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Levins, R., & Lewontin, R. C. (1985). The dialectical biologist. Harvard: Harvard University Press. 
Added by: Dominique Meeùs (2009-08-19 22:05:13)   Last edited by: Dominique Meeùs (2020-03-03 15:30:17)
Resource type: Book
BibTeX citation key: Levins1985
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Categories: Marxisme, Philosophie, Sciences
Keywords: dialectique, Lyssenko, matérialisme, matérialisme dialectique
Creators: Levins, Lewontin
Publisher: Harvard University Press (Harvard)
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Introduction 1
One. On Evolution
1. Evolution as Theory and ideology → 9
2. Adaptation → 65
3. The Organism as the Subject and Object of Evolution → 85
Two. On Analysis
4. The Analysis of Variance and the Analysis of Causes → 109
5. Isidore Nabi on the Tendencies of Motion → 123
6. Dialectics and Reductionism in Ecology → 132
Three. Science as a Social Product and the Social Product of Science
7. The Problem of Lysenkoism → 163
8. The Commoditization of Science → 197
9. The Political Economy of Agricultural Research → 209
10. Applied Biology in the Third World → 225
11. The Pesticide System → 238
12. Research Needs for Latin Community Health → 242
13. What Is Human Nature ? → 253
Conclusion : Dialectics → 267
Bibliography → 291
Index → 297

To Frederick Engels,
who got it wrong a lot of the time
but who got it right where it counted.

  Added by: Dominique Meeùs
pp.11-12, Section 1. Evolution as Theory and Ideology, Chapter 1. On Evolution   The theory of organic evolution assumes that the processes of mutation, recombination, and natural selection have been the driving forces since the beginning of life, even before its organization into cells, and that these forces will continue as a characteristic feature of living organisms until the extinction of the living world. It is assumed that life in other parts of the cosmos will exhibit these same dynamic features. A commitment to the evolutionary world view is a commitment to a belief in the instability and constant motion of systems in the past, present, and future; such motion is assumed to be their essential characteristic. In the eighteenth century this belief was expressed for the nascent bourgeois revolution by Diderot: “Tout change, tout passe, il n’y a que le tout qui reste” (everything changes, all things pass, only the totality remains) [1830] 1951, p. 56). In the nineteenth century Engels expressed the socialist revolutionary ideology: “Motion in the most general sense, conceived as the mode of existence, the inherent attribute, of matter, comprehends all changes and processes occurring in the universe, from mere change of place right up to thinking” ([1880] 1934, p. 69).
     The growth in the ideology of change as an essential feature of natu-
ral systems was the necessary outcome of that slow but profound alteration in European social relations that we call the bourgeois revolution. The replacement of hereditary holders of power by those whose power derived from their entrepreneurial activities demanded an alteration in legitimating ideology from one of natural stasis and stability to one of unceasing change. The breaking down of the last vestiges of feudal society, in which peasant and lord alike were tied to the land; the ascendancy of merchants, financiers, and manufacturers; the growing power in France of the noblesse de la robe in parallel to the old noblesse de l’épée—all were in contradiction with a world view that saw changes in state as only occasional and unusual, the result of irregular reallocations of grace. Reciprocally, a world view that made change an essential feature of the natural systems was inconceivable in a social world of fixed hereditary relations. Humans beings see the natural world as a reflection of the social organization that is the dominant reality of their lives. An evolutionary world view, being a theory of the naturalness of change, is really congenial only in a revolutionizing society.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   évolution évolution prébiotique changement Diderot Engels mouvement révolution bourgeoise sélection naturelle
pp.69-70, Section 2. Adaptation   The simple view that the external environment changes by some dynamic of its own and is tracked by the organisms takes no account of the effect organisms have on the environment. The activity of all living forms transforms the external world in ways that both promote and inhibit the life of organisms. Nest building, trail and boundary marking, the creation of entire habitats, as in the dam building of beavers, all increase the possibilities of life for their creators. On the other hand, the universal character of organisms is that their increase in numbers is self-limited, because they use up food and space resources. In this way the environment is a product of the organism, just as the organism is a product of the environment. The organism adapts the environment in the short term to its own needs, as, for example, by nest building, but in the long term the organism must adapt to an environment that is changing, partly through the organism’s own activity, in ways that are distinctive to the species.
