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Four— Language and Ideology in Evolutionary Theory: Reading Cultural Norms into Natural Law

1. The basic claim of atomic individualism can be schematically expressed as follows:


(successive orders of interaction are represented by the terms xij, xijk, xijkl , etc.

The actual implementation of this methodology depends, however, on three implicit assumptions:

1. The first term in the series is primary;

2. All relevant interactions are included in the subsequent summations; and finally, that

3. The series converges (i.e., there are no uexpected effects from neglected higher order terms).

Ultimately, it seems to me that the application of all three of these assumptions to evolutionary theory is subject to serious question. My particular focus here, however, is one the adequacy of the first two assumptions. [BACK]

2. Although the actual words here are neutral enough, Monod's giveaway is in his use of the "gypsy" simile, for the world on the margins of which the gypsy lives is first and foremost a human world, a society, whose indifference is, in fact, rejection. [BACK]

3. Midgley's manifestly psychological explanation is at least congruent with my own more explicitly psychological account of another, perhaps related, rhetorical and conceptural conflation--namely, that between objectivity and domination seen in a number of traditional attempts to describe (and prescribe) relations of mind to nature (see Keller 1985, chap. 6). [BACK]

4. See Keller (1988) for a discussion of Hardin's use of the same slippage in arguing for the universality of the "competitive exclusion principle" (1960). [BACK]

5. Douglas Boucher (1985) has even suggested a new metaphor: in place of "nature red in tooth and claw." he offers "nature green in root and bloom." [BACK]

6. That is, it raises a question about the adequacy of the third assumption of my schematic account of the methodology of individualism--that in which the essential (or existential) autonomy of the individual organism is assumed. [BACK]

7. Which is, in fact, the situation of population genetics. [BACK]

8. Including both population genetics and mathematical ecology. [BACK]

9. For example, in the absence of other organisms, the fitness of a sexually reproducing organism is, strictly speaking, zero. break [BACK]

10. Darwin originally introduced the idea of sexual selection--always in clear contradistinction to natural selection--in an effort to take account of at least certain aspects of reproductive selection. For many years thereafter, the idea was neglected. Its recent revival in the theoretical literature is of interest, but it ought not be taken to indicate an integration of reproductive dynamics into the central project of evolutionary theory. Rather, it indicates a shift in that project. In my view, the recent interest in sexual selection among sociobiologists is a direct consequence of the final, and complete, abandonment of the individual organism as a theoretical entity. Genic selection theories, it could be said, complete the shift of attention away from organisms begun by the Hardy-Weinberg calculus. Sexual reproduction is a problem in this discourse only to the extent that individual organisms remain, somewhere, an important (even if shifting) focus of conceptual interest. [BACK]

11. See Keller (1987) for details. [BACK]

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