by CHRISTOPHER BADCOCK, LSE, London WC2A 2AE, UK
As the subtitle suggests, this book is an attempted synthesis of psycho
analysis and modern Darwinism, one that started with discussions many
years ago between Malcolm Slavin and Robert Trivers, who provides a
Foreword. Slavin and Kriegman implicitly adopt what might be called
the normal science model in their treatment of psychoanalysis. For them,
progress in psychoanalysis has been simply linear and incremental. By
and large, later developments are better than earlier ones, knowledge
grows cumulatively, and consensus is likely to be correct. This means
that Freud himself is just the point of departure for psychoanalysis, and
that modern analytic views are the ones that count.
But there is a problem with this. Historically speaking, few scientific revolutions happen this way (Kuhn 1970). Of course, if you do not regard Freud as starting a scientific revolution, there is no problem. But Darwin, who sparked off a major one, certainly does not fit the normal science view. On the contrary, historical evidence shows that genuine Darwinism underwent a lengthy period of eclipse from soon after Darwin's death to the 1930s and 40s, and did not stage its definitive revival until the 1960s and 70s. Indeed, sexual selection remained largely discarded and repudiated by nearly all biologists for a century until reinvented by Robert Trivers and others in the modern theory of parental investment. What passed for Darwinism in the meantime often owed more to Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism than to Darwin's own views. The result is that, with all too few exceptions, so-called `Darwinian' writing during the fifty-odd years after Darwin's death now looks hopelessly dated, wrong and confused. Clearly, Slavin and Kriegman do not expect the same to be true of psychoanalysis. You sense a somewhat patronizing attitude to Freud, whose view of evolution was `crude and quaint' (p. 35). Consequently, the book largely ignores him, concentrating instead on other analytic writers, such as Klein, Kohut and the object-relations school.
This has its advantages. If you don't take the Oedipus complex seriously, you don't have to face the considerable challenge that Freud's finding poses for modern Darwinists. Daly and Wilson, for example, `treat Oedipal theory as if it were still the core expression of conflict in psychoanalysis'. But that `has given way to the far broader conception of the narrative of conflict' that Slavin and Kriegman prefer, and so they can ignore the problem (p. 118). Again, the fraught issue of incest doesn't get a mention, or even an entry in the index. And at one point where modern evolutionary thinking comes within spitting distance of Freud's discovery of the oral phase (Blurton Jones and da Costa 1987), the discussion is placed inside a text box and never mentioned again (p. 65).
The trouble with all this is that you can't help wondering if Slavin and Kriegman have thrown out the baby with the bath water. This is because the very aspects of `classical drive theory' that they tend to discount are the most obviously biological ones and those, you would have thought, most conformable with evolutionary theory. Above all, I can't see why Slavin and Kriegman should so readily discount the libido theory when we now know that it is reproductive success that ultimately matters to natural selection. It was Freud who fifty years before Dawkins was to use the expression spoke of the individual as being merely `the vehicle' of its genes (Freud 1914). And at a time when group-selectionist, `good for the species' thinking dominated Darwinian views of sex and cooperation, it was Freud who drew attention to the irremediable conflicts to which both give rise (Freud 1930). Long before Robert Trivers was to formulate the theory of parent-offspring conflict, Freud detected it, as Trivers himself concedes (Trivers 1985). And when dominant views of child-development were naively pre-formationist, it was Freud who developed the more epigenetic view and saw the child passing through different developmental stages, rather than being passively moulded by conditioning or socializing forces. Westermarck, so popular with many self-styled Darwinians, was in fact a Social Darwinist who rejected sexual selection and argued that evolution would `mould the sexual instinct' to benefit the species. Freud, by contrast, agreed with Darwin's judgement that `there is no instinctive feeling in man against incest.' Finally, it is also worth pointing out that Freud did not find that there is an instinct for incest opposed only by socially-derived taboos. On the contrary, what Freud actually reported was ambivalence about incest from which taboos derived - just as you would expect if inbreeding conveyed both costs (e.g. inbreeding depression) and benefits (e.g. kin altruism) (Badcock 1994).
However, I can see a parallel with previous generations' view of sexual selection in particular, and with Darwinism in general. If the revolution ary model of scientific advances applies to Freud, the future could well judge that Slavin and Kriegman were as hasty in dismissing Freud as past generations of biologists were in discounting Darwin. The next twenty or thirty years should tell.
Badcock, C. (1994). PsychoDarwinism: The New Synthesis of Darwin and Freud. London, Harper-Collins.
Blurton Jones, N. and E. da Costa (1987). `A Suggested Adaptive Value of Toddler Night Waking: Delaying the Birth of the Next Sibling.' Ethology and Socio biology 8: 135-42.
Freud, S. (1914). On Narcissism: An Introduction. London, The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis.
Freud, S. (1930). Civilization and Its Discontents. London, The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis.
Kuhn, T. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
Trivers, R. (1985). Social Evolution. Menlo Park, California, Benjamin/Cummings.
by Pierre L. van den BERGHE, Dept. of Sociology, University of
Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, U.S.A.
Beyond a short format and an application of evolutionary approach to
human behavior, these two books have little in common. Beckstrom, a
retired law professor at Northwestern University, recognized late in life
the relevance of sociology to law and is the author of two previous works
on the subject: Sociobiology and the Law and Evolutionary Jurisprudence. His
command of the evolutionary literature is impressively displayed in 46
pages of fine print notes (for 104 pages of text), and a 13-page bibliography. The text addresses itself to what policy guidance sociobiology has to
offer for the solution of social problems. This is, of course, perilous
ground, and Beckstrom states his position very clearly, both epistemologically and politically. Unlike some, for example E. O. Wilson, who
seek to derive an ethic from evolution, Beckstrom states bluntly that
evolutionary theory is ethically and politically neutral and can potentially
be used and misused in a near infinity of ways.
Applications of sociobiology to social policy can only be meaning fully derived from a combination of sociobiological principles and findings with policy goals that are avowedly normative and unrelated to the theory. Until you have stated what your goals are, the theory will not `tell' you anything normative. Goals are completely normative, and the ones that Beckstrom chooses as illustrations of applied sociobiology put him safely in the liberal academic mainstream.
