Biological theories about the nature and origin of ethics are important, j both because they may be largely true, and because distorted versions are sometimes effective in moulding people's ethical beliefs in curious i ways. The pernicious effects which sometimes follow the application of biology to ethics stem from an assortment of misinterpretations, while, correctly interpreted, even the most extreme biologicaldeterminism need not be supposed to diminish the worth of conscious individuals, nor be incompatible with genuinely (...) ethical behaviour. (shrink)
Commentators are divided between those who welcome and creatively extend the agenda of Lifelines and those who defend what it criticises. My response covers style; history, politics, and ethics; concepts of freedom, active organisms, and determinism; the uses of metaphor; reductionism and levels of analysis; Darwin and Darwinists; heritability and intelligence; human universals and biologicaldeterminism.
I argue here that critics of biological explanations of human nature are mistaken when they maintain that the truth of genetic determinism implies the end of critical evaluation and reform of our social institutions. Such a claim erroneously presupposes that our social values, practices, and institutions have nothing to do with what makes biological explanations troublesome. What constitutes a problem for those who are concerned with social justice is not the fact that particular behaviors might be genetically (...) determined, but the fact that our value system and social institutions create the conditions that make such behaviors problematic. (shrink)
Background: By organizing and activating our passions with both hormones and experiences, the heart and mind of sexual behavior, sexual motivation, and sexual preference is the brain, the organ of learning. Despite decades of progress, this incontrovertible truth is somehow lost in the far-too-often biologically deterministic interpretation of genetic, hormonal, and anatomical scientific research into the biological origins of sexual motivation. Simplistic and polarized arguments are used in the media by both sides of the seemingly endless debate over sexual (...) orientation, equality, and human rights with such catch phrases as ‘‘born gay’’ contrasted against attempts of ‘‘reparative therapy’’ or ‘‘pray the gay away’’. Though long abandoned in practically every other area of psychology, this remnant of the nature-nurture controversy remains despite its generally acknowledged insufficiency in explaining any adult aspect of the human condition within the scientific community. Methods: This theoretical review article identifies three factors: 1) good intentions with regard to the argument from immutability; 2) false dichotomies limiting intellectual progress by oversimplification of theory and thus hypothesis, and most dangerously, interpretation and; 3) Tradition: a historical separation of the disciplines of biology and psychology, which, to this day, interferes with the effective translation of well-conducted science into good public understanding and policy. Results: Studies clearly demonstrate that progress toward sexual-orientation equality is being made, if slowly, despite the apparent irrelevance of the ‘‘born gay’’ argument from immutability. Evidence is further provided supporting the inadequacy of polarized, dichotic theories of sexual development, particularly those pitting ‘‘blank slate learning’’ against a fated, deterministic biological perspective. Results of this review suggest that an emerging interactionist perspective will promote both better scientific progress and better public understanding, hopefully contributing to progress toward nondiscriminatory public policy. Conclusion: Accepting that the brain is a highly plastic, modularly dimorphic, developmentally biased organ of learning, one which is organized and activated by both hormones and experiences across the lifespan, is essential for doing ‘‘good science’’ well. Interactionist theories of psychosexual development provide an empirically sound, strong, yet modifiable foundation for testable hypotheses exploring biologically biased sexual learning. Keywords: Brain; conditioning; controversy; dichotomy; differentiation; discrimination; equality; sex; sexual; orientation; learning; learned sexuality; born gay; hedonic evaluation; immutability; imprinting; incentive motivation; interactionism; predispositions; theory; therapy (Published: 15 March 2012) Citation: Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2012, 2 : 17334 - DOI: 10.3402/snp.v2i0.17334. (shrink)
Rose presents an important critique of the determinism and reductionism of modern biology. However, such trends are probably temporary aberrations in the development of science. Another form of determinism which has deeper roots is emerging from modern studies of brain dynamics. To reconcile this evidence with the concept of a “person” will require more radical rethinking of our received notion of natural law.
