Behavior and Evolution

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Introduces animal behavior and the nature-nurture debate.

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Abstracts of individual presentations either for Oral or Poster Sessions should include: Title Author s — first name, last name. Institution s — institution, city and country of each author and indication using the superscripts a, b, c, …. E-Mail of the first Author. Notifications of talk vs. However, we are not limited by these influences, or at least not completely. We can make choices, and therefore we are people.

There are two potential problems with this claim. The first problem is that Darwinism can explain our choices merely because they have direct influence on our survival. Then you may ask, what about the choices that are not influencing survival? Darwinism does not deal with these choices because these choices do not directly affect our capability to survive and reproduce. We can choose not to sleep with someone, but this decision does not necessarily go against the spread of genes, since there is always a later time that we can participate in sexual reproduction with someone else. We can choose to risk our lives, but we are still doing our best to survive while we rescue someone else out of a burning building.

The second potential problem with free will as a distinct feature of humans is that we do not always make decisions for the reasons we use to explain our choices. For three out of the twelve times this was done for each person, the questioner used slight of hand to show the person the photo that they did not pick, and he asked the participants why they chose that photo.

15. Human Sexual Behavior I

So the ability to choose does not necessarily mean that we are as aware of the reasons for the decisions as we think we are. This example serves to illustrate how Tallis over-estimates the amount of control humans typically exert over themselves. Thus I agree with the comments above and note firstly, that Ray points out a distinct danger in the wide-spread use of evolutionary explanations for human behaviour and cultural products, but also secondly, that his argumentative tactics seem, especially in the context of this forum, unnecessarily dismissive of evolutionary thinking in its largest sense.

The fact that the line between valid and reductivist explanations is difficult to draw is surely no reason for abandoning the discussion altogether. Some reductionism is justified and genuinely enlightening, when it explains things at a deeper, more microscopic level without manifestly falsifying them say by ignoring crucial features. Let us take psycho-physicalism as the simplest, least invidious illustration.

Brain, Behavior and Evolution

Here the phenomena of self-consciousness are reduced to something not only not conscious, but purely physical, e. This seems impossible. Moreover, the causal sequence is not exclusively, and perhaps not even, from the physical to the mental. Less extreme kinds of reduction, such as EP, invite the same general critique. Some peripheral points: traditional Judaeo-Christian religion regards us at at once created i. Even Richard Dawkins sees our deliberative choice i.

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Another zoologist, Aristotle, said much the same. Tallis is right that outward resemblances between human and animal behaviours may be utterly misleading. The lapwing neither knows what it is doing nor can help doing it. Marxism can be seen as a gigantic myth of legitimation on the part, not of those who hold power, but of those who seek it.

The unconscious roots if any of psychoanalysis, with its mechanical, organ-grinding view of sex, will not be flattering to that discipline. On the other hand, to judge by its virus-like spread, what is the theory of memes, not to say neo-Darwinism as a whole, but a mega-meme? He has shot EP and related explanations in the head, where to say the least it hurts. She even goes so far as to hint at a reading list, including the writings of the admirable Steven Mithen with whose work I am entirely familiar.

Alas, one has to be a little more tabloid in the space of 1, words than I was in the space of , words that I devoted to human nature and our differences from all other beasts in my comparatively recent trilogy. Modesty forbids my reiterating the titles of the three books. Professor Easterlin ought to be obliged to read my work before commenting on my ignorance but I feel that would be a disproportionate punishment for what is a crime that usually attracts only a caution.

Her comments, however, are interesting for other reasons. Firstly, there is the claim that I have misrepresented EP. Well, I began by describing how it has been received within academe and, in particular, its popular reception — one, incidentally, in which many biologists and others who should know better, collude. The suggestion that I should have set aside the brand of EP Swiss army knife model that Professor Easterlin does not approve of is unacceptably choosy. But this response does illustrate an experience that one often has when one opposes a particular intellectual fashion.

Those who attack Marxism are told that they are attacking a misrepresentation of Marxism. Ditto Freudianism. Ditto post-Structuralism, as I know from personal experience. Michael Grant, in his very generous and welcome response to my piece, referred to my critique of Post-Saussurean literary theory and the encroachment of Derrida and Lacan on the humanities. This critique set out in two books went unanswered except where individuals denied that Lacan and Derrida had ever said the very things that had provoked such interest in their work in the first place.

Of course, he did say that.

Evolution of Behavior

And so have many Evolutionary Psychologists been saying the things that I attribute to them. That is why their work has aroused such interest outside of their own discipline. Memes and genes are widely discussed in EP. Or have I been dreaming that people have suggested that a single gene mutation FOXP2 may have had an important role in the emergence of language and culture? The first is work supporting the claim that our humanity has biological roots.

