POIKILOTHERM Helen, Do you really believe this? In an earlier post, you stated "Evolution leaves no room for anything but what is inherited or mutated." I find it hard to beleive that someone as sophisticated in her knowlege of biology as yourself could support this statement, particularly when it comes to the question of the evolution of complex behaviors. I conclude that you are either engaging in (you must admit somewhat inaccurate) rhetorical hyperbole, or that you are simply unaware of a large body of theory that deals with cultural evolution. If the former is true, please ignore the rest of the post and skip to the bottom. If not, then may I politely suggest the following: Just so you have a flavor of the types of theories investigating the evolution of human ethical systems, please take a gander at this fellow's site here and browse through it. http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~gintis/ in particular, look at the links and the papers. This is an interesting one here, in which some aspects of the selective advantages of co-operative "ethical" behavior in communities is explored. Note that a discussion of genetics is curiously deficient in the paper, being unecessary for the theoretical framework. If you are unfamiliar with the terminology of game theoretical approaches, I suggest you pause and read (and I know I have suggested this to you as reading before, so forgive me if you have already read it) John Maynard Smith's short but wonderful book "Evolution and the Theory of Games". It is very hard to discuss the evolution of behavior without reference to such types of theories. Are you familiar with them? If so, what problems (in specific) do you have with the notion of an ethical system arising out of a process of cultural evolution? HELEN Gintus -- the guy who says in his preface, "Sixth, game theory is adventure and fantasy." I can see how this relates to evolution, but not how it relates to science! In the meantime, you are assuming complex behaviors evolved. I disagree with that. I see them as part and parcel of each created kind as well as of human beings -- from the beginning. However, to follow your argument through, what method do you see as producing complex behaviors if not through inherited genetic directions which allowed for them? Or, to put it more generally, and in relation to the statement I made that you are taking issue with -- what else besides mutations and inheritance is responsible for evolution? I would offer instead that you are assuming evolution at the beginning and then trying to fit social behavior and complex societies into it. That part is fine, logically, but then don't try to use that very complexity as evidence for evolution! That's a self-referencing argument and has no intrinsic meaning attached. BELISARIUS I think the point he's making is this. The principles commonly called "ethics" or "morality" in many cases make evolutionary sense. For instance, a species that kills itself off in fights isn't going to last very long. Some measure of our "morality" is likely to be instinctual, a product of our evolutionary development. It's the sort of behavioral guidelines that allow for a functional cooperative society, we see it among other social animals (chimps, wolves, dolphins etc.). This would account for the cross-cultural universality of many moral priniciples. The rest, the areas in which the moral codes of one society differ from the next, are probably simply learned behavior stemming from circumstances which the culture had to deal with in its formative years. The fact that we see similar behaviors among other cooperative animals argues powerfully for evolution... HRG/ALTER EGO I would offer instead that you are assuming evolution at the beginning and then trying to fit social behavior and complex societies into it. That part is fine, logically, but then don't try to use that very complexity as evidence for evolution! That's a self-referencing argument and has no intrinsic meaning attached. Actually, that's the way all scientific theories are tested. You assume a theory and derive predictions from it; then you look whether those predictions correspond to reality. For instance, solid state physics got started when people assumed quantum mechanics at the beginning and derived predictions about the behavior of electrons in a crystal lattice from it. Of course, the success of those predictions was a confirmation of the underlying theory (i.e. quantum mechanics); there was no circularity at all. Neither, of course, is there any circularity in an attempt to explain social behavior within the framework of a well-established theory like evolution. Any such successful explanation is a further confirmation of the theory. HELEN Belisarius -- Yes, I know that complex behaviors make evolutionary sense to him. That is the paradigm he, and you, are working in. However that was not the argument. The argument had to do with whether or not heredity and mutations were soley responsible for evolution or not. If they are not, then I need to know what other causes are posited. I am not denying learning. But that is not evolution. It has nothing to do with a fish turning into a man. The argument time and time again by evolutionists is that evolution is concerned SOLEY with biological diversification after life somehow started. Is it then being argued that behaviors have a different cause? If not, then my statement which he is arguing still stands. If there is a different cause posited for behaviors I would like to know. Your second part is a classic example of the very self-referencing I was talking about, actually. First, you assume evolution is true. Second, you assume evolution led to similarities in behaviors of man and animals. So far, that's fine as a matter of logical premises. However you cannot then, logically, state that because you see similarities in the behavior of man and some animals that this is therefore evidence of evolution. Your belief that behavior stems from evolution is a premis. You cannot then reverse it and call it a conclusion based on the premis of itself! HRG -- that was my point -- not testing theories or making predictions. BELISARIUS No one is saying that the developement of human morality proves evolution. All that anyone has said is that it is CONSISTENT with evolutionary theory. JAYCWRU Every time a scientific theory or model (both the same in this case) successfully explains natural phenomena, it strengthens the theory. A lot of the results of the predictions were known before the theory of evolution was proposed, but that is the case with every scientific theory. How else could you formulate a hypothesis without having some observances first. However not all the predictions were known, and many have since been confirmed. (DNA, genetics, etc.) Also I would suspect as we do a better job decoding the human genome, and perhaps start looking at closely related species (apes), we will see more similarities in the genetic sequence. I would also think that its quite likely to find recessive traits displayed in animals that have been "turned off", but for which the code exists. This would be excellent evidence for evolution, and the technology to analyse this I expect to be not too far off. POIKILOTHERM Gintus -- the guy who says in his preface, "Sixth, game theory is adventure and fantasy." I can see how this relates to evolution, but not how it relates to science! Well, that is frankly quite an ignorant statement. Game theory was not developed for evolution, but also relates to economics and to the analysis of negotiations. You will see that Gintius (if you read past his preface) is primarily interested in economics, and not genomics, as it were. In the meantime, you are assuming complex behaviors evolved. I disagree with that. Yes, we know that. But you recall that you said that evolution had no room for anything but was genetic in origin. Hence we are discussing evolutionary biology. The assertion that you don't accept such theory is petito principi. However, to follow your argument through, what method do you see as producing complex behaviors if not through inherited genetic directions which allowed for them? Sigh. Is this the genetic fallacy all over again. Your original statement was "Evolution leaves no room for anything but what is inherited or mutated." Now, a genotype that allows for a behavior is certainly a different thing than a genotype that either determines a behavior, or the behavior itself. A dog can learn how to walk on a ball (to use one poplular example) by watching another dog. This is "cultural transmission": a behavior is transmitted from one animal to another: no inheritance, no mutation. My bird, singing loudly, taught a canary the floor below its "song" (such as it was). Is it possible that learned behavior can result in differential fitness? Sure, and it is easy to see how. Can you not see how his would be important in cultural evolution? I am honestly perplexed. Or, to put it more generally, and in relation to the statement I made that you are taking issue with -- what else besides mutations and inheritance is responsible for evolution? Whoops. That is not a simple rephrasing of what you asserted: you said that evolution has "no room" for anything beyond mutation and inheritance. Cultural evolution in evolutionary theory is precisely what it does have room for. I would offer instead that you are assuming evolution at the beginning and then trying to fit social behavior and complex societies into it. Of course! The standard objection that evolution cannot explain human social interactions is under examination. I think such a declaration is premature, to say the least. That part is fine, logically, but then don't try to use that very complexity as evidence for evolution! I wasn't.