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Re: [evol-psych] Re: mating Mind

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  • Herbert Gintis
    ... It is the same theory, different name. ... I am not so sure. I think it can explain all these things. We do a lot of art for the same reason we do a lot of
    Message 1 of 9 , Dec 1, 2002
      At 11:21 AM 11/30/2002 -0500, M. F. Badger wrote:
      >Per: Professor Gintis's suggestion about direct sensory stimulation:
      >
      >I am not familiar with the "direct sensory stimulation" theory but it sounds
      >like an expanded version of sensory bias.
      It is the same theory, different name.
      > It might be enough to explain why
      >we like pretty things or playing a flute, but surely it is not nearly enough
      >to explain why we like Beethoven, carve violins out of wood, read fat Dickens
      >novels, worship Andy Warhol, thrill to Mark Morris, invented TV and the
      >Internet, cry and laugh in the movies, or even love the Sex Pistols, or why
      >so much human time and energy is put into art-making and why art making is so
      >extravagant in so many cultures in so many eras.
      I am not so sure. I think it can explain all these things. We do a
      lot of art for the same reason we do a lot of sex and food: it feels good.
      It's just that the reason is not adaptation but sensory bias. Of course, it
      is possible that there is such a thing as "beauty" that has the same sort
      of validity and intrinsic meaning as "truth," and our brains are capable of
      appreciating both---hence art and science. I happen to believe this, but it
      doesn't go against sensory bias theory at all.
      ...
      >Miller also makes the excellent point about vocabularies. If we agree that we
      >all have a biologically based capacity for language, it makes sense to ask
      >why we have the capacity to learn so many languages and to have enormous
      >vocabularies, when really most people get by quite nicely using only a small
      >portion of one language or even pidgin. Why is vocabulary correlated with
      >performance on so many kinds of tests of intelligence, education, aptitude,
      >etc.? And why is there so much variation even within the same language?
      >Surely you would agree that there is some excess capcaity--waste!--there.
      Primitive languages have complex grammars, but not extensive
      vocabularies. Most words are for things in the natural environment.
      Advanced societies need more words. Do you really think you can run a state
      or army or bank with a few words? Not at all.
      The fact that there is a great deal of variation in linguistic
      ability (and intelligence in general) is certainly an indication that IQ is
      not closely associated with fitness today (it is only weakly associated, by
      most accounts of differential fertility, I believe). But it may well have
      been in the past. Indeed, I would put my whole life savings on a bet that
      it was. The idea that big brains are not adaptive is simply a non-starter,
      for reasons outlined by others on this list.
      >...

      Best,


      Herbert Gintis
      Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of
      Massachusetts
      External Faculty, Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM
      15 Forbes Avenue, Northampton, MA 01060 413-586-7756
      Recent papers are posted on my <http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~gintis>web site.
      Get Game Theory Evolving (Princeton, 2000) at
      <http://www.isbn.nu/0691009430/amazon>Amazon.com.
      There is no sorrow so great that does not find
      its background in joy.
      Niels Bohr (1938)
    • Douglass Carmichael
      From: Herbert Gintis [mailto:hgintis@attbi.com] I am not so sure. I think it can explain all these things. We do a lot of art for the same reason we do a lot
      Message 2 of 9 , Dec 1, 2002
        From: Herbert Gintis [mailto:hgintis@...]

        I am not so sure. I think it can explain all these things. We
        do a lot of art for the same reason we do a lot of sex and food: it feels
        good.
        It's just that the reason is not adaptation but sensory bias. Of course,
        it is possible that there is such a thing as "beauty" that has the same
        sort of validity and intrinsic meaning as "truth," and our brains are capable
        of appreciating both---hence art and science..

        comment: I used to teach the psychology of art and creativity to honors
        students at the Corcoran school in Washington DC. I always worked with
        the students to get at their implicit theory of what art was about. The
        most common theme was the artist's struggle to work the mismatch between
        the felt and experienced sense of reality on the one side with the
        symbols and interpretations given to them by the culture on the other
        side. While there was a pleasure in creating more adequate symbols,
        that drive had the feeling more of necessity and even anxiety about it.
        Resolution felt imperative. But not just in the sense of reducing
        cognitive dissonance, but in trying to create adequate maps into either
        a more realistic or more preferred future .
      • Larry Trask
        --On Sunday, December 1, 2002 6:52 am -0500 Herbert Gintis wrote: [snip] ... Can I please ask people not to use the expression primitive
        Message 3 of 9 , Dec 2, 2002
          --On Sunday, December 1, 2002 6:52 am -0500 Herbert Gintis
          <hgintis@...> wrote:

          [snip]

          > Primitive languages have complex grammars,[...]

          Can I please ask people not to use the expression "primitive languages"?
          No mother tongue on earth is more "primitive" than any other in any
          identifiable sense, and accusing some people of speaking "primitive
          languages" is simply insulting.

          > [...]but not extensive vocabularies.

          Careful. It is true that a large dictionary of English contains tens of
          thousands of technical terms confined to particular disciplines, as well as
          the jargon peculiar to particular professions and hobbies. But the vast
          majority of these words are utterly unknown to the average speaker of
          English, and I don't think it has ever been demonstrated that the
          vocabulary of the man in the street in London or Chicago is significantly
          larger than the vocabulary of the typical New Guinean farmer or Australian
          forager.

          > Most words are for things in the natural environment.

          I'm sorry, but this is just false.

          Take a look, for example, at the glossary of the indigenous Australian
          language Dyirbal appended to R. M. W. Dixon's book _The Dyirbal Language of
          North Queensland_ (Cambridge, 1972). Let's ignore the proper names and the
          words borrowed from English. We find that fewer than 10 % of the words
          listed can plausibly be described as names for "things in the natural
          environment", such as plants and animals, mountains and rain, and body
          parts.

          A very large number of words are verbs, like 'chew', 'lead', 'fight',
          'bathe', 'blow', 'threaten', 'undress', 'wipe' and 'stand'. There are some
          verbs of highly specific meaning, like 'drink without stopping for breath'
          and 'pass by without seeing'. And there are quite a few verbs naming
          various kinds of spearing. There are also lots of adjectives, like
          'pretty', 'good', 'quiet', 'strong', 'raw', 'big' 'smiling', 'scrawny' and
          'deep'. There are time adverbials, like 'yesterday', 'next week' and 'in
          the morning', and there are spatial adverbials like 'upriver' and 'south'.
          There are grammatical words like 'nothing' and 'what?', and there are
          discourse words like 'that's right' and 'I don't know'. There are lots of
          kinship terms, as well as words like 'wise man', 'child that never grows
          up' and 'host of teenage boys'. There are quite a few words pertaining to
          mythology. There are names for artefacts, like 'yamstick', 'bark bag',
          'dilly bag', 'eel-spear' and 'long basket with a conelike mouth'. There
          are names for particular styles of speaking or of singing. We perhaps have
          an English equivalent for the Dyirbal word meaning 'woman who entices her
          chosen man', but we don't have words matching the Dyirbal words for 'bottom
          corner of a dilly bag', 'throw a handful of solid bits at', 'not sweet
          enough', 'on someone's lap', 'hit with a rounded object', 'poke with a
          stick', 'the side of the head between the eye and the ear', and countless
          others, all of which are expressed by single words in Dyirbal.

          > Advanced societies need more words.

          No doubt. But it doesn't follow that any given individual needs more words
          than a speaker of Dyirbal.


          Larry Trask
          COGS
          University of Sussex
          Brighton BN1 9QH
          UK

          larryt@...
        • M. F. Badger
          Professor Ginitis wrote:
          Message 4 of 9 , Dec 3, 2002
            Professor Ginitis wrote:
            << Primitive languages have complex grammars, but not extensive
            vocabularies. Most words are for things in the natural environment.
            Advanced societies need more words. Do you really think you can run a state
            or army or bank with a few words? Not at all. >>

            This sounds a bit like the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic
            determination--we can't distinguish things without the words for them. Or
            Hegel ("it is by naming we think.") Pinker (LI,57): "the different Hopi
            concepts of time, the dozens of Eskimo words for snow...The implication is
            heavy: the foundational categories of reality are not "in" the world but are
            imposed by one's culture...but this is wrong, all wrong. The idea that
            thought can be the same thing as language is an example of what can be called
            a conventional absurdity... "Pinker does a decent job of dismantling this
            myth not only with natural world words but with abstract concepts as well, so
            I will pass to him

            Still I can't resist a few comments. Advanced societies do not "need more
            words" at all. The French see brown though they do not really have word for
            it. (I saw the ref. to this very issue in yesterdays EP digest--but I would
            be surprised if the research held up). They know the difference between hosts
            and guests, as do Arabic speakers, though their words for these are the same
            single word. Alan Bloom is wrong about how well the Chinese understand
            science despite the "lack" of science words in their language. And I am sure
            you can taste "umami" a taste word that only the Japanese have and the French
            have perfected it even though they have no word for it. The Mayans did
            extremely well with abstract mathematical ideas, even carving a perfect
            sphere out of stone (and why on earth did they do that?)

            The definition of "vocabulary" is also peculiar. Languages poach freely from
            each other and words take on many diverse meanings--so how to measure
            vocabulary size in a language is a problem. It makes more sense, in terms of
            this discussion, to measure how many words a native speaker knows and in
            everything I have seen speakers in all kinds of languages know far more words
            than they actually use or even need to get along and survive and reproduce
            successfully. How many words in English are not really derived from the
            "natural world" ?

            >>The fact that there is a great deal of variation in linguistic
            ability (and intelligence in general) is certainly an indication that IQ is
            not closely associated with fitness today (it is only weakly associated, by
            most accounts of differential fertility, I believe). But it may well have
            been in the past. Indeed, I would put my whole life savings on a bet that
            it was. The idea that big brains are not adaptive is simply a non-starter,
            for reasons outlined by others on this list.<<

            I am not disagreeing that big brains do not provide significant adaptive
            benefits. Clearly they do, even if only for germ theory. There is, however,
            little evidence to support the idea that big brains gave humans much of an
            adaptive advantage for the first 90,000 years, though. But even that aside,
            as I read Miller, the salient question is do we really benefit from such
            excessively BIG brains? Do you not agree that in most humans there is
            considerable excess capacity, well beyond what is needed for survival or
            adaptation? A slightly smaller brain would make it dramatically easier for
            females when it comes to giving birth and would have allowed more women to
            survive child birth, even.

            >>We do a lot of art for the same reason we do a lot of sex and food: it
            feels good. It's just that the reason is not adaptation but sensory bias. Of
            course, it is possible that there is such a thing as "beauty" that has the
            same sort of validity and intrinsic meaning as "truth," and our brains are
            capable of appreciating both---hence art and science. I happen to believe
            this, but it doesn't go against sensory bias theory at all.<<

            Food and sex feel good because eating and sex have functions. (But does
            gourmet cooking have a function besides seduction and/or display of excess
            capacities of all sorts....) What function does art-making have or even
            art-appreciating have?( I think Miller does a terrific job of chipping away
            at the standard arguments about the function of art.) Or to include Miller's
            even more outrageous notion that altruism toward non-kin (even stepchildren)
            might well be "sexually selected," what function does goodness, kindness,
            compassion, even philanthropy! have?

            I also believe in beauty and truth and even in Keats, (and I am completely
            dismayed by Pinker's art commentary and find it to be a total embarrassment
            to the "new sciences" he is talking about), but I want to know why it is that
            we appreciate such things, why most humans appear to, and why it has been
            such an enormous occupier of human time, resources, and talent for so long.
            And why, too, are we good and usually want to be? "Feels good" doesn't do it
            for me. I remain ambivalent about Miller, myself, but convinced nonetheless
            that sexual selection must have been a profound force in human evolution.

