Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

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Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby ShawnMiller » Fri Aug 28, 2015 12:46 pm

Answer the following question in 300-400 words. This question is similar to the sort of essay prompt that you will see on the take-home final, so think of it as practice.

This is due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon. Your post will not appear until sometime Tuesday.

Elliott Sober writes:

There is a vague idea about the relation of biology and culture that these models [of cultural evolution] help lay to rest. This is the idea that biology is "deeper" than the social sciences, not just in the sense that it has developed farther, but in the sense that it investigates more fundamental causes. A social scientist will explain incest avoidance by describing the spread of a custom; the evolutionary biologist goes deeper by showing us why the behavior evolved. The mind set expressed here is predisposed to think that culture is always a weak influence when it opposes biology. The works described here deserve credit for showing why this common opinion rests on a confusion (p. 35).

Explain how Sober arrives at this conclusion, what he means, and what the "confusion" he refers to consists in. Then explain how Sober's view relates to Griesemer's contention that dividing "how" and "why" questions "lends the false impression that only one or the other kind of solution to a given problem is needed" (p. 69).

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby twilliams » Fri Aug 28, 2015 7:47 pm

There is a common belief that the theories of “hard” sciences, such as biology, bear more weight and explain more than theories of social science. Sober’s conclusion is that this belief is false, and is a result of a confusion about how the sciences are connected. Sober arrives at this conclusion by using two different models of cultural evolution to explain change in human phenomena that biological theories alone cannot explain. By doing this, Sober illustrates how the social sciences are necessary to explain important phenomena, which is an example of how the theories of social sciences bear as much weight as the theories in the “hard” sciences.

First, Sober brings up the work done by CaValli-Sforza and Feldman. In the 19th century, mortality rates plummeted significantly in western Europe. Under a Darwinian evolution explanation, this should have resulted in an increase of fitness, which is measured by birth rates. However, during this exact same time, birth rates also plummeted. This phenomena could not have been explained in biological evolutionary terms, but only in cultural evolutionary terms. Namely, the development of a cultural norm occurred that compelled women to choose to have fewer babies. This explanation could not occur in biological terms, for there are no heritable traits that govern this behavior.

Sober’s next example is the work done by Boyd and Richerson. There is a problem in biological evolution when accounting for altruism. Since altruism is self-destructive behavior, it would seem to follow from natural selection that such behavior would have been eliminated, as it is not conducive to fitness. However, this behavior can be observed in certain populations. Boyd and Richerson propose that biological evolution had created behavior for individuals conforming to behaviors that are common. While the foundation of these conformist behaviors is genetic, what particular behaviors an individual will exhibit is dependent on what behaviors are passed to the individual via cultural evolution. Hence if selfishness is common, the individual will more likely be selfish; if altruism is common, the individual will more likely be altruistic.

Sober’s conclusion can be compared to Griesemer's contention of dividing "how" and "why" questions. Rather than trying to pick one explanation over another (cultural/biological evolution or how/why), it is more beneficial for science that both aspect are considered for a problem in order to create a more detailed and helpful explanation, because both are important.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby uwogisele » Sat Aug 29, 2015 12:16 pm

Biology and culture are seen as two different entities, one reason being they explain things differently, and two, they approach issues differently. But biology and culture are not two different entities; they both complement each other. For instance, the example we looked at of Italian women having fewer babies. Vertical transmission couldn’t explain the fitness reduction of the individuals. So there had to be another theory that explain why the fitness reduction. And this is where oblique transmission came into play, because it introduced the idea that we not only learn from our parents (vertical transmission) but we also learn “from peers, authority-figures, and so forth”. As Sober writes, there is this notion that biology offers a “deeper” explanation of things; biology is thought to have the real answer to the way human beings are who they, or do what they do. But the reason why people are who they are and do what they do goes way beyond what biology can explain. And that’s when we need culture to weigh in. But there is a reason why biology has more influence than culture; people are “primarily” biological beings. As we discussed in the beginning of class, “are we our genes?” Our biological identity “controls” the way we function day to day. And here is what I mean by that; a person with leukemia is limited to what they can do in their everyday lives. Because people with leukemia are often dizzy, have constant fatigue, and so forth. So if I want to explain why a person with leukemia does what he/she does, I will mainly explain their behavior in biological terms because “their biology (the leukemia disease in this case) “controls” a huge part of their life. So the confusion Sober talks about is, am I going to rely on the biology explanation or the cultural explanation of why the person with leukemia does what he/she does? This relates to Griesemers’s views about the “how” and “why” questions, because one may think that we need one without the other, but as we saw, the “how” and “why” questions complements each other, just like we saw in the example of the Italian women; culture complements what biology can’t explain.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby tschristoffel » Sun Aug 30, 2015 12:12 pm

Sober uses two examples to illustrate why explanations in the area of sociobiology require the input from two different sides. First, Sober brings up three ways that selection is modeled, which differ in the two essential areas of heritability and fitness. In the first, which is consistent with natural selection, genes are the method of heritability, while “having babies” is the measure of fitness. In the second, genes are replaced with “learning” while heritability is still determined by having babies. In the third, learning is again the method of heritability, while fitness is measured by the “number of students,” or people who have copied an idea.

