THE INFLUENCE OF BIOLOGY UPON PSYCHOLOGY
QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED IN MODULE 1
1. How is "classificatory science" different from an experimental science?
2. What are zoology, biology, botany, and physiology?
3. In what ways are descriptive and functional biology models for structural and psychology
4. Why is the concept of change a basic concept in science?
5. What theorists or systems in psychology make change a central concept?
6. What biological concepts emphasize change?
7. Explain functional psychology.
8. What was James' concept of the human mind?
BIOLOGY AS A MODEL FOR PSYCHOLOGY
During the eighteenth century, a number of important scientists made significant contributions to biology. One of the scientists, Linneaus, founded modern systematic biology when he organized a scheme for labeling flora and fauna. Linneaus examined different samples, provided labels and devised categories for all the possible variations. His contribution was not a "discovery;" it is a man made scheme, a production, an artificial system which permits a quick and easy identification of parts. His 1758 book, Systema Naturea, established the nomenclature for the future of zoology.
The system of Linnaeus is a classificatory scheme. Although some persons deprecate classificatory systems on the grounds that it encourages rigid thinking, such criticism would be justified only if science began and ended with classification. All science must begin with some form of classification, but a later stage involves experimental studies which serve to explain the differences among the parts. Classification, then, is the first and necessary step in any science. Another criticism of classificatory approaches is that less effort and skill is required. The scientist, however, must search for patterns in an array of apparently disjointed facts, like a child confronted with an unknown world out of which he must construct patterns and labels.
The scientist constructs patterns from a variegated cloth. The material is visual, auditory, or verbal. The scientist labels similar phenomena which vary systematically along one dimension. The variation might proceed gradually as one segment disappears and a new one emerges. For example, in the classification of mammals, there is the gradual elimination of the wing accompanied by elongation of the femur. These interrelated processes appear only if one can "see" the similarity. The similarity occurs only if "a" and "b" are observed to be similar in structure (e.g. extension of the shoulder blade is seen as similar to the development of the femur) or similar function (e.g. locomotion, in the leg of a horse). A similarity is discovered only where experience with both members of the species or where discrepant bits of information might lead to a deduction. For example, one might deduce that the limb of an extinct animal was used for locomotion if the fossilized bone is broken at the point of greatest body weight. Or, upon observing a skull and backbone one might receive a flash of insight about how the two are similar (Brain, 1864, p. 510).
"Discoveries" in a classificatory science result from either probing for the missing link in a verbal chain or the chance unfolding of a structure. It might be a rock matching the terrain; an element in the periodic table; an ancestor in a family tree. Many discoveries occur as deductions from other information.
If certain patterns are known, then the possibility of an event can be deduced from the established fact of other events. If I know that a tree "x" grows in the Pacific but not in the Atlantic Ocean, and if I know that it takes several weeks to sail a thousand miles, then when I read in an old document that someone began a journey in the middle of snow and was sitting several weeks later under "x" trees, I know that they must have left from the American mainland, sailed south rather than north, and could not have stopped, visited, or bartered along the way.
One can, of course, test out the pattern by constructing a situation where one element is present and another is absent and thus confirms the missing link. As on an achievement test, if a person is asked to give an automatic response to the question "What is your name?", precious little is learned about that person. But a question requires the subject to select from several reasonable answers, yields a pattern of selection and rejection which reveals something about the person.
Science followed just such procedures. Linnaeus systematically constructed the pattern for the animal kingdom. This was a hundred years before Darwin's epoch making publication and it was typical of how England proceeded in making major contributions to biology. Even though Germany, during the nineteenth century, was developing fine centers of higher education which included extensive laboratory work with graduate programs in psychology and other fields, England, under Queen Anne retained a direct and straightforward approach and managed to keep close to empirical studies. This course maintained by England was consistent with its colonial developments in various parts of the world. To accumulate vast amounts of needed information about its new territories it was necessary to send out missionaries, philogists, and zoologists who contributed greatly to the development of zoology and other classificatory sciences. Out of these new scientific structures came the realization that animals and plants, zoology and botany, the two subordinate fields in biology, maintained a basic difference. Animals moved and plants did not. The problem was to account for both the nutrition and the movement, two of the three-part description of life that Aristotle proposed. What were the organisms, where did they come from, where were they going, and how did they maintain a living?