For example, in a chapter on the reduction of child abuse, he draws policy conclusions from the finding that children living with a step-parent are fifty or more times at greater risk than either adopted or biological children living with both parents, or even than children in single-parent families. The finding remains robust even after controlling for standard socio-economic variables. Beckstrom concludes that divorced or widowed parents should remarry with someone who is biologically related to his or her children, and points to the widespread cross-cultural incidence of the levirate and other forms of remarriage to an in-law as examples biologically wise cultures.
Along similar lines, the evidence that intimate association between the ages of two and six breeds lack of erotic attraction after puberty would dictate a permissive, unpuritanical, unisex upbringing of siblings (such as the sharing of bedrooms or even beds between opposite sex siblings) if one seeks to minimize the probability of sibling incest. (This conclusion should be qualified by age, however, because there is also evidence of an increased frequency of incest when a brother is several years older than the sister, and thus has not gone through the sensitive period of two to six simultaneously.) Beckstrom makes similar policy inferences about the law of intestate (disposal of property for decedents who have not left wills), penalties for rape, the reduction of street crime, decreasing or increasing patriotism, and the avoidance of war. On street crime and rape, for instance, Beckstrom suggests deterrents premised on the as sumption that most criminal behavior is best explained by a simple `rational choice', cost-benefit model. Beckstrom merely adds fitness as the ultimate bottom line in this cost-benefit analysis. Not unreasonably, he thinks that the threat of castration, for instance, would be a strong deterrent to potential rapists, and that the penalty itself would insure non-recidivism more reliably and cheaply than even life-long imprisonment (since prisons are rife with homosexual rape).
My main criticism of Beckstrom's book regarding his prescriptions on `crime' is a certain naiveté about the locus of `criminality'. He does not seem to take into account the fact that among the main perpetrators of crime are the state and its agents. Thus, his prescription that street crime could be controlled by putting more cops on the beat sounds to me a bit like putting the wolves in charge of the sheep corral. Street crime almost invariably involves the police in a symbiotic relationship with the criminal underworld.
The tone and presentation of Roes' book (whose title translates as The Naked Molerat; Of People, Animals and Evolution) is very different from Beckstrom's. Roes' book is an engaging primer in sociobiology for a popular audience. The bibliography is quite short, the footnoting con fined to one or two sources per chapter, and the style light and entertain ing. Each chapter is a short (4 to 9 pages) vignette based on a single topic or piece of research such as differential survival of Mayflower pilgrims (the ones with close relative did better), infanticide among langurs, the extraordinary (for mammals) eusociality of molerats, the relationship between group size and intelligence (suggesting that neo-cortical development is linked to social intelligence), concealed ovulation in humans, male jealousy, conscious and unconscious deception, human belief in moralizing gods (which increases with size of society), parent-offspring conflicts, abortion in humans and other animals, physical attraction (mostly in birds), sexual selection in criminal behavior (why do men commit more crime than women?), inbreeding avoidance, sex ratio and `slave-holding' in ants, female dominance in hyenas (with female penis mimicry), differential reproductive success of men and women by social class, and bridewealth and dowry.
The book can be read (and was probably written) very quickly, and is no substitute for a standard sociobiology textbook like Wilson, Barash, Trivers, or Daly and Wilson. It would be too light reading for a university-level class, but it would provide the intelligent lay person with delightful reading on a bus commute to work.
More than in most other sociobiology introductory works that are either general (with only incidental references to humans), or specifically about humans, Roes shifts back and forth between human, non-human and mixed chapters, in no particular order. The main message is, then, that we are one animal among many, which is fine as far as it goes. It does, however, open Roes to the standard criticism that human sociobiology is nothing but a loose collection of just-so stories about animals, a modern, pseudo-scientific set of fables in the tradition of Aesop or La Fontaine, in which human behavior is simply analogized with that of other animals. This criticism is, of course, ignorant nonsense, but it can only be effectively countered by also explicating what makes us unique as a species, that is, by untangling the complex nexus of gene-culture co-evolution.
by RON DARE, Department of Natural Science, Western New Mexico
University, Silver City, New Mexico 88061, U.S.A.
The author, a philosophy of biology professor at the Free University in
Amsterdam, claims (p. 1) that this slim (200+ pages) volume is meant to
fill up the gap left by a preponderance of "advanced level work" on
philosophy of the life sciences. Therefore, according to the preface (p. ix):
This "is primarily a textbook" in which "philosophy is made practical for
the life sciences." This is an admirable and exceptionally ambitious goal.
Would that it had been achieved.
A dominant theme of this book is context-dependence, as reflected in the final sentence: "Beware of generalities preached in the name of science" (p. 178). That is, despite the failure of philosophers to devise a consistent and all-encompassing methodology for science per se, the various (often conflicting) methodological criteria which have been proposed may, nevertheless, serve appropriately in specific cases - if one only considers situational context (intended purpose) and applies common sense:
"It is implausible that theories of the life sciences could maximally satisfy all methodological criteria at the same time" (p. 103). "...scientists need not attend to all the niceties of philosophical models....we will have to supplement them with common sense" (p. 130). "...we should specify contexts of application...The chances are that no set of criteria will apply to all contexts" (p. 146).
Two of these criteria are emphasized repeatedly: clarity and coherence. Unfortunately, the author has failed to apply these particular criteria rigorously enough to this very textbook. While it is a thought-provoking and potentially useful guide to critical thinking in general, and to scientific thinking in particular, that potential is not fully realized. Far too much is left up to the reader. This is, after all, an introductory textbook. Accord ing to the Preface, "prior knowledge of philosophy or ethics is not required" (p. ix). So, while it may be true that "dull technicalities are unavoidable" (p. ix), confusing and poorly organized presentation should not be.
1) The reader's very first encounter with the formal logic of philosophical analysis is the following argument: "If we use the symbol `A' for the statement `All genetic programs have evolved through natural selection', and `B' for `There is a genetic program for ageing', [the] argument takes the following form. `A; if B, then not-A; therefore: not-B.' This is clearly a valid argument" (p. 4). This is also a subtle variant of the argument form modus tollens (denying the consequent), in which "A"="not-(not-A)."