Sober then goes on to examine how these models interact with each other, referencing the works of (i) Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman as well as (ii) Boyd and Richerdson. Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman were tasked with explaining the drop in birth rate in nineteenth-century Europe, which happened contrary to our expectations based on biological fitness (first model). It was hypothesized that this happened because the idea of a small family was more attractive than a large one—an explanation based on cultural ideas rather than biological ones. A cultural explanation was thus able to overcome a biological one. However, Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman were not able to explain why the idea of a small family is more attractive.

Boyd and Richerdson dealt with the the Kamikaze pilots of World War II, who altruistically sacrificed their lives for the benefit of their country. These acts of altruism cannot be explained biologically, as they reduce the fitness of individuals. Rather, they can be explained by feudal Japanese military tradition being passed down into the imperial army–again a cultural explanation.

Sober summarizes his ideas by stating that although cultural explanations are generally considered to be weaker than biological ones, both are necessary to explain cultural trends. While cultural ideas can explain why a behavior is able to spread, biological ideas are necessary to explain how it originates. This is the result, Sober states, of a “confusion” in the general populace—the confusion of causes of a behavior with its consequences. The division of cause and consequence is similar to Griessemer’s division of “how” and “why” types of science. Griessemer agrees that both types of explanation are needed, but, contrary to Sober, argues that the separation is what causes false impressions on the part of the public.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby KelseyBS » Sun Aug 30, 2015 3:00 pm

I think what Sober means here, is that the public has a tendency to view hard sciences and social sciences as black and white. When they come together, much like biology and culture in this situation, people often try to argue that biology has more influence. Sober is trying to explain, not only that they should be considered equally, but also that people are confusing that argument with the point of discussing the situation. Whether Culture or Biology have greater influence over incest, the discussion here should be about how the two work together to keep the human race reproducing successfully. The "confusion" that Sober refers to is the diversion that the hard science vs social science argument creates in these situations.
This is similar to Griesemer's contention that dividing "how" and "why" questions "lends the false impression that only one or the other kind of solution to a given problem is needed" (p. 69). In both situations, people are trying to argue that one is better than the other, when that is not a problem that needs to be resolved. We need not determine whether the question asking why or how is more important than the other just the same that we need not determine whether Biology is more or less important than Physics, or Anthropology.
The difference between the two, is that Sober seems to want to see change more than Griesemer. Griesemer has an attitude about science that whatever can happen will; there are over 7 billion people on this Earth and it is impossible to stop anything. Sober recognizes that putting in an effort may not change the world, but it will affect a good portion of it. Both interpretations are credible opinions, they just show the difference between optimism and pessimism.
This comparison brings me to think of the idea of "Pay it Forward" (which is also a recommended movie of mine). This concept involves paying 3 favors forward for every favor you receive rather than back to the person who paid it to you, but my idea is to replace favors with information. This would be like a highly effective form of raising awareness.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby euriekim » Sun Aug 30, 2015 3:59 pm

In his article “Models of Cultural Evolution”, Elliott Sober addresses how cultural evolution is equally important as biological evolution. He makes his argument by bringing up topics like the lowered birth rate in Italian women and “self-sacrificial behaviour” or altruism. Sober concludes that the general opinion is that people will regard biological evolution to have more of an importance than cultural evolution. He arrives at this conclusion because people are more likely to accept the more physical or verifiable notion of biological evolution rather than the more theoretical notion of cultural evolution. Looking back at our ancestors proves biological evolution, but it is much harder to apply cultural evolution to biological evolution since can be many reasons as to why culture changed through generations. The “confusion” that he refers to in the quotation above may mean the confusion as to why people aren’t as quick to accept cultural evolution, as they are to accept biological evolution.