Deliberate practice and experience may suffice as predictors of expertise, but they cannot account for spectacular achievements. Highly variable environmental and biological factors provide facilitating as well as constraining conditions for development, generating relative plasticity rather than absolute plasticity. The skills of virtuosos and idiots savants are more consistent with the talent account than with the deliberate-practice account.
Should we think of our universe as law-governed and “clockwork”-like or as disorderly and “soup”-like? Alternatively, should we consciously and intentionally synthesize these two extreme pictures? More concretely, how deterministic are the postulated causes and how rigid are the modeled properties of the best statistical methodologies used in the biological and behavioral sciences? The charge of this entry is to explore thinking about causation in the temporal evolution of biological and behavioral systems. Regression analysis and path analysis are (...) simply explicated with reference to a thought experiment of painting three universes (clockwork, soup, and conscious) useful for imagining our actual universe. Attention to historical, structural, and mechanistic explanatory perspectives broadens the palette of methodologies available for analyzing determinism in, and explanation of, biological and behavioral systems. Each justified methodology provides a partial perspective on complex reality. Is a total explanation of any system ever possible, and what would it require? (shrink)
Despite tremendous advances in neuroscience, the topic “brain, sex and gender” remains a matter of misleading interpretations, that go well beyond the bounds of science. In the 19th century, the difference in brain sizes was a major argument to explain the hierarchy between men and women, and was supposed to reflect innate differences in mental capacity. Nowadays, our understanding of the human brain has progressed dramatically with the demonstration of cerebral plasticity. The new brain imaging techniques have revealed the role (...) of the environment in continually re-shaping our brain all along our lifetimes as it goes through new experiences and acquires new knowledge. However, the idea that biology is a major determining factor for cognition and behavioral gender differentiation, is still very much alive. The media are far from being the only guilty party. Some scientific circles actively promote the idea of an innate origin of a gender difference in mental capacities. Experimental data from brain imaging, cognitive tests or genetics are often distorted to serve deterministic ideas. Such abuse of “scientific discourses” have to be counteracted by effective communication of clear and unbiased information to the citizens. This paper presents a critical analysis of selected examples which emphasize sex differences in three fields e.g. skills in language and mathematics, testosterone and financial risk-taking behavior, moral cognition. To shed light on the data and the methods used in some papers, we can now—with today’s knowledge on cerebral plasticity—challenge even more strongly, many false interpretations. Our goal here is double: we want to provide evidence against archaic beliefs about the biologicaldeterminism of sex differences but also promote a positive image of scientific research. (shrink)
Synthetic biology is an increasingly high-profile area of research that can be understood as encompassing three broad approaches towards the synthesis of living systems: DNA-based device construction, genome-driven cell engineering and protocell creation. Each approach is characterized by different aims, methods and constructs, in addition to a range of positions on intellectual property and regulatory regimes. We identify subtle but important differences between the schools in relation to their treatments of genetic determinism, cellular context and complexity. These distinctions tie (...) into two broader issues that define synthetic biology: the relationships between biology and engineering, and between synthesis and analysis. These themes also illuminate synthetic biology's connections to genetic and other forms of biological engineering, as well as to systems biology. We suggest that all these knowledge-making distinctions in synthetic biology raise fundamental questions about the nature of biological investigation and its relationship to the construction of biological components and systems. (shrink)
What is a race? Ernst Mayr (1904–2005) distinguishes between species in which biological change is continuous in space, and species in which groups of populations with different character combinations are separated by borders. In the latter species, the entities separated by borders are geographic races or subspecies. Many anthropology textbooks describe human races as discrete (or nearly discrete) clusters of individuals, geographically localized, each of which shares a set of ancestors, and hence can be distinguished from other races by (...) their common gene pool or by different alleles fixed in each. (shrink)
