Volume 3, Number 1 Winter, 1990

Editor : Dr. Charles Laughlin, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1S 5B6, Phone (819) 459-1121, E-mail charlesl@carleton.bitnet.


Are you aware that there is a structuralist movement in biology? I know there's one because I attended a conference on the topic in Osaka, Japan, in 1986. Some of my comments on the brand of structuralism being tossed around were published in Biological Forum 81(1):137-139 (1988). All of the luminaries of the movement were there, including the organizer, Atuhiro Sibatani , as well as Rene Thom , Gerry Webster , Wae-Wan Ho , A. Lima-de-Faria , L. van der Hammen (a member of our network), Brian Goodwin and others. What I found curious was that what most people thought of as structuralism was the Levi-Straussian brand. Notably absent was any consideration of Jean Piaget or any of the other, more biological brands of structuralism - for example, that of Earl W. Count , who also has doubts about the neo-Darwinian theory, and from whom you will hear in my interview below.

If you wish to track this movement further, check out: A. Lima-de-Faria, Evolution without Selection: Form and Function by Autoevolution (New York: Elsevier, 1988), Mae-Wan Ho and P.T. Saunders, "Beyond Neo-Darwinism: An Epigenetic Approach to Evolution," J. theor. Biol. 78:573-591 (1979), and L. van der Hammen, Unfoldment and Manifestation (Hague: SPB Academic, 1988). If you want to inquire about joining a network centered on this issue, contact: David M. Lambert , Department of Zoology, University of Auckland, Private Bag, Auckland, New Zealand.

Our network is growing, as you can tell from the enclosed Directory . We now number 92 members (27 full and 65 adjunct, 15 on e-mail) from 15 countries (Hungary, Canada, USA, Israel, Spain, USSR, Egypt, The Netherlands, Australia, Austria, Ecuador, UK, France, South Africa and Japan). So far, six of you have sent in donations to cover this year's printing and mailing costs. Many thanks to you six. If all of you send in your share ($20 for full, $10 for adjuncts; check or money order in Canadian funds, made out to "Carleton University"), we won't have to charge a subscription fee in 1991. To save on costs, I have decided to put out the Directory once a year, instead of twice. New members will be listed in NNN . The NNN is now being transmitted to members of WESS via its e-mail version to Michael Samuels (thanks Michael!).


Everything fits together, everything is related to everything else and, for me, finding the links and continuities is not choice but compulsion. In retrospect, the interdisciplinary-multidisciplinary doctorate I earned from the University of Chicago's Committee on Human Development, some 20 years ago, was the only kind I could have taken. Anthropology, given its traditions of holism, has become my home: but the compulsion rules.

My recent book, Darwin, Sex, and Status , is my most ambitious effort to demonstrate continuities. It revolves around the compatibility rule: multiple levels of explanation must be mutually compatible, and incompatibility means error, but no one level of explanation reduces to another. Our psychological theories must be compatible with what we know of human evolution and evolutionary theory; and our social science theories are wrong when they include impossible psychological assumptions; but we do need distinct accounts at the evolutionary, individual, and social science levels. Much of academic psychology and social science fails the compatibility rule -- Marxism crashes, while learning theory requires major modifications. A full account of any social phenomenon requires a "vertically integrated" explanation, that is, multiple and mutually compatible analyses at several levels of organization.

But how do we link social science accounts, with their assumptions about "will" and "belief" and "value" as causal agents, to evolutionary and neurophysiological accounts of biological processes that generate behavior? What is awareness? My best guess is that it is the subjective experience of an organism selected for complex internal representations of physical and social reality and also for a (limited) internal representation of itself. Awareness is so limited and its information so untrustworthy because selection favored making of the internal representation not a homonculus but the repository of fitness-relevant information; and very often, misinformation, since the latter is so often in our fitness interests. The belief that a homonculus self makes decisions and "takes responsibility" underlies our system of morality and law but is merely folk psychology. We cannot "decide" to love, or even to diet (I can't, at least), and the phenomenological experience of volition is merely an uncertain indicator of underlying processes.

