Phl415 H1f ronnie de Sousa Description and Syllabus Tues 6-9pm Rm: tba the Topic

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PHL415 H1F Ronnie de Sousa Description and Syllabus Tues 6-9pm Rm: TBA

The Topic: This course is about two heated controversies in which politics and science became intertwined. The common thread in both is the question of the units of selection and the respective role of genes, individual organisms, and groups in adaptation. Darwin speculated that altruism – the willingness to place others’ interests above one’s own – advantaged groups whose members practice it. The idea was developed by some biologists in the early 20th Century, but without working out feasible mechanisms. In the 60’s withering criticism, notably by George C. Williams, seemed to finish off the idea of group selection. In 1975 E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology caused a furore, and was brutally attacked for applying evolutionary principles to the explanation of human social behaviour. Group selection was revived in a book by Elliott Sober and David Wilson, Unto Others. Most recently, E.O. Wilson has again caused a furore, by arguing, in Nature and in his 2012 book The Social Conquest of Earth, that his previous explanation of altruism was wrong, and that group selection must, after all, be invoked to explain sociality in both insects and humans. In the course of looking at some key texts in these two controversies, we shall reflect on two philosophical questions: what the group selection controversy can teach us about of how science progresses, and how evolutionary origins cast light on human nature.

Assignments and grade weights:

 One collaborative class summary (in pairs), in both written and oral forms (15%);

 One summary of assigned reading (10min. oral, spoken not read, & written) (15%)

 One written-only summary (15%);

 Attendance and participation (15%);

 One final paper, 3500-4500 words (40%)

Books to buy: Sober, Elliott, and David Sloan Wilson. 1998. Unto Others. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; Wilson, Edward O. The Social Conquest of Earth. New York: Norton.

Bibliography (required readings referred to below, plus *some additional suggestions.)
Abbot, Patrick, et al. 2011. “Inclusive Fitness Theory and Eusociality.” Nature 471(7339)

Allen, Elizabeth et al. 1975. “Against Sobiobiology,” 1913/Nov.[ archives/1975/nov/13/against-sociobiology/?pagination=false&printpage=true

Andrews, Paul W., Steven W. Gangestad, and Dan Matthews. 2002. “Adaptationism: How to Carry Out an Exaptationist Program.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25:489–553.

de Sousa, R. 1990. “The Sociology of Sociobiology.” Internat. Stud. in the Phil. Science 4(1): 271–83.

Gould, Stephen Jay, and Richard L. Lewontin. 1979. “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossion Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme.” Proc Royal Soc B 205:581–98.

Nowak, M.A, C. E. Tarnita, and Edward O. Wilson. 2010. “Inclusive Fitness Theory and Eusociality.” Nature 466:1057–62.

*Okasha, Samir. 2004. “The ‘Averaging Fallacy’ & the Levels of Selection.” Bio. & Phil. 19:167–84.

Segerstrale, Ullica. 1986. “Colleagues in Conflict an ‘in Vivo’ Analysis of the Sociobiology Controversy.” Biology and Philosophy 1:53–87.

*Sober, Elliott, and Richard C. Lewontin. 1982. “Artifact, Cause, and Genic Selection.” Philosophy of Science 49:157–80.

Sober, Elliott, and David Sloan Wilson. 1998. Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior. Harvard University Press.

Sterelny, K., and P. Kitcher. 1988. “The Return of the Gene.” Journal of Philosophy 85:339–61.

*Trivers, R.L. 1971. “The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism.” Quarterly Rev. Biology 46:35–57.

Wilson, Edward O. 1975. Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. Harvard University Press.

Wilson, Edward O. 2012. The Social Conquest of Earth. New York: Norton.

This list is tentative, and may be alterered before we meet or as we go.

Readings other than the required books are almost all available from the library online. If not (eg the reading for Sept 18) they will be made available at the Reserve desk or on Blackboard

Sept 11: Organization; Introduction to : the two controversies to be studied. Recap of basic theory of natural selection and how it creates the problem of altruism .

Sept 18: Background: gene selectionism and the critique of early models of group selection. G. C. Williams, Adaptation and Natural Selection. Chs 1,2,3 (1966) [Reserve]

Sept 25: Wilson's Chapter on Human Sociality: Sociobiology, chp 27, and the attacks by the group "Science for People", both from NYRB ("Against “Sociobiology”", November 13, 1975, by Elizabeth Allen, Barbara Beckwith, Jon Beckwith, Steven Chorover, and David Culver, et al.; and Lewontin as "Science for the People" in BioScience:"Another Genetic Determinism".

Oct 2: RdS: "The sociology of Sociobiology"; Segerstrale "Colleagues in Conflict".

Oct 9: Sterelny and Kitcher: "The return of the gene"

Oct 16: Group S.election Again: Sober and Wilson Unto Others chs. 1 & 2 (17-99).

Oct 23: Sober & Wilson: chs 3 and 4 (101-159).

Oct 30: The Latest Controversy: Wilson's Social Conquest of Earth Part II (13-105).

Nov 6: Wilson, Part III-IV (109-187).

Nov 13: Wilson, Part V (191-284)

Nov 20: The debate in Nature: 137 scientists against Wilson et al, and their rejoinder .

[NB no class on Nov 27: last class postponed to Dec 4] : Wrap-up: no new readings.

Dec 11 FINAL ASSIGNMENT due. Word count: 4000 words±500.
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