In his Philosophical Inquiry concerning Human Liberty (1717), the English deist Anthony Collins proposed a complete determinist account of the human mind and action, partly inspired by his mentor Locke, but also by elements from Bayle, Leibniz and other Continental sources. It is a determinism which does not neglect the question of the specific status of the mind but rather seeks to provide a causal account of mental activity and volition in particular; it is a ‘volitional determinism’. Some (...) decades later, Diderot articulates a very similar determinism, which seeks to recognize the existence of “causes proper to man” (as he says in the Réfutation d’Helvétius). The difference with Collins is that now biological factors are being taken into account. Obviously both the ‘volitional’ and the ‘biological’ forms of determinism are noteworthy inasmuch as they change our picture of the nature of determinism itself, but my interest here is to compare these two determinist arguments, both of which are broadly Spinozist in nature – and as such belong to what Jonathan Israel called in his recent book “the radical Enlightenment,” i.e. a kind of underground Enlightenment constituted by Spinozism – and to see how Collins’ specifically psychological vision and Diderot’s specifically biological vision correspond to their two separate national contexts: determinism in France in the mid-1750s was a much more medico-biological affair than English determinism, which appears to be on a ‘path’ leading to Mill and associationist psychology. (shrink)
Here, in textbook style, is a concise biological account of the evolution of morality. It addresses morality on three levels: moral outcomes (behavioral genetics), moral motivation or intent (psychology and neurology), and moral systems (sociality). The rationale for teaching this material is addressed in Allchin (2009). Classroom resources (including accompanying images and video links) and a discussion of teaching strategies are provided online at: http://EvolutionOfMorality.net.
Marx has been criticized by feminists for many reasons, much of it based upon a misunderstanding of Marx. Many feminists take Marx's view to be that the family, gendered division of labor, and male domination are determined by either purely economic factors of natural biological factors. I try to show that Marx holds neither of these views. I also try to show that reproduction and the oppression of women that arises from men's control of private property, which are often (...) claimed to be matters of peripheral interest to Marx, are, in fact, conceptually most central and important for him. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to show that for Kant, a combination of epigenesis and monogenesis is the condition of possibility of anthropology as he conceives of it and that moreover, this has crucial implications for the biological dimension of his account of human nature. More precisely, I begin by arguing that Kant’s conception of mankind as a natural species is based on two premises: firstly the biological unity of the human species (monogenesis of the human races); (...) and secondly the existence of ‘seeds’ which may or may not develop depending on the environment (epigenesis of human natural predispositions). I then turn to Kant’s account of man’s natural predispositions and show that far from being limited to the issue of races, it encompasses unexpected human features such as gender, temperaments and nations. These predispositions, I argue, are means to the realisation of Nature’s overall purpose for the human species. This allows me to conclude that man’s biologicaldeterminism leads to the species’ preservation, cultivation and civilisation. (shrink)
Reductionism--understanding complex processes by breaking them into simpler elements--dominates scientific thinking around the world and has certainly proved a powerful tool, leading to major discoveries in every field of science. But reductionism can be taken too far, especially in the life sciences, where sociobiological thinking has bordered on biologicaldeterminism. Thus popular science writers such as Richard Dawkins, author of the highly influential The Selfish Gene, can write that human beings are just "robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve (...) the selfish molecules known as genes." Indeed, for many in science, genes have become the fundamental unit for understanding human existence: genes determine every aspect of our lives, from personal success to existential despair: genes for health and illness, genes for criminality, violence, and sexual orientation. Others would say that this is reductionism with a vengeance. In Lifelines, biologist Steven Rose offers a powerful alternative to the ultradarwinist claims of Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, Daniel Dennett and others. Rose argues against an extreme reductionist approach that would make the gene the key to understanding human nature, in favor of a more complex and richer vision of life. He urges instead that we focus on the organism and in particular on the organism's lifeline: the trajectory it takes through time and space. Our personal lifeline, Rose points out, is unique--even identical twins, with identical genes at birth, will differ over time. These differences are obviously not embedded in our genes, but come about through