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Darwinism and the Standard Social Science Model
If the Standard Social Science Model is mistaken, then we are less altruistic than would otherwise be the case'.
Put another way, the same statement could read, "If culture is not the underlying cause of human behavior, then human beings are more selfish than they would be if culture were the underlying cause of human behavior." An evaluation of this statement rests not only on an assessment of the truth of each part, but also on the relationship between the two parts of the claim. Is having A (a false presumption put forth by the SSSM) the condition for having B (self-centered human beings)? Let us investigate the premise as well as the argument.
The Standard Social Science Model claims that "only genetically determined human behavior is 'natural' or biological" (Zimmer, 1.) This means that when an infant pulls away from fire, or screams when frightened that it is reacting instinctively due to natural, as opposed to learned, behavior. If one generalizes from the specific, then nurture and not nature causes an individual to be what he/she is. With the exception of those few natural instincts, to eat when hungry, to sleep when tired, culture determines the nature of the human being. Is this model incorrect? If so, then what are the other possibilities that could account for human nature?
The Christian view, as expounded upon in the Bible, is that God imbues man with the Holy Spirit thereby infusing him/her with a spark of Divine nature. Man's nature, then, is a gift from God and has no cultural misconceptions to confuse the issue. Free will is included in this gift. One must assume that the divine revelation made clear by God makes all believers believe in the same way, with the same moral base and sense of justice. Their free will must be guided through divine revelation otherwise, not all Christians may share the same understanding of the truth. One is aware of the diversity in Christian belief, a fact that creates dissonance among Christians and social scientists. If one assumes the Christian perspective, then the original question becomes, "If God is the underlying cause of human behavior then human beings are less altruistic than they would be following the SSSM (making culture the underlying cause). Christianity is a religion of high ethical standards and moral righteousness. If human nature derives from a divine spark then would it not follow that the Logic of the Standard Social Science Model, speaks to human beings being more altruistic, not less, if God gives their nature to them? It seems that the SSSM takes a dim view of divine conversion in favor of human knowledge and the human's ability to learn kindness.
Let us consider another source of human nature, namely evolution. The statement becomes, "If evolution is the underlying cause of human behavior then human beings have less concern for each other than they would if culture was the underlying cause of human behavior." Richard Dawkins, the author of 'The Selfish Gene', describes human beings as "just gene machines" (Dawkins, 10). He means that organisms strive toward the Darwinian optimum at a cellular level. He states that genes program our behavior. When asked about free will he states, "We can override biology with free will" (Dawkins, 1.) If one understands this idea, then one might assume that our superior genes enable us to choose not to obey them and choose a different course.
Confusing as this might seem, he explains by stating that the individual genes are "selfish," yet the entire organism need not be. He cites animal groups in which attendance by the parents is a long- term commitment, if the young are to survive. He points out that the decision to be monogamous actually creates a better chance for the survival of the strongest genes, however goes against the instinctive behavior of most males to impregnate as many females as possible. Yet this is only the case in certain species. This, he points out, is "un-Darwinian" (Dawkins, 1).
Is it human nature to be altruistic? Do human beings adapt to situations with behaviors that keep them safe, or do they choose behaviors intended to keep others safe? "Since there is no human nature, we are programmable. Such a view appeals to moral elitists who intend to help the (culturally) deprived through government action" (Zimmer, 1). One may point out that the survival of the human race on an ever shrinking planet requires that we overcome our 'naturally violent instincts' and cooperate with each other. However, wait, the Standard Social Science Model argues against natural instincts in favor of culture. Our cultures clash, our sense of justice is dissimilar and any view that supports culture as the underlying cause of human behavior dooms us to seeking a cultural 'final solution'. Segments of Western culture can barely comprehend devotion so great as to require the annihilation of one's self for a cause, yet we find ourselves in the midst of that reality today. If there were ever a case for cultural determinism, the behavior of terrorists must certainly be a prime example. However, wait, perhaps they have a divine spark that guides them in their cause and their cultural indoctrination has nothing to do with their behavior.
The behavior of those souls aboard the Titanic offers another view of human altruism. There were those who chose duty over safety. The boiler men shoveled coal with the knowledge that they would never escape, yet they kept the electricity on as long as possible for the sake of others. The band members sat on a tilting deck and played soothing music while frantic passengers jumped to their deaths. The ships designer climbed aboard a lifeboat and was saved while thousands perished locked in steerage. James Cameron in his documentary, The Ghosts of the Abyss recounts these stories and many others. How does one know how he/she will behave when faced with a choice such as that faced by the passengers of the Titanic? Is it nature, evolutionary biology, cultural bias? Let us look at the implications of being gene machines.
Organisms can behave altruistically towards other organisms - the better to forward the propagation of their own selfish genes. What you cannot have is a gene that sacrifices itself for the benefit of other genes" (Dawkins, 2). As gene machines we are capable of overriding our own biology and evolve toward a better nature. Better in terms of what? Dawkins explains the existence of religion much in the same way a virus spreads throughout an organism. He notes that very young children are vulnerable because their brains must learn vast amounts of information quickly. They believe everything you tell them and if in later life they are unable to discern the truth from fiction, then they are infected with the falsehood. They pass this virus down through the generations. Therefore, while their genes strive to notice and recognize those facts that would make them successful in the context of their own society, their culture betrays them. He determines that arguments such as those presented by religion are self-serving and have no value, where scientific ideas come and go relative to their truth and value.
If one assesses the original statement as a conditional compound claim then the truth of the first statement cannot be determined independently from the truth of the second. Throughout this essay, we have examined the variations proposed by the original statement. Let us now look at the validity of the argument.
Statement A If the standard Social Science Model is mistaken](A), then we are less altruistic than would [otherwise] be the case (B). What is the connection between these statements? Does it follow that if A is true that B. must follow? The arguments stated above clearly show that regardless of the truth of A, that B. does not follow. A condition of having A is not the resultant B. Our original statement describes a false dilemma. While culture may or may not be the primary determinant of human nature, it certainly does not predict the level of altruism dispensed by human beings. If God and free will determine human nature, then the level of altruism does not change. Finally, if the underlying cause of human nature is biology, then one still has no connection to the level of human altruism. If A, then B, A therefore B. This is a valid argument form. Our initial claim, if not culture then not altruistic, does not have a true premise. There are many options other than culture as determinants for human behavior.
If the standard social science model is mistaken, then we are less altruistic than would otherwise be the case.
Affirming the Antecedent in our argument:
If A, then B. A, therefore B. The argument is valid, however not necessarily true. One follows this line of logic when accepting the case for either the divine spark or evolution as the primary determinant…[continue]
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