This is standard Darwinian business: examining the evolutionary path to H. It acknowledges that we are organisms as well as people and the properties of the former are appropriate subjects for evolutionary thought. I of course have no quarrel with this. I am a doctor and a biomedical scientist after all! The second activity is to think about the profound differences between ourselves and all other living creatures.

This perfectly legitimate work has two aspects. One is what we might call philosophical anthropology: an attempt to capture at the deepest and most general level what it is that sets us off from other beasts, a difference that goes deeper than, say, the difference between one mammal and another. In The Explicit Animal. A Defence of Human Consciousness , I identified explicitness — that underpins rules, norms, languages, institutions and the various other features of the landscape of the human world — as the key difference.

The animal in question is the human animal. It has no place in the non-human biosphere. It must, however, be rooted in an understanding of the profound and global nature of our differences from other living creatures — and this will make us aware of the difficulty of the task. EP consistently under-estimates the scale and depth of our differences and hence over-estimates the relevance of biology to explaining much of our behaviour.

The fallacy behind this way of thinking is beautifully exposed by Howard Robinson in his contribution: the idea that if the behaviour of a later species S2 evolves from that of an earlier species S1, then the explanation of the behaviour of S2 will be the same as the explanation of the behaviour of S1. To try to understand human history or politics or literature or even the minutiae of everyday individual life in terms of the behaviour of our biological ancestors is rather like applying a stethoscope to an individual seed or a heap of seeds and hoping to hear the wind rustling through the leaves.

William Kornarhens raises interesting points about the ethical consequences of defining what is unique about human beings. If to be human is to have such and such capacities, then an individual who lacks them would not seem to be human. Professor Kornarhens is concerned that by setting out the entry criteria for the human club in this way, might justify denying personhood, and even rights, to someone who is biologically H.

This is no mere theoretical worry, as the history of 20th century tells us. The fact remains that pretty well everything I will do today, I will do for the reason I state to myself.

For example, I do all the very many things that it is necessary for me to board a train to London for the advertised reason — to get to London. The fact that I sometimes rationalise my actions — that is to say find a better, more reasonable, more altruistic reason for them than the one that actually motivates my action — is itself a testimony to the extent to which we mobilise reasons to make sense of our lives.

No other form of living matter does this. What is more, even our most irrational actions require a good deal of applied reason for us to enact them. When I practised medicine, many patients came to me with irrational fears of illnesses of various sorts. In order to get to me, at the right place and the right time, required multiple chains of reason-based actions: going to their family doctor in the first place, arranging for child care to cover their appointment, making sure the car had petrol etc.

In short, even the arias of irrationality drew upon a background recitative of rational behaviour. Or, to take a larger-scale example, wars require quartermasters as well as front-line troops, pay slips as well as machine guns, being busy packing rucksacks as well as engaging in blood-curdling charges. Our human lives are woven out of wall-to-wall propositional awareness informing rational and irrational actions.

They are utterly unlike the lives of animals. In fact, I have found the entire exchange very useful for helping me to clarify in my own mind the dividing line between legitimate genuinely scientific and illegitimate pseudo-scientific uses of Darwinian insights. In short, I have been prodded into a more precise understanding of what is wrong with EP! It is least persuasive in her own area of literary studies. Whereas Irish history may help one to understand A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and the catastrophe of WWI may cast light on the difference approaches of Mrs Gaskell and Virginia Woolf to the novel, I do not think the events of 5,, years ago or even of 10, years ago would help us to engage better with the works of Joyce, Gaskell or Woolf.

To generalise and perhaps illustrate the polemic mode that Dr Polivnen has reservations over! Evolutionary explanation takes a sledgehammer to miss a nut; or looks at works of art through the ultimate wrong-ended telescope. An analogous point could be made about evolutionary categorisations of artists, their works of art, and their consumers. I am very grateful to Professor Grant for his wide-ranging response, though I am not too sure that he and I would agree about Nietzsche!

Where we are in total agreement is over his central point; namely that we need to see EP in a broader context of physicalism. The link is made through the fact that, since your brain is an organ that evolved to serve certain biological purposes, you too must be in thrall to the needs that shaped the brain and so fashioned your drives, motives etc.

One final point. There is a general principle here, set out very clearly by the primatologist Daniel Povinelli — a brilliant scourge of Disneyfication of beasts — in his Folk Physics for Apes. Part of the difficulty of escaping analogical thinking is that there has been a prior Disneyfication of the behaviour in question.

My initial reaction to Prof. I was bemused because the evolutionary psychology he attacked struck me as being somewhat of a strawman creation born out of the requirements of polemic, albeit elegant polemic.

