3 of 5
3
Response to Axegrrl
Posted: 07 September 2008 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9281
Joined  2006-08-29
dougsmith - 07 September 2008 09:58 AM

Nevertheless clearly many of us do not wish to have children; that’s because natural selection also designed higher-functioning brains which can make rational decisions under certain circumstances.

Doug,

I hope you’ll understand that what I am about to say I don’t, in any way, mean as a personal attack of any kind. But don’t you think that scientists in the future would categorize people who didn’t produce children as the ones who actually failed to reproduce? You might have seen the discussion between Dawkins and Buss where Buss says that eventually all psychology (developmental, behaviour, etc.) will become evolutionary psychology. In other words, with time we will be able to know and explain why all human behaviours were adapted and survive. By saying “I choose” not to have children you’re not saying much. Where does this “wish” come from?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 12:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9281
Joined  2006-08-29

Brennen and macgyver,

I do understand how natural selection and evolution work. I have a feeling that this topic actually touches on the free will dilemma, and maybe we are better to leave it at that. I would also like to see at least some of our “decisions” as a product of our flexible behaviour, and hope that one day we might persuade the obese, the criminals, or the religious to “give it up”. But that’s when I would have to except that our minds are a blank slate and I am not ready to do so.

[ Edited: 07 September 2008 12:23 PM by George ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14
George - 07 September 2008 11:49 AM

I hope you’ll understand that what I am about to say I don’t, in any way, mean as a personal attack of any kind. But don’t you think that scientists in the future would categorize people who didn’t produce children as the ones who actually failed to reproduce? You might have seen the discussion between Dawkins and Buss where Buss says that eventually all psychology (developmental, behaviour, etc.) will become evolutionary psychology. In other words, with time we will be able to know and explain why all human behaviours were adapted and survive. By saying “I choose” not to have children you’re not saying much. Where does this “wish” come from?

I don’t take it as an attack of any sort, no worries there. But I don’t get the thrust of your argument. Some scientists might say that people who do not reproduce “failed” to reproduce, but so what? What would that mean? Just that they decided not to have children.

I don’t think that Buss is right about psychology, at least in the sense that there will always be more to say about psychology than talking about its evolutionary history, fruitful though that may be. And clearly not all behaviors are adaptive. Again, taking birth control is not adaptive. Sure, in some sense all that we do is because of our evolutionary history, but turning around your phrase, by saying that one is not saying much. One is certainly not saying that every behavior we evince is adaptive or was selected for in our ancestors.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4051
Joined  2006-11-28

George,

Free will has nothing to do with the evolutionary disagreement we seem to be having. Whether or not all our choices are constrained by mechanistic, deterministic causation is irrelevant to the issue of whether or not genes micromanage behavior. Not every behavior, every impulse, every choice is determined directly by genes. Genes code for behavioral mechanisms which then react and respond to the environment within preset parameters. Just as genes code for a large array of predetermined immunological responses, many of which will never be engaged if the particular antigen is never experienced. Genese also code for non-specific immune functions which in a general way to stimuli as they are presented.


You have this notion that evolutionary psychology means that every little tick is precisely encoded in our genes, and that just doesn’t fit the data, nor is it at all plausible. Lots more, and more unexpected behaviors are turning out to have a strong genetic component (i.e. genes explain 50-70% of the interindividual variance in the trait), but I still honestly feel that you don’t understand what this actually means, and that you’ve carried it to an extreme that makes no sense. A predisposition to criminal behavior is not the same thing as a genetic destiny to rob the Bank of America. The level of detailed control over behavior you credit genes with just doesn’t make sense. Still, we’ve had this debate before, and I’m not sure what, if any, data or argument would be convincing for you. I’m willing to let it go, as you seem to be suggesting, but I don’t feel like you’ve really “gotten” my point. *sigh* Oh well,

 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9281
Joined  2006-08-29
dougsmith - 07 September 2008 12:19 PM

Some scientists might say that people who do not reproduce “failed” to reproduce, but so what? What would that mean? Just that they decided not to have children.