     In human evolution the usual relationship between organism and environment has become virtually reversed in adaptation. Cultural invention has replaced genetic change as the effective source of variation. Consciousness allows people to analyze and make deliberate alterations, so adaptation of environment to organism has become the dominant mode. Beginning with the usual relation, in which slow genetic adaptation to an almost independently changing environment was dominant, the line leading to Homo sapiens passed to a stage where conscious activity made adaptation of the environment to the organism’s needs an integral part of the biological evolution of the species. As Engels (1880) observed in “The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man,” the human hand is as much a product of human labor as it is an instrument of that labor. Finally the human species passed to the stage where adaptation of the environment to the organism has come to be completely dominant, marking off Homo sapiens from all other life. It is this phenomenon, rather than any lucky change in the external world, that is responsible for the rapid expansion of the human species in historical time.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   adaptation évolution culture Engels environnement main rétroaction sélection naturelle travail
p.163   The Problem of Lysenkoism   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Je suppose que c'est une reprise de l'article que je reprends comme (Lewontin & Levins, 1976).

Lewontin, R. C., & Levins, R. (1976). The problem of lysenkoism. In The Radicalizaton of Science.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs  (2016-01-23 19:38:25)
pp.191-192, Section 7. The Problem of Lysenkoism, Chapter 3. Science as a Social Product and the Social Product of Science   Dialectical materialism is not, and never has been, a programmatic method for the solution of particular physical problems. Rather, dialectical analysis provides us with an overview and a set of warning signs against particular forms of dogmatism and narrowness of thought. It tells us: “Remember that history may leave an important trace”; “Remember that being and becoming are dual aspects of nature”; “Remember that conditions change and that the conditions necessary to the initiation of some processes may be destroyed by the process itself”; “Remember to pay attention to real objects in space and time and not lose them utterly in idealised abstractions”; “Remember that qualitative effects of context and interaction may be lost when phenomena are isolated”, and above all else, “Remember that all the other caveats are only reminders and warning signs whose application to different circumstances of the real world is contingent”.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   abstraction action en retour changement concret contexte dogmatisme évolution histoire matérialisme dialectique méthode
J’en propose la traduction suivante :
(0) Le matérialisme dialectique n’est pas, et n’a jamais été, une méthode systématique pour la solution de problèmes physiques particuliers. L’analyse dialectique nous donne plutôt une vue d’ensemble et une série de signaux qui nous avertissent contre des formes particulières de dogmatisme et d’étroitesse de la pensée. Elle nous dit :
(1) « rappelez-vous que l’histoire peut laisser une marque importante » ;
(2) « rappelez-vous que l’être et le devenir sont des aspects duaux de la nature » ;
(3) « rappelez-vous que les conditions changent et que les conditions nécessaires à l’enclenchement de certains processus peuvent être détruites par le processus lui-même » ;
(4) « rappelez-vous de prêter attention aux objets réels dans l’espace et le temps et de ne pas les perdre complètement dans des abstractions idéalisées » ;
(5) « rappelez-vous que des effets de contexte qualitatifs et l’interaction peuvent être perdus quand on isole les phénomènes » ;
et par-dessus tout,
(6) « rappelez-vous, surtout, que toutes les autres mises en garde ne sont que des rappels et des signaux d’avertissement dont l’application aux différentes situations du monde réel est contingente ».   Added by: Dominique Meeùs  (2018-02-01 16:59:26)
p.253, Section 13. What is Human nature?   Marx insisted that human history was part of natural history. By this he meant that the human species arose through its interactions with nature; that, like other animals, people have to eat and reproduce; and that human history should be understood not as the unfolding of great ideas or ethical advancement, but as the ways in which people act on nature to survive and the social relations through which production and reproduction are carried out. Engels (1880) developed the theme further in his essay “The Role of Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man.” Despite, or because of, his Lamarckian biases, Engels captured the essential feature of human evolution: the very strong feedback between what people did and how they changed. He saw “environment” not as a passive selective force external to the organism but rather as the product of human activity the special feature of the human niche being productive labor and cooperation, which channeled the evolution of hand and brain.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   évolution cerveau Darwin Engels Lamarck main Marx relation sociale survie travail
pp.278-280, Chapter Conclusion: Dialectics   A second consequence of the heterogeneity of all objects is that it directs us toward the explanation of change in terms of the opposing processes united within that object. Heterogeneity is not merely diversity: the parts or processes confront each other as opposites, conditional on the whole of which they are parts. For example, in the predator-prey system of lemmings and owls, the two species are opposite poles of the process, predation simultaneously determining the death rate of lemmings and the birth rate of owls. It is not that lemmings are the opposite of owls in some ontological sense, or that lemmings imply owls or couldn’t exist without owls. But within the context of this particular ecosystem, their interaction helps to drive the population dynamics, which shows a spectacular fluctuation of numbers.
