Monday, May 1, 2017

Critique of the r/K Selection Theory is Rubbush Critique

A recent blog post attempted to dismantle r/K selection theory. Let's take on his arguments one at a time.
The author of the essay then writes: 
"Since group competition will not arise in the r-selected environment, r-type organisms will not exhibit loyalty to fellow members of their species, or a drive to sacrifice on their behalf. "
This is dumb. 
First, no animal will sacrifice itself for a random member of its species. At most the animal will sacrifice itself for relatives who have some of the same genes. Genes are the unit of selection because they can be copied. A species cannot be copied and so is not the unit of selection. This is basic biology. The author could have worked out this was a dumb thing to say by reading “The Selfish Gene”.
Author's lead-off pitch and it's.... a strawman. Bold strategy. Notice he had to insert the word random in order to make the argument work. At what point does AnonCon ever say that K-selection involves defense of random members of the species? The context is clearly always in regards to one's own tribe. The difference is that if I attack a wolf his brothers will come to his aid. Rabbits...not so much. It adds nothing to the conversation to mention that the species is not a unit of selection. Of course we're talking in the context of gene selection. An individual shares more genes with members of his own tribe than an outsider. The only thing he has correct is that this is, indeed, basic biology.
Second, the author sees sacrifice as positive. Humans can create explanatory knowledge. Sacrificing yourself gets in the way of you developing better knowledge that could improve your life and the lives of others: it is a bad idea. The death of some random rabbit isn’t a big deal because the rabbit can’t create explanatory knowledge. All of the knowledge it has is instantiated in its genes. So if a copy of those genes is destroyed to preserve five copies in other animals this is a gain for the genes not a loss.
I don't understand this. After reminding us about basic biology he goes on to refute basic biology by insisting humans are different because we create "explanatory knowledge". Because humans are different, the normal rules don't apply. His argument that explanatory species don't benefit from sacrifice is specious and projects the author's own superiority complex onto the debate. He asserts that one shouldn't sacrifice himself because that limits his ability to "create explanatory knowledge." That only assumes that one is superior at the task to begin with. He can't imagine the scenario of his own theory where it would make sense: in sacrificing for others who are better at the task.