Sober’s views relates to Griesemer’s view on how dividing “how” and “why” questions “lends the false impression that only one or the other kind of solution to a given problem is needed” (pg. 69). Simply stating, Sober has the same idea with cultural and biological evolution as Griesemer does with “how” and “why” questions, also known as proximate and ultimate questions respectively. Both Sober and Griesemer question why people seem to be content with just differentiating their topics from one another instead of relating them to each other. A person should know the answers to proximate (“how”) and ultimate (“why”) questions to understand the entirety of a situation. In addition, a person should associate biological evolution with cultural evolution in order to understand the answers to proximate and ultimate questions of the entirety of evolution. For that reason, it is ludicrous that some people seem to be content with knowing how something happens and not why or how humans biologically evolved and not culturally or vice versa.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby herrerajen » Sun Aug 30, 2015 6:50 pm

Towards the end of his article, Sober (1992) pivotally asserts that there is a peculiar “confusion” when culture is proposed as a “weak influence when it opposes biology” (p. 35). However, by drawing on the cultural models of Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman along with Boyd and Richerson, Sober carefully scrutinizes the misunderstanding that biology, or branches of biology, investigate much more fundamental causes in comparison to the social sciences. To further explain this thought, Sober explains that it is believed that cultural traits must evolve with the need of reproductive fitness, however, through his examples of demographic transitions, he proves otherwise. He arrives to his conclusion by proposing that cultural models do not manifest the mistakes that sociobiologists confront, which is that they apply evolutionary ideas to social sciences. He presents two selection models: type 1 centering on differentiability, type II focusing on hereditability and a third model that rests there are no biological explanations. But these models fall short as they describe the process of natural selection as opposed to the product. Contrary to these ‘pure type’ models, cultural models used by Cavalli-Soforza and Feldman that explain how customs spread, whether it is through horizontal, oblique, vertical transmission. Importantly, these cultural models mix "together the concepts of biological and cultural fitness” (p. 29). The mixing of the two models is a crucial step for it allows for the “confusion” to diminish. Ultimately, the points Sober raise are fairly similar to Griesemer’s conclusions that the separation of evolutionary biologists, which think in terms of “why,” and other biologists which think in terms of “how,” can create a polarized process of investigation and conclusion determination. This is clearly seen by the conclusions social scientists and biologists draw. For example, biologists will oftentimes describe quantitative consequences of cultural influences whereas social scientists will make qualitative ones. In the example of altruism evolving, a biological model would purely eliminate it whereas a social scientific approach would show how this feature can evolve when “culture is included in the model” (p. 30). Thus, there is a necessity for both as Griesemer propose. For the conclusions that Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman drew about demographic transitions could not be made had “a purely biological and noncultural process were postulated” (p. 30).

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby eugenekim » Sun Aug 30, 2015 8:01 pm

Sober arrives at the conclusion that biology is considered to be more profound than culture because unlike something like culture where a social scientist will describe incest avoidance in terms of why that culture had a high tendency to spread, the biologist will examine why that behavior grew about so that it became a cultural norm. As a result of this dynamic between culture and biology, there is a tendency for both of these fields to “talk past each other” creating a confusion, especially when culture is automatically considered the weaker influence when compared to biology. As a result, it’s difficult to find a general framework that coincides with social science and cultural investigations. This arises due to social scientists being focused on sources and things that are more “intuitive and qualitative” assessments of actions. On the other hand, a cultural evolutionist would focus more on “transmission systems and fitness differences”. Therefore, it seems that the author wants to combine both of theses views together when he mentions Dobzhansky. He’s important to the conversation, because he brings up the importance of intertwining the works of social scientists and how they relate to the models of cultural evolution, because otherwise, they would not be able to be comprehended. Boyd and Richerson’s example of Kamikaze pilots seem to combine both these ideas of biological and cultural fitness. On one hand, it may seem ironic that someone would be altruistic, considering that they would be killing themselves and the ability to reproduce; however, when combined with this notion of cultural fitness where altruism plays a huge role. It creates a clearer picture. Griesemer’s debacle about the “how” and “why” questions relates to this issue as well. Evolutionary biologist are so focused on the “how” question due to the implications that may arise for new medicine, that it creates a reductionist thinking that limits the potential that HGI could have, when not factoring other implications and understandings. Important issues such as ethics and practicality are tossed to the side by this narrow drive of how do we solve the next issue?

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby jjquintanilla » Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:05 pm

Sober's interpretation is based upon this comparison on which certain fields: biology or social science, can better provide an answer with a more plausible explanation, than another field. Sober arrived to this conclusion simply based on the reason that science, and in this case biological science, can better provide a cohesive interpretation and explanation to various facets of nature from the physiological components to the molecular subunits. The confusion follows because other fields can provide an alternative explanation to social issues in such a way that certain human behaviors can be explain without a biological foundation, but because of this absences of scientific support, social science can simply based their interpretation on processes and patterns, which hence makes it seem in a way incomplete and in some sense "weak".

Sobers interpretation can then be coined with the Griesemer reading with regarding this notion of the "why" and "how" questions that different fields of academia tends to answer. Biological science focuses on the "how" aspect of science and by using this position, the "how" facilitate science to better explain the components of the world. For example, if one were to present the argument that photosynthesis is important because such a process produces oxygen, then the "how" aspect would come into play to explain the means by which oxygen is produced. However, despite this, the "why" aspect of photosynthesis came into light before the "why', but biology focuses on the "how;" for science tends to be more interested on the components which makes it function.

