Sunday, December 23, 2007

Edward O.Wilson

Today in The Sunday Times, I interview the wonderful Edward O.Wilson.  Is Richard Dawkins wrong about everything?

16 comments:

  1. I don't know if Dawkins is in error or not on the issue of group-selection, but the quote which the Wilsons take from a Dawkins book is consistent with group-selection:

    "The point here is that we must be clear about the difference between those two distinct kinds of conceptual units, replicators and vehicles... The majority of models ordinarily called 'group selection'... are implicitly treating groups as vehicles. The end result of the selection discussed is a change in gene frequencies, for example, an increase of 'altruistic genes' at the expense of 'selfish genes'. It is still genes that are regarded as the replicators which actually survive (or fail to survive) as a consequence of the (vehicle) selection process," (The Extended Phenotype, p 115).

    Here Dawkins is saying selection can indeed operate at the group-level, but that doesn't entail that reproduction occurs at the group-level.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think that makes the point Wilson-Wilson made in their paper - ie it was a significant modification of the kin selection thesis, something that, in his rage, Dawkins appears to be denying.

    ReplyDelete
  3. In the case of Dawkins, one could almost power a small turbine from the incandescent heat energy flowing from the written word.

    ReplyDelete
  4. There's another word for group selection and that's racism. Wilson may be a democrat as you say but you let him off the hook for Sociobiology - and I for one am disturbed by the lessons of the ant colony being so naively applied to humans. Really?? Ants? & Why all the rage directed against Dawkins? Has anyone out there read the Ancestor's Tale: it's magnificent. Here are two useful words: 1.baby and 2.bath water.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You worry me, Chris, you really do. In what sense is the statement 'There is a genetic component to human behaviour' racist? To suggest that it is says more about the accuser than the accused. It is, in fact, racist to suggest that human variation is intrinsically subject to such valuations.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It is quite frightening to see an article like this put forward as "science" news. Early in the article, Appleyard states that "evolution is a method of making the individual fit for reproduction". This is nonsense. Evolution is an outcome. The method that Appleyad refers to is natural selection. Having got this basic fact wrong, it is very hard to take the rest of this so-called "science" article seriously.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The article refers to a "new paradigm" of group selection. This is nonsense in two respects. First, group selection is not new, it was the standard theory in the 1960s; second, one article by Wilson does not represent a paradigm shift, nor does a write-up in the Sunday Times.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Appleyard describes the "selfish gene" concept as central to kin selection. This is rubbish. Kin selection is theory in evolutionary biology. The selfish gene is not a theory; it is a way of looking at evolutionary phenomena; a paradigm ( to use the word in its correct meaning). One can disagree with the selfish gene concept but that has no bearing on the theory of kin selection. This complete misrepresentation of biological theory in a major newspaper is quite depressing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Appleyard's description of how scientific theory evolves is also deeply inaccurate. He states that group selection was "rigorously suppressed". Such an act would be a serious crime in the scientific world. Who committed this crime? How did they get away with it? An alternative rational description would be that group selection fell out of favour because the evidence did not support it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Appleyard's description of sociobiology is so inaccurate it is almost a joke. It is nonsense to suggest that kin selection and sociobiology are alternatives. Kin selection (I know I'm repeating myself)is a theory; sociobiology is a disciplines. Here's a hint Bryan: you can disprove a theory; you can't disprove a discipline. Appleyard's repeats all the old cliches mixing politics and science. Some people may believe that the mind is a "blank slate" but it is rubbish to say that it is the "left". One can be sure that Stalin on the one hand, and Bevan on the other, did not give two shits for the status of the human mind. Appleyard suffers from the American disease of confusing the left with the liberal tradition, which is quite astonishing in an English newspaper.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Appleyard's drift from 'science' into politics via the Cuban missile crisis is illuminating. According to Appleyard the two sides in the missile crisis were "rational players", whereas Islamic fundamentalists are "a sickness, "like cancer". Many objective observers would disagree with this unproven assertion but the question is a political and societal one, which the theory of group selection cannot solve any more than can the theory of general relativity (which is actually true).

    ReplyDelete
  12. Why Professor Dawkins, how good of you to join us.....

    ReplyDelete
  13. Bryan old thing, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but humans aren't ants or anything like ants. Wilson sounds like the now forgotten Fifties behaviouralist, B F Skinner, who developed a grandiose theory of how humans learn language by studying rats. It wasn't until very late on that someone pointed out to him, 'but, B F, rats can't talk.'
    Have a good Christmas, comrade.

    ReplyDelete
  14. We specialize in laptop battery,laptop AC adapters. All our products are brand new, with the excellent service from our laptop battery of customer service team.
    the most convenient and cheap replacement battery online shop in uk. We specialize in laptop batteries,laptop AC adapters.
    All our laptop AC adapters are brand new, with the excellent service from our customer service team.
    the most convenient and cheap battery online shop in uk.
    You can find some battery and adapter from here is very cool.

    ReplyDelete