubthumping.
  • frank
    5.7k
    I've specifically asked you to teach me about your particular claim. You seem very intent on avoiding that. Is there a magic combination of words? Pretty please with a cherry on top? No? Well, if you can't...Kenosha Kid

    I did. The Myers video goes into detail about why adaptationism is bad science. Did you want a citation that proves Dawkins is an adaptationist?

    Uh.
  • Saphsin
    250
    Dawkins said he regretted the metaphor and would have re-titled the book the Immortal Gene. I personally dislike him, both scientifically and his public persona, but your critique is kind of easy to dismiss.
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.4k
    I did. The Myers video goes into detail about why adaptationism is bad science. Did you want a citation that proves Dawkins is an adaptationist?

    Uh.
    frank

    I even reposted the question, you cannot be this thick. Was the question: "Can I have a reference for the claim that Myers is an anti-adaptationist?"Again, your claim was about the evolutionary biologist consensus. Do you have a reference for this or did you just make it up? One person does not constitute a consensus.

    By the way, Myers is also an adaptationist. You helpfully posted a video at the start of which he says adaptation is definitely real. :up: :100: :cheer:
  • frank
    5.7k
    the way, Myers is also an adaptationist. You helpfully posted a video at the start of which he says adaptation is definitely real. :up: :100: :cheer:Kenosha Kid

    You don't appear to understand what an adaptationist is.

    :hearts:
  • frank
    5.7k
    This seems to provide fresh support for Nietzsche's view of the deplorable influence of moralities of the Christian type' (p. 464)... "Olivier5

    Oops. Skimmed over that. :up:
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    Later:

    Why, finally, does all this matter? There are many aspects of it which I cannot go into now, and I concentrate on the moral consequences which Dawkins and Mackie draw. Egoism, when it is not just vacuous, is a moral doctrine. It has, as Mackie sees, always a practical point to urge. Aristotle used it to tell us to attend to our own personal and intellectual development. Hobbes used it to urge citizens to treat their government as accountable to them generally, and particularly to make them resist religious wars.

    Nietzsche, non-political and often surprisingly close to Aristotle, did on his egoist days preach self-sufficiency and self-fulfilment as a counterblast to the self-forgetful and self-despising elements in Christianity. But he is only a part-time egoist. Any attempts to use him as a signpost here would, as usual, be frustrated by his equal readiness to denounce bourgeois caution and exalt suicidal courage, or 'love of the remotest'. He hated prudent bargaining. His egoism is confused, too, by contributions from his personal terror of love and human contact. Still, against the wilder excesses of Christianity he certainly had a point, and he was able to make it without any reference to genes.

    Is there any way in which reference to genes could become relevant to disputes about it? Dawkins makes the connection as follows:

    The argument of this book is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes. Like successful Chicago gangsters, our genes have survived, in some cases for millions of years, in a highly competitive world. This entitles us to expect certain qualities in our genes. I shall argue that a predominant quality to be expected in our genes is ruthless selfishness. . . Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish (pp. 2-3, my italics).

    He contends, that is, that the appearance of 'a limited form of altruism at the level of individual animals' including ourselves, is only a deceptive phantom. The underlying reality, as he often says, is not any other individual motivation either, but the selfishness of the genes. Yet he just as often talks as if this established that the individual motivation were different from what it appears to be—as here, 'we are born selfish'. .... And he has arrived at his notion of gene-motivation by dramatizing the notion of competition. Even as drama, this fancy is gratuitous. All that can be known about our genes from the fact that they have survived is that they are strong. If people insist on personification, the right parallel would no doubt be with a situation in which a
    number of travellers had, independently, crossed a terrible desert. It might happen that in doing so they had unknowingly often removed resources which would have saved the lives of others—but this could tell us nothing about their characters unless they had known that they were doing so, and scraps of nuclear tissue are incapable of knowledge. We could be sure only that such travellers were strong, and to make a parallel here we must examine the concept of gene 'strength'.