Despite this, there exist this false impression that one or the other is needed for a given problem, but the example of the photosynthesis is enough to refute such notion. Although one can explain the biological pathways of photosynthesis to its miniscule elements, such explanation can only go so far without having a purpose for such explanation. Hence, the confusion, as I see it, perhaps arises from whether or not, one can solely have a problem that requires one form of a solution.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby msnelmida » Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:42 pm

Elliot Sober concludes that when it comes to analyzing and coming up with theories of cultural evolution culture is often undermined by biological processes or gene transmission. Sober wants to consider that culture can be autonomous phenomena that can be used theorize cultural evolution. He provided three models of natural selection of two which rely on fitness through biological means and one which fitness is determined independently from reproduction. The confusion entails from his third model as “common knowledge” suggest in order for natural selection to occur the concept of characteristic variation and the concept of “species” must involve. In the third type genetic variation and offspring resemblance for increased fitness does not apply on the third model. Sober states the third model shows that “individuals acquire their ideas because they are exposed to the ideas” of other members of a culture which is the same process how rumors and diseases spread. To explain such model Sober by first stating Darwin’s theory is influenced by economic theories by Adam Smith and providing examples of the economic theory of firms. The evolution of firms of surviving in a changing market does not require individual organism to die or reproduce but instead rely through learning and having students instead. Sober also provided analysis done by Cavalli-Sforza, Boyd, Feldman, and Richerson which talks about the possibility of culture to have an autonomous role in cultural change. The study is about the changing family size trend in Italy in the nineteenth century with different cultural transmission that does not entirely correlate with the concepts of natural selection of just in biological sense. A question still arises of how can culture can be autonomous since there is no evidence of how it is processed within itself with due to the lacking of theories of generality in social sciences. This in then relates to Griesemer’s view that relying on one aspect of either “how” or “why” questions can lead to false conclusions. Sober in relation to Griesemer’s point states that biologists may investigate cultural evolution with a different source than a social scientist which constitutes in difference in theories and that undermining another does result to such. There are fundamental concepts must be considered in a biological sense and an understanding of the processes that occur in culture.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby lksalinero » Sun Aug 30, 2015 11:30 pm

Elliot Sober argues that theories of cultural evolution render obsolete the view that cultural influences are less important than biological ones when it comes to explaining human behavior. As Sober explains, many people are “predisposed to think that culture is always a weak influence when it opposes biology.” This predisposition stems from the misconception that biology is capable of providing deeper and more essential explanations than the social sciences.

However, the study of cultural evolution reveals instances where not only does culture evolve in its own right, but where the evolution of culture shapes biological evolution. For example, in the 19th century, Italian women transitioned from having an average of five children to having an average of two (pg 25). This transition cannot be explained through biological natural selection; after all, the women having fewer children were reducing their evolutionary fitness. Far from a “weak influence,” in this case, cultural evolution actually overpowered biological natural selection. Here we see how theories of cultural evolution can dispel the misconception, or “confusion,” that cultural explanations are somehow less powerful than biological ones.

The distinction Sober makes between explanations in the social sciences and explanations in biology is reflected in the division between “how and “why” questions that James Griesemer explores in his article “Tools for Talking.” Just as Sober describes the perception of biology providing “deeper” explanations than the social sciences, Griesemer would say that people perceive biology as answering “why” questions and the social sciences as answering “how” questions. Yet, as demonstrated by Sober, both cultural evolution and biological evolution need to be considered in order to fully understand human evolution. Furthermore, in the case of Italian family size, cultural evolution provides both the “how” and “why” explanations. Likewise, Griesemer emphasizes that both “how” and “why” explanations are necessary for true understanding. This supports Sober’s claim that the social sciences should not be discounted when seeking to understand human behavior and history.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby anjames » Mon Aug 31, 2015 12:09 am

Leading up to the quoted passage, Sober talks about time’s role in the assessment of relative importance of types of evolution. He says, “Culture is often a more powerful determiner of change than biological evolution because cultural changes faster”. When he says that there is a false idea that the social sciences investigate the weaker influence, he means that we’re not looking at biology and culture in the right framework (time). While (macro)evolution of the biological sort might take generations for a population change to occur, cultural evolution can do similar work. The effects of cultural evolution might be genetic or nongenetic, taking into account the importance of oblique transmission. The “confusion” is that biology captures all the “fundamental” information, while the models would say that the culture makes an important contribution too. To some extent this is because selection is not limited to the genome or just biology, but includes the social environment as well.
Sober and Griesemer have related arguments most simply in that both call on Dobzhansky’s saying in conclusions and suggest that the biological view has been given too much emphasis. In Sober’s case, it is even too strong a claim to say that the social sciences do not make sense in light of models of cultural evolution. The models do not point to the source of transmission that social scientists normally talk about, but they do point out that there is a problem in evolution science (both cultural and biological). He says, “It isn’t that biologists and the social scientists are in conflict; rather, they are talking past each other.” This is very similar to Grisemer’s discussion of “how” and “why” questions in that rather than solutions being either one or the other, both should play a role. The simple systems that “how” questions tend to find success in answering ignore the complexities that “why” questions are more likely answer. The social sciences are like the ignored and compartmentalized “why” questions.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby JustinN » Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:06 am