Early science maintained that patterns were stable, and that forms, once established, were immutable. Animals grew and moved, but this produced only superficial modifications; the core characteristics remained unchanged. The creation story in Genesis and the idea of fixity of species were widely accepted. Identity and immutability were compelling points of view, endorsed by many persons, and best expressed by Thoreau when he said, "Nature's laws are more immutable than any despot's." Scientist and religionist alike endorsed the idea that human morphology remained unchanged. Although the physical body did change from birth to death, dualistic Western thought admitted only two major concepts, life and death. Until the later part of the nineteenth century, child and adult were not greatly differentiated. The one major American naturalist who advocated immutability of species and argued with Darwin was Agassiz (Lurie,1966, p.300).But before his Beagle trip, in 1831, Darwin had also believed in immutability.
Explanations of Variation and Change
The ideas of change and evolution were part of the nineteenth century Zeitgeist*. Earlier, a theory of inorganic evolution proposed by Lyell explained the development of the earth as changes in various rock strata over time. There was change, and the change took time. These two dimensions, change and time, became major concepts to explain both inorganic and organic matter. A central concept dating back to Heraclitus, was that the world was in constant flux, where no man stepped into the same river twice. Aristotle also considered the universe to be in change.
It was in Germany, however, that the concept of change was basic to major philosophical systems. Leibnitz' monad theory maintained that matter and mind were emergent and indestructible. Herbart's dynamic mind contained ideas of intensity and expressive potential. So the ideas of change and time and potential were predominantly nineteenth century Germanic concepts, not characteristic of British thought.
Why, then, did evolutionary theory emerge from British soil? Part of the answer lies in the difference between a philosophical and an empirical approach. The British manage always to get a bigger picture of what is going on and to relate one science with another; the Germans look for details, specific characteristics, and explanations. And England has always had a sense of history, how one event relates to another over time; the monarchy provided ample evidence (visual and otherwise) of a certain continuity. Germany, once divided into independent states, had only a hope that unity would bring political security and continuity. What basic notion supported evolutionary theory? The Germans speculated about the nature of the world and upon the mind which formed a part of that world.
German evolutionary philosophy pivoted around the idea of "becoming." Hegelian logic maintained that "innate ideas evolve by an inner necessity from those they precede... --thesis, antithesis, synthesis ... (Hall, 1923, p. 358)." Schelling, another German philosopher of the nineteenth century, treats " ... all organic and even inorganic nature as steps in the unfoldment of a mighty process (Hall, 1923, p. 358)." Goethe suggested a metamorphosis of parts, where one structure changed into another. The parallel in English chemistry was the transmutation of elements, where one element was changed into another. What the Germans were thinking, the English were doing. Alchemy, long concerned with the transmutation of elements, became chemistry in France under Lavoiser (1743-94) and in England under Cavendish (1731-1810). Lavoiser founded quantitative methods in chemistry, differentiated between elements and compounds, and began a search for all the elements and the principles by which change came about.
England had long been the leader in physics. She was practical, more technical, and she managed to look, see, and collect data. Newton (1642-1727) had formulated the Law of Gravitation, stating that bodies attract each other with a force which is inversely related to the square of their distance. He also formalized the laws of motion into: 1) inertia; 2) change and direction of momentum and 3) action and reaction.
The idea of change was a part of the Zeitgeist in many countries. Change became central because heat, the key to producing transformations, was discovered to be movement of particles. Physics exorcised a spirit explanation and substituted a physical for a metaphysical explanation. Haeckel, in biology, proposed an ontogenetic theory, that individual changes recapitulate the species. Chemistry, on the other hand, sought and found principles lying behind the transmutation of elements -- a changing of one element into another. The compounds appeared to result from fusion, heat, electrolysis, etc. Heat was discovered to be the primary form of energy; and it could be produced by friction, chemical reaction, impact, compression and passing of electricity over a high resistance. Further, heat was found to result from the movement of molecules. Newton's laws of motion could be applied to chemical changes and, so it appeared, eventually to mental changes.