That would mean that if the brain of the person who didn’t produce any children was perhaps just a little different, he/she might have had kids. Either the brain “decided” not to have kids based on how the brain is built and affected by environment during its lifetime (and this could be explained in evolutionary terms) or the brain decided on the basis of free will and blank slate not to have children. If the first one is correct, than Buss is right to assume that all of our behaviours should be looked at from the perspective of evolutionary psychology.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14
George - 07 September 2008 12:37 PM

That would mean that if the brain of the person who didn’t produce any children was perhaps just a little different, he/she might have had kids. Either the brain “decided” not to have kids based on how the brain is built and affected by environment during its lifetime (and this could be explained in evolutionary terms) or the brain decided on the basis of free will and blank slate not to have children. If the first one is correct, than Buss is right to assume that all of our behaviours should be looked at from the perspective of evolutionary psychology.

But this is obviously true—had the brain of the person been different in the right ways, he would have acted differently. Any naturalist would assert that, and one can believe it without believing anything in particular about Buss’s claim.

Your first lemma: “... based on how the brain is built and affected by environment during its lifetime ...” is too indistinct to capture Buss’s evolutionary point of view. Even people who do not agree with adaptationism of the mind would agree that what we do is based in some sense on how our brains were built and effected by our environment. They simply do not believe that evolutionary adaptationism had that great a role to play in our behavior. Brennen is right to point once again to the statistic that only 50% of the variance of personality traits are due to genes. That means (1) 50% are NOT due to genes, and (2) we’re only talking about general traits that can be captured on some form of personality test. So you’re really wildly overextrapolating from thin data, and I say that as someone who is quite a serious adaptationist myself ...

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 12:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5939
Joined  2006-12-20
dougsmith - 07 September 2008 09:58 AM

So natural selection cannot select for a desire not to reproduce. Nevertheless clearly many of us do not wish to have children; that’s because natural selection also designed higher-functioning brains which can make rational decisions under certain circumstances.

I don’t see how decisions can be rational. The decision must be based on what we value most highly but there can be nothing rational or irrational about that.

I can see how we can be irrational if our course of action isn’t the best way to achieve our goal or vice versa but not how the goal itself could be rational or otherwise.

Stephen

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 02:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14
StephenLawrence - 07 September 2008 12:49 PM

I don’t see how decisions can be rational. The decision must be based on what we value most highly but there can be nothing rational or irrational about that.

I can see how we can be irrational if our course of action isn’t the best way to achieve our goal or vice versa but not how the goal itself could be rational or otherwise.

A rational decision is not the same as a rational goal. A rational decision can be of the form: “If you want X, you must do Y and Z.”

However, even assuming that there are no goals that are rational simpliciter, there are nonetheless intermediate goals that would be, assuming that one wanted some particular end. If you want to get a run in baseball, your intermediate goal has to be to get to second base. If you want to win the game, your intermediate goal has to be “putting points on the board” as they say. Etc.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 03:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9281
Joined  2006-08-29
dougsmith - 07 September 2008 12:45 PM

50% are NOT due to genes

Agreed. Nevertheless, these 50% are not somehow available to you to do as you please. If you are genetically predisposed to become an alcoholic and group up in, let’s say, Saudi Arabia, the chances are that you will not become an alcoholic. If you, however, happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, for example in Sweden of Czech Republic, and are genetically predisposed to become an alcoholic you probably end up as one. I really don’t see much room for a behaviour flexibility in a person who is both genetically predisposed for a certain trait and is surrounded by an environment that allows this trait to flourish.

You could say that if you know that you are genetically predisposed to become an alcoholic you might want to avoid living in major European cities and move instead to Saudi Arabia. Or you can turn into a rehab. But again, only those who are genetically predisposed to be influenced by others might hope that a rehab might help them with their addiction problem.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  633
Joined  2007-12-10
Lilith - 05 September 2008 12:39 AM

Large social mammals must evolve population control mechanisms or they would quickly kill themselves off due to ecosystem meltdown.  Based on what we know about the animals we have the most in common with, chimpanzees and bonobos, there are two potential models for social reproductive behavior in animals like ourselves that are of very high intelligence and develop tools. 