our developmental trajectory in which genes, as part of the biochemical orchestra of trillions of cells in each human body, have an important part--but only a part--to play. To illustrate this idea, Rose examines recent research in modern biology, and especially two disciplines--genetics (which looks at the impact of genes on form) and developmental biology (which examines the interaction between the organism and the environment)--and he explores new ideas on biological complexity proposed by scientists such as Stuart Kauffman. He shows how our lifelines are constructed through the interplay of physical forces--such as the intrinsic chemistry of lipids and proteins, and the self-organizing and stabilizing properties of complex metabolic webs--and he reaches a startling conclusion: that organisms are active players in their own fate, not simply the playthings of the gods, nature, or the inevitable workings out of gene-driven natural selection. The organism is both the weaver and the pattern it weaves. Lifelines will be a rallying point for all who seek an alternative to the currently fashionable, deeply determinist accounts which dominate popular science writing and, in fact, crowd the pages of some of the major scientific journals. Based on solid, state-of-the-art research, it not only makes important contributions to our understanding of Darwin and natural selection, but will swing the pendulum back to a richer, more complex view of human nature and of life. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to show that critics of biological explanations of human nature may be granting too much to those who propose such explanations when they argue that the truth of genetic determinism implies an end to critical evaluation and reform of our social institutions. This is the case because when we argue that biologicaldeterminism exempts us from social critique we are erroneously presupposing that our social values, practices, and institutions have nothing (...) to do with what makes biological explanations troublesome. My argument is that what constitutes a problem for those who are concerned with social justice is not the fact that particular behaviours may be genetically determined, but the fact that our value system and social institutions create the conditions that make such behaviours problematic. Thus, I will argue that even if genetic determinism were correct, the requirement of assessing and transforming our social practices and institutions would be far from superfluous. Biology is rarely destiny for human beings and the institutions they create. (shrink)
The sociobiology debate, in the final quarter of the twentieth century, featured many of the same issues disputed in the culture war in the humanities during this same time period. This is evident from a study of the writings of Edward O. Wilson, the best known of the sociobiologists, and from an examination of both the minutes of the meetings of the Sociobiology Study Group (SSG) and the writings of Stephen Jay Gould, the SSG's most prominent member. Many critics of (...) sociobiology, frequently radical scientists who were attached to the lineage of the New Left, argued for the same multicultural values promoted by radical humanities professors in this period. Conversely, liberal sociobiologists defended the universalist values of the liberals in the humanities. Those scholars whose work was important before the cultural revolution in the 1960s were usually committed to a liberal universalism that emphasized the similarity between people. Younger scholars, who took faculty positions in the 1970s and after, were more likely to owe an allegiance to an ethnos-centered social vision that valued identity politics. The struggle between these two agendas, more intellectual than generational, was at the core of the culture wars both in the humanities and in the sciences. The sociobiology debate should be viewed in this light. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to show that for Kant, a combination of epigenesis and monogenesis is the condition of possibility of anthropology as he conceives of it and that moreover, this has crucial implications for the biological dimension of his account of human nature. More precisely, I begin by arguing that Kant’s conception of mankind as a natural species is based on two premises: firstly the biological unity of the human species ; and secondly the existence (...) of ‘seeds’ which may or may not develop depending on the environment. I then turn to Kant’s account of man’s natural predispositions and show that far from being limited to the issue of races, it encompasses unexpected human features such as gender, temperaments and nations. These predispositions, I argue, are means to the realisation of Nature’s overall purpose for the human species. This allows me to conclude that man’s biologicaldeterminism leads to the species’ preservation, cultivation and civilisation. (shrink)