So movement and change were in the air -- in science, philosophy, and politics. Movement created of energy (heat) and resistance could increase the form of energy. In philosophy, Herbart had postulated resistance, of an apperceptive mass, inhibiting the movement of some ideas and increasing that of others. In politics, the old social structures were breaking down. The revolution in France and the shifting political climate in Germany were changes that signaled new social structures. The metamorphosis of European political structures was a daily reality. The old orders and patterns were breaking down and new structures emerged.
If objects and events were not immutable, if they were not stable and fixed but rather changed, then some explanation of change was necessary. By the nineteenth century, the notion of change and transformation were clearly prominent concepts. It had become apparent that elements in chemical solution produced changes, that rock structures changed over time, that seeds developed into flowers or vegetables, that physical food became transformed into tissue and energy, that rock crystals emerged into gems, that boys and girls became old men and women. What accounted for the change?
These, then, were the concepts -- first, from physics: change, variation, modification, and function. In biology: adaptation, extinction, and emergence emphasized change.
If variation and change were the rule, the problem was to construct a sufficiently plausible and widely supported explanation. There were two major theories of change. One theory stated that change was sudden, dramatic, and discontinuous; the other, that it was gradual, in small steps, and continuous. The first theory was known as catastrophism, the second as evolution. A third explanation of variability is mutation, proposed by Hugo de Vries. With mutations, transformations take a new direction rather than a linear direction as originally proposed by Darwin. There are sudden, quick changes, without connecting links. This is essentially immutability (Whitman, 1906).
Catastrophism. Catastrophism was best represented by the French zoologist and geologist, Georges Curvier (1769-1832), dean of French science and founder of comparative anatomy and paleontology. Changes in rock formations, cultural groups, and in flora and fauna were viewed as resulting in sudden and even violent changes in the environment -- volcanic eruptions or earthquakes, glacier slides, acts of God, or freaks of nature (de Beer, 1964). Biblical examples abound -- woman emerges from Adam's rib, man was made in one day the the sun in seven, and language sprang up from the Tower of Babel.
The sudden appearance of new forms was not necessarily a religious phenomenon, as in miracles; but religion (systematically) and science (sporadically) supported this view. Glacial slides created new rock formations sometimes wiping out entire nations of people. Floods destroyed entire food supplies for certain groups of animals.
Hegelian and Marxist doctrine also have stressed a catastrophic theory in explaining variation. Hegelian evolutionary theory is crucial in understanding communism. Hegelian philosophy negated straight line gradual evolutionary change. It maintained, instead, development by catastrophes, revolutions, inner impulses, contradictions, etc. (Northrop, 1968, p. 68).
Evolution. Within evolution there were two points of view: 1) orthogenesis (Theodore Eimer), or the progression of change in a particular direction; 2) natural selection (Darwin), a gradual increase of change in one direction, sometimes referred to simply as variations. Natural selection maintained that certain characteristics suited a particular environment and therefore survived, while others died out. Orthogenesis, the notion that development of evolution occurs in a definite direction, implied development over successive generations following some particular line. To some, this point of view sounded like teleology, that there was some purpose and goal towards which the direction was heading. But Whitman (1906) claimed that you can have order without teleology. Variability can be orderly or disorderly.
Psychology belabored this issue. Does ontogeny recapitulate phylogeny? Are the personal life changes sudden and discontinuous, or are they even and continuous? Following the lead by Galton and Fechner, psychology espoused the latter point of view. Data describing physical, mental, social, and linguistic development supported the claims of gradual changes.
The field of emotion, however, is one exception. Early studies, such as Bridges (1932), showed how separate and distinguishably different emotions emerged at different ages. A generalized "excitement" appears to be the only identifiable emotion at birth. At a few months of age, distress, delight, and finally anger and others emerge (Munn, Fernald, p. 374). The increase in the number of different emotions does, however, seem to be gradual.
Evidence of gradual and continuous changes rather than sudden and dramatic changes accumulated. Given enough time, and assuming that the change did not just stop, some forms might eventually be transformed into quite different forms. Goethe had earlier expressed this as a metamorphosis or a transformation of forms. Thus, the notion of evolutionary theory was not entirely new.