...

I also think stress hormones released during our lives effect our ability to procreate and that if there is a significant environmental stress during the years while we’re coming of sexual maturity, that may trigger additional homosexual traits and push us further towards the homosexual end of the Kinsey scale, making us less likely to create more relatives to compete for waning resources. 

 

If that is true why is 90% of population growth in third world countries, where the resources are stretched thin, and people die from dehydration, starvation, and easily curable diseases, war, and HIV. The graphs below show birth and death rates, third world countries have the highest birth and death rates but not the hi


Death Rate (Dark Highest, Light Lowest)
Death_rate_world_map.png
Birth Rate (Light Highest, Dark Lowest)
Population_growth_rate_world.png

Shouldn’t those countries with massive environmental stress, then have massive rates of homosexuality?

Homosexual have higher A average income than Americans as whole, Shouldn’t homosexuals in the united states all be poor and barely able to sustain themselves thus stress hormones made them gay?

 Signature 

Dan

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 03:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  633
Joined  2007-12-10

1

Note that the forum rules suggest that posters not edit their posts to remove all the text.  Of course, posts can be made by mistake, so if you have to delete the text, at least leave a reason you did so.  That makes it much less disruptive of the thread flow.

[ Edited: 08 September 2008 09:23 AM by Occam ]
 Signature 

Dan

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 03:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  633
Joined  2007-12-10
Lilith - 05 September 2008 12:39 AM

Large social mammals must evolve population control mechanisms or they would quickly kill themselves off due to ecosystem meltdown.  Based on what we know about the animals we have the most in common with, chimpanzees and bonobos, there are two potential models for social reproductive behavior in animals like ourselves that are of very high intelligence and develop tools. 

...

I also think stress hormones released during our lives effect our ability to procreate and that if there is a significant environmental stress during the years while we’re coming of sexual maturity, that may trigger additional homosexual traits and push us further towards the homosexual end of the Kinsey scale, making us less likely to create more relatives to compete for waning resources. 

If that is true why is 90% of population growth in third world countries, where the resources are stretched thin, and people die from dehydration, starvation, and easily curable diseases, war, and HIV. The tables below show that the countries with the highest death rates also have the highest birth rates.

Death Rate (Dark Highest, Light Lowest)
Death_rate_world_map.png
Birth Rate (Light Highest, Dark Lowest)
Population_growth_rate_world.png

Shouldn’t third world countries be filled with homosexuals to control the population because of all the environmental stresses are driving them into meltdown?

American homosexuals have a higher average income, shouldn’t American homosexuals have low incomes?

 Signature 

Dan

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 September 2008 03:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4051
Joined  2006-11-28

*sigh* We’ve drifted quite a ways from the genetic issues of reproduction in homosexuals, but anyway…

Agreed. Nevertheless, these 50% are not somehow available to you to do as you please. If you are genetically predisposed to become an alcoholic and group up in, let’s say, Saudi Arabia, the chances are that you will not become an alcoholic. If you, however, happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, for example in Sweden of Czech Republic, and are genetically predisposed to become an alcoholic you probably end up as one. I really don’t see much room for a behaviour flexibility in a person who is both genetically predisposed for a certain trait and is surrounded by an environment that allows this trait to flourish.

You could say that if you know that you are genetically predisposed to become an alcoholic you might want to avoid living in major European cities and move instead to Saudi Arabia. Or you can turn into a rehab. But again, only those who are genetically predisposed to be influenced by others might hope that a rehab might help them with their addiction problem.

