Re: Behaviour Genetics Vs. Sociobiology

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Mon Jun 03 1996 - 21:19:49 BST

> From: "Fenton, Liz" <>
> Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 14:45:50 GMT
> There are many aspects of behaviour which are determined by
> inheritance, from hair colour to temperament. The current view is that
> behaviour is influenced by heridity and the environmment interacting,
> and behaviour geneticists study genetics.

The genetics of behavioural and psychological traits.

> Sociobiology doesn't look at
> genes, but at predictions about human behaviour, about what might have
> made survival more successful in the past.

What about inclusive fitness? And the predictions are about success in
passing on genes. Geneticists look at contemporary heritability, by
looking at breeding and pedigree; sociobiologists look at ecology, the
environment and what behaviours, especially social ones, are adapptive
in it, helpful for passing on genes. They distinguish the present
environment from the EEA or environment of evolutionary adaptedness, the
original environment, whose selective pressures shaped us.

> Whereas behaviour genetics
> study twins, comparing fraternal with identical to look at the
> differences caused by their genes, sociobiologists see humans as
> products of natural selection and want to know why we behave as we do.
> They attempt to work out why we do certain things by seeing our actions
> as being based on deliberate decisions. To decide whether to carry out
> something, sociobiologists see humans as deliberating the possible
> outcome and what effect this would have on their overall inclusive
> fitness- to what would happen to them first and foremost.

This is incorrect. It is psychologists who study deliberate strategies;
sociobiologists are interested in the unconscious strategies shaped by
the evolutionary pressures in the EEA. Inclusive fitness is NOT a
conscious calculation! It is one that our brains (supposedly) were
shaped to do unconsciously by whatever proved successful or unsuccessful
in passing on genes (in oneself and close kin) in the EEA.

> Altruism
> would therefore pose a problem as if the behaviour a problem if they
> are correct, then why would anybody do something for someone else at
> all?

The problem is with why anyone would ever FEEL like helping non-kin,
because the strategies that helped pass on our genes would favour
selfish genes: Genes that favoured helping others would be less
successful, because others would be successful at their expense! So they
would not be passed on, and the next generation would be more selfish.

> Behaviour genetics look at "heritability"-how much of variation is
> due to heridity, but this doesn't apply to the individual.

Why not? If a height can be inherited, why can't an IQ?

> Sociobiologist try to determine behaviour by asking questions about the
> influence of motivation and personal development through learning,

This seems to confuse sociobiologists with psychologists.

> yet
> behaviour genetics look at behaviour as determined by genes which have
> in turn been determined by evolution as only the survival genes have
> been passed on.

This seem to be confusing behaviour geneticists with sociobiologists...

For a better mark the understooding of these concepts has to be

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