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Monkeys, Fairness, and Anthropomorphism

A Case Study of Cultural Bias in Behavioral Evolution

Since the nineteenth century, many evolutionary biologists have attempted to expand the explanatory power of natural selection into the domain of human behavior. These forays into cultural anthropology have consistently displayed methodological shortcomings and conceptual errors resulting from an inadequate grasp of the history of human culture and the philosophy of mind. Biologists squander their energies when they pretend to demonstrate the evolutionary origin of a human custom that is known by social scientists to be culture-specific. They anthropomorphize when they attempt to draw too close an analogy between intuitive animal behavior and human actions that result from a discursive, deliberative thought process. Humans may perform the same external acts as other animals, yet for markedly different reasons, and we can ascribe meanings to our actions that are altogether absent among our mammalian counterparts.

To illustrate how fallacious social science can permeate even reputable biological studies, I will examine a research project on brown capuchin monkeys reported in Nature in 2003 (Brosnan SF and De Waal FBM, "Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay" 425, 297-299), which claims to demonstrate that monkeys have a sense of fairness. A National Geographic News article (Markey S, "Monkeys Show Sense of Fairness" 17 September, 2003) subsequently popularized and reinforced the behavioralist fallacies in the Nature article. What follows is an attempt to uncover the assumptions underlying the researchers' conclusions, and in an ironic twist, we will use culture to explain evolutionary theory, by identifying contemporary liberal capitalist assumptions as a source of bias.

The Capuchin Experiment and Its Anthropomorphic Interpretation

The conduct of the capuchin experiment itself is not problematic, but the inferences drawn from the results are gratuitous. Let us contrast the modest results of the experiment with the conclusions expressed in the National Geographic article. Preparations for the experiment were conducted as follows:

Pairs [of female capuchin monkeys] were placed next to each other and trained to exchange with human handlers a small granite rock within 60 seconds to receive a reward, in most cases, a piece of cucumber.

Since capuchins are naturally reluctant to relinquish items, this trial tampers with their normal behavior. Nonetheless, we will ignore this social contamination, since it is practically unavoidable, and much more serious objections will follow. Once the monkeys were fully trained to perform the exchange described above, the actual experiment could begin. The researchers used five female capuchins because females "most closely monitor equity".

Partners of capuchins who made the swap either received the same reward (a cucumber slice), or a better reward (a grape, a more desirable food), for the same amount of work or, in some cases, for performing no work at all.

[Predoctoral researcher Sarah] Brosnan said the response to the unequal treatment was astonishing: Capuchins who witnessed unfair treatment and failed to benefit from it often refused to conduct future exchanges with human researchers, would not eat the cucumbers they received for their labors, and in some cases, hurled food rewards at human researchers.

Those actions were significant. They confirmed that not only did capuchins expect fair treatment, but that the human desire for equity has an evolutionary basis. (Sean Markey, National Geographic News, 17 September, 2003)

The extravagant conclusion is the contribution of the journalist, though Brosnan says in her interview, "It looks like this behavior is evolved... it is not simply a cultural construct. There's some good evolutionary reason why we don't like being treated unfairly." She evidently believes in the same conclusions as the Geographic's reporter, but will not assert them as forcefully. Her conclusion in the Nature abstract is even more reserved:

Here we demonstrate that a nonhuman primate, the brown capuchin monkey (Cebus apella), responds negatively to unequal reward distribution in exchanges with a human experimenter. Monkeys refused to participate if they witnessed a conspecific obtain a more attractive reward for equal effort, an effect amplified if the partner received such a reward without any effort at all. These reactions support an early evolutionary origin of inequity aversion.

Assuming the experiment was conducted properly, all but the last statement is incontestable, though we must make careful qualifications about our understanding of "reward", "exchange", and "effort". "Inequity aversion" is a term borrowed from game theory; its use here suggests an analogy, or even an equation, between human notions of unfairness and capuchin "expectations about the outcome of cooperation and the division of resources". Even if we admitted such an identity, it would still take an extraordinary mental leap to believe that capuchins and humans received their notions of fairness from a common ancestor.

The language of the Geographic article is replete with anthropomorphisms, and several of these may also be found in the original Nature article, as can be seen in the above quotations. Nearly all of these anthropomorphic terms pertain to human institutions of property.