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As far as I can tell, to the extent that so-called literary Darwinism has been able to address the analysis of individual texts, it owes more to literary criticism than to evolutionary psychology, which it deploys as a sophisticated alternative to folk psychological accounts of the actions and motives of literary characters. I want to make some remarks prompted by Prof.

Of course. What about the traditional study comparative psychology or of comparative neuroanatomy and physiology? All that stuff back in the ancient times! Two years after that John Bowlby published Attachment , the first of three volumes on the relationship between infants and mothers. As Prof. Bowlby also gave us the notion of the environment of evolutionary adaptedness EEA. Interest in the biological foundations of human behavior has been around for a long time, earlier than my examples, which are themselves earlier than Cosmides and Tooby and, for that matter, E.

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And, sure, we can easily add Steven Mithen and Donald Merlin into the mix if we wish. Yes, perhaps some suggestive new ideas or models here and there. But we might also want to think about intellectual branding and marketing both within in the academy and in the popular arena. There we encounter the desire for easy answers to difficult questions. And that puts an end to inquiry. In response to my previous comment, Raymond Tallis made a decent attempt at trying to clarify why we should consider giving human status to people who potentially lack the capacities of others to rationalize and be self-aware of our actions.

It is effective in that it separates us easily from any other animal; however, this proposed distinction leaves much to be desired when attempting to look for reasons to justify it. Yes, it separates us, but the true issue is that it follows the same line of reasoning that makes slavery by skin color, gender, etc. What does my physical structure have to do with my rights as a person? Why are organisms that differ in these structures but have many similar structures not entitled to the same rights as I am?

Such questions suggest that an alternative way to look at this is that we are not placing enough value on animals, rather than placing too much value on humans. The example of slavery is used to point out the obvious flaw in stating that a biological body or physical quality should be used to determine moral superiority.

The problem is that the definition of humanity is either too crude or unjustified by morals, failing to be applied to every situation. Recall that Tallis said we should treat disabled persons as humans because they had the abilities that we do and that we could in turn lose our own abilities. Unlike the situation I proposed in my last comment, the person is born without ever having the abilities that Tallis cherishes as belonging to humans only. Why can we still call such people humans?

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We can expand on this point further with a few more theoretical examples. As we become more and more technologically advanced, we may eventually be able to make perfect clones of ourselves, with all the abilities and biological processes that Tallis sees as distinctly human.

Does this clone of myself have human properties? How will I be able to distinguish him from someone who had a real mother and father? Will they have less rights because of their origin? What if I make a robot that has all of these abilities and biological functions? Is he a human as well? Until the problem of assigning the correct criteria for human singularity is solved, we will not be able to consider such questions. Any attempt to answer them must consider all possible cases, and it must be morally justified rather than appearing to be anthropocentric for reasons that fall apart under close scrutiny.

Many thanks to Ray Tallis for his various replies. Just to clear up a couple of points, and raise another:. I should have said that, confined to its own sphere, pure physical determinism is not only unobjectionable, like the Mendel-to-molecular-biology reduction, or indeed the reduction as appropriate of chemistry to physics, but is obviously essential for the natural sciences to subsist at all.

Ignore the fact that at quantum level one cannot speak of determinism, only of overwhelming probability. There seems to be some kind of philosophical error or category mistake involved. For us, the view from nowhere is applicable, and valid, only within natural science. Once our conscious selves and doings enter the field of scrutiny, we have left the world of passive objects behind, and with it strict determinism, and have entered the world of active subjects, i.

We necessarily adopt the view from somewhere, which is where we ourselves cannot but stand. I did not mean, in my own person, to say anything so sweeping about Nietzsche as Ray Tallis evidently thinks I did. Thus spake Zarathustra. Many of the arguments in the foregoing debate make assumptions about what makes sense. Wittgenstein may perhaps bring us to see these matters under a diffrent aspect. Even where the feeling that arouses joy is localised, joy is not: if for example we rejoice in the smell of a flower.

But we do not say that we are joyful in our faces. And of course joy is not joyful behaviour, nor yet a feeling around the corners of the mouth and the eyes. Neither any inward or any outward thing. On the Human a project of the National Humanities Center. Does Evolution Explain Our Behaviour? September 28th, Categories: Animals, current controversies, Humans, Participants Tags: altruism , animals , behavior , epistemology , evolution , human , philosophy. September 29, at am. Susan Blackmore. David Herman. Raymond Tallis. September 30, at pm.

Michael Grant. October 1, at am. Howard Robinson. October 1, at pm. Nancy Easterlin. October 3, at pm. William Kornahrens. Merja Polvinen. October 4, at am.

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