+quot;Special Creation+quot; on the Left: Philosopher Michael Levin, in his +quot;Feminism

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"Special Creation" on the Left: Philosopher Michael Levin, in his "Feminism and Freedom" (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1987), draws the following parallels between feminist theory and Creationism: One usually thinks of creationism as a doctrine for religious fundamentalists, but from a methodological point of view, belief in the special creation of the human species is entailed by _any refusal to apply evolutionary theory to man_. It is irrelevant whether this refusal is sustained by a literalistic reading of scripture or committment to a secular ideology. Indeed, a case can be made that religious critics of Darwin display a stronger sense of the unity of nature than do scientific critics of innateness in man. This is most especially true of scientists like Richard Lewontin and Steven Jay Gould, who take a wholly naturalistic stance toward all living creatures apart from man (and are prepared to use the theory of evolution polemically in ideological debate), yet reject all but the most trivial comparisons of other living creatures to man. (p. 66-67) The noted humanist and biologist Garrett Hardin makes a similar comment in his book, "Naked Emperors" (Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1982), chapter 8: "I am," said Charles Darwin, "a firm believer that without speculation there is no good and original observation." Darwin's followers, who have not hesitated to speculate, have found that speculating about the causes of human behavior is no less perilous today than it was in Aesop's time. It is no longer fashionable to hurl prophets from cliffs, but many of the defenders of the conventional wisdom are perfectly willing to destroy a man's reputation with polemics. Pejorative labels substitute for the objective examination of evidence.... This calm faith [in free speech] is not is not shared by those who in our day are members of an organization bearing the righteous name, "Science for the People." At a symposium on sociobiology held in San Francisco in June, 1977, the meeting was disrupted by political activists who chanted for more than two minutes (by actual measurement), "No free speech for racists! No free speech for racists!"...... Are the races equal? Are the sexes equal? Is there a heriditary component to human behavior? These are questions a right-thinking person never asks unless he immediately makes it clear that the answers are (in the same order): _Yes_, _Yes_, and _No_..... One of the joint productions of the Cambridge-Boston caucus of "Science for the People" is entitled "Sociobiology - Another Biological Determinism," and begins with this sentence: "Biological Determinism represents the cliam that the present states of human societies are the specific result of biological forces and the biological 'nature' of the human species." ...As for biological determinism, I know of no one who fits the caricature attacked by the Scientists for the People. A thoughtful biologist maintains that our nature - no need of derogatory quotation marks - has something to do with social organizations and social problems (which problems are the consequence of our variable nature not fitting the straitjacket we call social organization.) If human beings had the pituitary-adrenocortal-gonadal system of domestic sheep our social problems would surely be different; so also if we had the endocrine systems of weasels or shrews. The characteristics of these endocrine systems are inherited, and what is inherited has social consequences. This is not to say genes rigidly determine the social order: even populations of housemice develop social differences due to what can only be called historical accidents. How much more important the accidents of human history are hardly needs arguing. "Biological determinism" with its implications of absolute rigidity is a straw man set up for the convenience of polemicists; we would do well to ignore it. Determinism, like racism, sexism, and social Darwinism, is less a definable formal intellectual position than it is a pejorative used to tar an opponent. The opposite of complete determinism is complete indeterminism. Do the critics of biosociology [Hardin suggests this term is more accurate than "sociobiology"] assert that inheritable behavior is completely indeterministic of the social order? It is hard to see any other interpretation of this assertion by Richard Lewontin: "Nothing we can know about the genetics of human behavior can have any implications for human society". Lewontin is a brilliant theoretician; it would help us all if he would enrich this _ex cathedra_ statement with a mathematical demonstration that social organization is utterly independent of individual behavior (which is necessarily affected by individual variations). ... to suppose that human behavior is uninfluenced by heredity is to say that man is not a part of nautre. The Darwinian assumption is that he is; Darwinians insist that the burden of proof falls on those who assert the contrary. -- Robert Sheaffer - Scepticus Maximus - sheaffer@netcom.com Past Chairman, The Bay Area Skeptics - for whom I speak only when authorized! ========================================================================= From: Brian "Rev P-K" Siano To: All Msg #99, Dec-22-93 