    This strength is not an abstract quality, but is relative to the strains imposed at the time. The fact that people have survived so far shows only that they have had the genetic equipment to meet the challenges they have so far encountered. Human pugnacity had its place in this equipment. But since people are now moving
    into a phase of existence when that pugnacity itself becomes one of the main dangers to be faced, new selective pressures are beginning to operate. In this situation telling people that they are essentially Chicago gangsters is not just false and confused, but monstrously irresponsible. It can only mean that their feeble efforts to behave more decently are futile, that their conduct will amount to the same whatever they do, that their own and other people's apparently more decent feelings are false and hypocritical.....

    Dawkins, however, claims innocence of all this. He says he is merely issuing a warning that we had better resist our genes and 'upset their designs': Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals co-operate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature . . . Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs .. . (p. 3).

    He does not explain who the 'we' are that have somehow so far escaped being pre-formed by these all-powerful forces as to be able to turn against them. He does not even raise the question how we are supposed to conceive the idea of 'building a society in which individuals co-operate generously, and unselfishly towards a common good', if there were no kindly and generous feelings in our emotional make-up.
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.4k
    You don't appear to understand what an adaptationist is.frank

    It's the view that many characteristics are evolved to fit the organism's environment.

    You gonna cite that source or stop bullshitting any time soon?
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2.7k
    I'm reserving judgment.

    "Gene-juggling" doesn't look all that good to me -- but I've not finished reading it. It's early, for all involved. For instance when a couple pages in I got to the business of Suckers, Cheats and Grudgers, I immediately thought of Axelrod, but his book hadn't been published yet and I'm not sure how widely the work was known. (My copy of The Evolution of Cooperation has a foreword by Dawkins.) I don't know if Jane Goodall had yet told the world about the Gombe Chimpanzee War when this article was written. Anyway, I think it's entirely possible she's getting Dawkins wrong, but I don't particularly care.

    What does interest me is her approach. As I understand it, from sniffing around her work on Google Books a bit yesterday, she's interested in what lies behind research programs in the sciences, motivating and guiding them, and she thinks that stuff is fair game for philosophy. Done well (Nietzsche maybe, Wittgenstein, Dewey I think, Sellars) that can lead to interesting insights about the overall shape of disputes in philosophy, the argument behind the argument, as it were. Done poorly, well, you get deconstruction, and I'm a little uncertain here because much of her work seems to focus on the little philosophical asides and obiter dicta of scientists. If she's going to build her case on that sort of thing alone, it's just Derrida all over again; if she uses those remarks as clues to investigate the hidden structure of ideas, you could get something as interesting as Sellars. I don't know yet.
  • frank
    5.7k
    It's the view that many characteristics are evolved to fit the organism's environmentKenosha Kid

    No, its the view that all characteristics of a population must be products of adaptation.

    For instance, an adaptationist once created a hat that mimicked the appearance of the brow ridges on our hominin cousins. He was trying to understand what survival advantage the ridges might imbue.

    Now that you've watched the Myers video, you can explain why that's bad science.

    Dawkins is an adaptationist. Adaptationism is debunked. Dawkins is debunked. I dont want to explode your logic centers, but...
  • unenlightened
    5.3k
    He contends, that is, that the appearance of 'a limited form of altruism at the level of individual animals' including ourselves, is only a deceptive phantom. The underlying reality, as he often says, is not any other individual motivation either, but the selfishness of the genes.Olivier5

    It's extraordinary that the argument has gained any currency. The metaphorical selfishness of genes is used to explain, and prove - against all experience - the universality of human selfishness, from which the metaphor is taken. An argument form worthy of a creationist.
  • frank
    5.7k
    Cool. So neither greed nor altruism have to be products of adaptation. Morality does not have to imbue any "survival" advantage.

    Assuming that it must is the bad science part.
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.4k
    No, its the view that all characteristics of a population must be products of adaptation.frank

    No, it isn't, that's pan-adaptationism. Dawkins is not a pan-adaptationist. Like Myers, Dawkins also believes that genetic drift is a factor in evolution. He just knows that adaptation is the more important, as per evolutionary biology consensus, while Myers appears to be a joyfully paranoid crackpot who knows very well he is far outside the mainstream in believing that genetic drift gave birds wings.

