1. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    05 Jan '08 07:31
    The author's an evolutionary biologist (and atheist) who disagrees with Richard Dawkins on certain important points. Interesting!

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-07-04.html
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    05 Jan '08 09:16
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    The author's an evolutionary biologist (and atheist) who disagrees with Richard Dawkins on certain important points. Interesting!

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-07-04.html
    Thanks for that.
  3. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    05 Jan '08 09:23
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    Thanks for that.
    If anything strikes you as particularly pertinent after due consideration, be sure to share...
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    05 Jan '08 10:483 edits
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    If anything strikes you as particularly pertinent after due consideration, be sure to share...
    It's just interesting to get, in particular, D.S. Wilson's feedback on Dawkins' book, given that the two seem to be diametric opposites in their support of group selection. Dawkins mentions Wilson in his book for just long enough to call him the "American group-selection apostle", and mind you this mention is made in the section of God Delusion in which Dawkins is more or less blanketly swearing off group selection as any sort of viable explanation for religiosity (or as any sort of significant force in evolution, period). Dawkins swears off group selection for principally two reasons (or at least, he mentions two principal reasons in God Delusion). One is that he thinks that often what people call group selection should really just be viewed as either kin selection or reciprocal altruism (and from what I gather from another book I am reading**, E. Sober and D.S. Wilson in some of their joint work do claim that reciprocal altruism is actually a special form of group selection). The second is that Dawkins thinks that between-group selection will more or less always be undermined by within-group selection (this tendency is something that Wilson fully accepts in the little article you linked, but still, Wilson thinks that Dawkins is too hasty in his dismissal of group selection explanations, or partial explanations, for religiosity; Wilson thinks Dawkins is guilty of categorically dismissing group selection and failing to evaluate its merits on a case-by-case basis).

    At any rate, I found your link interesting for at least two reasons. One is that beyond Dawkins' all thumbs attempts at philosophical argument, what I found most startling about God Delusion was the quickness with which Dawkins dispenses with group selection and group-level adaptation for two other explanatory avenues, both of which seem to imply that religiosity has no direct survival value for our genes (one is "religion as a by-product of something else", by which Dawkins means that religion has no survival value in itself but is an accompanying side-effect of something that does -- religion as a spandrel type thing; the second is a theory about an alternative replicator -- the meme, not the gene). The second reason is that, as I mentioned above, I am reading the Joyce book which does have some discussion on the work of Sober and Wilson.

    ----
    **The Evolution of Morality by Richard Joyce
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    05 Jan '08 12:301 edit
    I wouldn't call how religion came to be a particularly important point.
  6. Standard memberPalynka
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    05 Jan '08 13:00
    Interesting article.

    I found this passage (regarding Gould's criticism of his colleagues) particularly interesting:
    Failing to recognize complex adaptations when they exist is as big a mistake as seeing them where they don’t exist.

    I absolutely stand with Gould here. It's a much bigger mistake to affirm things where they don't exist. The problem of picking an explanation that seems plausible with a particular trait (e.g. the shark example) is that there are usually a multitude of possibilities that could all be valid as the evidence for each one is usually particularly thin.

    It seems to me that the field of evolutionary biology (not to mention this trend for an "evolutionary sociology"😉 is lacking in skepticism these days. Maybe because it's a field that has been under attack recently, or maybe it's because I only read the most vocal opinions, but there is a degree of assertiveness that I feel uncomfortable with.
  7. Standard memberscottishinnz
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    05 Jan '08 14:42
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    The author's an evolutionary biologist (and atheist) who disagrees with Richard Dawkins on certain important points. Interesting!

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-07-04.html
    Very interesting. I thought this was revealing about the author's thinking;

    "But there is a difference between these two examples; the nest benefits only the individual builder, whereas the dam benefits all of the beavers in the pond, including those who don’t contribute to building the dam."

    For some reason, he thinks that because it benefits others it must be group selectionist. This is false. Provided it benefits the individual, then it could easily be explained simply by individual selectionism.

    Or;

    "As one example reported in the July 6, 2006 issue of Nature, a group of microbiologists headed by Benjamin Kerr cultured bacteria (E. coli) and their viral predator (phage) in 96-well plates, which are commonly used for automated chemical analysis. Each well was an isolated group of predators and their prey. Within each well, natural selection favored the most rapacious viral strains, but these strains tended to drive their prey, and therefore themselves extinct. More prudent viral strains were vulnerable to replacement by the rapacious strains within each well, but as groups they persisted longer and were more likely to colonize other wells. Migration between wells was accomplished by robotically controlled pipettes. Biologically plausible migration rates enabled the prudent viral strains to persist in the total population, despite their selective disadvantage within groups."

    This is nothing to do with group selection! This is only differential extinction!

    And;

    "As a second example reported in the December 8, 2006 issue of Science, economist Samuel Bowles estimated that between-group selection was strong enough to promote the genetic evolution of altruism in our own species, exactly as envisioned by Darwin. These and many other examples, summarized by Edward O. Wilson and myself in a forthcoming review article, are ignored entirely by Dawkins, who continues to recite his mantra that the selective disadvantage of altruism within groups poses an insuperable problem for between-group selection."