Among many properties distinguishing emergence, such as novelty, irreducibility and unpredictability, computational accounts of emergence in terms of computational incompressibility aim first at making sense of such unpredictability. Those accounts prove to be more objective than usual accounts in terms of levels of mereology, which often face objections of being too epistemic. The present paper defends computational accounts against some objections, and develops what such notions bring to the usual idea of unpredictability. I distinguish the objective unpredictability, compatible with (...) class='Hi'>determinism and entailed by emergence, and various possibilities of predictability at emergent levels. This makes sense of practices common in complex systems studies that forge qualitative predictions on the basis of comparisons of simulations with multiple values of parameters. I consider robustness analysis as a way to ensure the ontological character of computational emergence. Finally, I focus on the property of novelty, as it is displayed by biological evolution, and ask whether computer simulations of evolution can produce the same kind of emergence as the open-ended evolution attested in Phanerozoic records. (shrink)
Recent successes of systems biology clarified that biological functionality is multilevel. We point out that this fact makes it necessary to revise popular views about macromolecular functions and distinguish between local, physico-chemical and global, biological functions. Our analysis shows that physico-chemical functions are merely tools of biological functionality. This result sheds new light on the origin of cellular life, indicating that in evolutionary history, assignment of biological functions to cellular ingredients plays a crucial role. In this (...) wider picture, even if aggregation of chance mutations of replicator molecules and spontaneously self-assembled proteins led to the formation of a system identical with a living cell in all physical respects but devoid of biological functions, it would remain an inanimate physical system, a pseudo-cell or a zombie-cell but not a viable cell. In the origin of life scenarios, a fundamental circularity arises, since if cells are the minimal units of life, it is apparent that assignments of cellular functions require the presence of cells and vice versa. Resolution of this dilemma requires distinguishing between physico-chemical and biological symbols as well as between physico-chemical and biological information. Our analysis of the concepts of symbol, rule and code suggests that they all rely implicitly on biological laws or principles. We show that the problem is how to establish physico-chemically arbitrary rules assigning biological functions without the presence of living organisms. We propose a solution to that problem with the help of a generalized action principle and biological harnessing of quantum uncertainties. By our proposal, biology is an autonomous science having its own fundamental principle. The biological principle ought not to be regarded as an emergent phenomenon. It can guide chemical evolution towards the biological one, progressively assigning greater complexity and functionality to macromolecules and systems of macromolecules at all levels of organization. This solution explains some perplexing facts and posits a new context for thinking about the problems of the origin of life and mind. (shrink)
In this article we examine four objections to the genetic modification of human beings: the freedom argument, the giftedness argument, the authenticity argument, and the uniqueness argument. We then demonstrate that each of these arguments against genetic modification assumes a strong version of genetic determinism. Since these strong deterministic assumptions are false, the arguments against genetic modification, which assume and depend upon these assumptions, are therefore unsound. Serious discussion of the morality of genetic modification, and the development of sound (...) science policy, should be driven by arguments that address the actual consequences of genetic modification for individuals and society, not by ones propped up by false or misleading biological assumptions. (shrink)
This article focuses on three themes concerning determinism and indeterminism. The first theme is observational equivalence between deterministic and indeterministic models. Here I discuss several results about observational equivalence and present an argument on how to choose between deterministic and indeterministic models involving indirect evidence. The second theme is whether Newtonian physics is indeterministic. I argue that the answer depends on what one takes Newtonian mechanics to be, and I highlight how contemporary debates on this issue differ from those (...) in the nineteenth century. The third major theme is how the method of arbitrary functions can be used to make sense of deterministic probabilities. I discuss various ways of interpreting the initial probability distributions and argue that they are best understood as physical, biological etc. quantities characterising the particular situation at hand. Also, I emphasise that the method of arbitrary functions deserves more attention than it has received so far. (shrink)