For example, the act of exchanging a rock for a cucumber is described as "work", reflecting an intent to make a statement about equal pay for equal work. The idea that commodities ought to be exchanged for each other, or that labor should be exchanged for commodities, is a relatively recent human development, made practicable only with the advent of agriculture and a social division of labor. It is doubtful in the extreme that the capuchins had any notion they were exchanging their labor for a commodity, or even that they were laboring or exerting "effort". Their willingness to exchange can be explained as simple associative learning: the performance of some task, whether relinquishing a rock or pressing a button, results in a desirable end. In experiments where the task is pressing a button, the task is seldom described as "work". Owing to the natural difficulty capuchins have in relinquishing objects, surrendering a rock may have been a real sacrifice, and therefore somehow analogous to labor. We have no way of knowing that the capuchins saw things this way. They may have simply been acting practically, as in the case of pressing a button. After all, a monkey may soon learn it has little use for a rock, and happily give it away in order to obtain a desirable treat.

The use of evolutionary phylogeny to show the origins of behavior conflates behavioral transmission with genetic transmission. Even supposing that capuchin monkeys and humans are of geologically recent common ancestry, and that capuchins really do possess a sense of unfairness, it would be fallacious to infer that human notions of unfairness are derived from those of our evolutionary ancestors. As most historical scholars know only too well, virtually all beliefs held to be "natural" a thousand years ago have since been challenged or even reversed. The tumultuous course of cultural history should make any sensible investigator wary of extrapolating backwards over millions of years. Entire cultures and belief systems can be wiped out in a few generations; it seems excessively hopeful to presume that any Australopithecus afarensis behavior patterns would be continuously preserved into modernity. Fairness may have been learned and unlearned a thousand times over in that period. We would also have to assume a similar constancy in capuchin attitudes on fairness dating back millions of years. In reality, there is little direct evidence that the basic behavior patterns of monkeys remain constant over centuries, much less millennia. Behavior patterns are much more easily changed than physical attributes, as any animal trainer knows, so we should not be too surprised if the capuchin monkeys also learned and unlearned their notions of fairness several times in their history. Lastly, we may consider that finding a similar social trait in humans and another species is simply a statistical consequence of the immense diversity of existing human cultures and animal societies.

Anthropological Critique

Brosnan appears to believe that the "sense of fairness", which she equates with inequity aversion, is a human universal, and that the study of economics and anthropology corroborate this view.

Although there exists substantial cultural variation in its particulars, this 'sense of fairness' is probably a human universal, that has been shown to prevail in a wide variety of circumstances.

This is a misinterpretation of the actual state of the evidence in anthropology. In fact, one of the references cited here by Brosnan and de Waal explicitly refutes this view. A UCLA anthropologist, Joe Henrich, found that the Machiguenga people of the Peruvian Amazon did not have the same notions of fairness found in most parts of the world, contradicting the assumption "that all humans deploy similar, pan-human cognitive machinery for making economic decisions." Henrich concludes "that cultural differences (socially transmitted behavioral rules) may fundamentally affect basic economic behavioral patterns". (Henrich J. "Does culture matter in economic behavior?" American Economic Review, 26 October 1998) It is quite impossible, then, to even speak of a single human sense of fairness. Fairness is an artifact of culture, not biology. It may still be true, of course, that all humans have a sense of fairness in the broad sense of expectations about the result of cooperation, but this is a trivial, almost meaningless similarity. The only alternative would be to have no expectations whatsoever, which is hardly likely among thinking creatures. The Machiguenga, at least, do not have the capuchins' "inequity aversion", since they would consistently accept low, "unfair" offers (less than 25%) in the Ultimatum Game.

ůseveral individuals made it clear that they would always accept any money regardless of how much the proposer was getting. Rather than viewing themselves as being "screwed" by the proposer, they seemed to feel it was just bad luck that they were responders, and not proposers.

Significantly, Henrich explains this deviant result in terms of the highly individualistic Machiguenga culture, in which people feel no sense of obligation to cooperate with anyone outside their kin. By the same token, they have no expectation of favorable treatment from strangers. "That is, there's no expectation of 'fairness' to violate and get punished for violating." From the Machiguenga counterexample, we may derive the likely inference that capuchins and most human groups have inequity aversion because of their socially inherited cooperative behavior, not their physiological hard-wiring.

