The Engagement of Religion and Biology: A Case Study in the Mediating Role of Metaphor in the Sociobiology of Lumsden & Wilson


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Abstract

I claim that explanations of human behaviour by Edward O. Wilson and Charles Lumsden are constituted by a religiously functioning metaphysics: emergent materialism. The constitutive effects are identified using six criteria, beginning with a metaphorical re-description of dissimilarities between levels of organization in terms of the lower level, and consist of conceptual and explanatory reductions (CER). Wilson and Lumsden practice CER, even though CER is not required by emergent materialism. They preconceive this practice by a re-description which conflates the levels of organization and explain failure of CER in terms of technical, not ontological or epistemological reasons. I interpret these three practices as a reaction of Wilson against his early Christian religious beliefs. Statements by Wilson indicate this reaction ultimately constitutes his explanations of social, moral and religious behaviour.Tested knowledge about matter at the lower level functions as a metaphysical belief when applied to the higher level because there it is untested. I offer twelve criteria for the diagnosis of religious functions of this metaphysical materialism, five of which are satisfied. I show that the constitutive effects of this materialism in sociobiology are due to its religious functions, are beneficial for science and do not destroy its public nature

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