Luckily for us, he goes ahead and disproves his own theory for us, by showing that his theory indicates that r-selection should drive a species to be more inclined to make sacrifices. Because that is not what we see in nature, clearly the theory is invalidated. The only disappointing aspect of the essay so far is that he has deprived us the fun in dismantling his arguments by doing so himself.
"Here in the r-strategy, we see the origins of the Liberal’s tendencies towards conflict avoidance, from oppositions to free-market capitalism, to pacifism, to demands that all citizens disarm so as to avoid any chance of conflict and competition. "
This is also dumb. Liberals are in favour of the government increasing taxes. They are are in favour of escalating conflict with productive people. And liberals want citizens disarmed partly to make it easy for the government to prey on them. So liberals are in favour of conflict.
Let's take his whole paragraph one sentence at a time.
This is also dumb.
This seems to be his favorite argument.
Liberals are in favour of the government increasing taxes.
Yes, duh. Why? Why are they in favor of taking money from productive peoples and giving it to unproductive people? Gee, that sounds like a role in reducing the benefits of competitiveness, doesn't it?
 They are are in favour of escalating conflict with productive people.
What utter rubbish. Because taking money from the productive and giving it to the unproductive might antagonize the productive, the liberals are actually K-selected! Also, lazy kids who don't do their chores are K-selected because they're tempting conflict with their parents. And wives who sleep around are K-selected because they know there will be conflict if they are caught. In fact, because their entire existence is likely to lead to conflict with the K-types, all r-types are by definition K-types! It's a magic bullet where liberals can't be r-types because he decided r is impossible.
And liberals want citizens disarmed partly to make it easy for the government to prey on them.
Close, but not necessarily the government. But yes they want the citizenry disarmed so that being preyed upon does not convey a survival advantage to any group.
So liberals are in favor of conflict.
They are in favor of conflict that doesn't give Ks a competitive edge, sure. But that's the same nonsense argument all over. Communists tend to kill lots of people, so they must be K-selected! This doesn't prove anything. r-types are conflict-avoidant, so they support a heavy-handed government that will do the conflict for them. Supporting conflicts and avoiding conflicts are not mutually exclusive behaviors. I would suggest the author investigate the term cowardice.
Another strategy emerges if a species is in an environment where resources are very scarce. The animals are in favour of being willing to fight for resources. They are ranked by their ability to compete. And such animals will tend not to sleep around as much because they only have a limited number of chances to copy their genes and have to try to weed out bad genes in advance of having offspring. An example of this might be lions. Lions have to hunt for food. So the strategy for lion genes to get themselves copied is to rank other holders of lion genes according to their ability to hunt. And a lion may be more willing to die to preserve copies of its genes in its offspring or other relatives because dying would free up resources. This is called k selection.
He does at least understand that, in biology, K-selection arises when the species hits the carrying capacity of the environment.
The conservatives are allegedly k selected, which explains their habits like faithfulness to spouses and competing for resources instead of begging the government for stuff. This analogy also fails. Conservatives want to reduce taxes, which reduces violence used by government and the government’s ability to use violence.
Again with the specious argument that advocating a strong-handed government to level the playing field is somehow a trait.
Also conservatives are taking the side of makers: people who make new stuff.
No, they're taking the side of the K-selected community, who tend to be more productive. The people who make "new stuff" tend to be r. Innovation often comes from the r-types. If that wasn't the case we'd have no use for them in society whatsoever.
This position requires thinking that we have not reached the limits of what resources are available and so we can experiment with new ideas to make progress. This contradicts the premise of this r/k selection stuff.
At this point, I really lose track of what point he is driving out. I can only address the statements in isolation. We have not hit the limits of what resources are available. We'll know we have when starvation becomes commonplace.
This is the most serious defect of the r\k selection theory, it denies the possibility of an open-ended stream of knowledge and resource creation.
The hell it does. It says nothing about the ability of society to generate additional resources. It only comments on the natural selection pressures in regards to the resources a society has available. We do predict that as r-selection degenerates the society resource production will wane and scarceness will be introduced. (See for reference: every example of Communism ever.) We certainly don't deny the possibility that a society could increase its resource production perpetually. However, without paying attention to the degenerate societal consequences of continuous resource abundance for long periods of time, the progress will eventually exhaust itself.
The reason to take the side of the makers is you want new and better stuff and ideas. It is not because you want to scrape by in a world where you have to murder other people to survive. This r\k selection political stuff is evil shit.
Another straw man. Nothing in r/K theory advocates murder. Survival advantage isn't murder. In fact, to equate survival advantage with murder shows just how deeply r-selected this author is.
The real reason for parents to take responsibility for their children is that children can create an open-ended stream of benefits.
No, it's to pass on their genes. I though he said he read The Selfish Gene.
Children and the adults they grow into can create new explanatory knowledge including knowledge about how to do stuff better. But to create knowledge people need to have good ideas about critical discussion, how to test ideas, how best to try them out and that sort of thing. To convey such ideas to their children, parents have to be willing to spend a lot of time and resources on their children rather than spending lots of time on sex. As such, responsible parents don’t spend a lot of time sleeping around. Since conservatives favour personal responsibility, they will tend to sleep around less.
A near description of K-parenting. But it still misses the "basic biology" he likes to talk about. Humans don't engage in K parenting because of explanatory knowledge. They do so for the survival advantage. At times where K-selection is induced by resource availability (most of human history), most children don't end up reproducing, so raising the most fit children possible gives the best reproductive odds. If resources are plentiful and most children survive, then having the most children possible is the optimal strategy. That is the essence of r/K theory, and the author demonstrates he misses the point entirely.
All biological explanations of differences of ideas and behaviour among humans are garbage, including the r\k theory.
Just in case anyone had missed out that the author has adopted the liberal anti-science position when it comes to human biology, here it is. To use his own favorite argument: this is dumb. He also does the job of making our job incredibly easy. All we have to do to refute him is to provide a single example of a biological cause for human behavior. If we can't, then the author has successfully dismantled the validity of other fields of study as well, most notably psychiatry.
We should expect behaviour differences between people to be a result of different ideas, not different genes.
So he predicts there cannot be any evidence of behavior differences between the genders. That race has no effect on behavior. That psychological conditions like schizophrenia and Alzheimer's have no genetic correlation whatsoever. He really makes this all too easy to rebut.

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