Date: Wed, Sept. 3, 2003
From: "Phil Roberts, Jr."  
Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Kin Selection vs. Group Selection?

Herbert Gintis wrote:
> All known cultures are evolved cultures, and most are highly 
> evolved cultures (some are degenerate cultures, but few).

> The idea of an unenculturated group is not very interesting. All
> behavior is the interaction of culture and genes, except for wild boys
> and the like.

No one can travel at the speed of light, but monumental increases in
our understanding of nature resulted from imagining just such a
scenario.  No unevolved culture can be observed on the planet,
but I disagree with your contention that nothing can be gained by
trying to imagine one.  Indeed, I would contend that it is precisely
this sort of abstract thinking that is what most distinguishes
science from technology, a distinction that has gone a tad bit
underappreciated since the advent of behaviorist-think, IMHO.

 > The notion that you can pose a meaningful question concerning
 > human behavior in terms of culture vs. genes is wrong-headed.

From my perspective, distinguishing those features within myself that
are more nature (fear, anger, sex, pain, etc.) than nurture (prudence,
morality, etiquette) has been crucial to my understanding of myself
and, assuming my mind is not atypical, my fellow man, and I must
confess I have never quite understood why folks like yourself consider
such knowledge to be of no value.  Perhaps some examples, or a paper
or two I could read might be of some assistance here.

 >> Wow!  You've blown my mind!  Self-incinerating monk genes don't
 >> have to pay a heavy price for their phenotypic propensities?
 > Please try to understand this: society can create more monks to
 > offset the monks that incinerate themselves.
 > This is just like saying that humans can produce chickens to
 > replace the chickens they eat. It happens all the time.

But humans don't produce the neurological housings that are
inhabited by lethal Buddhist monk memes, nature does, and given the
mechanism we believe responsible, the poorly designed one's should
have been winnowed from the population eons ago.  What we want to
try to understand, Herb, is why it is so easy for those lethal memes
to find other housings to inhabit (almost daily suicide bombings in
the middle east), as I am pretty sure you are already aware (I suspect
you may have written the above remarks in haste).

 >> I
 >> agree about the hitchhiking business and, indeed, have been
 >> promoting a similar idea (that emotional instability and
 >> increased concern for others are maladaptive by-products of
 >> the evolution of rationality) for almost twenty years now e.g.,
 >> see:
 > I see what you're saying. But are emotionally unstable people
 > more likely to be selfish or altruistic than stable people?

I'm not referring to emotionally disturbed individuals here, but rather
to the valuative profile of a SPECIES, one that appears to be
"red-shifted" in the direction of valuative objectivity (increased
valuing of others juxtaposed with increased volatility in self-
value) relative to the "ruthless selfishness" predicted by the models.
As I have explained in my emotional instability paper, I believe that
these deviations from the predicted profile are evidence that our
species is beginning to show signs of becoming a little too rational
(i.e., too objective) for its own good with the result being that,
even in emotionally stable individuals, the "will to survive"
(self-worth) is something that needs to be constantly replenished
(needs for love, attention, purpose, blah blah blah).


           Feelings of Worthlessness
 An Annotated Outline of a Theory of Emotional Instability

Why We Turned Out Like Captain Kirk Instead of Mr. Spock
       The Psychodynamics of Genetic Indeterminism