Sober’s models of cultural evolution arrives at the conclusion that biology isn’t the ultimate powerful force when it comes to determining solutions to problems. In general, people will tend to put their faith in biological explanations of problems over social ones because biology tends to look at the fundamental causes of things. Sober asserts that people will put weight on the biological explanation because it has a degree of certainty that comes with attacking problems at their root. He describes the example of explaining incest avoidance because both the social and biological explanations of incest avoidance are valid. Despite this, people will value the biological explanation since it shows why people should avoid incest as opposed to showing how people have avoided incest in the past.
The confusion that Sober refers to is a misconception that the general public feels that only a one-sided approach is needed to solve social problems. This thinking comes from a sense of hierarchy in the body. The idea is that our biology determines our brain, and our brains determine our culture; therefore, biology plays a larger part of culture since culture cannot exist without the brain.
The confusion can be resolved if people realize that more than one side of an explanation is needed to characterize natural phenomena. In the case of the incest example, knowing why it is beneficial for people to avoid incestuous mating would not be sufficient to explain how people formed a cultural practice that specifically avoids it. For example, if two populations of people were separated by a five hundred foot gorge, an explanation of why they built bridges would not explain how they managed to build them.
This view relates to Griesemer’s view that dividing “how” and “why” questions leads to false impressions because it shows that the division of the two types of questions implies that the two explanations do not overlap. Giving one idea power over the other leads to the belief that there is only one necessary answer and that all questions can be solved at the roots, without looking at the consequences of the answer’s conception.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby fdtran » Mon Aug 31, 2015 3:58 am

In this quote from Models of Cultural Evolution, Eliott Sober explains that social science and its explanation for cultural evolution has a much weaker influence than biology and its explanation for biological evolution. Sober comes to this conclusion through his analysis of the theories of cultural evolution by Cavallli-Sforze and Feldman and by Boyd and Richerson. Sober explains the process of evolution by natural selection with genetic mode of transmission in three ways: Type 1 which is genetic transmission passed on to children but more importantly are Type 2 and Type 3 both of which are learning transmissions that are vertical and oblique transmissions, respectively. Sober ties the spread of cultural evolution in this sense.
Cavalli-Sforze and Feldman studied the decline of fertility rates of Italian women. According to biological evolution, the more children one has, the higher fitness one has. However, this trend clearly contradicted Darwinian evolution. Cavalli-Sforze and Feldman hypothesized that a cultural shift caused oblique transmission to be more prevalent than vertical transmission. Due to tradeoffs, Italian women were accustomed to having fewer children in order to pass on their knowledge to their “students”.
Boyd and Richerson’s theory of cultural evolution was quite similar; they analyzed the nature of altruism and selfishness and found that selfishness was more evolutionary fit than altruism. However, altruism was found to be much more prevalent and was hypothesized that transmission of certain traits is much easier when that trait is abundant in that population.
Sober states that due to the contradictions found between cultural evolution and biological evolution make it seem that cultural evolution has much less precedence over biological evolution. This is quite similar to Griessemer’s disagreement on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions can take precedence over another because both authors reject the false dichotomy that we impose on the scientific community and ourselves. Sober wishes us to see that cultural evolution and biological evolution work hand-in-hand to formulate our society.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby pkshah » Mon Aug 31, 2015 5:03 am

Sober means that the various models of cultural evolution described in the passage show that biology explains culture at a fundamental level. This is as opposed to a social scientist that would explain cultural phenomena at face value. To give an analogy, a low level programming language would be akin to biology and a high level programming language would be akin to social science. This has nothing to do with the skill it takes to use these languages; however, it has more to do with if you are dealing with the fundamental hardware of a computing system (low level programming language) or the various layers of software on top of the fundamental hardware (high level programming language). Similarly, biology deals with our hardware (DNA/molecules) and the social sciences deal with the various levels of software on top of our hardware (culture/cultural evolution). As a result, the perception is that culture hardly affects biology because it acts at a more fundamental level. Sober claims that this common belief, that biology is more influential, is based on confusion. He believes that the systems that describe cultural evolution are based off of things like transmission systems and fitness differences. This framework is not good for social science investigations because social science focuses on the conclusions and consequences derived from various sources of cultural phenomena. Therefore, the biologists and the social scientists do not disagree with one another; however, they are just not talking about the same thing. That is why there is confusion regarding the common belief that culture has a weak influence on biology.

