Monday, June 03, 2002

love and other "unselfish" behaviors Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

love and other "unselfish" behaviors One irritation of being an evolutionary theorist is frequently having to read your views cast in straw man form by their opponents. This CS Monitor article, for example -- to argue that religious ideas are needed to explain love -- invokes an appalling mischaracterization of evolutionary psychology:
For years now, evolutionary scientists have insisted that, outside close-kin relationships, all caring acts are motivated by self-interest and calculation. The "selfish gene" theory permeates wide realms of contemporary life.
But this simply isn't true. Evolutionary psychologists draw a careful distinction between "selfish genes" and selfish people. Steven Pinker, for instance, writes
People don't have the goal of propagating their genes; people have the goal of pursuing satisfying thoughts and feelings. Our genes have the metaphorical goal of building a complex brain in which the satisying thoughts and feelings were linked to acts that tended to propagate those genes in the ancient environment in which we evolved.
And Richard Dawkins argues:
RICHARD DAWKINS: The self-interest of genes can be accomplished by programming non-selfish behavior at higher levels at levels of, say, the organism. PAUL SOLMAN: Cooperation? RICHARD DAWKINS: Yes. PAUL SOLMAN: Love? RICHARD DAWKINS: Yes, love if love leads to the survival of selfish genes, which it often does.
Now I'm the first to admit that evolutionary scientists have a yet-incomplete understanding of (and even competing theories of) love and other "unselfish" behaviors. But the suggestion -- based on a clearly false assertion -- that such behaviors "constitute an unresolved evolutionary quandary" and that evolutionary science focuses only on "the negative, deficit, or disease model of human nature" represents an extremely disingenuous attempt to keep evolutionary science from kicking religion out the door.

Principles of Population Genetics
Genetics of Populations
Molecular Evolution
Quantitative Genetics
Evolutionary Quantitative Genetics
Evolutionary Genetics
Molecular Markers, Natural History, and Evolution
The Genetics of Human Populations
Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits
Epistasis and Evolutionary Process
Evolutionary Human Genetics
Mathematical Models in Biology
Evolutionary Genetics: Case Studies and Concepts
Narrow Roads of Gene Land 1
Narrow Roads of Gene Land 2
Narrow Roads of Gene Land 3
Statistical Methods in Molecular Evolution
The History and Geography of Human Genes
Population Genetics and Microevolutionary Theory
Population Genetics, Molecular Evolution, and the Neutral Theory
Genetical Theory of Natural Selection
Evolution and the Genetics of Populations
Genetics and Origins of Species
Tempo and Mode in Evolution
Causes of Evolution
The Great Human Diasporas
Bones, Stones and Molecules
Natural Selection and Social Theory
Journey of Man
Mapping Human History
The Seven Daughters of Eve
Evolution for Everyone
Why Sex Matters
Mother Nature
Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language
R.A. Fisher, the Life of a Scientist
Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology
Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics
A Reason for Everything
The Ancestor's Tale
Dragon Bone Hill
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
The Selfish Gene
Adaptation and Natural Selection
Nature via Nurture
The Symbolic Species
The Imitation Factor
The Red Queen
Out of Thin Air
Evolutionary Dynamics
The Origin of Species
The Descent of Man
Age of Abundance
The Darwin Wars
The Evolutionists
The Creationists
Of Moths and Men
The Language Instinct
How We Decide
Predictably Irrational
The Black Swan
Fooled By Randomness
Descartes' Baby
Religion Explained
In Gods We Trust
Darwin's Cathedral
A Theory of Religion
The Meme Machine
Synaptic Self
The Mating Mind
A Separate Creation
The Number Sense
The 10,000 Year Explosion
The Math Gene
Explaining Culture
Origin and Evolution of Cultures
Dawn of Human Culture
The Origins of Virtue
Prehistory of the Mind
The Nurture Assumption
The Moral Animal
Born That Way
No Two Alike
Survival of the Prettiest
The Blank Slate
The g Factor
The Origin Of The Mind
Unto Others
Defenders of the Truth
The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition
Before the Dawn
Behavioral Genetics in the Postgenomic Era
The Essential Difference
Geography of Thought
The Classical World
The Fall of the Roman Empire
The Fall of Rome
History of Rome
How Rome Fell
The Making of a Christian Aristoracy
The Rise of Western Christendom
Keepers of the Keys of Heaven
A History of the Byzantine State and Society
Europe After Rome
The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity
The Barbarian Conversion
A History of Christianity
God's War
Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople
The Sacred Chain
Divided by the Faith
The Reformation
Pursuit of Glory
Albion's Seed
From Plato to Nato
China: A New History
China in World History
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Children of the Revolution
When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World
The Great Arab Conquests
After Tamerlane
A History of Iran
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language
A World History
Guns, Germs, and Steel
The Human Web
Plagues and Peoples
A Concise Economic History of the World
Power and Plenty
A Splendid Exchange
Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD
Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations
A Farewell to Alms
The Ascent of Money
The Great Divergence
Clash of Extremes
War and Peace and War
Historical Dynamics
The Age of Lincoln
The Great Upheaval
What Hath God Wrought
Freedom Just Around the Corner
Throes of Democracy
Grand New Party
A Beautiful Math
When Genius Failed
Catholicism and Freedom
American Judaism

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