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EP, stay home

All this is to say that except for the fact that some degree of culturalization obviously occurs, we consider the SSSM indefensible. What then of EP? Are there serious criticisms of EP that need to be looked at? Here the answer is yes. We have already noted above that some might claim that we just don't know enough about the links between evolution and the complexity of human behavior. But there is something more. Should biologists and zoologists start pronouning on the social sciences? ``It is bad enough when scientists misidentify their own social preferences as facts of nature in their technical writing,'' writes [Gould1991b], but is is ``even worse when writers of textbooks...promulgate these (or any) social doctrines as the objective findings of science.'' Or

All [desciplines] gain strength, respect, and acceptance by working honorably within their bounds and knowing when transgressions upon other realms counts as hubris or folly...Science teaches us many wonderful and distrubing things...But science cannot answer these [great questions of morals and aesthetics] alone and cannot dictate social policy. [p. 429]

If Gould means by ``bounds'' that biologists should not make pronouncements about social policy qua biologists, then there is little to dispute; we are all in agreement. If he is stating that scientists should not say things that might have policy implications, that is indefensible. We would never expect a geologist who predicted a large volcanic eruption near a population center to keep quiet about it. If he means that biologists shouldn't consider human societies and behavior within the domain of their science, he is simply mistaken. Just as the behavior of honey bees is within the scope of biology, why shouldn't the behavior of our species be in that scope?

But returning to the argument, made by Gould and others, that in the face of our ``profound ignorance'' we should maintain humility. [Dennett1995], when commenting on Darwin's reluctance to publically speculate on the origins of life itself, wrote

[T]he ``cutting edge'' [of science] is almost always composed of several rival edges, sharply competing and boldly speculative. Many of these speculations soon prove to be misbegotten, however compelling at the outset, and these necessary by-products of scientific investigation should be considered to be as potentially hazardous as any other laboratory wastes...If their misapprehension by the public would be apt to cause suffering...scientists should be particularly cautious about how they proceed, scrupulous about labeling speculations as such, and keeping the rhetoric of persuasion confined to its proper place. [§7.1]

It can't be denied that some EPers and their supporters have been less than diligent in taking that advice (e.g., [Wright1994]), but the field of management is hardly in a position to cast the first stone.

Gould and others are correct to say that we should be especially cautious when our science coincides with our ideologies. It is easy now to condemn Social Darwinism as not only bad science and bad policy but also as transgressing the bounds. But it feels harder to make that last condemnation when we feel that some policy implication is good, and we don't see anything wrong with the science. We are far more tempted to transgress the boundries when presenting ideologically more appealing discoveries like [Curry1996] reporting on work by [Wilkinson1996].

Inequality, perceived as much as real, can literally be the death of us. Evolutionists argue there is scientific evidence as to why [inequality] is the harbinger of crime, pessimism and moral breakdown.

next up previous
Next: Not all universals are Up: The case for the Previous: The appeal of the

Mon Sep 8 18:21:39 BST 1997