This relates to Griesemer, because Sober shows how there is a dichotomy between social sciences and biology; however, you need both to describe things like cultural evolution. Similarly, Griesemer says that dividing the how and the why of biology implies that one or the other is needed to provide a solution for an issue surrounding something like the human genome project. They both claim that this is not true. Griesemer and Sober both explicitly show how you need a variety of factors that come from both biology and sociology to explain certain phenomena.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby ktoporovskaya » Mon Aug 31, 2015 7:51 am

The two ideas that explain culture are based on evolution and biology. Evolutionary view explains “why” questions of culture. Biology view explains the “how” questions. Social sciences are focused on how questions as the evolutionally biologist answer why the behavior evolved. There is some confusion when we look at situations where culture is opposing biology. The situation where the culture practices actually gets in the way of biological goals. An example would be women having fewer children or incest in royal families. This does prevent gene flow and opposes biology. It is hard to understand why sometimes the two do not always work together and have a same goal. People have this opinion, when it comes to culture that it is a weaker influence compared to biology. This is not necessary true because our lives are shaped by culture that we practice everyday of our lives. Another problem is opinion that answering the how question is easier that answering the why question. Due to this there is a lot more information discussing the hows and not the whys. The lack of information on why question might give a false idea that the question is irreleven and the biological view is more important and influential. The two explanations that answer how and why questions are very similar to Grieseme’s evolutionary explanations. When two are divided we do not get a full view on the topic. Both need the explanations to work together to present a bigger picture. I guess it is very natural for people to compartmentalize information, which can lead to a divide. We need to be aware of this issue to remove any confusion one might have and combine the theories for a better understanding of our culture and evolution. Once we do this we will be able to resolve a lot more of the unanswered questions.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby eridolfi » Mon Aug 31, 2015 9:36 am

Sober describes this confusion in that exists with describing cultural evolution by first implying that culture evolves in the same way as biological evolution and if it doesn’t, it is social science. He doesn’t explicitly follow this, but uses this argument for some basic simplifying purposes. There can be a huge issue especially in social science because trends can be difficult to trace. For example, if one is trying to determine the lineage of a biological trait, genetic testing can be done. However, in social science the results can be difficult to track and observe. One cannot directly pinpoint why Italian women had fewer children because there are two many potential reasons and influences. To summarize, biology functions on a finite list of problems and their pair solutions whereas social science is much broader as to causation. Confusion arrives in that some choose to hold these two ways of thinking in a dichotomy. There are either biology or culture questions and if one is explained the opposite way, that explanation is automatically wrong. As we can see this doesn’t provide a full understanding of what is actually occurring in most cases, especially with complex topics like human evolution. Another way to explain this is with a how vs. why dichotomy that is discussed by Griesemer. These two ways of thinking relate to each other in that while convenient in simplifying some explanations, they can cause flawed reasoning in others. Genetics is a perfect explanation of how things can happen, but can break down during a why explanation because it indicates that genes control everything, making other forms of biological science unusable. The issue is that many topics like cultural evolution need to be explained using both styles of explanations or else the logic is flawed. Unless this happens, topics like cultural evolution serve as more of a battle ground for biology and culture instead of explaining how they work together.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby sarahsilverman » Mon Aug 31, 2015 9:44 am

Sober contends that "culture" and "biology" are falsely dichotomized, because some students of cultural evolution assume that biological evolutions is by nature a stronger, more controlling, or perhaps faster-acting force than cultural evolution. He arrives at his conclusion in light of evidence to the contrary. For example, cultural and biological evolution occur on different time scales, so that while biological evolutionary processes may be shaping the morphology and behaviour of a population, cultural evolution can occur over time spans shorter than one generation (the unit of time most relevant for biological evolution), and thus alter individuals and populations faster. Another example is that the drop in the Italian birth rate cannot be explained alone by Darwinian natural selection, and a classical definition of fitness ("having babies.) Sober's contention is related to Griesemer's opinion of proximate and ultimate explanations of biological or cultural phenomena because he too believes that "how" and "why" are not necessarily separate questions. In complex evolutionary processes, there are bound to many interacting factors that do not always push in a given direction. This is all based on the complex nature of "fitness": even in the biological definition of fitness, reproduction and survival work both with each other and against each other. An organism must survive long enough to reproduce successfully, but pouring too many resources into survival may take time and resources away from efforts to reproduce. Fitness in the human context is even more complex, because of the complex human life history, social structure, and because western, industrialized humans are often ecologically liberated (they always have enough food and water). Both authors seem to think that when we talk about "evolution" today (particularly in the context of cultural evolution) we do not mean the simple system which Darwin described (natural selection) but a much more complex process of change that varies considerably based on context.