If it were really necessary to use such a possibly non-intuitive hypothetical syllogism for readers who, presumably, are just beginning to learn about logical validity, at least the argument could have been illus trated with diagrams, and/or represented with the simple notational scheme eventually presented in Chapter Four. After all, that is why these techniques were devised - to clarify abstractions and to aid in under standing.
2) Sometimes, after raising a point, the author suggests that it "will not need clarification," (p. 18) or it "will not cause problems I guess" (p. 19). Either van der Steen is being a bit negligent (since there are excellent opportunities for further discussion in these cases) or he has had very unusual experience with students - at least compared with those on this side of the pond. In one instance, for example, he asserts that to explain a point obviously means something different from having to explain why something occurred, but that he "need not explain (!) this" [his exclamation] (p. 10). If "ex plain" refers to elucidation by logical presentation of concepts, perhaps we do need an "explanation."
3) There is no apparent consistency regarding when examples are or are not used to illustrate concepts. "Intensional" and "extensional" definitions are demonstrated with examples (pp. 16-17). "Stipulative" and "lexical" definitions are not (p. 17). To simply assert that "a [lexical] definition of `bird' may express facts concerning the actual use of the word `bird' in biology [but] does not express facts concerning birds" (p. 17) is not sufficient in a textbook. We need to see the actual lexical definition of "bird" on which the assertion rests.
4) Even when examples are included the discussion is often confusing or debatable. A premise stating that "the theory of evolution does not allow the derivation of predictions" (p. 40) is accepted in one representative argument, but, to counter the reasoning, van der Steen assigns a novel interpretation to the meaning of "prediction." He declares that it doesn't really refer to helping us know the future (p. 40).
Why not simply dismiss the premise (and retain the accepted lexical definition of "predict") by arguing that evolutionary theory might indeed predict an increase (in the future) in melanic Biston betularia (Peppered Moths) if industrial pollution in the U.K. were to increase? Or predict that strains of resistant bacteria would arise (in the future) under a careless regimen of over-prescribing antibiotics?
5) Merely stating that definitions are "adequate only if" (p. 17) they satisfy a list of standard rules is not actually adequate. In the first place, as van der Steen himself points out, some of the stated rules apply only to certain kinds of definitions. More importantly - particularly in a treatise where the major concern is "context-dependence" - some discussion on the relative nature of "adequacy" is certainly called for. Defining, for example, the Hardy-Weinberg Law "adequately" in a popular article as "a law regarding gene frequency changes in a population" would not be "adequate" in an advanced treatise on population genetics, regardless of how many listed rules might be satisfied.
6) While seemingly obscure points are belabored, some important topics seem deficient: Although it is true that classifications must be "exclusive," "exhaustive," and use consistent criteria (p. 25), van der Steen fails to mention that they must also be based on essential (not superficial) attributes. Ironically, such attributes often are context-specific, which, as mentioned above, is a central theme of this text. For example, books may be classified by subject matter or by jacket color, depending on whether the essential purpose (context) is information retrieval in a library or aesthetic effect in an interior decorating scheme.
7) It is not clear why the author chose to examine certain logical fallacies and to exclude so many others which might be equally significant in scientific controversies or debates. None of these were even mentioned: "Appeal to Inappropriate Authority" (Ad Verecundiam), "Appeal to Popular Belief" (Ad Populum), "False Cause" (Post Hoc), "Hasty Generalization," "False Alternatives," "Complex Question," "Slippery Slope," "Non Sequitur" (including "Red Herring" and "Straw Man"), and "Appeal to Force" (Ad Baculum) - which would probably be most common when research funding is threatened.
The entire discussion (pp. 40-43) seems to be more a stream-of-consciousness narration than the result of careful consideration, literature review and coherent organization (classification).
8) Contrary to the statement that Mill's method of agreement identifies necessary causes while the method of differences identifies necessary and sufficient ones (p. 65), the following can be demonstrated:
Meth. of Agree.: a,b,c ---->E; a,d,f --->E; a,g,h --->E
Therefore, a is sufficient cause of E.
Meth. of Diff.: a,b,c --->E; -,b,c --/-->E
Therefore, a is necessary cause of E.
It is Mill's joint method of agreement and difference which can identify causes both necessary and sufficient. Mill's method of residues, in which the role of a may be inferred by eliminating the known effects of other causes, is not discussed.
9) The author declares that the most prominent interpretations of scientific theories are "the received view," and "the semantic view" (p. 107). "The received view" is neither defined nor presented.
10) After taking some pains to explain that philosophers have failed "to translate ordinary causal language into a formal idiom which is totally appropriate" for capturing precise meanings, and arguing for "a proper dosage of common sense," (p. 67) van der Steen later argues that the formal logic of a particular causal argument makes what would seem to be a common sense interpretation impossible. The argument in question (p. 134) essentially states that the probability of recovery "R" from an otherwise inevitably fatal disease, given treatment "T," is 0.1 "q." Further more, patient "a" receives "T" and, in this case "R" results.
When translated into the formalism of predicate logic the argument, according to van der Steen, explains the event "R" by moving from effect to cause. Therefore, he concludes that the philosophically popular notion which states that "every explanation [inferred from the premises of an argument after the event] corresponds with a prediction [similarly in ferred before the event]" (p. 136) does not apply here, because "if we can explain an event only by an argument which moves from effect to cause, prediction will be impossible" (p. 137).
It would seem that the author's earlier advice regarding "common sense" might be appropriate here. We certainly can predict that one out of ten times a cure will be effected following treatment. In fact, it is exactly this type of prediction (probabilistic inductive) which insurance companies employ to construct their actuarial tables and to set their rates.
11) To demonstrate the converse - that predictions may not become explanations - van der Steen offers another example: "The behavior of barometers often suffices to predict storms[;] it will certainly not explain them" (p. 137).
