inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #76 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Sun 6 Jun 99 01:29
    
Mitsu: thanks hugely for that.  I think you have identified a lot f the
problems absolutley, including the fact that Dawkins would agree with you
(or me) and that these are therefore differences of nuance or style.

There is one further complicating fact, I think, which tends to make
reductionists seem more reductionist than they are. This is that they
learn the limits of their subject very early on. Genetics, for example, is
the study of heritable difference, not of heritable constitution. But in
the public mind, of course, it is the study of heritable constitution. The
man who makes this plainest is John Maynard Smith, whom I hugely admire,
but who refused (gossip has it) to review my book becasue he thought it
was full of gossip about his friends.

Should have seen the gossip I left out!

PS It rained almost all the time. The rivers were like chocolate. I had to
fish the headwaters, one so shallow I could wade it in Wellington boots. 
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #77 of 175: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Sun 6 Jun 99 19:42
    
Yes.  I think Dawkins would agree with the principle that there are limits
to the expression of information from one organizational level to another,
yet he often speaks casually in a way which blurs the distinction between
organizational levels.  Thus in a sense it is a stylistic distinction, though
I think the fact that he speaks this way indicates to me that he does not
fully recognize how fundamental the transition is between organizational
levels or logical types in Bateson's language.  So while I tend to agree with
the notion that it is unnecessary to posit some sort of metaphysical "self",
I do not find myself falling into the Dawkins camp for these reasons.

I think it's a great thing you've done, writing on this subject, as it is
certainly a subject that deserves careful attention, and from what I read
above you seem to have come to a very sober and balanced view of the whole
matter, even if it does ruffle a few academic feathers here and there.  A
sign of success I would think.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #78 of 175: Iron Tongue of Midnight (sunbear) Mon 7 Jun 99 15:48
    
amazon.co.uk got a copy of "The Darwin Wars" to me in less than a week!
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #79 of 175: With catlike tread (sumac) Mon 7 Jun 99 18:36
    
(I will be in Canada and almost certainly off line for the next week.)
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #80 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Tue 8 Jun 99 05:28
    
#78
that's really impressive of them. Much quicker than amazon.us ship here,
normally. Did they make a fuss about postage? I have noticed that simply
putting things in US Mail envelopes is at least as quick, and normally
cheaper, than most of the fancy options offered by American web retailers.

re #79 -- we are, thgouh, still permitted to talk amongst ouraelves,
quietly, until teacher comes back.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #81 of 175: Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Sun 13 Jun 99 13:55
    
I'm afraid I had completely forgotten about this discussion; why I don't
know.  So I've been absent since -- well, since my last message.

I'm interested in the connection between fundamentalism, the inquisition,
and science (it would make a wonderful article for the Skeptic, Andrew, and
if you're ever feeling generous to a 0-paying magazine, please write it for
us/them).  The best predictor of skepticism does seem to be a science
education, OR a background in stage or close-up magic (or both).  So perhaps
the connection is only that the predictor is not theology specifically but
the interest in explaining or understanding how the world works.

I am attacted to the idea that the inquisition was the making of Galileo,
because after all, that's how the world works now:  getting a book banned is
still the surest way of making it famous.

(net.wars ban, anyone?)

wg
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #82 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Mon 14 Jun 99 02:09
    
I'm in the throes of moving my elderlymother to a new house. There is not
much sense to be had from me this week, or last come to that.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #83 of 175: Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Wed 16 Jun 99 08:11
    
I seem to be reading Blackmore's The Meme Machine for the Telegraph, and I
keep wanting to call her up and say, "Are you kidding?"  I'm not sure why  I
keep having this reaction, except that it seems to me overly ambitious to
try to explain all of cultural evolution, assuming you allow the term, as
memes working to ensure their own survival, even if that's a metaphor
(there's such a thing as taking a metaphor too far and driving it off a
cliff), although I'm reserving judgement until I've actually finished the
book.

Meantime, I do have a question for <sumac> and anyone else who's an expert
in these areas:  is it really true that no animal other than humans learns
by imitation?  Don't monkeys and apes teach other other by demonstration?
The only counter-example Blackmore deals withy, claiming it's a limited one,
is birdsong.  And quite a bit of her argument rests on this claim (that
humans are uniquely imitative.)

wg
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #84 of 175: With catlike tread (sumac) Wed 16 Jun 99 10:32
    
Hmm.  I think there are nice experiments with cats and octopuses (to name
the ones that come to mind) showing observational learning.  Cat A or
Octopus A views Cat B or Octopus B performing a learned task.  Cat A and
Octopus A are then given a chance to try it, and they perform better than
Cat C and Octopus C, who have never seen the feats of the A animals.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #85 of 175: Katherine Branstetter (kathbran) Wed 16 Jun 99 12:54
    
The rhesus monkey population in Japan seems to have picked up cultural
traits from each other.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #86 of 175: Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Wed 16 Jun 99 17:44
    
Thanks for that -- other examples welcome.  One of Blackmore's comment
centered on the notion that a dog doesn't learn from a human, and I have to
admit my first thought was, "Well, why should it?"

(Learn by imitating, that is; it obviously learns, but in a canine
interpretation.)

wg
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #87 of 175: Steven Solomon (ssol) Thu 17 Jun 99 07:25
    
Birds have also been observed to learn to use novel "tools" (twigs) by
imitation of other birds. Monkeys certainly do learn by imitation, and
are also capable of deception, hence obviously able to develop
scenerios of the future effect of a current action.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #88 of 175: With catlike tread (sumac) Thu 17 Jun 99 12:02
    
Here's a silly example of cross-species imitative learning: cats that
use toilets.  OK, I know most cats don't.  And I know some people
(like my sister) carefully train their cats to use the toilet.  But I
have heard of a number of cases (alas, no cite) in which cats began
urinating in toilets with no other stimulus than watching humans do
the same.