Nancy Galeno
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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby Nancy Galeno » Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:18 am

I think that what Sober means by the “confusion” is that since biology always seems to go “deeper” than social scientists then people seem to value it more. However, in reality one is not more important than the other, they actually compliment each other. Sober arrives to this conclusion about the “confusion” by analyzing how both the evolution of culture and the evolution of genetics are different. For example, scientists tend to be as general as they can since it is complex and many things are not yet proven. On the other hand, being too broad does not really work for the social sciences because in being too broad a lot of the things that are important are lost. It makes sense to say that both aspects go hand in hand because although one can explain the consequences of a specific issue, it cannot always describe the causes. That’s when the other science comes in. This relates the Griesemer article in dividing the “how” and “why” questions. Griesemer says “what is common to us all, what is native or innate, is genetic. One sort of interpretation of human nature thus tends to focus on the possibility of a biological universal for humans: we all are caused by the same kind of genetic machinery.” This relates to the biological aspect of our “how” evolution. Griesemer also says, “The crucial ingredient of evolutionary change is variability. Whenever organisms are studied carefully variation is found, raising doubts that any essential similarity-even in our genes-can be found in our biology. Evolutionary explanations of human "nature" focus on our differences and lead to a view of our nature as inherently social and historical, rather than individual and mechanical: our nature is bound up in our participation in a certain sort of historical population as contributing parts.” This explains our “why” aspect of evolution. With this being said, it is important that both social and biological sciences are taken into consideration when thinking about evolution since one science itself cannot explain it all.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby SamGarcia25 » Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:33 am

In describing how Elliot Sober arrived at his conclusion and what he means concerning the stereotype which dictates culture is a weaker influence when compared with biological influence, an example from Statistics may help. When searching for a relationship between variables in statistics, the type of investigation conducted can be observational or experimental. The findings and applications of each type are limited, but in the realm of statistics it is the observational investigations that are more so. While experimental research in this context can use math and population biology to arrive at precise conclusions, observational research typically relies on hypotheses and educated guesses which lead to vague results. All of this to indicate that the wide range of tools allowing biologists to conduct their studies has created this stereotype undermining the ability of social scientists to do the same with a similar standard of quality. Although limited, in statistics both types of investigations are needed to shed light on different aspects of the same relationship. Analogously, this may be what Sober means about the biological and cultural studies conducted pertaining to sources of fitness and the transmission of traits which belong to them.
Relating Sober’s view to Griesemer’s point about wrongly isolating “how” and “why” questions when addressing complex issues, both agree that these types of questions have a dual relationship and should not be independent of each other as biologists have falsely believed. Sober hints at this in his example about altruism, where perspective determines whether altruism will thrive in a population or become an erased trait. If one way of thinking is favored, the other will be buried; in this case, it will be the cultural perspective. This can be dangerous, especially if traits like altruism are selected in the future for genetic removal simply because biology said so. In countering the stereotypical weak influence of culture that has led to this “confusion,” Sober points out that cultural transmission is a greater indicator of change than biological evolution because the exchange of ideas between people is quicker than the exchange of genetic information. From this, one can infer that he means to balance cultural influence with biological influence, making them commensurable.

Bowen Tan
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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby Bowen Tan » Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:42 am

The author shows some models of cultural evolution, although there some shortcomings of those models, at least it achieves a common framework to place culture and biology both into. And evaluating the “importance” of biological and cultural influences is a persistent problem as well as a vague idea due to those controversies. Since cultural changes occur faster than that in biological evolution, culture is often a more powerful determiner of change in contrast to biology. Then the author draws the conclusion. The confusion can be regarded as the idea that both from the view of the development and fundamental causes, thus culture is a weak influence rather than biology. It indicates that the confusion, biology is deeper than the social sciences, is explained and eliminated in some extent according to the models. From the perspective of Griesemer, it is a systematic thing to solve both how and why problems. Neither how nor why is important enough for people to indicate the essence of problems, only do they work together, ultimate and proximate things can be worked out well. It shows assessing the value of either how and why problems is difficult. Even for the same problem, there can be rather than one way needed. In some extent, Sober realized at the same point as Griesemer. Because cultural and biological factors both contribute to the cultural evolution. There is an achievement to make quantitative assessment of both culture and biology due to those models, it helps to clarify the confusion and the vague idea. Nonetheless, Sober still doubts whether those models of cultural evolution offer a framework involving with proceeding of social scientific investigations. And as the reason Sober raises up, these models include consequences of transmission systems and fitness differences, but not with there sources. The point of view, “It isn’t that the biologists and the social scientists are in conflict”, reaches an unify with the view of Griesemer’s as well. (Total 321 words)

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby nyonan » Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:48 am