Before Darwin, men such as Lamarck, Chambers, Spencer and the German natural philosophers all thought that evolution was goal directed. The disturbing part of Darwinian theory was that it abolished a teleological point of view (Kuhn, 1962).
The division within biology between structure and function, between classification and variation, between anatomy and physiology, was reflected in psychology, particularly American psychology, as between structural and functional psychology. The beginnings of experimental psychology (Wundt at Leipzig) were clearly structural and were so identified and advocated by Titchener, Wundt's disciple in America. The purpose was to examine and classify and describe the adult human mind, to answer the question "what." But this approach did not prevail as the dominant theme in American psychology.
Functional psychology, headed by William James, the dean of American psychology, was the mode, and emerged from the Darwinian emphasis upon change and modification and adaptation, and attempted to answer the question "why." If the species adapts to the environment and therefore survives, then perhaps an individual adapts to his environment as a means of survival. The mind, as emerging in evolution, also emerges in the life of the individual, not as simply a structural part of the anatomy but as a functioning, acting, adapting organ. After Darwin, the mind, as seen by James and suggested by Spencer, survive as a means of organizing and therefore adapting the person to his environment.
William James (1842-1910), in disagreeing with Wundt, saw the mind in Heraclitian terms, as an ongoing, changing, personal phenomenon. "Consciousness, then, does not appear to itself chopped up in bits . . . It is nothing jointed; it flows. A 'river' or a 'stream' are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described (James, 1950, vol. 1, p. 239)." James' conception of consciousness as a "stream of thought" was not acceptable to experimental psychologists, but it became popular as a way of conceiving of the mind and was later picked up again by the third force psychologists.
Dewey, in his paper on the reflex arc (1896), argued for a functional role for what previously had been considered a mechanistic concept such as the reflex. Dewey maintained that the reflex is not simply a stimulus response connection; it is a mechanism set in motion by a volitional activity of the organism. The constriction of the pupil of the eye in light is not simply produced by the stimulus of the light; it is originally initiated by a voluntary movement of the head or rotation of the eyeballs so that the eye can see, and therefore initiates the stimulus-response mechanism of the reflex of the iris.
Thorndike, Cattell, Angell, Carr, and others on the American scene adopted the Darwinian notion of a functional relationship among variables by attempting to identify the role of learning in adaptation (Thorndike) or the importance of individual differences (Cattell) as factors accounting for variation in adaptation. While the behaviorist Watson rejected consciousness in a later decade, he nevertheless maintained the American preference to think in terms of processes and functional relationships. Behaviorism was an active mind transferred to an active musculature.
In general, functional psychology is practical, much more so than the German structural or Gestalt psychology. Perhaps that is why functionalism caught on in America. Americans were eager to pick up any idea that could be used to carve out a new frontier. James' ideas for teachers, suggestions for developing good habits, Thorndike's analysis of vocabulary needs of children, Watson's practical suggestions about raising children -- all were part of the penchant of Americans for concrete and simple and direct suggestions for obtaining the good life.
NOW TEST YOURSELF WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE READING.
Circle those answers which are correct (one or more) or fill in the blank spaces.
1. Modern biology was given systematic
framework by the contributions of:
2. The century during which much of the classificatory work in science was conducted was the _____________ century .
3. Classificatory activity in a science involves primarily:
a . inductive thinking
b. deductive thinking
c. mathematical thinking
d. experimental activity
4. Biology is a science which has two subfields:
a. physiology and anatomy
b. zoology and biology
c. medicine and physiology
d. zoology and botany
5. Evolution is to catastrophism as:
a. gradual is to sudden
b. continuous is to discontinuous
c. quick is to slow
d. quiet is to loud
6. Functionalism primarily:
a. asks what
b. asks why
c. is concerned with structure
d. all of the above
7. Structure is to function as anatomy is to:
8. William James' "stream of thought" can be described as:
a. consciousness is personal
b. consciousness is forever changing
c. consciousness is continuous
d. all of these
9. John Dewey said of the reflex, that it is a(n):
a. unanalyzable whole
b. movement following a change of energy
c. mechanistic concept which has no place in psychology
d. he wasn't concerned with reflex arcs at all
ANSWER KEY ON PAGE 37
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