     What characterizes the dialectical world, in all its aspects, as we have described it is that it is constantly in motion. Constants become variables, causes become effects, and systems develop, destroying the conditions that gave rise to them. Even elements that appear to be stable are in a dynamic equilibrium of forces that can suddenly become unbalanced, as when a dull gray lump of metal of a critical size becomes a fireball brighter than a thousand suns. Yet the motion is not unconstrained and uniform. Organisms develop and differentiate, then die and disintegrate. Species arise but inevitably become extinct. Even in the simple physical world we know of no uniform motion. Even the earth rotating on its axis has slowed down in geologic time. The development of systems through time, then, seems to be the consequence of opposing forces and opposing motions.
     This appearance of opposing forces has given rise to the most debated and difficult, yet the most central, concept in dialectical thought, the principle of contradiction. For some, contradiction is an epistemic principle only. It describes how we come to understand the world by a history of antithetical theories that, in contradiction to each other and in contradiction to observed phenomena, lead to a new view of nature. Kuhn’s (1962) theory of scientific revolution has some of this flavor of continual contradiction and resolution, giving way to new contradiction. For others, contradiction is not only epistemic but political as well, the contradiction between classes being the motive power of history. Thus contradiction becomes an ontological property at least of human social existence. For us, contradiction is not only epistemic and political, but ontological in the broadest sense. Contradictions between forces are everywhere in nature, not only in human social institutions. This tradition of dialectics goes back to Engels (1880) who wrote, in Dialectics of Nature, that “to me there could be no question of building the laws of dialectics of nature, but of discovering them in it and evolving them from it.” Engels’s understanding of the physical world was, of course, a nineteenth-century understanding, and much of what he wrote about it seems quaint. Moreover, dialecticians have repeatedly attempted to make the identification of contradictions in nature a central feature of science, as if all scientific problems are solved when the contradictions have been revealed. Yet neither Engels’ factual errors nor the rigidity of idealist dialectics changes the fact that opposing forces lie at the base of the evolving physical and biological world.
     Things change because of the actions of opposing forces on them, and things are the way they are because of the temporary balance of opposing forces. In the early days of biology an inertial view prevailed: nerve cells were at rest until stimulated by other nerve cells and ultimately by sensory excitation. Genes acted if the raw materials for their activity were present; otherwise they were quiescent. Gene frequencies in a population remained static in the absence of selection, mutation, random drift, or immigration. Nature was at equilibrium unless perturbed. Later it was recognized that nerve impulses act both to excite and to inhibit the firing of other nerves, so the state of a system depends on the network of opposing stimuli, and that network can generate spontaneous activity. Gene action is regulated by repressors, repressors of the repressors, and all sorts of active feedbacks in the cell. There are no genetic loci immune to mutation and random drift, and no populations are free of selection.
     The dialectical view insists that persistence and equilibrium are not the natural state of things but require explanation, which must be sought in the actions of the opposing forces.   Added by: Dominique Meeùs
Keywords:   anthithèse équilibre changement contradiction dialectique Engels Kuhn résultante de forces rétroaction rotation de la Terre
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