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category: Mind

An Unevolved Take on Psychology From ‘The New Yorker’

Post: September 18, 2012 12:04 pm
Author: David P. Barash        

The September 17th issue of The New Yorker contains a lengthy essay-cum-book review (in that magazine’s inimitable, occasionally impenetrable and almost patentable style) by Anthony Gottlieb, titled “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Subtitled “how much does evolutionary psychology reveal about the mind?” its answer is: Not much. Enough there to catch my attention – and, I hope, many of The Conversation’s readers, since both evolution and the mind are much on the public and scholarly mind … as well they should be. Even more attention-grabbing, in my case, was the book highlighted: Homo Mysterious, written by yours truly and just published by Oxford University Press (2012).

That’s the good news, at least for me. The bad news is that Mr. Gottlieb takes a dim view, not so much of evolution per se, but of its ability to cast meaningful light on human behavior generally. Presumably, our reviewer – who was evidently perceived by the ostensibly knowledgeable staff at The New Yorker to be competent to make such judgments – isn’t a die-hard creationist or “young Earther” (the pseudo-scientific equivalent of today’s anti-Obama “birthers”), but rather, someone from the educated world who maintains, à la the late Stephen Jay Gould, that for some unexplained reason, having produced the human body and brain, evolution by natural selection stopped there and remains somehow disconnected from human behavior.

The reality is otherwise, such that Mr. Gottlieb and his ilk are quite simply on the wrong side of history and of scientific truth: Just as the anatomy, physiology, embryology, molecular biology, paleontology, endocrinology, neurobiology, etc., of Homo sapiens are the results of evolution by natural selection, along with the rest of the world’s “blooming, buzzing confusion,” as William James called it, so is our psychology. It has taken a while for mainstream psychology to realize this, but the march of new data, theory and its inevitable consequence in journals, textbooks and – most important – research findings has been impressive and unstoppable. (Surprisingly, perhaps, I share Gottlieb’s distaste for the phrase “evolutionary psychology,” but not – like him – because I doubt its usefulness or veracity, but because I am confident that the “evolutionary” part will eventually be seen as redundant, since in the future all psychology, like all biology today, will be known to be evolutionary. It cannot be anything else.)

It is said that when the wife of the Bishop of Worcester was told of Mr. Darwin’s scandalous theory, she replied: “My goodness! Let us hope that it is not so. But if it is so, let us hope that it does not become widely known.” Well, it is so, and pace Mr. Gottlieb and other modern-day descendants of the good bishop’s wife, it is becoming widely known. Indeed, it is necessarily so, because of the two great realities of biology: The facts that (1) all living things (including human beings) are intimately linked via evolution, and that (2) they came to their current estate largely – if not exclusively – via the action of natural selection. To these, one might add a third key fact: That “behavior,” whether of hickory tree, halibut, or human being, derives from the interaction of biological heritage and environmental circumstances such that there is nothing in the case of Homo sapiens that renders us qualitatively discontinuous from the rest of evolution’s “creation.”

On the other hand, I am pleased that my book in particular attracted The New Yorker’s attention, not all of it negative and critical. (Many years ago, an editor reminded me that short of outright libel, almost any review of one’s book is “positive,” at least insofar as it helps garner public notice. The only important thing, she added, is that they spell your name right.) In this case, it even appears that the reviewer read Homo Mysterious … or at least, skimmed it, which reminds me of my own overheated adolescent perusal of Lolita and Lady Chatterly’s Lover in the late 1950s, on the prowl for comparable “good parts” (Lolita was a deep disappointment; Lady Chatterly, more rewarding). Thus, Mr. Gottlieb notes my discussion of various hypotheses for the evolution of concealed ovulation, conspicuous breasts and the female orgasm, while ignoring consciousness, the arts, language, homosexuality, menopause, menstruation, and so forth.

The review even makes a good point, although one that is hardly news to workers in the field: That much of the research in evolutionary psychology derives from a regrettably skewed human sample, namely English-speaking college students. Unacknowledged, however, is that fact that research in social, cognitive, clinical, and developmental psychology (which is to say, nearly all of psychology) is even more restricted to this atypical sub-population. Evolutionary psychologists have in fact been in the forefront when it comes to emphasizing the importance of verifying their findings cross-culturally, since evolutionary psychology is explicitly concerned with characteristic of “human nature” that transcend local social traditions as well as racial, linguistic, or other cultural boundaries. A recent article in the journal, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, lamented the prevalence of study samples that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic, or ‘WEIRD.” Moreover, one of the most-quoted studies in the field – which Gottlieb explicitly criticizes, but apparently without comprehending or perhaps without having even read – involved cross-cultural verification of male-female differences via 37 different human “tribes” or “societal units” … unprecedented breadth for any research in psychology.