Unless, of course, said behavior is understood to be measuring (-meter) changes in atmospheric pressure (baro-). A barometer is simply a tool for extending our sensory perceptions - in this case, of weather phenomena. And, our very ability to predict storms can be explained by our under standing their relationship with, among other factors, low pressure fronts.
Would van der Steen also question our ability to explain changes in metabolic rates based on changes in temperature simply because we used thermometers to measure (-meter) temperature changes indicating heat (thermo-) content? After all, we could use the same thermometers to predict certain changes in metabolism in particular thermal environments.
12) Appended to Chapter Nine is an article co-authored by van der Steen and A.W. Musschenga on "The Issue of Generality in Ethics." It is reprinted from The Journal of Value Inquiry 26:511-524, 1992, a specialized philosophical periodical. In order to place the following comments in perspective, recall that "prior knowledge of philosophy or ethics," according to van der Steen, "is not required" (op.cit.).
The authors are concerned with "the view that casuistry...is the proper basis of ethical reasoning" (p. 158). Apart from mentioning that casuistry opposes "abstract ethical theorizing" (p. 158) there is no further definition nor elucidation of the concept itself. (The term "casuistry" has a long philosophical history and even some pejorative connotations). Other specialized philosophical/ethical terminology which is neither defined nor elaborated includes: "deontic logic" (p. 160), "extensional logic" (p. 160), "consequentialism" (p. 162), "deontology" (p. 162), and "strong forms of relativism" (p. 162).
The ideas of philosopher R. M. Hare are also discussed, including the thesis that moral reasoning can occur at an intuitive or at a critical level. We are informed, somewhat circularly, that "at the intuitive level we are dealing with prima facie principles, at the critical level with critical princi ples" (p. 164). Aside from abstract discussions on "universalizability," "generality-specificity," "prescriptivity," and "validity," (pp. 164-166) the authors never clearly define nor explain Hare's concepts of "intuitive" and "critical." Instead, they give us a detailed technical critique. Why not simply point out in the beginning that the "intuitive" level concerns basic action-guiding principles, while the "critical" level involves learning when to apply or subordinate those principles appropriately to fit complex ethical situations?
This Appendix, in its present form, is completely inappropriate for a textbook of this nature. Even the failure to include it in the index contributes to the impression that it was an afterthought. If the author feels it is really necessary, it should be completely rewritten and incorporated into the main body and index. Since the entire book needs to be re-worked anyway, this particular suggestion seems relatively modest.
Some positive and hopeful comments:
There is a well-designed index and a useful, fairly up-to-date bibliography which indicates some competent scholarship. The "Afterthoughts" to Chapter Four (pp. 66-68) are a brief but nicely done summation of the author's ideas regarding science vis à vis logic/philosophy. There is also an interesting and thoughtful example to illustrate the use of "objectivity" in distinguishing science from non-science (p. 77).
Chapter Ten consists of an informal monologue favoring genera lists, common sense, and context-dependence awareness. Van der Steen laments the apparent lack of communication between practitioners in overly-compartmentalized branches of science and other disciplines: "Messages I thought I understood mostly gave me the feeling that we need more ordinary language and common sense in science. At times I could not find any message at all. The shortcomings may be mine" (p. 174). Ditto and amen! These are some of the same uneasy feelings and suspicions which kept bothering me throughout this review.
In a few cases my discomfort was minor, and arose from nothing more than encountering idiomatic aberrations such as: "This function has the main emphasis..." (p. ix), "...has been [past participle] since long..." (in stead of "...has long been [past participle]...") (pp. 19,29,32), "do never use..." (p. 56), etc. There are also at least a dozen minor grammar, spell ing, or typographical errors. All these would seem to be more the editor's fault than the author's. I wish I were only half as articulate in Dutch as van der Steen is in English. More significantly is the overall impression that van der Steen really does have a lot of interesting things to say. In fact, his apparent expertise at the intersection of natural science and philosophy may be hindering him. He is assuming too much background knowledge on the part of the reader, and he seems to be forgetting how difficult it is for novices to assimilate large chunks of abstract and com plex reasoning - even if it is "only" elementary formal logic.
Echoing van der Steen, I also wondered if "the shortcomings may be mine" (op. cit.). I am not a professional philosopher; I am a human biologist with training in behavior and evolutionary theory. However, I did spend two years in a humanities department teaching logic and begin ning philosophy. According to the Preface, this should have over-qualified me for this textbook. I did not feel over-qualified. Van der Steen needs to take his own Chapter 10 to heart, and (re-) write for the reader.
by GUY RICHARDS, 327, 666 Leg-in-Boot Square, Vancouver, B.C. V5Z
`Well in our
country; said Alice, still panting a little,' you'd generally get
to somewhere else - if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been
`A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. `Now here you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run twice as fast as that!'
Leigh Van Valen (1973), University of Chicago biologist, chose a powerful
image from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, when he unleashed
the Red Queen as a force in evolutionary theory. As he says all organ
isms face a slow or fast changing environment, much of it from their own
activity, if only from depleting and polluting resources. So one must
change fast just to survive, and few things change our environment faster
than the activities of other organisms, especially other humans, with their
competition, manipulation, new ideas, new fashions, new ways of getting
ahead, new deceptions, and sometimes new ways of helping and friend
ship and especially new ways of wooing.
Matt Ridley's entertaining book leads us with simple language through the thoughts of those many who have helped depict the evolution of human nature and our brain as a product of environmental (natural, cultural, sexual) selection. Ridley confesses in his preface that he was brought up to finish his bread and butter before proceeding to chocolate cake. Many of us shared the same puritan upbringing, but he does his book an injustice by implying that the beginning is less interesting than the ending; it's all `chocolate cake'.
Chapter 1: `On Human Nature': He starts by asserting there is a typical human nature. Few sociobiologists will dispute that, but the it's-all-social ization tradition still wields power in sociology. Surely all but the most die-hard of that tradition must now admit that there has always been an intriguing zone of behavioural study where culture and zoology overlap. We might as well call it human `sociobiology', since the word dates from 1946, `socio-biology', from 1921 (Oxford English Dictionary, 1989); and it doesn't need to carry all the nuances Harvard gave it in the late 1970s.
