Saturday, July 21, 2007

Molly refers the reader to the original post on July 4th and Werner's reply to it and also Molly's reply to that reply. To deal with Werner's points, first Darwin wrote his books long before Mendelian genetics became known. Mendel's results were orginally read to the natural History Society in Brno in 1865. The results were basically ignored until 1900 when they were "rediscovered" by Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns and Erich von Tschermak. Darwin himself was something of a "Lamarkian" in that his theory of "pangenesis" assumed a transmission of acquired traits from somatic cells to germ cells. What Kropotkin can be faulted for is a "conservative" adherance to Lamarckism long after the contrary had accumulated enough evidence to prove it true. Mutual Aid was published in 1902 from a series of articles in 'The Nineteenth Century'. From my reading of Kropotkin's publications thereafter he continued to defend the idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics long after it was not a matter of debate but rather a "proved" fact. Some of this may be attributed to K's "francophilism" as the acceptance of Darwinism in France was very much long delayed, unlike in other countries. K's francophilism led him, of course, to the ridiculous position of supporting the Allies in WW1, unlike the majority of the anarchist movement. His love for France was a constant theme in his life. Kropotkin was basically no better no no worse than his time, and his only fault was conservativism.
Molly has little doubt that somewhere out there in the never, never land of the political science departments of various North America universities there are tiny little minds who look back to their Maoist youth and, like everything else they touch upon, they will want to say that the field of "epigenetics" gives proof to their crude ideologies. Tiny minds, who are incapable of understanding anything that actually takes intellectual work ! I think that they are few and far between, and I have seen little evidence of them in recent years.
The "dons" of Stalinist biology are more than slightly aged now. Lewontin is 78 years of age. Steven Rose is 69. They have no heirs in our modern world where evolutionary psychology is a growing and vibrant field of research. Science for the (new ruling class directed,exploited and controlled) People is long dead, buried with the turn of China to a more productive economy. Time moves on.
The idea of environmental determinism may still linger on in a declining number of social science departments, but its relevance in real research is long over.
What disturbs Molly most is not the idea of Lamarkism. Lamarkism is the sort of silliness held by ideologues. What disturbs her is the question of "levels of selection". Darwin focused his ideas of selection on the level of the organism. This is not the only level that one can view selection on. Dawkins, for instance, views the level of selection as that of the "gene". Kropotkin, in contrast, was an extreme "group selectionist" who viewed selection operating not just on the level of the breeding group but on the level of the species as a whole. This is something quite different from Gould's idea of "species selection" which basically ties into the idea of "evolvability" rather than selection. The general consensus in modern evolutionary biology is that "group selection" either doesn't exist or plays a very minor role in evolution. If, however, it plays a larger role as many believe in terms of human evolution then it leaves some very large questions for anarchists to answer.
The whole question revolves around the idea of "xenophobia" and how deeply based it is in humans. If you look at the writings of Alfred Russell, the codiscoverer of the idea of natural selection, a man often favoured by leftist readings of evolution (he was a socialist but also a complete crank) you will see very plainly how a group selectionist view leads to a rather nasty racism. NOW, just because an idea is unpalatible doesn't mean that it is wrong. It may indeed be true that group selection has played a major role in human evolution, and because of this the idea of an anarchist society must take account of human tendencies that anarchists don't want to admit. Some of these are fairly obvious. The malignant fascistic fantasies of the primitivists are obviously false without invoking "human nature". War until the most powerful "primitive community" conquers the others. From a less fascistic viewpoint, however, the ideas of "localism" held by most anarchists have to be modified by connections between communities that go over and above localism. Thus it is incumbant upon anarchists to modify their ideas of the "ideal society" to take into account the realities of human psychobiology.
So... that's what Molly is concerned about. More on this later.

No comments: