Blute Blog

Blute's blog about evolutionary theory: biological, sociocultural and gene-culture.

Archive for November 2022

Fifty Years!

leave a comment »

I realized lately that it has been 50 years this year since I published my first article as a graduate student in 1972. Maybe it is time to quit. But I am not quite ready to yet!

Written by Marion Blute

November 28, 2022 at 10:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Remembering Anatol Rapaport (1911–2007)

leave a comment »

Anatol Rapaport came to the University of Toronto from the USA as a mature scholar during and because of the Viet Nam war. He was a co-founder of the Society for General Systems Research (now ISSS – the International Society for Systems Sciences) as well as of Science for Peace (see his biography on Wikipedia). Among academics, beyond systems scientists, he is probably most well known for a computer programme written for a tournament on the evolution of cooperation. Compared with other long programmes entered, his “Tit for Tat” had just four lines of code – cooperate if the other does and defect if they do. It won when run against all the others!

He was a person of few words in my experience as well. In 1977 I had finished a draft of my PhD thesis on “Darwinian analogues and the naturalistic explanation of purposivism in biology, psychology and the sociocultural sciences” in the sociology department with a biologist on the committee. I had not yet had my oral when my husband to be told me about a conference coming to the campus. I forget its official title but I went, and among other things, found out that Anatol had coauthored an article in the first issue of Behavioral Science in 1956 on the analogy between biological and cultural evolution. Since that view was part of my thesis, after checking with my department, I went to his office with a copy of my thesis and asked him if he would sit on the committee. His response was “leave it with me and come back in a week.” A week later I went back and his response was similarly brief. “I think this is very clever, and yes, I will sit on your committee.

That was not the end of it however, Apparently because of its interdisciplinary and theoretical character, a philosopher of science who shall remain nameless was recruited as the external examiner. He did not like it because he thought selection is only selection against. This created a fuss in the committee of which I was of course unaware and at the oral, obviously by prearrangement, Anatol asked the first question. I had difficulty understanding the question at first, but eventually said “selection is not selection against or selection for, it is a change in relative frequencies”. Anatol responded, “that was what I wanted to hear”. He then sat back and in a few minutes fell asleep for the rest of the oral! Later I received an invitation from Behavioral Science to submit an article, undoubtedly at his instigation. I eventually did and published there “sociocultural evolution: an untried theory”.

To this day ISSS has a quote from him featured on their web page. “To gain knowledge, we must learn to ask the right questions; and to get answers, we must act, not wait for the answers to occur to us.”

Written by Marion Blute

November 7, 2022 at 4:29 pm