This is not the venue for me to review the various arguments presented in Homo Mysterious, or even to refute Anthony Gottlieb’s numerous mis-characterizations. I’ll just note two unfortunate failings. First, he apparently doesn’t “get” the excitement, ubiquity, and, to use Darwin’s phrase, the “grandeur in this view of life,” not just the promise of new and exciting discoveries but also the sense in which humanity’s view of itself is enhanced, not diminished, by seeing our species for what it is: Part of this planet’s great stream of organicity. And second – on an admittedly more parochial note – he takes Homo Mysterious to task (along with evolutionary psychology more generally) for often failing it come up with definitive answers. Perhaps he didn’t bother to read the book’s subtitle, “evolutionary puzzles of human nature.” Thus, my explicit intention in Homo Mysterious has been to highlight those aspects of human nature that are, well, mysterious, that even evolutionary biology has not answered conclusively. Yet. This is not a failing of evolutionary biology or psychology; rather, it is testimony to their scientific vigor that the more we learn, the more we discover that we have yet to learn.

Mark Twain once observed that it was easy to stop smoking – he done so hundreds of times! It is similarly “easy” to explain the various evolutionary puzzles of human nature: We have numerous hypotheses. Much of the excitement among today’s researchers, and nearly all of it in Homo Mysterious, derives from current efforts to identify the best ideas and figure out which ones are the most viable.

Oh well, I didn’t write Homo Mysterious for Anthony Gottlieb. And at least he spelled my name correctly.

Read: A Reply to Professor Barash’s Rebuttal

David P. Barash is an evolutionary biologist (Ph.D. zoology, 1970, University of Wisconsin) and professor of psychology at the University of Washington. His most recent book is Homo mysterious: evolutionary puzzles of human nature (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Comments

Post: September 18 2012 2:12 pm By: Robert King


Needed to be said. And better coming from someone who the author had had a pop at.

Post: September 18 2012 4:18 pm By: Benjamin Chabot-Hanowell


Excellent rebuttal. My favorite parts: (1) Gottlieb forgot to note the subtitle: “evolutionary puzzles…” etc; (2) Gottlieb neglected the fact that evolutionary social science is at the forefront of cross-cultural validation. I also had something to say about Gottlieb’s out-dated and sometimes unintelligible arguments. I focused on the damaging and wrong claim he made that knowledge of evolutionary causes never provides practical knowledge. http://www.mynof3.com/1/post/2012/09/it-aint-necessarily-not-so-a-critique-of-andrew-gottliebs-critique-of-david-barashs-book-and-so-he-believes-most-evolutionary-social-science.html#.UFjkaLKPWSo

Post: September 18 2012 8:26 pm By: James V. Kohl


The reports that came from the ENCODE groups earlier this month attest to a problem that might link the disciplines of biology and psychology if it could be eliminated. As it turns out, neither discipline seems to know what natural selection is selecting for.

Indeed, even after learning about the complexity of our genome, there is no information about how epigenetic effects on intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression in species from microbes to man led to the complexity of the human genome. Did anyone mention selection for the epigenetic effects of nutrient chemicals (e.g, food) and species-specific pheromones that result from the metabolism of nutrient chemicals and are responsible for the control of reproduction? No!

We’re left by biologists and psychologists to think that random mutations somehow caused adaptive evolution via the required ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction, which can now (e.g, thanks to ENCODE) be evaluated in the context of the epigenetic tweaking of immense gene networks in superorganisms that solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of an incalculable number of interactive signals.

For constrast, it is now clear—from the honeybee model organism alone—how an environmental drive evolved from that of food ingestion in unicellular organisms such as yeasts to that of socialization in insects. It is also clear that, in mammals, food odors and pheromones cause changes in hormones that have developmental affects on social behavior that includes sexual behavior in nutrient-dependent, reproductively fit individuals across species of vertebrates.

Because it is also clear that nutrient chemical-dependent gene duplication is a mechanism of genomic adaptation to a changing environment (Kondrashov, 2012), and that pheromones epigenetically control nutrient dependent-speciation, when should we expect either evolutionary theorists/psychologists or biologists to drop the idea of random mutations and focus on the biology of adaptive evolution via natural selection for nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled reproduction? How much more natural can natural selection get? Every organism must eat, and every species must reproduce. Could it be any more clear that olfaction and odor receptors provide an evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans? (Kohl, 2012)

Post: September 22 2012 11:27 pm By: Roy Niles


Nobody is likely to disagree that evolution is the result of natural selection, but some day I’d like someone like the author here to tell me exactly what they mean when they say that.  Otherwise, as in this case, the writer hasn’t said anything that any modern psychologist would find a way to disagree with.  If one still believes in the stochastic system of selection, why not just say so?  Is it because they’re not prepared to argue that the self adaptive or self engineered selection theories, etc., are still unproven?
Just wondering.

Post: September 23 2012 7:22 am By: James V. Kohl


Not only are they unprepared, they seem unqualified to address adaptive evolution in the context of the 4 steps required: ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction. If they were prepared or qualified for such discussion of biological facts, we could discuss the brain-like architecture of the cell and how cells might have randomly evolved to become the brain that directs our most important behaviors, which are those involved with finding food and with reproduction—as if our brain were a single cell that required nutrient chemicals so that it could reproduce. It is the pattern that is not discussion, probably because it is a rather unmistakable pattern that people don’t want to recognize.