08:34PM Subject: Re: Creationism on the Left (was: Skeptical About Sociobiology Organization: The Cellar electronic community and public access system Subject: Re: Creationism on the Left (was: Skeptical About Sociobiology) From: revpk@cellar.org (Brian "Rev P-K" Siano) Message-ID: Newsgroups: sci.skeptic,alt.feminism,talk.origins sheaffer@netcom.com (Robert Sheaffer) writes: > > Exactly. Some right-wingers oppose teaching about human evolution because > it conflicts with their belief in the Bible. And some left-wingers oppose > teaching about human evolution because it conflicts with their belief > in absolutist environmental determinism. The following helps to put this > into context: Here we go again. This business about "some left wingers" opposing the teaching of evolution is certainly news to me. But, given Sheaffer's demonstrated tendency to put his politics before established facts (and his inability to support many of his assertions about "left wingers,") we can comfortably dismiss this as simply more crankery. Consider this: in the statements Sheaffer included with the above remarks-- from Michael Levin and Garrett Hardin-- the two people named as leftish "opponents" of Evolution are Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould. I'm certain most of us are familiar with Gould; Lewontin is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard. And Robert Sheaffer is actually asserting that these two men "oppose teaching about human evolution?" Consider this: Gould has been one of many scientists who have warned about the dangers of the Creationist movement. He was a witness in the Arkansas court case over whether evolution was a 'religious" doctrine, along with CSICOP founder Paul Kurtz. Gould has written in many publications, at great length (including the _Slkeptical Inquirer_) about the falsehoods circulated by Creationists, the threat they pose to academic freedom, and the necessity to educate people about the history of life's development. I've read a lot of Lewontin's works as well-- to lump him in with the Creationists is no less a falsehood. So where does this nonsense come from? Since I've seen Sheaffer peddle these silly quotes in the past-- and have poiinted out their flaws to him in the past, and have repeatedly asked for proof of their content (with no substantial response from Sheaffer)-- the pseudologic is embarassingly clear. The simple fact is, Gould and Lewontin are among the foremost critics of 'biological determinist" claims-- the idea that specific behaviors are a result of specific biological processes, that there are cognitive and behaviorsal differences between subgroups of humanity that are attributable to genetics, or that currently-existing social structures are direct expressions of clearly qwuantifiable biological processes. It's a tendency of thought with an ugly past, from the misguided eugenics movements of the 1920s and 1930s, ti Hitler's "final solution," and racist ideologues of the present day-- which would include zMichael Levin. But Sheaffer regards claims of this ilk-- for example, the "inevitability of partriarchy" claims of sociologist Stephen Goldberg-- as not only plausible hypotheses, but as having been proven beyond any reasonable doubt. To doubt these theories is, to Sheaffer, to deny Darwin himself. Considering that Goldberg's claims have been extensively criticized for being oversimplistic (see Rose, Kamin and Lewontin, _Not in Our Genes_, and Fausto-Sterling, _Myths of Gender_), they cannot be regarded as "proven" in the same sense that Darwin's work has been vindicated. Therefore-- in the sort of logic that Alice found so useful with the Red Queen-- Gould and Lewontin are anti-evolution. The fact that Lewontin is a Marxist, and Gould has expressed left-of-center political views, is enough for their opponents to claim that their objections are solely political-- and therefore, one doesn't actually have to read what they say. This is why, for the past several weeks, I have been asking Sheaffer to provide a direct quote from either Gould or Lewontin that states in clear and unambiguous terms, that they deny any role of biology in shaping human behavior. Taner Edis and I have had no problem in assembling quotes where they state that biology and environment both shape the individual; Sheaffer claims that this is merely a rhetorical trick of "denying their denials." He has provided nothing beyond the secondhand appraisals of Hardin and Levin. (I know little about Hardin, but Levin is hardly what I'd call an impartial scientist. I've gone into his record before. Funny how these standards are set: Lewontin admires Marx, Gould's a leftie, so they can't be doing good science: Levin advocates racially separate subqay cars, the rights of storekeepers to dney service to blacks, and claims that blacks aren't as smart as whites, and Sheaffer cites him as an authority.) It's clear that Sheaffer just isn't reading these objections. I've dissected his ravings before, but the most he does is rant about how everyone else merely tosses 'ad hominems" at him. So, will someone on this newsgroup who's a _friend_ of his kindly tell him that he really has made a complete ass of himself? Brian "Rev. P-K" Siano (revpk@cellar.org) sez: "Trust your own judgement on all things; but the real work lies in making your 'judgement' trustworthy."


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