            Cheers
            mfbadger
          • Herbert Gintis
            ... I can t imagine why you would say this. My statement implies no such thing. The idea that you need more words to make complex statements (e.g., scientific
            Message 5 of 9 , Dec 3, 2002
              At 09:56 AM 12/3/2002 -0500, MBCREATIVE@... wrote:

              Professor Ginitis wrote:
              <<       Primitive languages have complex grammars, but not extensive
              vocabularies. Most words are for things in the natural environment.
              Advanced societies need more words. Do you really think you can run a state
              or army or bank with a few words? Not at all. >>

              This sounds a bit like the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic
              determination--we can't distinguish things without the words for them. Or
              Hegel ("it is by naming we think.") Pinker (LI,57): "the different Hopi
              concepts of time, the dozens of Eskimo words for snow...The implication is
              heavy: the foundational categories of reality are not "in" the world but are
              imposed by one's culture...but this is wrong, all wrong. The idea that
              thought can be the same thing as language is an example of what can be called
              a conventional absurdity... "Pinker does a decent job of dismantling this
              myth not only with natural world words but with abstract concepts as well, so
              I will pass to him
                       I can't imagine why you would say this. My statement implies no such thing. The idea that you need more words to make complex statements (e.g., scientific statements, identifying parts of complicated machines) does not imply that you cannot have thoughts about things that have no words. It merely says that it is costly and inefficient to communicate such thoughts without the words. The evidence is certainly not in favor of Sapir-Whorf.

              Still I can't resist a few comments. Advanced societies do not "need more
              words" at all. The French see brown though they do not really have word for
              it. (I saw the ref. to this very issue in yesterdays EP digest--but I would
              be surprised if the research held up). They know the difference between hosts
              and guests, as do Arabic speakers, though their words for these are the same
              single word. Alan Bloom is wrong about how well the Chinese understand
              science despite the "lack" of science words in their language. And I am sure
              you can taste "umami" a taste word that only the Japanese have and the French
              have perfected it even though they have no word for it. The Mayans did
              extremely well with abstract mathematical ideas, even carving a perfect
              sphere out of stone (and why on earth did they do that?)
                       Of course the same word can mean two different things. What does that have to do with the issue?
                       French has two words for brown: brun and marron. The words are used in different contexts, of course.
                       French has two words for sad: triste and malheureux. they have slightly different connotations that cannot be translated perfectly in English.
                       Complex societies need, and have more words.

              The definition of "vocabulary" is also peculiar. Languages poach freely from
              each other and words take on many diverse meanings--so how to measure
              vocabulary size in a language is a problem. It makes more sense, in terms of
              this discussion, to measure how many words a native speaker knows and in
              everything I have seen speakers in all kinds of languages know far more words
              than they actually use or even need to get along and survive and reproduce
              successfully. How many words in English are not really derived from the
              "natural world" ?
                       Many words are not derived from the natural world, in the ordinary sense of the word: that which we "naturally see and feel around us and know intimately from introspection and our dealings with others." Here are some: Oedipal complex, synapse, eigenvalue, weak coupling, proton, metal fatigue, superego, tappet, DNA. There are tens of thousands more.

                >>The fact that there is a great deal of variation in linguistic
              ability (and intelligence in general) is certainly an indication that IQ is
              not closely associated with fitness today (it is only weakly associated, by
              most accounts of differential fertility, I believe). But it may well have
              been in the past. Indeed, I would put my whole life savings on a bet that
              it was. The idea that big brains are not adaptive is simply a non-starter,
              for reasons outlined by others on this list.<<