Post: September 23 2012 3:57 pm By: Roy Niles


“we could discuss the brain-like architecture of the cell and how cells might have randomly evolved to become the brain that directs our most important behaviors”
James, that’s an excellent subject for discussion, although I suspect that if the structures were brain-like, they were such for the purpose of using that “brain” intelligently, and rather than having randomly evolved, such cells took advantage of randomness to intelligently evolve themselves.

Post: September 23 2012 8:24 pm By: James V. Kohl


The purpose of the brain-like intracelluar structures is now detailed via revised reports on “Junk DNA” that enables gene duplications and de novo gene expression as exemplified with the expression of new and functional odor receptor proteins as a response to changes in the chemical ecology of the environment.

It is now clearer how an environmental drive evolved from that of food ingestion in unicellular organisms to that of socialization in insects. It is also clear that, in mammals, food odors and pheromones cause changes in hormones such as luteinizing hormone, which has developmental affects on sexual behavior in nutrient-dependent, reproductively fit individuals across species of vertebrates.

If there were any evidence that random events, random mutations, or random models might explain any aspect of nutrient chemical-dependent pheromone-controlled reproduction in any species, a case might be made for randomness in evolutionary theory or theology. Until then, I think it best to stick to the biological facts, and wonder why social scientists have not found any biological facts that support their theories of cause and effect.

Is it simply too easy to accept the claims of those like Richard Dawkins, which seem to require no thought whatsoever and no evidence that random mutations cause adaptive evolution? Perhaps we should compare “evolutionary puzzles of human nature” to the “mysteries of odor in human sexuality” and see who incorporated the most biological facts.

Post: September 23 2012 8:34 pm By: Roy Niles


Well, James, it seems that you agree with me in general, but I need to make my opinion clear that we need an indeterminate universe for any life to evolve at all - in other words we need to take intelligent advantage of relatively predictable accidents to evolve, since there’s no logical way that Dawkins’ randomness can intelligently take advantage of us.

Post: September 23 2012 9:06 pm By: James V. Kohl


I may also need to clarify the fact that all evolved life is nutrient dependent and that reproduction is controlled by the metabolism of nutrient chemicals to species-specific pheromones.

Those who think that exposure to nutrient chemicals is a predictable accident might also think that their metabolism to pheromones that control reproduction—and thus control adaptive evolution via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction—is an accident. But I’ve been unable to find anyone who can calculate the odds of that series of accidents resulting in the human cognitive niche that enables us to choose our hormone-driven behavioral responses that are epigenetically effected via the same nutrient chemical and pheromone dependent pathway that ensures the success of every other species from microbes to man.

Thus, I think we need something more than an indeterminate universe or relatively predictable accidents to evolve, and my thoughts are based on a model exemplified in the honeybee model organism as well as many other model organisms.  Either we use other animals as models, or not.

If we don’t use the requirements for nutrient chemicals and pheromones as a basis for our thoughts, randomness eliminates intelligence from discussion and the concept of randomness elicits laughter from those who understand the common molecular biology of adaptive evolution.

Post: September 23 2012 9:20 pm By: Roy Niles


Of course exposure to chemicals is by predictable accident.  Chemicals don’t expose themselves to us or didn’t to the earliest microbes for their own purposes, did they? 
In any case you seem to think that metabolism is determined by the chemicals rather than by their intelligent use by the organism.  if chemicals are predictively available, the organism determines over time by trial and error how to best use them as nutrients or building blocks, etc.
This view should actually help your theory of the value of whatever it is you’re pushing, but then again, you don’t seem to see why.

Post: September 23 2012 9:49 pm By: James V. Kohl


You seem to be starting with a cell that is not genetically predisposed to do anything, and suggest that it automagically “determines over time by trial and error how to best use” nutrients as “building blocks.”

I’ve detailed genetic predispositions in the context of the brain-like architecture, but included the obvious requirement for the epigenetic effects of nutrient chemicals and pheromones on intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression.

Do you want stochastic gene expression to result from indeterminate cause? Is there a model for that?

The value of my model of nutrient chemical-dependent and pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution is its explanatory power in the context of genetically predisposed organized intracellular interactions that are activated with exposure to variables in the sensory environment. Genetic predisposition and exposure allow the plasticity required for adaptive evolution and the reciprocity of cause via genetically predisposed gene activation and its affect on behavior that also epigenetically activates genes (i.e., sensory input to behavior and back).

