not selfish gene theory!

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Mon Nov 29 01:04:48 PST 1999

>He begins by suggesting that it is possible to offer an evolutionary
>explanation for a universal human characteristic--the ability to be
>socialized by myth. The basic idea here may be no less convincing: that
>those human groups that could instill group loyalty into their members
>would be more sucessful and hence individuals in the group would transmit
>more of the genes that made group loyalty possible. More specifically, if
>cooperation is induced by myth and ritual, not by reason or selfish gene
>algebra, the innate capacity to be influenced by ritual may have evolved by
>natural selection. This leads John Maynard Smith to argue for the creation
>of myths that extend loyalty to the human species as a whole. Highly
>speculative indeed, but not necessarily bourgeois apologetics and
>transposed vulgar economics.

On the strength of your summary here, I'd say John Maynard Smith's motive is an old-fashioned humanist one, so it's not quite Hobbesian in the individualistic sense, but his theory sounds like, "add genes & evolution to Donna Haraway and stir." Anyhow, substituting society as an integrated organism (that succeeds or fails) for atomized individuals (who succeed or fail) has been an old bourgeois ideological tool. Adding genes & evolution to it doesn't change this fact. Further, an organicist & functionalist understanding of "myth, ritual, & group loyalty" certainly helps to gloss over class struggles, doesn't it? Where's your left communism when we need it???


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