Wednesday, October 30, 2013

More Gould on the sociobiologists' category mistake

Ruminating about it while going to purchase some trick-or-treat candy, I decided that this metaphor from Gould should not lead to much misunderstanding.
"Sociobiologists work as if Galileo....dropped a set of diverse objects...and sought a separate explanation for each behavior -- the plunge of the cannonball as a result of something in the nature of cannonballness; the gentle descent of the feather as intrinsic to featherness.  We know, instead, that the wide range of different falling behaviors arises from an interaction between two physical rules--gravity and frictional resistance.  This interaction can generate a thousand different styles of descent.  If we focus on the objects and seek an explanation for the behavior of each in its own terms we are lost.  The search among specific behaviors for the genetic basis of human nature is an example of biological determinism.  The quest for underlying generating rules expresses a concept of biological potentialityThe question is not biological nature vs. nonbiological nurture.  Determinism and potentiality are both biological theories--but they seek the genetic basis of human nature at fundamentally different levels."