Post: September 23 2012 10:56 pm By: Roy Niles


@James, “You seem to be starting with a cell that is not genetically predisposed to do anything, and suggest that it automagically “determines over time by trial and error how to best use” nutrients as “building blocks.”
Exactly, because the functionality that allows organisms to evolve is their rudimentary ability to make choices, which is essential for the trial and error process to work.  This has always been the problem that all of us in a way have been unable to completely solve:  Where did biological intelligence come from, if the first cells did not already have a bit of it to start with.  Abiogenesis really doesn’t explain it, although extraterrestrial sources might do it better.
We certainly can’t state that the chemicals intelligently activated the cells, which were already more complicated than the chemicals they were composed of originally.  You’d have to argue that your particular chemical products are responsible for giving life forms intelligence, except that what was it that gave them your brain architecture to start with?  Dawkin’s watchmaker?
And why was the sensory environment already there for your chemicals to activate?  We’re either dealing with an intelligent evolutionary process or we’re not.  And the intelligence would have had to be in the cell before it could use the chemical, rather than the intelligence coming from the chemical to your already “brain” structured and behaviorally instinctive cell.

Post: September 23 2012 11:27 pm By: Roy Niles


@James, “Do you want stochastic gene expression to result from indeterminate cause? Is there a model for that?”

No, because I don’t believe the stochastic gene expression model is accurate.  I’m more in favor of strategic algorithms than the stochastic versions.

Post: September 24 2012 1:26 am By: James V. Kohl


The “brain-like architecture of the cell” indicates its “intelligence” is genetically predisposed. The genes are in the cell and living cells must choose beneficial nutrient chemicals or die. Nutrient chemicals enter the cell via receptor-mediated events. Some evidence suggests that entry results in electrostatic changes as would be expected.

Even if strategic algorithms could explain how anything results in altered intracellular signaling that causes stochastic gene expression, the stochastic gene expression model is accurate. Adaptive evolution is still driven by nutrient chemicals that cause gene [removed]epigenetically) and metabolize to pheromones that control gene [removed]epigenetically).

Do you think that strategic algorithms have the mathematical power to link a specific nutrient chemical to expression of a specific gene and the metabolism of the nutrient chemical to a species-specific mixture of pheromones that enables self / non-self recognition, which is required for a species to cease reproduction before exhausting its food supply—unless the cells can select a non-toxic alternative nutrient chemical from its sensory environment and metabolize it to enable the required reciprocity: genetic predisposition->sensory input-> gene activation-> selection behavior->gene activation (i.e., from gene activation to behavior and back)?

After embracing the complexity of the cell and its intelligence (above), it is not a matter of whether the stochastic gene expression model I just briefly detailed is accurate. If you favor strategic algorithms you must either provide them to others for evaluation of their explanatory power, or expect others to have faith that they explain something without saying what that “something” is. Until then, you seem to be embracing “nothing” for its predictive explanatory power. If so, you are not alone.

ENCODE project researchers and Richard Dawkins also seem to expect us to have faith that random models explain the interactions in the human genome, which adaptively evolved more than 4 million “switches” in the context of ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction. Unfortunately, for some people, the eco-evolution of our cognitive niche construction incorporates all nutrient chemical-dependent and pheromone-controlled changes in intracellular signalling and stochastic gene expression that have ever occurred in any ancestral organism that ever existed.  So, when Dawkins tells us that theists are fools, who does he think he’s fooling?

Either the ENCODE project researchers need to provide us with some favorable strategic algorithms to explain away the cellular complexity of 4 million switches, or they will force us to favor theism over atheism because only theism is logical given evidence of common molecular biology across species from microbes to man. Theism, for example, suggests that cellular intelligence was programmed to allow for the evolution of the 4 million interactive switches already found in the human genome. 

Is there an algorithm for that?

Post: September 24 2012 2:11 am By: Roy Niles


“The “brain-like architecture of the cell” indicates its “intelligence” is genetically predisposed. The genes are in the cell and living cells must choose beneficial nutrient chemicals or die.”
Genetically predisposed by accident, then?  You should know better.
“Even if strategic algorithms could explain how anything results in altered intracellular signaling that causes stochastic gene expression, the stochastic gene expression model is accurate.”  Not if the model assumes, as you do, that there was o strategy behind the apparent randomness.

And strategic algorithms don’t rely on mathematical powers; “mathematical powers” is an oxymoron.  Only strategic algorithms can guide the operations of a choice making apparatus.  You defeat your own argument by pointing out the necessary complications of these procedures.  And “non-self recognition” is another oxymoron, by the way.
And we can explain strategic algorithms much easier than you can explain stochastically intelligent expression! (David Sloan Wilson has done so to an extent in his books.)  And it’s odd that while you denigrate Dawkins, you think a lot more like him than you seem to realize.  Neither of you seems to appreciate the role of intelligence as strategic, with mathematics more in service of the stochastic than otherwise.
You ask, rather speciously, is there an algorithm for theism?  Not that I know of, but you could probably come up with a stochastic model mathematically.

