Saturday, March 18, 2017

... But Then Greg Cochran's Kind of Dim

In The Third Sex Greg Cochran says:
Are humans eusocial? They do cooperate, sometimes – but in truth they’re not at all like the social insects. E. O. Wilson thought so, but then he’s kind of dim. No castes, no reproductive division of labor, while most cooperation is with non-relatives. 
Not to pick on Cochran, since the 150 authors of "Inclusive fitness theory and eusociality" published in a political petition style "scientific" paper in Nature, got the paper "The evolution of eusociality", by M. Nowak, C. E. Tarnita and E. O. Wilson, wrong as well.  But Cochran is exemplary as in many areas he is quite insightful, as are the 150 scientists and, by the way, as is E. O. Wilson.  Even the insightful among us have their bad days when their reach exceeds their grasp leading, through good intentions, not to Heaven but to Hell on Earth.  Also, Cochran seems to have it in for Wilson for some reason.  Take, for example, Cochran's on-going assertions (with occasional supporting critique) of Wilson's innumeracy.

So I'm not "picking on" Cochran, but rather picking Cochran as an exemplar of the general attack on E. O. Wilson's position in "The Social Conquest of Earth":  That that the primate line leading to humans exhibits clear signs of evolving eusocial phenotypes.

Note I said "eusocial phenotypes" rather than "eusocial genotypes".  Wilson does make a "eusocial genotype" case with respect to human evolution (which I believe is overstated), but because of the confusion surrounding Nowak's mathematics, people aren't understanding his real point about "individual" vs "group" selection in eusocial organisms.

Now, I'm not claiming that Wilson grasps the full mathematical nuance of the argument made by Nowak in the paper he coauthored -- neither do I, by the way.  However innumerate Wilson may be, he did have the sense to take a professional mathematician seriously in the face of reality presented by Wilson's primary discipline:

The phenomenology of eusocial insects.

Wilson's phenomena confronted him, after a lifetime of field work, with a number of eusocial insect species in which eusociality could not be explained by Hamilton's inequality.  He knew he needed a new theoretic framework and knew, also, he needed the mathematics to be developed by someone like Nowak.

The real point of Nowak's math is best not phrased as "group selection" since he, himself summarizes:
This circumstance lends credence to the view that the colony can be viewed as an individual, or ‘superorganism’.  Further, insofar as social behaviour is concerned, descent is from queen to queen, with the worker force generated as an extension of the queen (or cooperating queens) in each generation. Selection acts on the traits of the queen and the extrasomatic projection of her personal genome.
extrasomatic. : of, relating to, or being something that exists external to and distinct from the individual organism.

Hmmm... where have we encountered projection of "traits" "external" to the individual's "genome"?

OH!  That's right!  It was Richard Dawkins's notion of the 'The Extended Phenotype'!"

Look, "Greg", you have to forget about eusociality being anything other than parasitic castration with the "queen" insect being the parasite and her non-reproductive offspring being her victims.  It's not entirely that, but to escape your current social paradigm, you have to set Hamilton aside until you get used to the parasitic castration paradigm of eusociality.

The fact that Richard Dawkins, himself, doesn't get this in his attacks on Wilson is simply Dawkins being "kind of dim".  Like I said -- it happens.  Moreover, as I have often observed since Dawkins wrote "The Extended Phenotype": Something very bad happened to Dawkins upon writing "The Extended Phenotype.  He derailed into the 19th century controversy between fundamentalist religion and evolutionary theory -- abandoning anything resembling original thinking.  Why did he anticipate, at least implicitly, a revolution in sociobiology by 25 years, and then promptly become effectively so brain-dead that he couldn't even recognize when that revolution had come to fruition?  It's almost as though he had become possessed by some external interest that didn't want that line of thought to develop -- at least not when Boomers were just reaching reproductive (marriage) age.  And what a reproductive catastrophe that turned out to be!

Now to get to the reason I use the phrase "eusocial phenotype" rather than "eusocial genotype".  Human eusociality is parasitic castration in which the behavior is manipulated not by developmental pheromones from one's mother -- but by developmental memes from one's authorities in media and academia.  "College educated" is a virtual dead giveaway adjective for someone who will have low fertility -- particularly among "whites".  As with any castrato, their resources can be diverted to the parasite, and whatever group's reproduction is thereby enhanced, rather than their own children.

As these memes can be considered "mind pathogens" one needn't even posit a parasitic genotype that is specifically selected to generate them.  All that is needed is differential immunity to them by the parasite -- an immunity that would be built up over The 10,000 Year Explosion, in highly theocratic societies where parasitic memes flourish.  But this is not full-blown eusociality.  At least E. O. Wilson admits as much about humans -- however overblown his position may have been about human cognitive capacity arising specifically in response to eusocial pressures of the campfire.

What is most curious, however, is that someone like Cochran, who co-authored "The 10,000 Year Explosion" and is, otherwise, frequently quite heterodox and incisive, would become suddenly "dim" about such a clearly important revolution in sociobiology.  It is so reminiscent of Dawkins...