Alternative Interpretations of the Results

The critical result of Brosnan and de Waal's experiment, while fascinating, does not necessarily imply the conclusion that monkeys recognize unfairness. A monkey who received a reward that was inferior to her partner's would refuse further exchanges, sometimes even rejecting the inferior reward (cucumber). Actually, refusing the exchange amounts to the same thing as hurling back the cucumber, since the monkeys had already learned by then to associate surrendering the rock with receiving the cucumber. The researchers interpret these refusals as protests against unfairness, though a simpler interpretation might be just plain envy or desire for a better reward, without regard for any notion of fairness.

A well-conceived experiment could distinguish a desire for fairness from simple envy (or its equivalent in the capuchin psyche). For example, one monkey can be given an opportunity to make many more exchanges than the other, while still fairly receiving the same reward per exchange. Would the other monkey protest, despite this fair treatment? Alternatively, one monkey in each pair may be asked to give up two rocks at a time, resulting in a double reward. Again, this would be "equal work for equal pay", but the monkey with less work might protest anyway out of envy. Tests such as these could resolve the ambiguity between a desire for fairness and simple envy. Note that a monkey on the receiving end of inequity did not allow her supposed "sense of fairness" to persuade her to relinquish her reward or offer some to her partner.

Simple self-interest is another possible explanation for the monkey's behavior, as envy might be too emotionally sophisticated. A monkey sees that a greater reward is available, and therefore holds out until it is received. Accepting the lesser reward might, in the monkey's view, jeopardize her chances of getting the greater reward, or less anthropomorphically, she may find the lesser reward undesirable, being fixated on the greater reward. Similarly, a cat may refuse to eat her dry food when her owner is present, knowing she can "hold out" for the more desirable moist food. Clearly, there would be no issue of equity here, only of pragmatism. The actual study did control for this somewhat, by showing both rewards to the pairs of monkeys before each exchange, without letting them know which they would receive.

If the "unfairness" hypothesis holds up after control experiments testing for "envy" or "self-interest," we would still have to examine whether the Capuchins have an idea of fairness with which they compare behaviors, and whether this notion of fairness corresponds in any way to human concepts of equity. It is possible that Capuchins exhibit this behavior purely by visceral impulse, and that there is no primitive notion of fairness floating in the monkey's psyche. Insects, for example, exhibit highly sophisticated social behavior that is probably not indicative of a developed insect psyche. This uncertainty could be resolved only by extremely difficult investigations in cognitive psychology. Should there exist a real concept of fairness among the Capuchins, it would almost certainly have to be extremely primitive, since monkeys cannot verbalize their thoughts. Even with the aid of language, humans have difficulty articulating what fairness is, making it difficult to believe that pre-verbal beings could have any intelligible analogue of the concept.

Brosnan and others might be content to show that the Capuchins' sense of unfairness is purely visceral, for they erroneously presume that the same is true among humans, as shown in their discussion of human behavior.

Sociological Critique

The Capuchin study focuses on cooperative behavior, yet it presumes to have explained it with "some good evolutionary reason", which is unspecified. Learning that a trait is inherited is not the same as explaining it. The term "evolutionary reason" is insidiously teleological: it pretends to answer a teleological question with an efficient cause. "There's some good evolutionary reason why we don't like being treated unfairly," says Brosnan. Let us elucidate the incoherence of the belief that the "why" of a behavior is answered only by its remote efficient cause. Supposedly, I detest unfair treatment because my remote ancestors detested it, and they adopted this attitude for "some good evolutionary reason". If this is true, then it is also true that I detest unfair treatment because my more immediate ancestors, such as my parents, dislike it. Every sociologist and psychologist save the barest simpleton has long ago rejected this facile explanation of human behavior, which would exonerate every criminal if applied universally. Behavioral norms need not survive one generation, let alone a thousand.

Furthermore, explaining the origin of my hatred of unfairness does not explain why I continue to hold this position. Primates and early humans have widely practiced all kinds of detestable violence which I consciously reject, and in most cases, feel no urge to imitate. We are not slaves of our heredity, nor are the more intelligent animals, as any animal trainer or pet owner can demonstrate. Statements such as Brosnan's illustrate how evolutionary theory is out of step with modern sociology and psychology, which moved beyond nineteenth-century reductionism decades ago.