Imagine the brain as working with three different kinds of information: goals and sub[n]goals, plans and sub[n]plans, and codes and sub[n]codes. The underlying goals, plans, and codes are pretty much wired in, but as "n" increases in value, the subgoal/plan/code becomes increasingly culturally and individually labile. The restrictions of the hypothetical "language acquisition device" would be a code, for example, while one goal would be seeking high relative standing. The actual language and dialect would be a subcode (and there are undoubtedly many non-linguistic coded information-types as well); the various status positions available in a given society would be subgoals, and the strategies to achieve them, subplans. Culture itself is an information pool from which the individual selects, edits, and integrates various subcodes, subgoals, and subplans. This, in a nutshell, is how I deal with culture in Darwin, Sex, and Status . It is a fieldworker's formulation, and I present some of my own West African field data in order to illustrate how the entire vertically integrated theory approach works.

I'm one of those who argues for the social competition origins of human psychology. Australopithecine and then hominid males and females chose one another for particular qualities, qualities that include intelligence and empathy. Self-predation is probably the best evolutionary guess as to the origins of much of our social psychology, the ethnocentrism syndrome in particular. But evolution involves adaptation to past rather than present environments, and much in human society leads to genetic maladaptiveness, while those whose primary research strategy involves seeking the adaptiveness of current behavior are not explaining society but, when we and they are lucky, generating new hypotheses for the psychologist. Thus, while I share much with what Don Symons terms the "evolutionary social scientists," I am clearly among his "evolutionary psychologists."

This has been an overly-condensed mention of topics dear to my heart. Perhaps, if there is interest, future numbers of NNN will present a more leisurely discussion of them.

Publications: The above arguments and a great deal else are made at some length in Darwin, Sex, and Status: Biological Approaches to Mind and Culture (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989). Other publications likely to be of interest to readers of the NNN include: an in-preparation volume currently being edited by Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, and myself, The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture (New York: Oxford University Press); "Biological evolution of culturally patterned behavior," in Joan S. Lockard, ed. The Evolution of Human Social Behavior (New York: Elsevier, 1980); "Begged questions in behavior and evolution," in Davey, Graham, ed. Animal Models of Human Behavior: Conceptual, Evolutionary and Neurological Perspectives (Chichester: John Wiley & Son, 1982); "Culture and Sociobiology," in Wiegele, T.C., ed., Biology and the Social Sciences: An Emerging Revolution (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1982); "The Distance Between Genes and Culture." J. or Anthropological Research 40 (1984); "The Elastic Between Genes and Culture." Ethology and Sociobiology 10 (1989).

My address is: J. Barkow, Dept of Soc and Soc Anthropology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S. CANADA B3H 1T2. I am an e-mail aficionado and reply promptly to: BARKOW@AC.DAL.CA




Earl Count has joined our network, and at 90 he is easily our senior member, and for some of us is arguably the father of neuroanthropology. I chatted with Prof. Count by phone about his career and about his ideas on evolution, the brain and his notion of the biogram. Part I of that discussion is presented here, and Part II will be presented in the spring, 1990, issue.

CDL: What was your training in anthropology? How did you get to be a neuroanthropologist?

EWC: May I make a correction? I am an anthropologist, with one foot in the biological camp, the other in the sociocultural. I have published in both. Currently, I am writing a monograph (already accepted by Homo ) that explores ways for integrating them.

I began my formal training at the University of California, Berkeley, in January, 1930, under A.L. Kroeber's monitorship. This should account for the sociocultural side. To make a long story short, I already was an instructor in biology and zoology at San Jose State; Kroeber turned me loose to put together my own training program on the biological side. So I became the first student at Berkeley ever to be certified in bioanthropology for the Ph.D. My thesis, however, had to be in sociocultural anthropology. (It concerns the diffusion during the Middle Ages of a myth motif distributed continuously over a goodly part of Eurasia and northern North America.)

Shortly after I finished, the UC Berkeley anthropology department added a subdepartment in physical anthropology. Meanwhile, I became an assistant professor of anatomy at New York Medical College, Manhattan. At the close of World War II, I was for a year research associate at the Viking Fund (Wenner Gren Foundation). Then I was invited to establish anthropology at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York. I chaired it until my retirement in 1968.