              I am not disagreeing that big brains do not provide significant adaptive
              benefits. Clearly they do, even if only for  germ theory. There is, however,
              little evidence to support the idea that big brains gave humans much of an
              adaptive advantage for the first 90,000 years, though. But even that aside,
              as I read Miller, the salient question is do we really benefit from such
              excessively BIG brains? Do you not agree that in most humans there is
              considerable excess capacity, well beyond what is needed for survival or
              adaptation? A slightly smaller brain would make it dramatically easier for
              females when it comes to giving birth and would have allowed more women to
              survive child birth, even.
                       What accounts for the radiation of humans throughout the world, when other apes remained in Africa? Only big brain makes much sense.
                >>We do a lot of art for the same reason we do a lot of sex and food: it
              feels good. It's just that the reason is not adaptation but sensory bias. Of
              course, it is possible that there is such a thing as "beauty" that has the
              same sort of validity and intrinsic meaning as "truth," and our brains are
              capable of appreciating both---hence art and science. I happen to believe
              this, but it doesn't go against sensory bias theory at all.<<

              Food and sex feel good because eating and sex have functions. (But does
              gourmet cooking have a function besides seduction and/or display of excess
              capacities of all sorts....) What function does art-making have or even
              art-appreciating have?( I think Miller does a terrific job of chipping away
              at the standard arguments about the function of art.) Or to include Miller's
              even more outrageous notion that altruism toward non-kin (even stepchildren)
              might well be "sexually selected," what function does goodness, kindness,
              compassion, even philanthropy! have?
                       Things don't have to have functions to feel good. The sensory bias model suggests that art feels good without having an adaptive value. I agree with Miller's critique of the "standard arguments about the functions of art. But he does not present a critique of the sensory bias model and I consider it much more plausible than either Fisher runaway or handicap models of sexual selection.
              I also believe in beauty and truth and even in Keats, (and I am completely
              dismayed by Pinker's art commentary and find it to be a total embarrassment
              to the "new sciences" he is talking about),
                       I agree with you here. I couldn't really get through this part of the book, it was of so little value.
              but I want to know why it is that
              we appreciate such things, why most humans appear to, and why it has been
              such an enormous occupier of human time, resources, and talent for so long.
              And why, too, are we good and usually want to be? "Feels good" doesn't do it
              for me. I remain ambivalent about Miller, myself, but convinced nonetheless
              that sexual selection must have been a profound force in human evolution.
                       Well, I think you should give more thought to the sensory bias model. I find it extremely plausible, and there is lots of evidence for it, presented in previous postings.

              Herb



              Cheers
              mfbadger

              Herbert Gintis                                                       
              Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts                       
              External Faculty, Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM
              15 Forbes Avenue, Northampton, MA 01060 413-586-7756
              Recent papers are posted on my web site.
              Get Game Theory Evolving (Princeton, 2000) at Amazon.com.
                   There is no sorrow so great that does not find
                   its background in joy.
                                                                          Niels Bohr (1938)
            • Barry Desborough
              The Fench marron is the generic word for brown - a bit like the English chestnut , which can mean either a chestnut or the colour of a chestnut, except
              Message 6 of 9 , Dec 3, 2002
                The Fench 'marron' is the generic word for brown - a bit like the English
                'chestnut', which can mean either a chestnut or the colour of a chestnut,
                except 'marron' means either a chestnut or any shade of brown.

                Although they have the same root, the Arabic 'daif' means guest, and
                'moudif' (one who has guests) means host. But 'moudif' does illustrate the
                fact that language does not circumscribe thought. 'Daif' came first, and
                people derived 'moudif' when the concept of host needed a handle.