Brosnan claims her research was inspired by the work of Swiss economist Ernst Fehr, who supposedly had shown that people inherently reject unfairness. In actuality, Fehr's work on fairness (E Fehr & KM Schmidt, "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Quart. J. Econ. (1999) 114:817-868)is more nuanced. He merely attempted to show that the complex data of human economic interactions may be explained by assuming that a substantial fraction of people are influenced by "fairness" criteria, not just simple self-interest. Fehr does not argue for the universality of a sense of "fairness", but for the universality of his model, which includes the desire for fairness as one of several decision-making factors.

Fehr employs the game-theoretic concept of fairness adopted by the Brosnan study: "inequity aversion", as applied to bilateral and multilateral bargaining schemes. "Inequity aversion" simply means avoidance of a result that the individual finds to be inferior to an expected "fair" or equitably neutral outcome. Different peoples may define fairness differently, as they have different expectations.

There is no universal expectation of "equal work for equal pay", so it is pointless for the capuchin study to attempt to give an "evolutionary explanation" for a non-existent human universal. Equity, in game theory, is a much broader concept than equality, as it defined only by the individual's expectations, not some objective notion of "equal work for equal pay". For example, peasant classes in Europe and Asia have been socially conservative for most of history, never expecting equality with lords and princes, and thus not perceiving any unfairness in inequality. "Equal work for equal pay" as a human universal would be impossible to reconcile with the modern worker's docile acceptance of the capitalist system, where the hardest work tends to have the lowest pay.

Upholding liberal egalitarianism as a standard of fairness promotes the idea that modern Western notions of economic fairness are ubiquitous and therefore natural. This illusion is especially acute in our time, as most societies have internalized Western ideas, and human culture is becoming increasingly homogeneous in many of its fundamental principles. Social egalitarianism is one such principle that is held today as universally as it was denied for most of history. Human equality is difficult to justify on purely factual grounds, as human beings are unequal in all their measurable qualities, so it would require an extraordinary leap of faith to assume they are equal in their unmeasurable qualities. Primates generally do not practice social equality, though this does not mean that their hierarchies are the reason for human hierarchy.

Whether animal societies are egalitarian or hierarchical, these organizations cannot adequately account for the conscious machinations of human society. Even the earliest human societies known to history are extremely advanced by animal standards, as they are built upon a network of consciously accepted, verbally articulated principles. Accidental similarities between human and animal societies are inevitable, due to their diversity of customs. For example, we may find an analogy between the alpha male and primitive tribal leaders, but this similarity is only superficial. Alpha male dominance enables primary access to females, while this is hardly the prime prerogative of tribal leadership. To the extent that tribal leaders do get their choice of females, this requires no special evolutionary explanation. A man in a position of power may freely act on his desires, and most men desire women, though this is not usually the primary goal of seeking political power. Cooperative arrangements among animals can hardly be credited for the deliberately crafted cultural insitutions of agrarian humans. The idea of labor for pay did not arise until the advent of agriculture, so it is bizarre for the capuchin study to imply that monkeys have some notion of labor for pay, when humans did not possess this concept for most of their prehistory.

Historical Critique

Incredibly, many biologists appear to think they can address the question of whether human behavior is inherited from our evolutionary ancestors without reference to historical scholarship. This leaves them vulnerable to major gaffes in which they draw links between remote prehistory and modern society, ignoring a gaping hole in pre-modern human history.

It was only in the nineteenth century that Europeans began to widely accept that selfishness was the driving principle of human economic behavior. Widespread belief that this was a scientific thesis led to a self-fulfilling escalation of laissez-faire ideas and policies, and fierce nationalisms based on a pseudo-scientific notion of racial competition. Contemporary capitalism has more of a social conscience, but naively supposes that the common good is always compatible with the pursuit of self-interest. The gross inequities of modern capitalism are blithely justified by the myth that those who amass fortunes according to the rules of capitalism have thereby earned them, as if they had done a proportionate amount of labor. "Equal pay for equal work" is a principle that everyone believes in order to cheerfully accept the fact that it is routinely violated. It is an accident of our social order, not hardwired into human nature. Feudal lords, monarchs, and clergy were not expected to work, and it is only in the eighteenth century that these classes had to rationalize their status in terms of the "work" they did by ruling or praying. It would be idle to maintain, then or now, that their wealth was proportionate to their labor, so aristocratic privileges were abolished as the bourgeois ethic became adopted by the ruling classes of Europe.