50% of the variane due to genes. Think about what this means. NOT 50% chance of becoming an alcoholic. NOT 50% of your genes trying to make you an alcoholic. Only that when groups are compared, possible causal factors for differences in the relative rates of alcoholism can be assessed and an analysis of variance done to partition the variance among these possible causes. The relative contributions can then be assessed, given all sorts of assumptions (normal distribution, independance of causal variables, etc). So for the alcoholism example (and all these numbers are made up), if the 50% of the variance can be explained by genes, that means that genetic makeup is somehow responsible, directly or indirectly, for half the difference in the rates of alcoholism between the groups compared.

I don’t think you really get the meaning of this. It doesn’t mean that we can say anything about the liklihood of an individual developing alcoholism based on their genes beyond very vague probabilistic statements. The specific factors that will or will not lead to the behavior may very well be fixed and immutable in the determinist way you and Stephan go on about, but that doesn’t change anything if we a) don’t have a clue what they are or what the individual outcome is going to be and b) have the experience of making rational, deliberate choices about what to do or not to do. You can demonstrate with hard empirical data that some interventions, some behavioral strategies increase or decrease the behavior, so trying to act as if we’re just blowing in the winds of genes or whatever counters the obvious facts. The alternative to the blank slate is not the stark vision of the futility of reason and all attempts to direct our own behavior that you seem to think.

In a highly theoretical way, it is impossible to prove that in fact any behavior is a “choice” in the sense you guys are talking about. But it’s impossible to defintively prove anything exists too. So what? The genetic arguments behind evolutionary psychology are quite sound, but George I honestly don’t think you understand them, and you’ve gotten them all tangled up with the issue of free will and choice such that you think evol psych somehow “proves” than none of us make choices or have any ability to influence our own behavior, and that’s not true. All it proves is that genes contribute significantly to our predispositions, often in surprisingly detailed ways but also often in very vague and general ways. And there are certain things that genes simply cannot do, and among these, to get back to the topic, is determine behavior in a stable way throughout the population to engineer their own extinction by detering reproduction. It can’t happen, and it sure doesn’t appears ot be happening given the number of babies we’re having all the time.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 08 September 2008 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9281
Joined  2006-08-29

Well, Brennen, I am not sure what else to add to this. You keep repeating that I don’t really understand or get the meaning of this. I never said, for example, that 50% of the genes are responsible for our behavior. Where did I ever say anything like that? If you really think I am that wrong, I don’t know why we even bother discussing this.  As for the rest of your post I would have to see some of the “hard empirical data that some interventions, some behavioral strategies increase or decrease the behavior.” In the case of children, for example, I am not aware of any such results. In her book No Two Alike, Judith Rich Harris goes through all the empirical “evidence” from the last fifty years and shows that psychologists either lie or do the studies incorrectly. If you know of any book, Brennen, that would help me see your point I would be glad to hear about it. Doesn’t have to be about kids. Any topic would do.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 08 September 2008 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4051
Joined  2006-11-28

I can look for specific evidence as far as the efficacy of behavioral interventions, but there are a lot of other points I’ve made which speak to the undelrying question that I hope you’ll consider. For one thing, I’d re-read Pinker’s chapter onchildren with specific attention to how he explains the significance of genes explaining 50-705% of the variance in personality traits. I think it’s well-written and very clear, and I don’t think it supports the position you seem to hold,- namely that the influence of genes over behavior is so strong as to make any attempt to modify behavior futile. Maybe I’m wrong about this being your position, but you keep talking as if our genes determine that we will be murderers or alcoholics of homosexuals to a high degree of probability regardless of any actions we or others take, and I believe this is a misinterpretation of the data and more a metaphysical and political position (on questions of free will and social intervention programs) than a scientific one. That’s fine, of course, as we can freely disagree about metaphysical issues and neither of us will ever definitively prove our case. But I think you are imposing your philosophical positions onto the data in an attempt to claim the data proves your point scientifically, and it’s that which keeps me intertested in responding to you. You’re right there’s no point if we’re just going to circle around the free will thing again. But as far as genetics and behavior, there is a there there and something I think that is clearly true.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
   
3 of 5
3