Few sociobiologists will dispute that sex is supremely important, but some of us may hesitate briefly before `... reproduction is the sole goal for which human beings are designed; everything else is a means to that end.' We know what Matt means, but it is the kind of assertion that our critics seize on. I would prefer `... reproduction has been the main goal for which human beings have been designed ...' Mechanized culture now enables elites to exercise power without translating it into large numbers of kin. The demographic transition - the lowering of fertility by contra ception which is sweeping round the world with industrialization - is a none too soon recognition that more nurture, more eduction and less fertility are the current prescription for more power; the products of memes have become more powerful than those of genes.
Chapters 2, 3, 4: `The Enigma', `The Power of Parasites' and `Genetic Mutiny and Gender' explore why sexual reproduction is so popular in nature - a theme engagingly told, which leads us to Van Valen's Red Queen. Our immune systems' efforts to keep up with rapidly mutating parasites is one form of the never ending race to survive. The other main threat is other humans and the need to keep up with their new strategies.
Chapter 5: `The Peacock's Tale' builds on Helena Cronin's book of this title. Female choice was Darwin's explanation for this brilliant but inconvenient male appendage. Many have had other explanations; now most would support his sexual selection theory, which has been elaborated. A physiologically costly display is thereby persuasive sexual advertising - a wooing message that `claims' good genes for healthy, vigorous, parasite-resisting offspring. He is also likely to beget sons similarly en dowed. The division of these two `claims' into two rival schools seems unnecessary. This suggests a role for males, pushed by female choice. `Go see how much flamboyance you can get away with; test the limits of our environment; drive fast cars; flaunt radical opinions; smoke dangerous drugs; slay a dragon, but bring home some meat.'
Chapters 6, 7: `Polygamy and the Nature of Men, Monogamy and the Nature of Women': Critics of human evolutionary theory point out that unlike other species, human wealth and high status seem to correlate with lower fertility. But as Laura Betzig (1992) and others have shown this is a recent state of affairs. In many, probably most, societies powerful men have had more sexual opportunities than other men, and more children, only some of which may have been `legitimate'. Despite being often unwillingly pregnant, women strive to find a good provider and a lover with good genes, not always conveniently found in the same man.
Monogamy and contraception have changed the outcome of male sexual activity. I would add that in the last 300 years the world has been passing through the demographic transition. A necessarily limited period in which births exceed deaths, is being followed none too soon by parents reacting contraceptively to the better survival of children. Wealthier families and wealthier nations tend to experience these changes first, as industrialization and then contraception have swept around the world. If we can run down our population gradually, for several generations hence small families would seem to convey a power advantage. We value our kin, especially our children, but they are our competitors; too many can threaten us all.
Chapters 8, 9: `Sexing the Mind' and `The Uses of Beauty': A male writer knows he must tread through this subject like a minefield, but Matt manages nicely. We sometimes accuse women of being the emo tional victims of their hormones, but the truth is somewhat the reverse. Men are even more shaped by our hormones - testosterone and other androgens. The undifferentiated human body form is closer to the female form. The testicular feminization syndrome provides an instructive example I would add to Ridley's. In this condition the tissues are resistant to androgen hormones and, despite a male Y-chromosome and testes, the individual grows up female in form.
It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that testosterone has a lot to answer for. The vast majority of violent crimes are by men, and young men delight in violent sports. But it is a necessary part of development and in smaller amount is present in females too. Degree of masculinity seems to depend on how much androgen the testes can mobilise in utero and later.
Chapter 10: `The Intellectual Chess Game' is an appropriate culmination of a book about the Red Queen. George Pugh (1978) suggested that the big-brained mammals are into future prediction and valuing, pro cesses extravagant of electronic or neural circuitry. Ridley has gathered and eloquently presents thoughts from many brains about the even more circuitry-demanding predictive tasks that have selected human cerebra to be so big. Predicting how other big-brained conspecific mammals are going to act, in other words, social interaction may be similarly complex for dolphins and humans.
Geoffrey Miller (University of Sussex, 1992) thinks runaway sexual selection for flexibility, novelty, physical and mental agility, new ways of wooing and new ways of outwitting rivals have in effect been ways of selecting for bigger brains. Ridley adds selection for neoteny, delayed maturity, youthfulness. It could be that the big brain itself is, up to a point, an attractive trait. It demands premature birth while the cranium is still partly fetal and its size imposes a fetal forward looking face perpen dicular to the spine. It extends the period of learning through play, the link between zoology and culture. Matt Ridley's book should sell like - well - chocolate cake.
Betzig, Laura (1992). `Roman Polygyny'. Ethology and Sociobiology. 13, 5/6: 309-349.
Carroll, L. (1871). Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. London: Macmillan.
Miller, G.F. (1992). `Sexual Selection for Protean Expressiveness: a new model of hominid encephalization'. Paper presented to 4th annual meeting of Human Behavior and Evolution Society, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Pugh, G.E. (1978). The Biological Origins of Human Values. London and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Van Valen, L. (1973). `A New Evolutionary Law' Evolutionary Theory. 1: 1-30.
by MACHTELD ROEDE, University of Limburg, Maastricht, The Netherlands
Reyner's book may be relevant for ESS members, even though the book is in Dutch. When gynaecologist Marcel Reyner read a paper on the topic during the EES meeting in Liblice in 1991, he has shown an open mind for possible sociobiological explanations for female circumcision. A phenomenon that may date back even to the Neolithic and still occurs in among others the African countries between equator and the tropic of Cancer, where today about 110 million women are circumcised. Be it, that the operation may vary from just a minor incision in or near the clitoris up to total removal of clitoris, and labia minora and majora, so only a very small opening is left. The operation is almost exclusively performed by women, persisting in their conviction that this is what the males expect. Instant mortality occurs due to shock, loss of blood and infec tions; the estimation is that 1 of every 500 to 1000 girls die. Those who survive are faced with various complications; infections may lead to lower fertility and even sterility, pains during menstruation and coitus, and complications when giving birth.