In the Middle Ages, by all accounts, a hierarchical social order was embraced, as people assumed that individuals were called to low or high station according to the circumstances of their birth. Peasant revolts rarely occurred, and these were only protests against a lord's violation of the customary feudal laws; they did not attempt to overthrow the feudal order. When revolutions finally did come to Europe, radicals were often exasperated by the stubborn conservatism of peasants, and spent decades spreading propaganda to the countryside in the hopes of "enlightening" them. Failing that, they co-opted the state and church and reformed society from above. Some historians may contest or qualify these comments, but all would agree that the emergence of liberal ethics in Europe was a slow, laborious process with many abortive attempts at reform stifled by popular conservatism. Our evolutionary inheritance of the notion of equal work for equal pay, if it exists, must have lain dormant for millennia before becoming reactivated.

Political Critique

Attempts to show that liberal capitalist ethics are biologically inherited reinforces the modern conceit that our ethos appeals to human nature itself. In this view, the spread of liberal capitalism and Western social ideas throughout the "developing world" (as non-Western societies, however ancient, are patronizingly called) is not the result of military coercion or economic penetration, but because of their universal appeal to human nature itself. The entire history of imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries exposes the fallacy of this belief. It is only consistent that those who espouse competition as the organizing principle of society should deal with foreign peoples aggressively.

In recent decades, most Westerners have become repentant about past imperialism, and seek to promote their ideas more peaceably. The hopeful belief that our values really do appeal to human nature helps assuage our guilt over the legacy of imperialism. This belief in the universality of liberalism is self-fulfilling, since any society that opposes our values is necessarily "unenlightened" and in need of reform. Even if these reforms are non-coercive, we have a selective bias in reforming only those that depart from the Western liberal model.

Europeans and North Americans themselves testify against the naturalness of liberal ideals, as they tend to regard presidents and prime ministers as paternal monarchs, not as equals, and they oppose at home the bitter pill of unfettered capitalism that they prescribe for others. They also passively accept the existence of incaccessible political and economic elites as a fact of life, much like their peasant ancestors.

In sum, it is impossible to determine the origins of natural human behavior when we cannot even agree which, if any, human behavior is natural. The capuchin monkey experiments have not shown that monkeys possess a notion of unfairness, and if they had, its expression among humans has been wildly uneven. Humans appear to have survived successfully with and without the contemporary notion of fairness, so it is difficult to see why it was evolutionarily advantageous. If there is also an evolutionary reason for not having the current notion of fairness, we may reasonably retort that the theory that explains too much explains nothing. A good theory should explain why this result, rather than another, has occurred; it should not have a facile rationalization regardless of what result occurs, in case the facts should be reversed. Much has happened in the last thousand years, and much more in previous ages, so it is certainly sloppy scholarship to pretend to draw links in behavior across eons without recognizing radical changes that have occurred in mere decades. It is also irresponsible to give the imprimatur of science on a particular culture's value system, branding it as authentically natural and human. This was probably not Brosnan's deliberate intent, but the result of unconsciously held assumptions.

General Cultural Biases in Behavioral Evolution and Liberal Economics

Selfish behavior has long been assumed by evolutionary behavioralists and liberal economists to be normal and "rational", behavior, whereas altruism is an oddity to be explained by some hidden self-interest. This cultural bias has long permeated evolutionary theory and Western economics, resulting in the objectification of culturally specific human desires. For example, an economist might say "capital is a coward", meaning capital tends not to flow toward environments where there is a lack of security, such as a war-torn country. In reality, it is human investors who are mostly cowards, or at least cautious about taking risks with their money. If we were a society of predominantly audacious people, the maxim "capital is a coward" would not hold, since this principle, like all so-called laws of economics, is really a statement about human behavioral choices.

Liberal (or "classical", or "neo-classical") economic models work well to the extent that society mirrors its assumptions, such as the axiom that each individual will act out of self-interest. To the extent that people are usually selfish in their economic activity, the axiom holds. Yet if even one major player, such as the state, acts for a common good based on an unselfish notion of social justice, liberal economic models lose relevance, especially if the state (or a benevolent plutocracy) controls a substantial sector of the economy. Economic activity is simply a sum of human decisions and actions, domains which are notoriously unpredictable. Ernst Fehr's work has recently shown that cooperation and altruism must be considered as rational behaviors alongside selfish motives in order to explain the complexity of human economic activity.