Post: September 24 2012 12:20 pm By: James V. Kohl


@Genetically predisposed by accident, then?
NO! How could genetic predispositions be accidental?
@You should know better.
I do, but that’s not what we’re discussing.  I was attempting to learn what you think is responsible for cellular intelligence.
When you admit that strategic algorithms have no explanatory power in the context of altered intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression, but infer that they guide choice, your argument for their usefulness is as vague as evolutionary theory.
Yet, you seem to think “...we can explain strategic algorithms much easier than…” I can explain the pattern of genetic predispositions that require nutrient chemicals and their metabolism to pheromones, which control reproduction and speciation in species from microbes to man.
If, for example, David Sloan Wilson has explained stochastically intelligent gene expression, does his explanation account for the recently reported 4 million switches and their interactions in differentiated cells of the human genome? 
Meanwhile, how can anyone appreciate the role of “intelligence as strategic” unless you tell us what that means in the context of what is already neuroscientifically known about genetic predispositions for the epigenetic effects of the sensory environment, which explain gene-environment interactions that occur in the genome of all adaptively evolved species.

Post: September 24 2012 12:26 pm By: James V. Kohl


@interactions in differentiated cells of the human genome
should have been
interactions in cells differentiated by the human genome.

Post: September 24 2012 2:03 pm By: Roy Niles


“When you admit that strategic algorithms have no explanatory power in the context of altered intracellular signaling “
I’ve ‘admitted” exactly the opposite.
“I was attempting to learn what you think is responsible for cellular intelligence.”
We can only speculate, but we should not assume that it magically arose on earth full born in the first brainy cells.
The physicist, John Wheeler, described what he saw as the nature of strategic intelligence in universal systems, and Whitehead had some good ideas in his process philosophy of organisms.  Arguably these strategic systems have been evolving in the universe essentially forever.  But it’s a bit like having turtles all the way down, looking for the presumptive first turtle.
As to epigenetic effects, they are the best evidence we have yet of self-enginering based on intelligently fashioned algorithms.  In other words, strategic, and everyone should know by definition that all strategies are intelligently constructed.

Post: September 24 2012 3:09 pm By: James V. Kohl


The ability of physicists to describe what they “see” in the nature of strategic intelligence in universal systems is not comparable to what biologists have detailed in the context of epigenetic effects on genetic predispositions and transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of behaviors required for speciation.
What biologists “see” is one re-created example after another in species from microbes to man (e.g., including turtles) that require nutrient chemicals that are metabolized to pheromones that control their reproduction.
Those who think that either Creation or examples of re-creation (e.g., of turtles) involve arguments for strategic systems that have been evolving in the universe essentially forever are stuck looking for a philosophical starting point that biologists interested in explaining evolved behavior recognize as the first living cell with its brain-like architecture and ability to adaptively evolve and become a multicelluar organism with a brain.
Some people use their evolved brain to examine theories about the nature of strategic intelligence in universal systems. To me, such vague theories are like the dreams of physicists and philosophers who think they might someday contribute anything from cosmology or philosophy to the understanding of the biology of behavior. 
As you may know, however, evolutionary theorists also tend to avoid starting with the brain-like architecture of the first cell, yet they often demand philosophical explanation of its origins somewhere in cosmic time.
While they wait for physicists to find that origin, and philosophers to incorporate the appropriate time constraints, I have used used animal models to explain the adaptive evolution of human behavior (i.e., evolutionary psychology) via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction.
Given the concept of genetically predisposed behavior, which is predisposed by genes in cells that can be seen and examined with molecular detail, what do you think drives evolutionary psychologists to turn from the cell biology of evolved behavior to theories of how the first cell evolved in its extracellular cosmic complexity?
Is it the fear of God, the fear of their limited intelligence, or the fear that they could not possibly bring themselves into the current century’s understanding of biological evolution due to their preconceived notions about cause and effect as suggested by Darwin, who was not familiar with genetic or Dawkins, who seems unfamiliar with the epigenetic effects of nutrient chemicals and pheromones on survival of the species (i.e., all of them)?

Post: September 24 2012 3:34 pm By: Roy Niles


Well if it doesn’t bother you that you have failed completely to admit that the earliest cells were already intelligent, regardless of where that intelligence came from, then it doesn’t bother me.  And if you are dismissive of the contributions that philosophers and physicists have made to develop what you seem to think is a separate science of biology, that doesn’t bother me personally either.  It should bother anyone who wants to take your sales pitches seriously, however.

Post: September 24 2012 4:08 pm By: James V. Kohl


Brain-like architecture does not equate with intelligence, which means it is certainly not an “intelligent” choice of the earliest cells to respond to to their chemical ecology with ingestive “behaviors” or pheromone-controlled reproduction. You are anthropomorphizing, aren’t you?
The earliest cells respond because they were genetically predisposed to respond as if they were computers responding to input. In this context, it is the obvious need for a programmer that seems most irritating to some philosophers and physicists and to many evolutionary theorists who are left with cosmically “out-there” thoughts of a logico-mathematical universe that programmed itself into existence because if it had not done so, it wouldn’t exist. Since the universe does exist, it’s strategic intelligence caused it to exist because if it didn’t, it wouldn’t—is that what you’re saying in your recently published book? That’s what I’m dismissing via the science of biology detailed in Kohl, J.V. (2012) Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 2: 17338.