Next to medical aspects, detailed historical surveys are given. Revealing that though several pharaonic texts and illustrations as well as various passages in the Bible refer to male circumcision, early references concern ing female circumcision are hard to find. Reyners challenges some persistent yet erroneus citations about clitoridectomy of pharaonic women. He also emphasizes that nowhere the Koran mentions either male or female circumcision. Reyners - not hiding his deep aversion of the phenomone non - stands up for worldwide abolishment of the risky custom by stimulating open discussion and good education of the women involved, and a total rejection of Western doctors to cooperate in any mutilation practice when confronted with refugees patients.
About one fifth of Reyner's text covers `sociobiology of circumcision'. Though frankly speaking, most of it mainly is a further dwelling about ritual meanings and a role as cohesion factor within the group. When the author tries to formulate ultimate causes, he starts going with seven- league-strides from Australopithecus Lucy, 3 million years ago, to the origin of abstract thinking and a growing religious awareness. Intriguing are the references relating circumcision with ancient castration and blood- sacrifices to please and imitate the androgyn gods.
Yet, also wild speculations are included, like the suggestion that once - as a consequence of an assumed higher androgen level - our ancestor females had, like chimpansees, an extremely large clitoris, what called for removal. This attributes to our remote forbears a high level of awareness. Such floating arguments distract the attention from the reported actual facts. Such as the lack of a hymen in other land-mammals, including the apes, but the presence of a hymen in whales and dolphins. One of the arguments to support the aquatic ape theory about a miocene littoral stage. Alas, the overlap between successive chapters decreases the tempo of the text. Here is not the place to criticise some too simple generalisations concerning (cultural) antropology. I confine myself to reject his distinction between antropologists and feminists, while nowadays numerous antropologists are of the female sex and a feminist antropology movement exists. Also concerning other subjects, the author is somehow out of touch with available information. The preference for the birth of a baby boy is not `now and then', but worldwide.
Accordingly, deviating from the suggestion in his text, female infanticide still occurs. His support of the conventional yin-yang separation of mascu linity and femininity is rather outdated. And to denote the testicular feminization syndrome as an example of `nurture versus nature' is totally wrong, since this inborn deviaton is due to a gen defect and not induced by education. Such slips could have been prevented by a previous critical reading of the manuscript by a befriended expert.
Because of the appendix, including a list of worldwide adresses and the english text of the Final Act London Declaration of 1992, and the about 300 references, Reyner's interesting and sympathic book could be internationally relevant. An english version - slightly condensed and adjusted concerning the above mentioned points - deserves to be considered.
Note: Recently, in Egypt female circumcision has become punishable by
by MICHAEL RUSE, Dept. History & Philosophy, University of Guelph,
Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada
This is a work of unabashed, enthusiastic Darwinism. In The Ant and the
Peacock, Helena Cronin argues strongly that the key to understanding the
organic world is adaptation as brought on by natural selection. After one
page of introductory description of the horrors of a world without
Darwin, the naturalist of Down is introduced and for the next four
hundred plus pages, we are off and running. Or at least we are off and
running in a certain direction, for Cronin is not concerned simply to give
us an overview of Darwinian biological thought today. Rather, she
concentrates in some detail on two of the most problematic, although
interesting issues in the Darwinian paradigm, namely that of sexual selection and that of altruism.
Sexual selection was Darwin's secondary mechanism of change. Having postulated the idea of natural selection, the survival of the fittest brought on by the struggle for existence, Darwin went on immediately to argue that sometimes one gets a struggle not simply for food, but also for mates, and that this can take two forms, namely male combat for access to females, and female choice of desirable males. As is well known, from the start this was controversial. Most evolutionists, even enthusiasts for natural selection (like Alfred Russel Wallace), thought that there was something unduly anthropomorphic about sexual selection, particularly that which takes the form of female choice. Debate, with little agreement has lasted to this day.
Altruism, likewise, was discussed by Darwin, particularly in the Origin of the Species. Darwin was much concerned to see how it could be that certain insects, namely the sterile workers of the Hymenoptera, could devote their lives to the well being of the group, without in any sense seeming to have adaptations directed towards their own reproduction. Again, this was a matter on ongoing controversy, and few felt entirely comfortable with Darwin's own suggestion that we treat the nest as a kind of super organism, with the sterile workers as but parts, rather than individuals in their own right. In recent years, evolutionists (particularly the sociobiologists) have been working hard on both of these topics. They think, in particular, that one can say much that is new about sexual selection. And, with respect to altruism, the whole scenario has changed, particularly since the British biologist William Hamilton introduced his idea of kin selection, whereby one can further one's reproductive ends, not simply by reproducing oneself, but (as is the case of the sterile Hymenoptera workers) by aiding the reproduction of close relatives.
Divided into three, the first part of Cronin's book "Darwinism, It's Rivals and Its Renegades", provides a useful overview of natural selection and its many rivals. I was particulary interested to note that Cronin relies on Vernon Kellog's book Darwinism Today (first published in 1906) for her review of alternatives to Darwinism. Like her, I am not convinced by Kellogg's alternatives, but like her, I certainly think that even to this day it is the best overview of the opposite case and might indeed well repay reprinting somewhere.
We come now to the meat of the book. The second section, entitled "The Peacock", deals with sexual selection, since it is the peacock's tail which has always been considered the paradigm of the effects of that mechanism. Essentially Cronin's conclusion is that modern-day Darwin ism can handle sexual selection perfectly well, seeing it of course as an extension and not in any sense in conflict with ideas of natural selection. What then about the supposed considered fatal objection, that sexual selection involves one in some undue form of anthropomorphism. That, in particular, when one is dealing with sexual selection through female choice, one must ascribe human standards of taste and beauty to organisms very different from ourselves. Cronin writes as follows:
There is nothing necessarily anthropomorphic about female choice of mates. To talk of female choice is only to say that there has been selection for genes that have the effect of making females behave as if they were choosing. Such talk makes no assumptions - anthropomorphic or otherwise - about what brings the behaviour about, what mechanisms are responsible for that effect. A peahen may go through a process that's like our human understanding of choice; she may not. To say for example, that females `prefer' males who can give them attractive sons, is merely to say that there are now, or have been in the evolutionary past, genetic differences in the population that cause, or have caused, differences in behaviour; and that, because of these differences, some females have a greater probability than others of mating preferentially in such a way that they end up with `attractive' sons - that is, sons who will benefit from the same kind of preferential mating. So, as with any theory involving `selfish' genes... the theory of sexual selection does not, after all, require a climate of anthropomorphism. (p. 246).