Although biologists and philosophers of science generally agree that genes cannot determine the forms of biological and psychological traits, students, journalists, politicians, and other members of the general public nonetheless continue to embrace genetic determinism. This article identifies some of the concerns typically raised by individuals when they first encounter the systems perspective that biologists and philosophers of science now favor over genetic determinism, and uses arguments informed by that perspective to address those concerns. No definitive statements (...) can yet be made about why genetic determinism has proven so resilient in the face of empirical evidence pointing up its deficiencies, but conveying the essential interdependence of 'nature' and 'nurture' to the general public will likely require deployment of the arguments that systems theorists ordinarily use to reject genetic determinism. In addition, the elaboration of new metaphors that focus attention on the dynamic nature of trait construction will likely prove valuable, because re-conceptualizing notions like 'genes' and 'nature' will probably be one of the most effective ways to help students and the general public abandon the genetic determinism that biologists now recognize as indefensible. (shrink)
This paper is intended as a contribution to a recent vigorous debate in The Times , between the distinguished journalist Bernard Levin, the eminent Oxford economist Wilfred Beckerman and the Archbishop of York, John Habgood, among others. The debate concerns morality, ‘free will’ and determinism. As a former German Jew, who lost close relatives at Auschwitz and who suffered personally severely in my youth under daily virulent Nazi persecution , I obviously cannot remain strictly detached and neutral. Yet, I (...) shall attempt to retain as much neutrality as possible, since I think that the main rivals in this debate have all some very relevant, interesting and valid things to say. Let me also state other, probably very relevant, biases. I am an ardent Zionist . In addition, I am a diehard mechanistic materialist as regards basic philosophy, although I am tolerant of other people's religious feelings, because I realize that my materialism is as metaphysical as their religious views. With this as background let me return to the technical issues. Obviously, in a philosophical journal one can write at a level above that of The Times , where there is, perhaps, insufficient room to debate philosophical, biological, physical and other niceties in some depth. (shrink)
Complete determinism is, as Karl Popper said, “a daydream of omniscience.” Determinism is usually conceived as linked with a particular science whose explanations are deemed fundamental. As Rose rightly points out, biological enquiry includes many different kinds of question. Genetic determinism, making genes central to biology, is therefore biased and misguided. The crucial unit must be the whole organism. Correspondence:c1 IA Collingwood Terrace, Newcastle on Tyne NE2 2JP, United Kingdom email@example.com.
While agreeing with Rose's reasoning about why the causes of organisms' behaviors cannot be reduced to the solely biological and molecular, this review questions Rose's uses of the terms “determinism” and “contingency”; his occasional seemingly cavalier acceptance as fact of unproven hypotheses about social and psychological phenomena; and his general disdain for the psychometric tradition and its causal modeling extensions.
Helen Steward argues that determinism is incompatible with agency itself--not only the special human variety of agency, but also powers which can be accorded to animal agents. She offers a distinctive, non-dualistic version of libertarianism, rooted in a conception of what biological forms of organisation might make possible in the way of freedom.
I propose that, in addition to the commonly recognized increase of entropy, two more time arrows influence living beings. The increase of damage reactions, which produce aging and genetic variation, and the decrease of the rate of entropy production involved in natural selection are neglected arrows of time. Although based on the statistical theory of the arrow of time, they are distinguishable from the general arrow of the increase of entropy. Physiology under healthy conditions only obeys the increase of entropy (...) arrow. But aging, death, and evolution are determined by the other time arrows as well. Paradoxes emerge from conflicts among the specific determinisms associated with each arrow. These conflicts, along with uncertainties intrinsic to the low-number statistics of the arrows of damage reactions and decrease of the rate of production of entropy, highlight the limits of determinism at different levels of biology and its dependence on time span and number of organisms. The recognition of the three time arrows opens new perspectives for the problem of compatibility of the flow of time in physics and psychology. (shrink)
