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by A. Charles Catania, Ph.D.
Long-term and short-term contingencies can support or oppose each other at any level of selection. For example, in biological or phylogenic selection, the short-term benefits of finding a mate (as when peahen is most attracted by the peacock with the most spectacular tail) may in the long term drive the species to an evolutionary dead-end. In the selection of behavior (ontogenic selection), we can pit the short-term consequences of impulsivity against the long-term consequences of self-control. We will use the crisis of climate change to examine similar contrasts operating at the level of cultural practices (sociogenic selection).
1. learn to distinguish among three varieties of selection: phylogenic (selection of species: populations of organisms over evolutionary time); ontogenic (selection of operants: populations of behavior within an individual lifetime); and sociogenic (selection of cultural practices: populations of behavior as passed on among individuals).
2. learn to recognize short-term and long-term effects of selection at each level, and to distinguish between those that support each other and those that oppose each other.
3. be able to provide examples at each level, such as evolutionary dead-ends in phylogeny (e.g., the tail of the peacock), self-control (e.g., impulsivity versus commitment), and social and political institutions that limit effective action (e.g., dealing with climate change).
4. learn to identify issues in the climate-change debate and in climate-change action in the context of these varieties of selection, and to describe their potential effects on both individuals and groups.
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