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Erasmus and fasting

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  • sadf sadf
    Hello everyone, perhaps i should ask a biology list, but... there is a note in my edition of In Praise of Folly by Erasmus, discussing a passage -which is
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 6, 2006
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      Hello everyone, perhaps i should ask a biology list, but... there is a note in my edition of In Praise of Folly by Erasmus, discussing a passage  -which is concerned with ascetic practices such as fasting - that claims 'it is possible that the human nervous system has become more complex since the early middle ages, and the pain threshold lower'. Does anybody know if 700 years is enough time for significant biological adaption, or is claim this nonsense?

      horvathon@... wrote:
          I think we simply disagree on the reach and scope of evolutionary theory, and perhaps on the relationships between scientific disciplines. From my standpoint, evolutionary theory is far-reaching and relevant to virtually everything, though this doesn't make it the "centerpiece," as you put it. Certainly relevant once carbon-based entities enter into the picture. I'm not sure if I'm willing to go as far as Daniel Dennett in Darwin's Dangerous Idea, in the chapter called "molecular evolution," when he talks about Cairns-Smith and replicating proteins, and discusses replication and natural selection as an inevitable algorithmic process. In any case, I wouldn't equate "evolutionary" with "central," and the role of evolution in any given phenonemon is by no means what is most interesting about that phenomenon. Nonetheless, evolution is relevant.
          One of the most valuable contributions of evolutionary thinking is that it is unabashedly interdisciplinary. I think that it needs to become even more inclusively so, and that literature has one of the more valuable contributions to make (Please don't mistake this for my saying that literature's sole or main purpose is to contribute to psychology or science--au contraire! I am a writer, not a psychologist.). I see no inherent value in upholding the autonomy of the disciplines of psychology that you've delineated (almost, ironically, modular!), except insofar as one cannot possibly learn everything, so sometimes it makes sense to settle down and "pick a major."  
          Since we at least appear to disagree on several fundamental issues, but both concur that Gigerenzer's work is, as you put it, "valuable and substantive work," I'll extract a quote from Gigerenzer that I think epitomizes a couple of points: (1) that one can quite readily be both "basic cognitive psychology," as you put it, AND "evolutionary,"  (2) that disciplinary boundaries are more of a barrier than a spur to progress. I apologize in advance for the length of it, but I think it speaks to the issues:
      (from Adaptive Thinking, pg. 200)
      "An evolutionary perspective suggests that a...division of labor has evolved, one directed at solving important adaptive problems, such as attachment development, mate search, parenting, social exchange, coalition formation, and maintaining and upsetting dominance hierarchies. The module dedicated to solving each of these problems needs to integrate motivation, perception, thinking, emotion, and behavior into a functional unit. This is not to say that domain-specific modules are encapsulated and disassociated; they are probably as coordinated as the violins, violas, cellos, oboes, and French horns in an orchestra, or the liver, kidneys, lungs, and heart in a human body.
      "The idea of modules specialized for certain adaptive problems conflicts with the compartmentalization of psychology. Today's areas of specialization are defined in terms of faculties, such as memory, thinking, decision making, intelligence, motivation, and emotion. These faculties have become institutionalized in modern university curricula and grant agencies. They determine the professional self-perception of our colleagues, what they read and what they ignore, their departmental alliances, and the hiring of professors. If you ask a psychologist at a conference what she is doing, you will probably get an answer such as 'I am a cognitive psychologist,' 'I do emotions,' "I am a judgment and decision-making person,' or 'my field is motivation.' Evolutionary thinking is an antidote to this faculty view of the mind. Adaptive problems and their modern equivalents, such as foraging and dieting and social exchange and markets, demand the orchestration of these faculties, not their segregation[....] [emphasis mine]
      "Research on modularity forces us to reconsider the borders that have gone unquestioned for many decades. Rethinking rationality means rethinking the orgniazation of the fields that study it."
      In a message dated 2/5/2006 12:59:17 PM Eastern Standard Time, andarot@... writes:


      Your first para essentially goes to CONFIRM my
      argument. Gigerenzer is basic cognitive psychology NOT
      evolutionary studies. And yes we can and should relate
      the cognitive sciences' generalizations about human
      decisionmaking, including those of Gigerenzer,
      Kahneman and Tversky, to the simply gigantic
      "database" about individual examples of decisionmaking
      provided by the dramatic/narrative arts. As I've said
      elsewhere, the Shakespearean tragedies constitute,
      (among other things, it must be stressed), a very fine
      body of psychological work about the vicissitudes of
      human decisionmaking - (Hamlet/Lear/Macbeth/Othello
      all absolutely hinge on poor decisionmaking) - which
      is in many ways still  today more advanced than any of
      the above luminaries.

      But wtf do you want bring evolution into it for?...
      When you start to bring evolution into EVERYTHING you
      should know that you're in trouble. Is there anything
      that is worth studying in its own right for you,
      without making evolution the centrepiece? Do you not
      think that love, marriage, war, decisionmaking,
      education, war, religion etc are important in their
      own right? Can you see no reason why there are
      separate fields of science that concern themselves
      with these subjects and NOT evolution? You have to
      take time here to think about the division of
      knowledge between the many sciences and how and why it
      exists - and why everything is NOT evolutionary

      Social Psychology
      Sociology & Psychology of Organizations
      Sociology & Psychology of Education
      Abnormal Psychology
      Psychology of Personality  (would take too long to
      explain here., but the arts could inspire a whole new
      field here - the Psychology of Character)
      Psychology of Decisionmaking
      Psychology of Management
      Psychology of Creativity
      Sociology & Psychology of Religion
      Sociology & Psychology of War
      Sports Psychology
      Political Science

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