    I dont want to explode your logic centers, but...frank

    Well, you sort of have. My mind is blown that you think one person outside the mainstream of evolutionary biology somehow represents the entire consensus. My mind is similarly blown that, no matter how often you're called out on that dishonesty, you gaily plough on with it as if it were effective.
  • frank
    5.7k
    He just knows that adaptation is the more important, as per evolutionary biology consensus,Kenosha Kid

    Biologists do believe adaptation is the most important factor in bacterial evolution, but not for humans. What characteristic of a population tells you whether adaptation is most significant?
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.4k
    Biologists do believe adaptation is the most important factor in bacterial evolution, but not for humans.frank

    I think you're confusing biologists and creationists. You're a religious man, I take it.

    Here's an article about what British scientists think of him.frank

    Thank you for, after being asked about six times, finally citing something vaguely related to your original assertion. It's a shame that the study in question says nothing about Dawkins' scientific publications (what you call "junk science"). It's a bigger shame that the study was by the Templeton foundation, which gives us a lot of information about the people who agreed to be a part of it (few scientists would agree to help the Templeton foundation, though Dawkins himself gave an anti-creationist talk there).
  • frank
    5.7k
    I think you're confusing biologists and creationists. You're a religious man, I take it.Kenosha Kid

    Nope. Biologists. Humans dont have a large enough population to exhibit adaptation as the primary force of evolution.

    So you answered yourself: if Dawkins believes adaptation is the most important factor in human evolution, He's out of step with science.

    I'm a flat out nihilist, btw. I have no religion.
  • Kenosha Kid
    1.4k
    Nope. Biologists. Humans dont have a large enough population to exhibit adaptation as the primary force of evolution.frank

    Then you're outright lying about the biologist consensus on human evolution, since that consensus is that humanity evolved largely through natural selection. Seems par for the course for you.

    EDIT: Just to be not Frank, Pew Research's 2009 poll showed that 87% scientists believed that humans evolved naturally.

    I'm a flat out nihilist, btw. I have no religion.frank

    And yet you quote Templeton Foundation studies and spout creationist nonsense. I think you're confused.
  • frank
    5.7k
    Then you're outright lying about the biologist consensus on human evolution, since that consensus is that humanity evolved largely through natural selection. Seems par for the course for you.Kenosha Kid

    Not lying. An evolutionary biologist told me that. I didnt glean it from the internet.

    EDIT: Just to be not Frank, Pew Research's 2009 poll showed that 87% scientists believed that humans evolved naturally.Kenosha Kid

    Of course. ?

    So back to how Dawkins isnt in step with science.

    Adaptation is not the dominant force in human (natural :lol: ) evolution according to scientists, but you said Dawkins believes it is.

    Do you stand by that?
  • Olivier5
    1.2k
    The metaphorical selfishness of genes is used to explain, and prove - against all experience - the universality of human selfishness, from which the metaphor is taken. An argument form worthy of a creationist.unenlightened

    Or of a pessimistic, egoist reader of Darwin, such as Ernst Haeckel, who tweaked Darwinism to "evolutionary racism". Not saying that Dawkins is racist but he shares with Haeckel a very aggressive understanding of natural selection. One in which only the ruthless survive.

    Politically, this view supports rightist economic policies, generally speaking. E.g. Pareto.

    But the data is more complex. Social species abound, including among mammals like us. All mammal societies involve both competition and collaboration. To reduce evolution to competition is simplistic, and to argue that all instances of altruism are in fact forms of selfishness is jaundiced.

    It's like La Rochefoucauld arguing that all altruism is a way to pump up and conserve self-esteem (which he called self-love, amour propre). You could just as well say it more positively: we try to avoid evil and do some good because we want to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror... because we judge ourselves, rightly so, and we don't like the feeling of remorse. Feeling good about yourself after having helped someone is not a bad feeling per se (with moderation). The "selfishness" of it is in the eye of the beholder.
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