Learning Goal: I’m working on a biology question and need support to help me learn.
1. a) List the three branches of learning mentioned by Wilson and give an example of an area of study from each.
b) What is consilience and how does Wilson relate this to understanding complex phenomena in and among the three branches of learning (see previous question)? Explain your answer.
2. What is reductionism and how does it relate to understanding complex phenomena?
3. Explain the difference between a proximate and an ultimate cause of a particular phenomenon. You may use an example to help explain your answer.
4. Why is the top down approach to understand complex phenomena easier than the bottom up approach (predictive synthesis)? Explain.
5. a) According to Wilson, what are epigenetic rules?
b) What are cultural universals? Give a few examples.
c) Wilson talks about gene-culture coevolution. Explain how Wilson thinks the epigenetic rules relate to genes and the universals of culture.
6. a) What is the Westermarck effect and how does it relate to Wilson’s ideas about human nature and epigenetic rules?
b) How does the Westermarck effect differ from an incest taboo?
c) Why does Wilson think that universals of human nature (like kin selection, territorial behavior, focus on status, etc.) originated in human populations?
7. Wilson suggests, toward the end of the essay, that aesthetic judgment is, at least in part, a material product of the human mind.
a) If this is true, what tools/methods can we use to better understand and explain art interpretation and appreciation? (Hint: what methods will help answer the question?)(1 point)
b) According to Wilson, how can we explain that people from diverse cultures find some of the same things beautiful or aesthetically pleasing?
8. a) Does Wilson thing there are natural laws to explain complex phenomena in the different disciplines of the natural sciences? Explain and be prepared to discuss an example to illustrate your answer.
b.) Does Wilson think that biology and reductionism can be used to understand complex phenomena in the social sciences? Explain and give an example to explain your answer.
c.) Does Wilson think that biology and reductionism can be used to understand complex phenomena in the arts? Explain and give an example to explain your answer.
The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox – Preface, Ch. 1, Ch. 8
1. a) Briefly explain the opposing strategies of the fox and the hedgehog.
b) Which path do you prefer? Why?
2. a) Briefly explain the difference in how realists and relativists view the role of science in human intellectual discovery.
b) Into which of these two categories would Wilson belong? Explain.
3. Gould notes “reductionism may not be universally extendable as an optimal path to complete scientific understanding.” Briefly explain the two reasons that reductionism can fail as an explanatory mechanism for complex phenomena.
4. Briefly discuss two types of questions that Gould feels reductionism cannot answer.
5. What is the “consilience of equal regard.”?
Comparison of Wilson and Gould
Compare and contrast Gould’s position about the relationship of the sciences and the arts (humanities) with the “consilience” proposed by Wilson. How are they similar how are they different?