Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sociability and Human Evolution

Darwiniana Blog (30 January) carries Freedom Evolves! Huxley’s Evolution #2: ‘We have discovered Huxley ’s evolution #2HERE:

This ‘survival of the fittest’ aspect is, in any case, demonstrably false of man’s social experience, as the mechanism of cultural evolution. Thus extreme competition is met by the response of social law in the evolution of civilization, if not economy. And the place of Adam Smith here is entirely complex and misleading, this philosopher being a de facto source of a new ethics, even as his work is polarized between an economic and moral dimension. Survival of the fittest business firm is simply another process, as is the tonic of Olympiad sports competition. The issue of evolutionary causality in the study of the evolution of civilization has been so confused by assumptions of material causative motive, as in the imputation of economic determinism, that the real evolution of social cooperation seems to have been forgotten. In general, theories of evolution must themselves interact with the near future of all free action, in a confusion of external observer, and temporal participant, ‘acting out theory’.

Comment
The issue of evolutionary causality in the study of the evolution of civilization has been so confused by assumptions of material causative motive, as in the imputation of economic determinism, that the real evolution of social cooperation seems to have been forgotten.”

Crude applications of evolution to economics systems are certainly flawed. Animal spirits of ‘red in tooth and claw’ competition, beloved of advocates of certain strains of corporatism, are toxic (to use a contemporary word in vogue) for the sciences of human behaviours.

I confess to not quite getting what John Lander (the author of the Darwiniana Blog) is on about in his claims for ‘eonic’ insight into these matters,especially with his apparent assertion that the Bible is ‘a document of interest,’ as police investigators call certain suspects, but I concur with his statement ‘the real evolution of social cooperation seems to have been forgotten’.

The sociability of primates, in particular the Hominine lineage through the evolution of about 18 species before Homo sapiens emerged dominant, is the key to understanding the crucial role that social co-operation – a set of behaviours, not genes – played in the biological evolution of our species over several million years.

I discuss this in my paper on the “Pre-history of Bargaining: an multi-disciplinary treatment, Part I”, which you may download from Lost Legacy’s Home Page (in red, at the top; just click and follow the link).

I am presently working on developing this paper and the research supporting it into a book-length treatment (title to be decided). Adam Smith, you may be assured, plays a major role in my approach, though most of today's epigones and their acolytes may not recognise the Adam Smith from Kirkcaldy. who was quite different from the so-called 'Adam Smith' from US academe.

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