In a way, dealing with sexual selection is really just a question of dealing with extensions on Darwinism. When we come to the question of altruism, which Cronin deals with in her third and final section, "The Ant", we have something altogether new. Hamilton's model of kin selection is something which could make sense only if one had a Mendelian theory of genetics, something of course missing for Darwin. Basically, what Hamilton points out is that the aim of evolution is to transmit one's genes, or rather copies of ones genes. Since close relatives share copies of genes, it makes little difference a priori if one transmits copies of one's genes taken from one's relatives or directly from copies taken from one self. Normally, since one is most related to oneself (identical twins excepted), one is going to maximize the reproduction of one's genes by doing it oneself. But, the Hymenoptera (the ants, the bees and the wasps) have a funny mating system. Only females have mothers and fathers. Males are born of unfertilized eggs. Hence, whereas females are diploid (have two half sets of chromosomes), males are haploid. This means that sisters are more closely related to each other, than are mothers and daughters (75% as opposed to 50%). Hence, one can see that it pays to promote the production of fertile sisters rather than fertile daughters. This is Hamiltonian "kin selection" at work. Since the original work of Hamilton, some thirty years ago, the whole question of sociality and altruism has been much extended, and Cronin gives us a first class introduction to this. I doubt that the front-line researcher will find much that is new. But, there is a great deal for us all to learn, for Cronin writes with a skill and happy use of metaphor found by in the writings of few scientists today (with the possible exception of Richard Dawkins). I like particularly her discussion of morality, which seems to me throws considerable light on the question of ethics. In this context, most useful is her introduction and discussion of the work of certain social psychologists active in America today (particularly Leda Cosmides and John Tooby). These people have been showing how much of the way that humans think can naturally be related to our social origins. This may not be the final word on things; but, with Cronin, I agree that we have now made a significant start to our understanding of human thinking and acting.
This book, The Ant and The Peacock, has been severely criticized in some quarters, most notably by Stephen J. Gould in his review in The New York Review of Books. Although I am openly a partisan for Cronin's position, let me say that I regret Gould's review, not so much because one may wish to disagree with what Cronin has to say, but because it seems to me that no one has put the case for Darwinism quite so clearly in recent years (with the exception of Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker). You may end by disagreeing with what Cronin has to say; but, at the very least you must agree that her book shows that those who speak of Darwinism as an "exhausted paradigm" or some such thing, simply are wrong. The ongoing work on sexual selection and on altruism shows that there is much life in the theory yet. Eventually you may end up by feeling that some form of pan-adaptationist position is incorrect; but, you must allow that, well over a hundred years since The Origin was published, Darwin's ideas push forward with vigour. Cronin deserves our thanks and an honoured place in the halls of Darwinians; and, whatever our convictions may be, our thanks for putting the case so clearly and with such style.
by MEREDITH F. SMALL, Department of Anthropology, Cornell
University, Ithaca, NY 14853, U.S.A.
They Hunt! They Fish for Termites! They Crack Nuts! Ever since Jane
Goodall first reported that chimpanzee fashion and use tools, their every
accomplishment has been announced as amazing feats deserving tabloid
headlines. But should we really be so surprised that the animals which
share approximately 98% of our DNA, animals closest to humans on the
phylogenetic scale, also share many of our complex patterns of behaviors
and abilities? According to William McGrew's Chimpanzee Material Culture, we should stop being dazzled and begin to consider how patterns of
chimpanzee tool use can help us understand our own cultural heritage.
Although non-primatologists are most familiar with Goodall's Gombe
Stream Reserve chimpanzees, there are now 32 sites where chimpanzees
have been studied. Of those, long-term data have been collected at 11
sites which span the current natural range of the species from western to
central Africa. Chimpanzees most often live in wooded habitat, but are
also found in deep forest and in marginal areas that include open savanna. At all sites, the study groups follow a typical social system; females
emigrate at sexual maturity and are relatively solitary, males remain with
their presumed brothers and have interactive social lives, and the community as a whole comes together and then splits apart in what is called
a fission-fusion society. Chimpanzees are excellent ecologists. They are
highly omnivorous, but prefer fruits, and they keep track of the flowering
and fruiting schedule of a vast array of vegetable resources in their for
ests. Many anthropologists stick to a self-defining notion of culture -
culture is only a human phenomenon and therefore anything that other
animals do cannot be called culture. Beyond this gate-guarding and
rather simplistic view, McGrew proposes a working definition of culture
that can be used to compare and contrast the issue of culture among all
organisms. Culture, he suggests, should be evaluated by six criteria -
innovation, dissemination, standardization, durability, diffusion, and
tradition. Given that framework, chimpanzee are not the only non-human
animals that have some sort of culture. Otters, for example, regularly use
rocks to crack abalone shells. Imo, the Japanese macaque was an innova
tor; she initiated potato washing and grain threshing on water, and this
behavior spread through her group. Other animals have also demonstrated clever inventiveness and elaborate patterns that are more than
innate reaction to stimuli. For example, bower birds build personalized
decorated nests to attract mates, and Great Tits have learned how to take
the tops off of milk bottles. But what makes chimpanzees different is the
collective assemblage and regional diversity of their tool traditions.
McGrew's uses the example of the evidence of nut cracking, or lack of same, to deconstruct the elaborate nature of chimpanzee culture. Chimpanzee at some sites are expert nut crackers. They rest a panda or oil palm nut on a rock or log that acts as an anvil, pick up an appropriate sized and weighted stone, and then slam the hammer down, cracking the nut to pieces. Nut meats can be an important source of caloric energy, especially at Bossou in Guinea and Gombe, Tanzania, where nut cracking is a regular chimpanzee activity. Oddly enough, at other sites such as Kasoje (Mahale Mountains), Tanzania or Taï, Ivory coast, the nuts, hammers, and anvils are readily available, but the chimpanzees are not inter ested. And more intriguing, nut eating itself takes on all sorts of forms; some groups like the inner nut while other prefer the outer fruit plum. Nut cracking and eating, it appears, is not a hard-wired chimpanzee instinct, but a learned tradition with various expressions. Other behaviors such as leaf-clipping, termite fishing, or hunting, among a long list, show regional variation as well.