Post: September 24 2012 4:17 pm By: Roy Niles


Back to the old genetically predisposed by the magic of intelligent accident, are we?  How did your early cells respond intelligently without intelligence?  And if they did not respond intelligently, when did their intelligence evolve and again, from what, if other than your version of a magical occurrence?  You have repeatedly ignored these questions, because the answers don’t fit your sales pitch.  Pitiful.

Post: September 24 2012 4:58 pm By: Roy Niles


And by the way, no-one I’ve referenced has argued that intelligence “caused” the universe to exist.  The best that we can determine is that the universe in some fashion has always existed, and in that same fashion has always had an evolvable spark if intelligence.

Post: September 24 2012 5:04 pm By: James V. Kohl


@Back to the old genetically predisposed by the magic of intelligent accident, are we?
No.
The concept that is extended is the epigenetic tweaking of immense gene networks in superorganisms that solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of signals. It is now clearer how an environmental drive probably evolved from that of food ingestion in unicellular organisms to that of socialization in insects. It is also clear that, in mammals, food odors and pheromones cause changes in hormones that have developmental affects on behavior in nutrient-dependent, reproductively fit individuals across species of vertebrates.
None of this seems magical to me and I’ve addressed the questions I could anticipate in the context of my model. Intelligent choice does seem to have adaptively evolved, but adaptive evolution via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction does not seem to me to be accidental or magical.
I understand why it might seem to be accidental or magical to physicists, philosophers, and evolutionary theorists who are unfamiliar with the basic principles of biology and levels of biological organization required to link sensory cause to epigenetic effects on intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression, because that’s complicated.
So is strategic intelligence, but you have not detailed anything that might link it to the conserved molecular biology of life in the cosmos. Is that because you would rather not attempt to answer any of the questions asked about such a theory?

See also: Kohl (2007) The Mind’s Eyes: Human pheromones, neuroscience, and male sexual preferences. In Kauth, M. R. Handbook of the Evolution of Human Sexuality. 313-369—winner of the Reiss Theory award for the best social science article, chapter, or book published in the previous year in which theoretical explanations of human sexual attitudes and behaviors are developed. In addition to careful theoretical development, stress will be placed on the use of relevant empirical evidence to examine the validity of the theoretical explanations.

Post: September 24 2012 6:34 pm By: Roy Niles


“The concept that is extended is the epigenetic tweaking of immense gene networks in superorganisms that solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of signals.”
How did they come to self evolve that obvious intelligence from your version of life’s earlier unintelligent but brainy cells?
You have continued to avoid that question, claiming that your version of the answer is too complicated for physicists and philosophers to understand.  Yes, magical events ARE too complicated for the rest of us, and especially our philosophers, to understand.  Even though I would have thought that our physicists were as smart as anyone around.

I could name a long list of prominent biologists who have similar problems with your use of magical logic, but two of them are right here running this blog, and that hasn’t phased you.  And the reference to other publications that have little to do with early cells doesn’t do that much to phase me.  So babble on.

Post: September 24 2012 6:48 pm By: Roy Niles


“So is strategic intelligence, but you have not detailed anything that might link it to the conserved molecular biology of life in the cosmos. Is that because you would rather not attempt to answer any of the questions asked about such a theory?”
I do need to remind anyone still reading this that you have already discounted all references made to philosophers and physicists who have answered those questions as best as anyone so far that I know of.
And as usual you pretend that such answers from those that you feel have no business being asked are irrelevant.
Speciousness on your part indeed.

Post: September 24 2012 7:46 pm By: James V. Kohl


Our invited review “Human Pheromones: Integrating Neuroendocrinology and Ethology” by James V. Kohl, Michaela Atzmueller, Bernhard Fink & Karl Grammer won the 2001 “Zdenek Klein Award for Human Ethology.”

I mention this so that any other biologists here might join the discussion which has degraded to your claims that I am not answering your questions despite my publication history, references to my works here, and summaries for concision.

Clearly, I am not going to detail every aspect of my published work repeatedly in discussions, which is why I publish.  But I continue to welcome comments on my published works, as do all scientists.

Post: September 24 2012 9:01 pm By: Roy Niles


“I mention this so that any other biologists here might join the discussion which has degraded to your claims that I am not answering your questions despite my publication history, references to my works here, and summaries for concision.”

But since it’s clear that you are not answering my questions, your publication history should make it more evident that you do have answers, and actually have no need for help from other biologists.  Yet for some reason these answers appear all the more unsuitable for this forum.

Post: September 24 2012 9:08 pm By: Roy Niles


You also referred to my publication earlier, but I have NOT used it as an excuse to avoid answering your questions.  As in fact, that book offers an hypothesis that has little to do with the subject at hand.  And I suspect the same is true for your publications, so it’s a bit disingenuous to bring them up at all.
As all of us are free to publish any sort of propaganda that we wish.