In this paper we first briefly review Bell's (1964, 1966) Theorem to see how it invalidates any deterministic "hidden variable" account of the apparent indeterminacy of quantum mechanics (QM). Then we show that quantum uncertainty, at the level of DNA mutations, can "percolate" up to have major populational effects. Interesting as this point may be it does not show any autonomous indeterminism of the evolutionary process. In the next two sections we investigate drift and natural selection as the locus of (...) autonomous biological indeterminacy. Here we conclude that the population-level indeterminacy of natural selection and drift are ultimately based on the assumption of a fundamental indeterminacy at the level of the lives and deaths of individual organisms. The following section examines this assumption and defends it from the determinists' attack. Then we show that, even if one rejects the assumption, there is still an important reason why one might think evolutionary theory (ET) is autonomously indeterministic. In the concluding section we contrast the arguments we have mounted against a deterministic hidden variable account of ET with the proof of the impossibility of such an account of QM. (shrink)
The problem with reductionism in biology is not the reduction, but the implicit attitude of determinism that usually accompanies it. Methodological reductionism is supported by deterministic beliefs, but making such a connection is problematic when it is based on an idea of determinism as fixed predictability. Conflating determinism with predictability gives rise to inaccurate models that overlook the dynamic complexity of our world, as well as ignore our epistemic limitations when we try to model it. Furthermore, the (...) assumption of a strictly deterministic framework is unnecessarily hindering to biology. By removing the dogma of determinism, biological methods, including reductive methods, can be expanded to include stochastic models and probabilistic interpretations. Thus, the dogma of reductionism can be saved once its ties with determinism are severed. In this paper, I analyze two problems that have faced molecular biology for the last 50 years—protein folding and cancer. Both cases demonstrate the long influence of reductionism and determinism on molecular biology, as well as how abandoning determinism has opened the door to more probabilistic and unconstrained reductive methods in biology. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to show that for Kant, a combination of epigenesis and monogenesis is the condition of possibility of anthropology as he conceives of it and that moreover, this has crucial implications for the biological dimension of his account of human nature. More precisely, I begin by arguing that Kant’s conception of mankind as a natural species is based on two premises: firstly the biological unity of the human species ; and secondly the existence (...) of ‘seeds’ which may or may not develop depending on the environment . I then turn to Kant’s account of man’s natural predispositions and show that far from being limited to the issue of races, it encompasses unexpected human features such as gender, temperaments and nations. These predispositions, I argue, are means to the realisation of Nature’s overall purpose for the human species. This allows me to conclude that man’s biologicaldeterminism leads to the species’ preservation, cultivation and civilisation. (shrink)
Exploring the relevance of biological discovery to philosophical topics such as perception, freedom, determinism, and ethical values, J.Z. Young's provocative book illuminates the significant links between these philosophical concepts and recent developments in biology and the neurosciences. In clear-cut language, Young describes the brain and its functions, examining questions concerning physical makeup versus "real" self, the awareness of our moral sense, and how human consciousness differs from that of other animals. He approaches perception not as a passive process (...) but as an active search for information, suggesting that human knowledge develops from a special process--essential to all organisms--of gathering information for survival. (shrink)
Contemporary scientific theories assume a primarily micro-deterministic view of nature. This paper explores the question of whether micro-determinism is incompatible with the alleged emergence of properties and laws that some biologists and philosophers assert occurs in various biological systems. I argue that a preferable unified treatment of these emergence claims takes properties, rather than laws, to be the units of emergence. Four distinct conceptions of emergence are explored and three shown to be compatible with micro-determinism. The remaining (...) concept of emergence, direct macro-determination, does not, I argue, meet the general requirement that an adequate scientific explanation provide a coherent mechanism or effective means of determination. (shrink)
Hebb's conception of instinctive behavior permits the conclusion that it is just not human nature to be instinctive: while the ant brain is built for instinctive behavior, the human brain is built for intelligent behavior. Since drives cannot be instincts, even when a human driver becomes driven, human motives are not instincts either. This understanding allows us to dismiss the determinism of the old instinctivism found in Freud's bio-psychological unconscious, and of the new instinctivism, exemplified by Wilson's sociobiology. The (...) latter entails an explanatory shift from instincts to genes, in which the deterministic character of instincts is carried over to genes. Since genes are not instincts this is a mistake. (shrink)