The idea that strict sciences, in this case biology, go into greater detail and deeper analysis when attempting to explain human nature is simply a product of narrow vision. Sober thinks that because of models of cultural evolution, we can see how human culture “evolves” in a similar sense of how a gene or mutation evolves. At the same time, we can see how there are certain questions answered by cultural evolution that are not by standard biological evolution. Going even further, there is an idea of the culture of humans causing certain biological evolutions or leading our biology down a certain path for the future.
Sober will state that of course the models of cultural evolution have some shortcomings, as they cannot be the end-all source of answers. However, the models do put cultural evolution within the same ballpark as biological evolution. One can then see that the two are not very different when viewed in a particular light. Sober refers to common views “resting on confusion” meaning that confusion comes from the fact that people are told one thing or another and do not see cultural evolution in the same light. In fact, I would argue that the reason people believe that strict sciences are the end-all be-all of answering questions is due to the fact that the evolution of our culture has selected for “sciences” as a top priority. This confusion rests on people not even thinking about culture as an entity or idea that can evolve, and being told that science (or religion) is how we gain our answers. Looking to the distant past, we can see that philosophy was the way to gain answers in ancient human culture. This then leads to the idea that biological evolution can only answer so much on its own.
In the quoted text, Sober talks about the difference between a social scientist and an evolutionary biologist when looking to explain the reason for humans naturally avoiding incest. This relates to Griesemer in his idea of splitting “how” and “why” questions. The biologist is thought of as answering the question more deeply, but instead they are answering the “why” question and the social scientist is answering the “how” question. Thus, looking only at one answer is a product of “confusion” and is falsely thought of as correct. Both are necessary together to give a better understanding of human nature.

Michelle Tarango
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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby Michelle Tarango » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:23 am

Sober arrives at this conclusion by examining the relation between cultural evolution and biological evolution. In this passage, he is stating that models of cultural evolution help to explain how biology and culture evolve together. According to Sober, this is a better explanation than one that treats biological and cultural evolution as separate entities that do not evolve together. Sober is claiming that biology is often thought of as more important because the questions asked are more “fundamental”, but social science is also a necessary factor when it comes to explaining the entire concept of evolution. The confusion Sober refers to is that social sciences are often seen as weak if they do not align with biological evolution, but instead it just shows that causes may have different explanations that do not always match up. The passage relates to Griesemer’s opinion that “how” and “why” questions are not always opposing forces and how dividing them up can result in incorrect solutions to problems. It is similar to Sober’s opinions on cultural and biological evolution, and makes the observation that using simply one or the other to explain human behavior and evolution does not result in a full picture.

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby lemacias » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:52 am

As a science student, at some point in time I arrived to the conclusion that yes, biology tends to go deeper in matters of describing how the process of evolution works and how it shapes our lives. As trying to answer some of the questions that arose in this class (and in my mind as well) I usually look for the science based opinions than the social sciences ones. We tend to think that social sciences do not see the whole spectrum or that they answers to certain questions are always inconclusive (or not directly to the point as it is expected in other sciences), and by doing that avoid the objective matter of the question asked. What the author is trying to reflect is that this mind set will not takes us any further until we as a cultural, social, biological beings understand and acknowledge that our own mere existence is as complex and interrelated like a spiderweb. The confusion relies on who are we gonna give more credit, who has the last word or manages to present the absolute truth between these sciences. If we only follow one, what piece of the puzzle are we missing? Is it really impossible to look at these two sources of knowledge without separately having a preference towards one?

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Re: Third prompt (due Monday, Aug. 31 by noon)

Postby kgbaidoo » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:58 am

Sober come to a conclusion that there is a vague about how culture and biological evolution influences the evolution in our society. He is mainly confused because there is an argument going about which of the contributes more to a more faster evolution in our society. This is because experts in both fields of study tend to treat both topic with equal importance when it comes to their contributions in the advancement of human evolution. Sober's argument or confusion is that both culture and biology's contribution to human evolution should are not placed in a common framework because the models of cultural evolution states that culture evolution contribution to human evolution is more important than biological. He clarifies this point by explaining that" culture is a more powerful determiner of change than biological evolution because cultural changes occur faster. Biological fitness is calibrated in terms of having babies, its basic temporal unit is the span of a human generation" (35). Basically what he was trying to prove is that some scholars think that biological influence in human evolution is restricted to a certain time frame but within that than time frame there can replication of millions of cultural ideas which can lead to tremendous change in human evolution .

Sober’s view relates to Griesemer’s view in so many different ways. Both authors in their article argue about how society tends to treat two important factors that equally contribution human evolution totally different based on their fields of study. In Sober’s article he complains about how both biological and cultural evolutions opposes each other based on their influence on Human evolution. One is considered better than the other in certain circumstances and other is also considered as better than the other one in other situations. This same notion of competition occurs with the why and how in Griesemer’s article

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