Evolution, by analogy, is simply a sum of the accidental and deliberate activities of lifeforms, vis-Ó-vis their survival. Evolutionists, like economists, are tempted to speak of objective evolutionary forces, as though these had explanatory rather than merely descriptive power. There is no logical or physical requirement that an organism must behave selfishly. It is true that in an environment dictated strictly by relations of coercion, the animal that behaves selfishly has a survival advantage over those that do not. Yet in fact, relations within and among species are usually more cooperative than competitive. Relatively few animal species are predatory, and most of these prey on infants, the old and the sick, doing little to select for specific traits. Herbivores actually strengthen plants by grazing, and microbes are essential to most forms of animal life. Cooperative or symbiotic organisms, such as plants, insects, and microbes, constitute the vast majority of life on earth. The survivalist image of "nature red in tooth and claw" is more representative of late nineteenth-century Anglo-American economic ideology than it is of the actual natural world, where predation plays a relatively minor role in selective outcomes.

Nineteenth-century evolutionary theory adopted the assumption of liberal economics that coercive relations predominated in a state of nature. Cooperative behavior, therefore, was to be explained by some underlying selfish motivation. In recent years, some biologists such as Richard Dawkins have questioned whether the evolutionary unit is the species, the individual, or the gene, but nearly all still assume the ethos of selfishness in nature. Once evolutionary theory had eschewed Darwin's Lamarckian assumptions in the early twentieth century, it became a daringly reductionist hypothesis, asserting that the rich, subtle diversity of biology is solely the work of the blunt ax of natural selection. This is a highly debatable proposition, for the fossil record gives evidence only of the fact of evolution, not its mechanism, and living organisms often act for ends that are positively detrimental to their survival. Even if we accept as fact the common evolutionary descent of all organisms, we are still far from demonstrating that survival considerations are the engine of biological variation. Darwin himself never believed this, as he increasingly depended Lamarck's theory to account for the appearance of variations, and natural selection to explain their gradual elimination. What we now call Darwinism is really an amputated form of Darwin's theory, nurtured in the reductionist atmosphere of the late nineteenth century. A century later, the advent of modern genetics has made possible a stochastic alternative to the survivalist model, yet most biologists have reflexively projected survivalist assumptions onto the microenvironment of the chromosome.

If one ultimate goal of modern biology is to reduce biological processes to chemistry, we can easily see the appeal of selfish models of behavior. Stripped of anthropomorphism, the theory of selfishness means that each part acts autonomously in constructing the whole, much as particles in physics or molecules in chemistry. We need not look beyond the immediate environment of a particle, molecule, gene, cell, organ, or organism to account for its behavior. This wrongheaded attempt to mechanize biology is based on the outmoded nineteenth-century philosophy of mechanistic determinism, which has long been abandoned by physicists and chemists, yet still finds favor among biologists.

In physics, quantum mechanics has demonstrated that a particle's behavior is not determined autonomously, but depends on the experimental setup in which it is embedded, so that its state can be effected by remote conditions (so-called principles of "non-locality" and "action at a distance"). Our familiar classical world in which objects act autonomously is merely a first-order approximation.

In chemistry, atoms with overlapping electron orbitals change their orbital structure to form a fundamentally new substance, different from the sum of its parts. Chemicals are truly distinct substances from the atoms in their formula, and to regard an atom as a "part" of a molecule is to miss the fundamentals of physical chemistry. Atomism, in the classical sense, is dead. Properties of larger physical objects are generally not reducible to those of their components, but qualitatively new properties emerge as objects combine.

Mathematical analysis shows that these strange physical and chemical phenomena do not violate quantitative logic, but it naturally cannot account for emergent qualities, a fact many physicists forget when they think they have explained a phenomenon by mathematical derivation. Biologists also miss the boat on emergent properties when they treat quantitative explanations as complete. The ubiquity of emergent properties in physics and chemistry makes it extremely unlikely that the behavior of organisms is reducible to a combination of genetic influences and passive reactions to the environment. Lifeforms, especially animals, are real active agents with their own non-chemical properties (such as behavior) that can impose themselves on the rest of the natural order. Biologists must learn to take seriously the existence of life as something fundamentally non-chemical, just as chemical compounds are non-atomic, and free themselves from the nineteenth-century Anglo-American philosophical trappings of strong reductionism and determinism in which they are still enmeshed.

© 2005 Daniel J. Castellano. All rights reserved. http://www.arcaneknowledge.org

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