The engagement of religion and biology: A case study in the mediating role of metaphor in the sociobiology of Lumsden & Wilson [Book Review]

Biology and Philosophy 15 (5):669-698 (2000)
I claim that explanations of human behaviour by Edward O. Wilsonand Charles Lumsden are constituted by a religiously functioningmetaphysics: emergent materialism. The constitutive effects areidentified using six criteria, beginning with a metaphorical re-description of dissimilarities between levels of organization interms of the lower level, and consist of conceptual andexplanatory reductions (CER). Wilson and Lumsden practice CER,even though CER is not required by emergent materialism. Theypreconceive this practice by a re-description which conflates thelevels of organization and explain failure of CER in terms oftechnical, not ontological or epistemological reasons. Iinterpret these three practices as a reaction of Wilson againsthis early Christian religious beliefs. Statements by Wilsonindicate this reaction ultimately constitutes his explanations ofsocial, moral and religious behaviour.Tested knowledge about matter at the lower level functions as ametaphysical belief when applied to the higher level becausethere it is untested. I offer twelve criteria for the diagnosisof religious functions of this metaphysical materialism, five ofwhich are satisfied. I show that the constitutive effects of thismaterialism in sociobiology are due to its religious functions,are beneficial for science and do not destroy its public nature.
Keywords analogy  biological systems  causation  complexity  emergent materialism  hierarchy  human sociobiology  information  metaphor  methodological reduction  ontological reduction  part-whole relations  physical systems  religion and science  self-organization  social systems  theory constitution  theory reduction
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1006688908463
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