My interest in the relevance of neurology and neuro-psychology to anthropology has developed during the last four decades. It derives from my conception of the "biogram." We simply cannot afford to ignore the evolution of the vertebrate capacity for a varied life-mode, if we wish to understand why and how it is that man's "culturized" life-mode has evolved beyond a primate level. This understanding requires a very sophisticated knowledge of the CNS (I like to say "brainmind" as one, un-hyphenated word).

CDL: In a previous conversation, you mentioned you have been offered a position with the journal, Homo . Can you tell me about that?

EWC: I have had a publishing relationship with Homo (Meinz University) ever since it started. (I am not German, however.) Lately it has expanded, and Ulm University has begun to share the endeavor. Last fall they informed me that they intended to expand along the lines of the biogram. They invited me to be a member of their editorial board. I accepted. I have already mentioned that I am preparing a long article for them on the biogram.

CDL: What is the article about?

EWC: Well, its title is "A Metatheory of the Biogram: Towards a Man Science." I'll try to boil down the explanation to a minimum. In the first place, as of today we still have no integrated science of man, no actual "anthropology." We only have at least two subanthropologies (actually there are several more) with non-identical scopes, aims, methods, results; they almost never dialogue. The biogram idea originated (in 1950) with the question: Should we not try to account for man's "culturized" society from anlagen in primate society, and explore human evolution as a Weiterbildung (meaning further elaboration; I'll get to anlage later) of the brain? This question brought about an arrangement of vertebrate society configurations.

To interject a remark here: evolutionary taxonomy is ordered primarily on structural morphology. The biogram attempted to fit a functional morphology to the structural morphology.

But to continue, this arrangement can furnish no more than a working hypothesis: the biogram is a reasonable (or perhaps the least unreasonable) ordering of data from field reports, but does nothing to explain the processes that effected the phenomena. This is all that Darwin could do, until he attacked the etiological theory of natural selection. (A theory, by the way, that is vulnerable to falsification; I am among the growing number who find natural selection a very inadequate theory.) To advance a working hypothesis to a status of theory, however, requires that we have an idea concerning what topics it is profitable to have theories about - and here I am quoting C.H. Waddington - metatheory is concerned with deciding what topics it is worth having theories about. Does this explain my title? To be sure, I have published numerous articles that lead up to this issue.

CDL: Would you say the most representative of those articles are the ones to be found in your book of essays, Being and Becoming Human: Essays on the Biogram (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1973)?

EWC: They are, yes. You know that volume then? Yes. The book is really a translation from the original German publication done in 1970 in Frankfort (Springer Verlag) under the title Das Biogramm: Anthropologische Studien .

Now, what I think you are interested in is the neurological side of the biogram notion.

CDL: Yes.

EWC: Well, let's first clear the air of some notions about behaviors that seem to have been borrowed uncritically in sociocultural anthropology from a Watson-Skinner behaviorism - in the United States, anyway. "Behaviorism" is a "science" that observes symptoms. A "behavior" is only the externalized, observable portion of a process transpiring within the body - in fact, only a limited part of the process. The physician might say a behavior is a "presenting-symptom." Now, "symptoms" don't evolve - that is, in phylogenesis there is no mechanism by which a symptom may generate a more evolved symptom. We may treat a symptom as if it evolved (ethology has done a lot of this, with very enlightening results); but as if is a poor basis for theory.

The CNS mechanisms that effect behavior do evolve. Therefore, the evolution of social behavior becomes a question of the evolution of CNS mechanisms. Of course, this raises a further storm of questions; crudely put, what can an evolution of brain say about an evolution of mind? That's still the unanswered 64-million-dollar question, isn't it?

Here we also confront the fact that the brain of the cyclostome is structured very much like the brain stem of man. Sixty-odd years ago, a neurologist identified in the salamander brain the anlagen of homologous features in the human brain. Let us do some reappraising of the human brain. As in all mammalian "brains," the cerebral hemispheres are an outgrowth of a very limited portion of the roof of the brain stem. The brain stem (rather the reticular formation plus the thalamus) receives information from the senses - input, but only a small part of this passes on to the cerebral hemispheres. The hemispheres proceed to digest and process in ways characteristic of their organization the information that is screened and passed on to them. It is not hard to see that they are channelled and strictured hereby, although what they can do with what they receive is stupefying, spectacular, and still mysterious. But nota bene : the organism, human or other mammal, never escapes the dictates of the vertebrate brain stem!

