As a social scientist, I must concur with Wilson ( 1990:260) epigraph to
this chapter: The content of the social sciences is potentially richer than that
of biology; but before we can beggar the relevant ideas of biology, we must
first absorb them. This does pose problems, not the least of which is the necessity to learn much biology, which may deter many individual social scientists from taking that first step. Those who do hurdle the obstacles of inertia
and ideology will find the intellectual challenge most exciting. They will find,
as have many others before them, that there is nothing inherently inimical to
the social sciences to be found within the framework of biosociology. (There
may be an awful lot that is inimical to social ideology, however.) Perhaps the
majority of the current cohort of sociologists will remain closed to the arguments for hierarchical integration; but as a discipline, sociology must begin
to encourage and require its graduate students to become comfortable with
biological science. If we do not and continue to defer to the biological sciences in the study of human behavior, we may find one day that the rest of
the scientific community regards us with the same condescension that is today reserved for "scientific" creationists.
Contrary to its many critics, sociobiology has nothing to do with "genetic determinism." The father of sociobiology penned the epigraph of this paper; and he also
wrote, "Human behavior is dominated by culture in the sense that the greater part,
perhaps all, of the variation between societies is based on cultural experience. But this
is not to say that human beings are infinitely plastic. . . . Assisted by sociobiological
analyses, a stronger social science might develop. An exciting collaboration between
biologists and social scientists appears to have begun" ( E. Wilson, 1978b:xiv).
Comte included astronomy and excluded psychology in his hierarchy. He believed the psychology of his time to be in the metaphysical stage of development.
Because psychology has long ago embraced positivism and because astronomy has
been absorbed by physics, I take the liberty of amending Comte's hierarchy.
Indicative of Jeffery's statement are the number of journals born in the late 1970s
or early 1980s integrating the biological and sociocultural sciences (e.g., Ethology and
Sociobiology, Human Nature, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Behavioural Neurology, Journal of Social and Biological Structure, Journal of Biosocial Science, Politics and the Life Sciences). Also indicative of his statement is the paucity of
sociologists contributing to these journals.
Brown ( 1991) work is an attack on biologically irrelevant notions of culture
via the examination of cultural universals. He shows how many of the most prominent arguments that cultural relativists have relied on have been systematically demolished over the years. He concentrates on (1) arbitrary color classification, (2) the
nonexistence of stress among Samoan adolescents, (3) sex-role reversal among the
Tchambuli, (4) arbitrary facial expressions, (5) the Hopi conception of time, and (6)
the nonuniversality of the Oedipus complex. For those of us professionally nurtured
on many of these concepts, Brown's book presents a real challenge.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Biosociology:An Emerging Paradigm.
Contributors: Anthony Walsh - Author.
Publisher: Praeger Publishers.
Place of publication: Westport, CT.
Publication year: 1995.
Page number: 16.
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