    Fluff! Wool. Nothing of any substance. Trying to suggest evidence exists, without actually detailing anything about it. An assertion only. As a referee, I would insist this vacuous waste of words removed.

    I shall read the rest tomorrow.
  8. Standard memberPalynka
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    05 Jan '08 15:22
    Originally posted by scottishinnz
    Fluff! Wool. Nothing of any substance. Trying to suggest evidence exists, without actually detailing anything about it. An assertion only. As a referee, I would insist this vacuous waste of words removed.
    So you can't quote published empirical articles that support your argument without having to go into them in detail?

    Bah.
  9. Standard memberscottishinnz
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    05 Jan '08 15:55
    Originally posted by Palynka
    So you can't quote published empirical articles that support your argument without having to go into them in detail?

    Bah.
    Well, he made a controversial statement, he should back it up properly. The examples he does show don't actually show what he claims. If he can't get those simple ones right, what confidence should we have in his assertions? He hasn't even made an effort to give context, or explain what the articles are about.

    Normally, when we cite, we are backing up a specific point. He's trying to back up an entire viewpoint, without giving details.
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    05 Jan '08 22:281 edit
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    The author's an evolutionary biologist (and atheist) who disagrees with Richard Dawkins on certain important points. Interesting!

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-07-04.html
    Heretic!!!

    Burn him at the stake!!!
  11. Standard memberscottishinnz
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    05 Jan '08 23:27
    Originally posted by whodey
    Heretic!!!

    Burn him at the stake!!!
    This isn't the church.
  12. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    06 Jan '08 06:21
    Originally posted by Palynka
    So you can't quote published empirical articles that support your argument without having to go into them in detail?

    Bah.
    Wilson cites a published article and mentions a forthcoming article by himself and the other Wilson (which was published: blogger's summary: http://www.philosophyblog.com.au/multilevel-selection-and-the-evolution-of-altruism). Is that fudging? I don't know.

    Allusion seems to be common practice amongst scientists, in statements like this: "The majority of models ordinarily called 'group selection'... are implicitly treating groups as vehicles." Here you might expect some evidence for that 'majority' and 'implicitly'.

    Anyway, it looks like all-out war between Dawkins, Wilson and Wilson, as this recent link illustrates:

    http://technology.newscientist.com/article/mg19626340.100-genes-still-central.html
  13. Standard memberscottishinnz
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    06 Jan '08 08:10
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    Wilson cites a published article and mentions a forthcoming article by himself and the other Wilson (which was published: blogger's summary: http://www.philosophyblog.com.au/multilevel-selection-and-the-evolution-of-altruism). Is that fudging? I don't know.

    Allusion seems to be common practice amongst scientists, in statements like this: "The major ...[text shortened]...

    http://technology.newscientist.com/article/mg19626340.100-genes-still-central.html
    But there are major weaknesses in his argument.

    For example, he incorrectly treats social insects behaviour as group selectionist, when from a genetic point of view it is decidedly individual selectionism. The genetics of the situation are very well understood - protecting a mother which produces sisters which are more related than a random individual is the optimal way of propagating its genes for a sterile organism.

    I haven't seen a single group selectionist example in his entire repertiore; indeed his discussion of memes is equally flawed, because he does not consider the fitness of the originating organism. Does he seriously think that the writer of an infectious meme, such as a song, does not benefit in fitness terms?

    It's a shame to see EO Wilson falling by the wayside so badly, if he did actually put his name to this.
  14. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    06 Jan '08 08:25
    Originally posted by scottishinnz
    For example, he incorrectly treats social insects behaviour as group selectionist, when from a genetic point of view it is decidedly individual selectionism. The genetics of the situation are very well understood - protecting a mother which produces sisters which are more related than a random individual is the optimal way of propagating its genes for a sterile organism.
    Is that an established fact cast in iron (and repeatable) or the sort of fact established by consensus? It seems that when there are such major disagreements between scientific authorities, then the issue is still open. Whether people have already made up their minds or not is not important.

    Something that interests me in this is defining individuals and groups. For example, is a termite colony an individual or a group? I believe that it acts like a single organism. Extend that concept to a species...postulate a 'group mind'...the distinction between group and individual is blurred, I think.

    "An infectious meme"--I love the way scientists redefine the ordinary in suitably portentous terms! Could you write me a story about the virulent meme "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" in terms of selection etc? It could be a handy primer to understand your ideas on this topic. It's good to have a teacher amongst us, and I assure you, despite my skepticism, my ears are unblocked. Start a new thread...it'll be more interesting than this one, since the arguments, however interesting, are too specialised for me (and others, I'm sure) to follow without incurring a headache.
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    06 Jan '08 19:48
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    The author's an evolutionary biologist (and atheist) who disagrees with Richard Dawkins on certain important points. Interesting!

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-07-04.html
    The only thing I found interesting about this article and all other articles like it written by atheists is, that as a theist I was bored to tears. How can there be an once of truth to any assertion based in the lie that God doesn't exist?
    The entire school of thought that produces any argument based on the assumption that "there is no God" is fundamentally flawed, and is therefor suspect in all of it's particulars.
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