                Barry Desborough


                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "M. F. Badger" <mbcreative@...>
                To: <hgintis@...>; <evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2002 3:56 PM
                Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Re: mating Mind


                snip

                > The French see brown though they do not really have word for
                > it. (I saw the ref. to this very issue in yesterdays EP digest--but I would
                > be surprised if the research held up). They know the difference between hosts
                > and guests, as do Arabic speakers, though their words for these are the same
                > single word.

                snip
              • William Benzon
                ... Interesting. I ve not read MM, but I ve read an article Miller wrote on music that is in the Wallin, Merker and Brown volume. Though he didn t use the
                Message 7 of 9 , Dec 3, 2002
                  on 11/30/02 11:21 AM, M. F. Badger at mbcreative@... wrote:



                  >
                  > Miller: "To suggest that a mental capacity like human creative intelligence
                  > evolved as a fitness indicator is not just to throw another possible function
                  > into the arena of human evolution theories. This is not a function like
                  > hunting, tool-making, or socializing that contributes directly to fitness by
                  > promoting survival and reproduction. Instead, fitness indicators serve a sort
                  > of meta-function. They sit on top of other adaptations, proclaiming their
                  > virtues. Fitness indicators are to ordinary adaptations what literary agents
                  > are to authors, or what advertisements are to products. ...Fitness indicators
                  > work differently. They take long vacations. They are social and
                  > sales-oriented, They live in the semiotic space of symbolism and strategic
                  > dealmaking, not in the gritty world of factoryproduction. The healthy brain
                  > theory proposes that are minds are clusters of fitness indicators: persuasive
                  > salesmen like, art, music, and humour, that do their best work in courtship,
                  > where the most important deals are made.
                  >
                  > "We should not expect sexually selected fitness indicators to look very
                  > useful if they are evaluated by traditional survival of the fittest criteria.
                  > They do not help animals find food or avoid predators. They do not remove
                  > parasites or feed offspring. They look costly and useless. They appear
                  > luxurious, superfluous, and often resembling a pathological side-effect of
                  > something more useful and sensible...Art and morality look like evolutionary
                  > luxuries. Creative intelligence and language seem more useful in moderation,
                  > but humans do not have them in moderation, we have them in luxuriant excess."
                  > (105-106)

                  Interesting. I've not read MM, but I've read an article Miller wrote on
                  music that is in the Wallin, Merker and Brown volume. Though he didn't use
                  the term "meta-function," that's certainly what he seemed to have in mind.
                  In fact, I got the sense his attitude was something like "holy-moly, if we
                  work it right, we can use sexual selection to account for almost anything!"
                  I can understand his enthusiasm, for I do think that having something like a
                  "meta-function" or a second order adaptive function is an interesting
                  notion.

                  But I didn't find his argument on music very convincing. He didn't seem to
                  have a good grasp of the ethnomusicology that he cited and he had no
                  credible evidence of his own to offer.

                  Bill Benzon
                  --

                  William L. Benzon
                  708 Jersey Avenue, Apt. 2A
                  Jersey City, NJ 07302
                  201 217-1010

                  "You won't get a wild heroic ride to heaven on pretty little
                  sounds."--George Ives
                • Jan Matthieu
                  ... From: M. F. Badger To: ; Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2002 3:56 PM
                  Message 8 of 9 , Dec 3, 2002
                    ----- Original Message -----
                    From: "M. F. Badger" <mbcreative@...>
                    To: <hgintis@...>; <evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com>
                    Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2002 3:56 PM
                    Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Re: mating Mind
                    > The French see brown though they do not really have word for
                    > it. (I saw the ref. to this very issue in yesterdays EP digest--but I
                    would
                    > be surprised if the research held up).

                    The oldest French for brown is 'brun' (1080). female: brune. And a woman
                    with brown hair
                    is called a 'brunette' (since the twelfht century, according to my 'Petit
                    Robert'. Other French words that describe the colour are: bistre (1503) very
                    dark brown, châtain (XII°), marron (1532) both refer to chestnut and marron,
                    in a later derivative meaning, to an escaped black slave, mordoré (1669,
                    dark like a more), tabac, terreux (1690 yellowish brown), chocolat, kaki,


                    > "Feels good" doesn't do it for me.

                    Still, it's what it's all about in the end


                    I remain ambivalent about Miller, myself, but convinced nonetheless
                    > that sexual selection must have been a profound force in human evolution.
                    >

                    Who could disagree with that..



                    > Cheers
                    > mfbadger

                    Too,

                    Jan Matthieu
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