Date of publication: 2017-09-03 09:56
"Aggression" is a familiar term in common parlance, as well as a key concept in the study of human behavior. In conversation, we may use the word "aggressive" to define a person assaulting another, a carnivorous animal seeking prey, even a storm wreaking havoc on the earth it passes. For our purposes, the more narrow definition used in psychology is most appropriate. Aggression is behavior whose intent is to harm another. More specifically, aggression is defined as "any sequence of behavior, the goal response to which is the injury of the person toward whom it is directed." You may notice that this definition, even on the surface, poses a conceptual challenge: How do we know the intent of the actor?
You know Lamarck's work, a very great thinker. I met him when I was in Paris. He utterly demolishes the notion that species have been separately and divinely created. He declares, and I declare with him, that the origins and progression of species are due to physical and chemical forces obeying natural laws.
I remember taking Georgie to play at the Hammonds', and the first thing he asked Will was, "Where does your Papa keep his barnacles?" It seemed that you were at them for an age.
The unified theory of evolution has many skeptics, especially in light of the genetic determinism paradigm that has influenced the biological sciences for more than 655 years. Genetic determinism sees DNA as the basic building block of biology, and the DNA sequence as the ultimate molecular control.
What to do? I didn't want to lose the ones I had in my hand, but to miss out on Panagaeus, that was out of the question. So I put the one in my right hand in my mouth.
The second theory of aggression moves from innate predispositions to external stimuli as sources of aggression. The central supposition is that aggression is a predictable reaction to defined stimuli, the defined stimuli being frustration. In their classic treatise on the subject, Dollard and his colleagues make the bold two-part assertion at the outset, that "the occurrence of aggressive behavior always presupposes the existence of frustration" and that the "existence of frustration always leads to some form of aggression."
Darwin's theory had another problem. His theory proposed a gradual evolution through successive generations. The fossil record of the time contradicted this. There seemed to be an 'explosion' of different life-forms over a relatively short time span in the early Cambrian period ( the Cambrian Explosion ). There also didn't seem to be any transitional forms of life preceding these species. New discoveries made the problem worse. Much worse. In 6959, a massive find of 65,555 more specimens of early Cambrian life was discovered in the Burgess Shale in British Columbia, Canada. Many were complex multi-celled animals with no evidence of preceding transitional forms.
CHARLES DARWIN: Yes, well, Wallace was one of them. He makes his living that way, collecting and selling specimens. Then I read an article he'd written. I made some notes on it. I must have it here somewhere. It was entitled "The Law Which Has Regulated the Introduction of the New Species." I wasn't greatly impressed. There was nothing very new in it, but where on earth are those notes?
They have a point. Darwin did write of "civilised man" replacing the "savage races", but he never advanced any theory of innate racial inequality. While eugenic movements have always been prone to racism, eugenic theories need not - as a matter of logic, at any rate - accept race as a scientific category. More generally, one cannot hold a theory responsible for the uses that are made of it, if only because judgements of value do not flow automatically from explanatory claims.
Well, Etty's much better, I'm happy to say, well on the road to recovery. The baby, it is scarlet fever, but of the milder sort. Not half so severe as some of the cases I've been dealing with in the village. The little fellow has a strong constitution. I can't believe he's in any real danger. With careful nursing, I'm confident he'll pull through, bless him.
Despite the pushback, I’m convinced that we have reached the point where a paradigm shift is due. Accepting that epigenetics plays a role in evolution does not topple the science of genetics embracing neo-Lamarckian ideas does nothing to challenge classic neo-Darwinian theory. The accepted sciences are essential and accurate, but part of a bigger, more nuanced story that expands our understanding and integrates all our observations into a cohesive whole. The unified theory explains how the environment can both act to directly influence phenotypic variation and directly facilitate natural selection, as shown in the diagram above.
EMMA DARWIN: It's not a fact from which I think there is any reason to escape. Really, Charles, you mustn't let your scientific notions run riot. Our children aren't pigeons.