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Thread: What Do You Think of Sociobiology?

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    Senior Member Next World's Avatar
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    Question What Do You Think of Sociobiology?

    What do you all think of Sociobiology? I have seen a couple other threads on the forum that mention it, but none specifically for its discussion.

    Edward Wilson defined sociobiology as "the systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior" and as "a branch of evolutionary biology and particularly of modern population biology."

    It isn't his word, but he is considered a "founding father" of the field.

    • Do you think that all of our Natural responses have a genetic purpose?
    • What non-physical traits do you believe help people to be more "fit" for survival?
    • Do you think there were previously social customs or behavioral patterns that literally went extinct because of their failure to aid in a species' continuation?
    • Do you believe in inclusive fitness?
    • Do you believe that altruism has become a genetic trait to forward inclusive fitness?
    • Which mental illnesses or personality traits do you believe people can inherit a tendency toward?



    I read a rather lengthy piece by Arthur Fisher on the subject matter a couple weeks ago and it peaked the curiosity I have had about the subject for a long time.
    Polygamy: it might not be for you, but what right do you have to keep it from me?

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    Senior Member MockTurtle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Next World
    What do you all think of Sociobiology?
    Simply put, I think that sociobiology will eventually put to death many of the most common assumptions of our current 'Zeitgeist'. The dominant tendency today is to assume that all behavior is 100% 'culture-influenced' and therefore completely subject to social engineering. Sociobiology, with its support from the traditional application of the scientific method, has already proven this to be false -- in the realm of group selection (or extended kin selection), for example, there is considerable evidence that humans detect degrees of genetic similarity in others and use this as a basis for personal assortment. This makes evolutionary sense due to the process of intense ethnic competition and in-group favoritism that took place in human history.


    Do you believe that altruism has become a genetic trait to forward inclusive fitness?
    Yes, but I tend to agree more with the updated versions of this theory, which put a greater emphasis on group selection rather than individual selection. One of Rushton's articles entitled "Evolution, Altruism, and Genetic Similarity Theory" deals with this issue:


    "Hamilton's (1964) theory of inclusive fitness was generally regarded as an extension of individual selection, not group selection (Dawkins, 1976). A compromise position was offered by E. 0. Wilson (1975) who suggested that while the genes are the units of replication, their selection could take place through competition at both the individual and group levels which were viewed as opposite ends of a continuum of ever enlarging nested sets of socially interacting individuals. In this account, kin-selection is seen as intermediate between individuals and group selection. Under the rubric of "genetic similarity theory," Rushton Russell & Wells (1984) proposed an extension to the theory of kin-selection to the human case where altruism is provided to non-kin as well as to kin. Adopting the mechanistic perspective of the selfish gene, we argued that genes could maximize their replication by benefiting any organism in which copies of themselves were to be found. Thus kin-selection is but one form of genetic similarity selection. In order to pursue the strategy of benefiting similar genes, people must be able to discriminate degrees of genetic similarity in others. The results from our studies on marriage and friendship indicated they could do so.

    Benefiting genetically similar others has been greatly enhanced through culture. Through the use of language, law, religious imagery, and patriotic nationalism replete with kin terminology, ideological commitment enormously extends altruistic behavior. Indeed recent analyses suggest that evolution under culturally driven group selection, including migration, war and genocide may account for the greatest amount of change in human gene frequencies (Ammerman & Cavalli-Sforza, 1984; Melotti, 1984; Vining, 1981; D. S. Wilson, 1983). The human propensity for deontological action may be guided by epigenetic rules which lead people to those cultural choices which maximally increase their genetic fitness (Lumsden & Wilson, 1981; Rushton, 1986; Rushton, Littlefield & Lumsden, 1986). In this analysis, the makeup of a gene pool causally affects the probability of any particular ideology being adopted, which subsequently affects relative gene frequencies. Religious, political, and other ideological battles may become as heated as they do because they have implications for genetic fitness; genotypes will thrive more in some cultures than others. From this perspective, Karl Marx did not take the argument far enough in the distal direction: ideology serves more than economic interest; it also serves genetic purpose."
    The way I see it, Rushton's updated version seems most compatible when applied to the human situation. Given our own evolutionary development, in which success in competition depended on cooperation with others as members of a consciously separate 'in-group', altruism would only be beneficial within certain boundaries. The condition of reciprocity is therefore closely tied together with recognizable genetic (read phenotypic) similarity, because these are the lines along which groups were most commonly formed.

    So, in this model, the rule of the 'selfish gene' is still true, but it's been expanded to include the wider networks of group behavior that characterized our evolutionary history.

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    Senior Member Loddfafner's Avatar
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    The arguments for selection at the level of groups have been getting stronger and stronger. The PC nitwits that are so, well, hegemonic in the social sciences will have a harder time asserting with a straight face their slogans about how all human variation is socially constructed.

    Conservatives will also be challenged. A certain level of cultural and cognitive diversity is a part of what makes a group viable in the struggle for existence. Of course this kind of diversity should not be confused with the flooding of labor markets and swarming by culturally-incompatible groups!

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    Quote Originally Posted by MockTurtle
    Yes, but I tend to agree more with the updated versions of this theory, which put a greater emphasis on group selection rather than individual selection. One of Rushton's articles entitled "Evolution, Altruism, and Genetic Similarity Theory" deals with this issue.
    Vice versa, impulse variation has been linked with the activist superego.

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    1. No. Genetics just give our behaviour an upper limit like in intellect for example. There's no limit on the lower side though.
    2. All traits. Every trait can be helpful in a certain situation and it can be useful for group selection to have different traits in individuals. Fit is simply everybody who breeds.
    3. Social customs are not genetically determined but there are genes that give a mind seeing particular traits as a good way to act. People usually give up without trying it if it isn't successful (conditioning).
    4. Sure, one could maybe even think of something like superorganism consisting of many individuals like some mycetozoa species do with their individual cells.
    5. I would not really call this biological phenomenon altruism but helping those with a similar genome might be genetically determined. Pretending to have philosophical altruism can also be favourable since it's a desired trait in our society and therefore people showing it might get something to breed more easily.
    6. All those which are kind of natural reactions and not just the product of societies.
    Ceterum censeo Iudaeam esse delendam.

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