Haven't heard of any dogs doing this, however.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #89 of 175: flying jenny (jenslobodin) Thu 17 Jun 99 12:44
    
        I don't understand your question, Wendy, in #83. Surely many animals
learn by imitation. Or is it assumed that all is instintual?
        One of the reasons whales live with their mothers for so many years,
other than for protection, is to learn how to feed, when to dive, where
to veer out to sea during migration, etc. 
        I have observed mother otters, when I lived in Monterey and saw them
very close-up,daily, showing their pups how to cradle shellfish on
their bellies while floating, and crack them open with a stone.
        There must be countless examples of this way of learning among
animals. Or am I missing the point, Wendy? 
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #90 of 175: flying jenny (jenslobodin) Thu 17 Jun 99 12:51
    
        Oh, forget me! Cross-species learning, Big fat DUH! Sorry.
(retreating to a corner, embarrassed).
        Now, I'm going to think of some examples of cross-species learning.
Bet I can.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #91 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Thu 17 Jun 99 13:30
    
I asked Sue Blackmore about birds learning by imitation: specifically,
the craze for pecking through the foil tops of English milk bottles
which appeared among tits here in the Sixties.

She replied that there was no imitaion involved: pecking is just
something a tit does, and so it was just a process of trying stuff out
that led tits to peck milk bottles. They weren't imitating other ones.
That was her argument at any rate.

It occurs to me it may be obscure if you don't have tits in the USA.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #92 of 175: flying jenny (jenslobodin) Thu 17 Jun 99 13:36
    
        Maybe I can't
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #93 of 175: flying jenny (jenslobodin) Thu 17 Jun 99 13:36
    
        Maybe I can't
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #94 of 175: flying jenny (jenslobodin) Thu 17 Jun 99 13:40
    
        Maybe I can't do ANYTHING right. What happened? Oh, well.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #95 of 175: John Berger (jberger) Thu 17 Jun 99 13:50
    <scribbled by jberger Thu 17 Jun 99 15:50>
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #96 of 175: Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Fri 18 Jun 99 03:17
    
Er, Andrew, they do have tits, but not the kind you're talking about.

Re bottle tops in the book Blackmore says:  "The spread of milk bottle
pecking was a simple cultural phenomenon but purists would argue that it was
based not on imitation, but on a simpler kind of social learning."  Her
idea is they tried independently by trial and error, and then would learn
when they found other pecked bottles with cream readily avaialble.  Which is
what you've just said.

She then says, "After nearly a century of research there is very loittle
evidencre of true imitation in non-human animals.  Birdsong is obviously an
exception, and we may be simply ignorant of the underwater world of dolphin
imitation.  Chimpanzees and girillas that have been brought up in human
families occasionally imitate in wasy that their wild counterparts do not.
However, when apes and human children are given the same problems, only the
children readily use imitation to solve them.  It seems we are wrong to use
the verb "to ape" to mean imitate, for apes rarely ape."

The case she's making is that 1) memes only act on humans; 2) memes are why
we have such huge brains (which came first, the thought or the brain to hold
it?), and 3) memes, like genes, are replicators that live through being
copied.  Sort of, anyway.

I cannot buy this.  Especially after reading <sumac>'s book on animal
emotions, I cannot buy that humans are *so* different from the entire rest
of the animal world.  I can't see why animals shouldn't have varying
cultures and norms of behavior that alter depending on the circumstances the
animals are gathered in.

And in the tit example, she even admits that the spread of the thing looked
very much like the birds were learning from each other.  This is a woman who
became a skeptic because rigorous research methodology eventually led her to
conclude that she couldn't find psi, as she longed to do, because it wasn't
there to be found.   She took a huge amount of flak for that from the
psychical research people and stood up to it.  And yet here she seems to me
to be using exactly the kind of bend-over-backwards rationalization she
would never have accepted in the psychical research arena.

Or maybe I'm just being too irritable.  I do have quite a bit more of this
book to go.

wg
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #97 of 175: Martha Soukup (soukup) Fri 18 Jun 99 09:52
    
Just a day or two ago there was a news report about a study showing cultural
differences among chimps: for example, that some chimps, fishing for ants
with a stick, eat them one at a time; while in other groups, chimps stick
the fishing-stick in deep, get a stickful, sweep them off in their fist and
gobble a handful.

We certainly know about the Japanese (macaque?) monkey who invented washing
sandy fruit.  Younger monkeys were able to learn this from her and future
generations all washed their fruit the same way; the older monkeys didn't
learn the new trick and were stuck with sandy mouths.

Or, I recently read about researchers pondering how one species of monkey
was very aggressive toward each other, while another species had a mellow
social style.  Just curious, they introduced some young of the aggressive
species into the mellow species, and, indeed, they seemed to learn better
social coping skills and behaved much more like their adoptive species than
their native species.

If the "meme" concept has any meaning, it certainly applies to these as well
as to human learning, yes?
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #98 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Fri 18 Jun 99 10:33
    
That's what you'd have thought; but Blackmore denies this.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #99 of 175: With catlike tread (sumac) Fri 18 Jun 99 11:07
    
Why?  Why can't animals have memes?  Why must there be this huge chasm
with the pure uncorrupted animals on one side and on the other us
humans hula hooping and talking about biological imperatives and singing
the Earworm Song?
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #100 of 175: Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Fri 18 Jun 99 11:21
    
Well, quite.

btw, what I should have said in 96 is that of course some of us Americans
have tits but none of us have milk bottle tops.

wg
  

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