Post: September 24 2012 9:16 pm By: James V. Kohl


The titles of my published works suggest their relevance, and the awards suggest their merit. Yet you imply my works are propaganda without scanning them to see their explanatory power. Sadly, this is typical of biologically illiterate antagonists.
“The concept that is extended is the epigenetic tweaking of immense gene networks in superorganisms that solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of signals.”—there is nothing magical about that.

Post: September 24 2012 9:53 pm By: Roy Niles


I’d say it’s typical of the biologically illiterate to offer titles as an explanation for the introduction of intelligence into biological entities after they had already used an apparently pseudo version of it to attain the super-organism status that you’ve recently made reference to.  Nothing magical about that indeed.
My publication is actually about how organisms use the appropriate mixture of trust and deception as a strategic function, and you’re not very good at hiding the deceptive aspects of your own strategies.
Maybe you should beg a little harder for help from some other of those lesser illiterate biologists.

Post: September 24 2012 10:07 pm By: James V. Kohl


“More Complex Than a Galaxy”—New Insights Into the Enormous Biochemical Complexity of the Human Brain—The Daily Galaxy via Allen Institute for Brain Science, may be of interest to anyone who wishes to incorporate what’s known about biology into this discussion.

I will return to the “...epigenetic tweaking of immense gene networks in superorganisms that solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of signals.”—if any intelligent discussion ensues.

Post: September 24 2012 10:17 pm By: Roy Niles


“superorganisms that solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of signals.”
If you’re real nice, he’ll show you how the trick works.

Post: September 25 2012 2:42 pm By: Roy Niles


Concerning the likelihood that life arrived on earth from elsewhere in the universe, read this concerning lithopanspermia:

http://www.europlanet-eu.org/demo/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=382&Itemid=41

Post: September 25 2012 3:09 pm By: James V. Kohl


@ “superorganisms that solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of signals.”

RN: If you’re real nice, he’ll show you how the trick works.

It’s no trick, and I have already detailed how adaptive evolution works via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction in Kohl, J.V. (2012) Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 2: 17338.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/snp.v2i0.17338

But I see you would rather discuss lithopanspermia. Is there a model for that?

If not, how do you trick people into believing in the concept so that it can be added to other ridiculous theories?

Post: September 25 2012 3:56 pm By: Roy Niles


I’ve cited scientific studies made by others than myself to back up my proposals, while you cite no scientists or studies that back up yours.  You only cite your own portentous writings.

There’s less likely to be any trickery involved in citing a multitude of reputable sources.  But someone who cites only his own works as gospel is entitled to be somewhat suspect as a trickster.  Especially when he can’t give answers to the most obvious questions that his own proposals leave us begging for.

Post: September 25 2012 5:01 pm By: James V. Kohl


Barrash wrote (above): Just as the anatomy, physiology, embryology, molecular biology, paleontology, endocrinology, neurobiology, etc., of Homo sapiens are the results of evolution by natural selection, along with the rest of the world’s “blooming, buzzing confusion,” as William James called it, so is our psychology.

I have detailed the epigenetic influences of nutrient chemicals and pheromones on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors.

You, on the other hand, direct us to information on “...lithopanspermia, the hypothesis that basic life forms are distributed throughout the Universe via meteorite-like planetary fragments…”

There is no question that you have questions that no one in their right mind can answer, let alone attempt to do so in the context of evolutionary psychology. What’s surprising is that you would ask anything of me without first reading what I’ve published on the anatomy, physiology, embryology, molecular biology, endocrinology, neurobiology, etc., of Homo sapiens. I haven’t studied paleontology, but that shouldn’t make much difference if we all started out as microbes on another planet.

Post: September 25 2012 5:21 pm By: Roy Niles


Your biggest problem seems to be with logical analysis.  Whether that’s because of deliberate misguidance to sell a product or just a form of ignorance, I don’t know. 
But this sentence is really dumb: “I haven’t studied paleontology, but that shouldn’t make much difference if we all started out as microbes on another planet.”
Even Dawkins realizes that adaptation to different environments results in the diversity of earth’s evolved species.  Life’s species on some other planet would be at least as different from ours as ours are different from each other.

Post: September 25 2012 5:38 pm By: James V. Kohl


I’ve detailed how life on this planet adapts to different environments, which seems logical to discuss in the context of evolutionary psychology. The molecular biology of all species is similar enough for explanations to stay earth-bound unless someone must reach to the stars to support a ridiculous pet theory that they would like others to believe represents a bio-logical approach to evolutionary psychology. You and Dawkins seem to be reaching for the stars when you look away from what’s already known about the complexity of the cell and attempt to focus others on the unknown complexity of the cosmos. How’s that working for ya?

Post: September 25 2012 6:15 pm By: Roy Niles


As usual, you’ve ignored the elephant in the room, which is your inability to explain how your particular chemicals made unintelligent microbes intelligent.  How they caused behavioral responses in those with no optional choice making functions, etc., etc. 
And of course you have no answer or defense for that latest inanity re some sort of universal similarity within its planetary paleontology.