And an addendum here: Allow me to revive the word "instinct" to designate whatever behavioral ingredients are lodged in the genetic code. Here enters a very important theoretic principle of evolution: progressive complexification of a system affords progressive increase in degrees of freedom (a stochastic principle). We may expect that complexification of brain mechanisms engenders further capacity to learn and behave accordingly. There are no such things as instinctive behavior and learned behavior: only behavior compounded of both. In the Lactation Complex (see Being and Becoming ) I brought out that, if anything, man's instincts are more powerful than those of other animals, precisely by virtue of their being compounded with the learning capacity. A human mother is more devastated by the loss of her infant than is any other mammal.

Note further that culture does not evolve. What sociocultural anthropologists call "cultural evolution" is an account of the cultural elaboration performed by Homo sapiens . The true evolution of culture proceeded with the evolution of the hominid brain during the Pliocene-Pleistocene. Sociocultural anthropology holds the brain constant, and discusses the elaboration of which the brain has proved capable. Shouldn't it be obvious why it is hard to establish a dialogue between the two anthropologies?

(Part II of the interview with Prof. Count will appear in the next issue.)



The Washington Evolutionary Systems Society, who have been so generous in their coverage of our affairs in their newsletter, is launching a new journal. They will start it off with a wide variety of subjects and then let it evolve from there. They have put out a call for papers for the first few issues. Submit any paper you feel is worthy of publication with the understanding that (1) its topic is related to evolutionary processes, and (2) it will not be copyright protected. Articles must be sent e-mail to Cathy Faint via WESSNET (703/739-0688), or put on disk (5.25" or 3.5") and sent to:

M. Catherine Faint, Dir.

Community Careers Res. Cr.

1601 Connecticut Ave NW,

5th Floor

Washington, DC 20009, USA


Dr. Rachelle Doody reports that her abstract (entitled "A Survey of Language Perspectives That Have Informed Aphasiology") which actually uses the term "neuroanthropology" has been accepted for presentation at the American Academy of Neurology meetings in Miami this May. By the way, the references at the end of her report on her graduate work in the last issue of NNN should read: "See Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy ; Positions , Writing and Difference , Of Grammatology by Jacques Derrida; and Stephen Tyler's The Said and the Unsaid , and The Unspeakable ."


ROBERT TURNER , Ph.D., visiting scientist, Department of Health and Human Services, Building 10, Room B1D125, In Vivo NMR Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA, Ph: (301)496-8144.


Fischer, Roland (1989) "On the Varieties of Artistic Experience." Japanese Bulletin of Art Therapy 20:75-87. [biological roots of intelligence and creativity; schizophrenic state of consciousness as response to genetically mediated hypersensitivity toward stress]

McTear, Michael F. ed. (1988) Understanding Cognitive Science . New York: Wiley.

Glenn, J.C. (1989) "Conscious Technology: The Co-Evolution of Mind and Machine." The Futurist , Sept-Oct.

Huberman, B.M. (1989) "The Collective Brain." Int'l J Neural Systems 1(1):41-45.

Sejnowski, T., C. Koch, and P. Churchland (1988) "Computational Neuroscience." Science 241:1299-1306.

Rose, Steven (1988) The Conscious Brain . Paragon House.

Edwards, Betty (1989) Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (revised edition). J.P. Tarcher.

Herrmann, Ned (in press) The Creative Brain . Zephyr Press. [a children's book]

Trevarthen, Colwyn, ed. (1989) Brain Circuits and Functions of the Mind . Cambridge University Press.

Sharif, N.A. and M.E. Lewis, eds. (in press) Brain Imaging: Techniques and Applications . Halsted Press.

Levine, R. and D. Drang (1989) Neural Networks: The Second AI Generation . McGraw.