McGrew admits that some ecological or other force might be at work that compels chimpanzee in one area to use particular tools or exploit a particular resource, while others, with the same opportunities at hand, have never invented the technology. For example, nut cracking chimpan zees might need this resource to compliment their diet while non-crack ing chimpanzees have a satisfactory diet without going to the effort. A comparison of the diets and habitats of nut crackers and non-nut crackers does not support of this hypothesis, however. There might genetic differ ences that could somehow explain why one group starts and continues a behavior while another does not, a sort of cultural mutation. This idea also seems unlikely simply because these animals have only recently been isolated from each other; genes that might govern patterns of behavior do not mutate that fast. Genetic differences certainly cannot explain why the Gombe chimpanzees eat oil palm nuts while the Kasoje chimpanzees, living a mere 50 kilometers to the south and only recently geographically isolated from the Gombe community by human encroachment, do not. McGrew writes: "The simplest hypothesis to explain why they ignore such a useful food-stuff is that it is not within their body of social tradition. In other words, unlike other items in their diet, the use of which is passed on by social learning from one generation to another, the oil palm is apparently not seen as being edible. The apes' ignorance seems to be a cultural accident, not something dictated or even influenced by the natural environment." And in response to human elitism about culture, he asks, "If these same findings cited above came from a range of human societies across Africa, we would not hesitate to call the differences cultural." A comparison of tool use across the apes reveals that chimpanzees are not the only hominoids that have the brains or physical abilities to manipulate objects. For example, gorillas have better thumb opposability and therefore potentially more hand and grip flexibility. Chimpanzee might have the biggest brains, but their brains may not be as highly lateralized as orangutans or gorillas, suggesting a lack of handedness when using tools. And orangutans, which are rarely observed using tools under natural conditions, turn out to be excellent closet tool users when given the opportunity in captivity. As McGrew aptly states, "It implies that all great apes are smart enough to use tools but that they do so only in useful circumstances." Still, chimpanzees use more different kinds of tools, and use them more consistently than any other hominoid. Although tool expertise cannot be linked to any obvious socio-ecological variable, McGrew does points out that chimpanzees also exploit more different kinds of animal prey than other apes, an intriguing association given the presumed place of meat-eating and tool use in human evolution. The heart of this book is an analysis of early human tool use and how watching chimpanzees at work is a useful addition to reconstructions of our past. First and foremost, chimpanzee tool use behavior satis fies all of the criteria for "culture": The Gombe chimpanzees have been innovators with several forms of night nests; dissemination occurs regularly as offspring watch mothers and then learn a method; tools such as dipping sticks are standardized; chimpanzees are models of durability since they retain tool use skills and practice them when alone; and the stage has been set for diffusion at Kasoje when two immigrants brought back fishing tools into the area where they had not been used by the residents. Also, several behaviors, such as the grooming hand-clasp which is regionally specific, have nothing to do with subsistence. Although no single population shows all the eight conditions for culture (McGrew adds non- subsistence and naturalness to the list), some groups of the chimpanzees can be said to be cultural creatures some of the time.
Least we cast any aspersions on our primates cousins for their lack of cultural perfection, it is important to remember that our forbears were cultural slackers themselves for hundreds of generations. They, like chimpanzees, satisfied some, but certainly not all of these criteria. Homo erectus, for example, was a culturally conservative creature. Their tool kit remained the same for about a million years, even though the species was supposedly migrating out of Africa and into Europe and Asia. And in a creative comparison between chimpanzees and the culturally insubstantial Tasmanian aborigines, McGrew shows that chimpanzee artifacts are similar in shape and function as those of hunter-gatherers. Set side by side, the tool kits of chimpanzees and Tasmanians would confuse even the most knowledgeable museum curator. The point is not that chimpan zees have culture, but that they are reasonable models for understanding the previous stages of the evolution of culture as humans now practice it.
McGrew tackles more complex questions than what early human culture might have been like. He wonders, for example, how protohominids made the move toward a sexual division of labor. McGrew argues that such a division is important to the workings of all extant human cultures. He proposes that the division might have evolved from a sexual division in diet, a common feature of several primate species and practiced to some extent by chimpanzees. Chimpanzee males eat more meat than females, and females eat more termites, for example. McGrew suggests our ancestors also consumed resources differentially by gender, and once divided, the dietary stage was set for sharing and reciprocity, and perhaps the beginnings of human society began as individuals worked out a system of resource cooperation. Some might take issue with McGrew's underlying assumption that protohominids had a division of labor, or that a division of labor is a distinguishing feature of our ancestry. Some might also find far-fetched the leap from food to complex social interaction. But no one can deny that such creative scenario building is the most exciting and intriguing aspect of anthropology. At the very least, it opens up the floor to more discussion.
Rather than address the inane question - do chimpanzees have culture - McGrew's book is a systematic analysis of what chimpanzees do that might provide clues to the evolution of our lineage. Clearly, these animals are sophisticated puzzle solvers, and with forethought and purpose they use objects their natural environment to solve those puzzles. Also, chimpanzee populations echo humans with their multiculturalism; there is no such creature as "the chimpanzee," but a species characterized by dynamic regionalism with group traditions. McGrew has convinced at least one reader that it is time to set up a CRAF (Chimpanzee Relations Area File) to house, compare, and understand the growing catalog of chimpanzee cultures.
Prof. Dr. Christian Vogel
born: September 16, 1933 - died: December 2, 1994
Professor at the Institut für Anthropologie
der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Christian Vogel was a respected member of the ESS,
co-organizer of the successful 1986 Göttingen Meeting
and co-editor of the resulting volume
The Sociobiology of Sexual and Reproductive Strategies
May he rest in peace