Post: September 25 2012 6:33 pm By: James V. Kohl


I haven’t the time to explain genetically predisposed receptor-mediated behavior in species from microbes to man only to have you challenge me again to explain the origin of the first cell or its brain-like architecture.
As has often occurred in discussions such as this one, I must leave you reaching for the stars for answers to questions when I have clearly detailed adaptive evolution via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction using the honeybee model organism to link microbes to man via the common molecular biology.
You are among those who don’t want answers, but are willing to argue to death a topic that defies explanation except in the context of animal models, which is what biologists use to detail how human behavior evolved.

Post: September 25 2012 6:54 pm By: Roy Niles


You should know that I spent over 40 years as a professional investigator of fraudulent practices, and pseudo scientific practices were among my targets.  You seem to me at this point to be as phony as they come.  You haven’t clearly detailed any legitimate aspects of adaptive evolution. And that’s a subject that I’m very well informed about after years of studying it, both professionally and creatively, if I may be so bold.  You’re all bluff and bluster, and I doubt if anything you’ve written is legitimate at this point. 
You’re lucky I’m not being paid to look further into your suspicious enterprises.

Post: September 25 2012 8:08 pm By: James V. Kohl


@You haven’t clearly detailed any legitimate aspects of adaptive evolution.

You need to take this up with those responsible for the awards I received for works published in 2001 and 2007, with the editors, and with my co-authors of the Neuroendocrinology Letters review who you also have slandered.

I’m not sure what kind of buffoon thinks that as a professional investigator he is entitled to comment on my well established position and details of adaptive eco-evolution, but tell us more about your background in neuroscience so your abilities to judge my works becomes more clear.

Post: September 25 2012 8:32 pm By: Roy Niles


Well that’s the typical response to be expected from a charlatan.  And none of this has anything to do with neuroscience, but everything to do with your pretense to an understanding of the genesis of life on earth and the onset of its intelligent responses to (supposedly) the stuff in the product that you are now so fervently pushing.  You wouldn’t be the first one who has built such a fraudulent enterprise, whether any others you’ve involved are dupes or not.  Tobacco companies are the best example, as are those who push homeopathic remedies.
But I’ll tell you what, I’ll accept your challenge to examine your enterprise more thoroughly, because you know what they say about being careful what you claim you wish for.

Post: September 26 2012 12:10 am By: Roy Niles


Hey, James, guess what?  You and I have the same number of academic degrees in neurology and biology!  But I think I have you beat when it comes to psychology!  You do operate your own “lab” however, preparing homeopathic and related products for sale, so you have me beat on that.  Stay tuned!

Post: September 26 2012 9:36 pm By: James V. Kohl


@You should know that I spent over 40 years as a professional investigator of fraudulent practices, and pseudo scientific practices were among my targets.
@Concerning the likelihood that life arrived on earth from elsewhere in the universe, read this concerning lithopanspermia:

People might think that 40 years as a professional investigator would lead you to a coherent theory about the origins of life on earth. What part of your investigations of behavioral development led you to believe in lithopanspermia? It’s a bit too much like little green men visiting us and inseminating the female of some species with genetic material that led to human evolution, isn’t it? Too much for me to take anything you say seriously, at least.  You get that a lot, don’t you?

Post: September 26 2012 9:46 pm By: Roy Niles


What I get is the tricks that fraudsters use.  For example, the very meticulous job you’ve done of putting together those bogus research papers.  Taking bits and pieces from the referenced papers of others and fitting them together as a semblance of your own “researched” results.  Except that like all those who inhabit the pseudoscience realm, you have little proficiency with the analytical logic of a true scientist.  You obviously aren’t aware as well that professional investigators also use the scientific methods of problem solving.  We specialize in inductive and especially adductive logic, “probabilistic” inference that starts from a set of accepted facts and infers most likely, or best, explanations.  And it’s clear from your “writings” that you have no facility for this more abstract type of thinking at all.  That’s the “tell” that gives your game away.
Your remarks on this blog have clearly shown that lack, and the papers that you’ve produced show this as well.  Others in the pseudo-scientific realm you dwell in either wouldn’t notice this, or wouldn’t care, and would give you their self serving rewards accordingly; but I see from my inquiries that there were better scientists in your “field” that did have their doubts, and you’ve given them the same sort of bogus hooey in response that you’ve given here.
And so it seems that every book and paper that you’ve written over time to promote your enterprise is essentially bogus.

Post: September 26 2012 10:02 pm By: James V. Kohl


@ it seems that every book and paper that you’ve written over time to promote your enterprise is essentially bogus.

Have you every used a google search in your investigations? Try one on those who have co-authored with me: Milton Diamond, Karl Grammer, Robert Francoeur.

You’re really not very bright, are you?

Post: September 26 2012 10:26 pm By: Roy Niles


You mean only the papers you wrote by yourself are bogus?

Post: September 27 2012 3:06 pm By: Roy Niles


“You’re really not very bright, are you?”
You mean if I were brighter I would have caught you earlier?
I suppose so.

By the way, I’m familiar with one of those sexologists you mentioned.  Looney tunes.

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