Thursday, June 06, 2002

Sociobiology and the Left

A history of the left's argument with sociobiology appears here.

The opposition to sociobiology peaked in the '70's but has tailed off considerably since then. The essence of the left's difficulty with sociobiology can be summed up in one paragraph from a denouncement of EO Wilson's work that was published in the New York Times review of books:

Sociobiological ideas, they wrote,

"tend to provide a genetic justification of the status quo and of existing privileges for certain groups according to class, race, or sex. Historically, powerful countries or ruling groups within them have drawn support for the maintenance or extension of their power from these products of the scientific community. . . Such theories provided an important basis for the enactment of sterilization laws and restrictive immigration laws by the United States between 1910 and 1930 and also for the eugenics policies which led to the establishment of gas chambers in Nazi Germany."

The left was able to keep sociobiology out of some campuses for a while, but it soon became difficult to oppose ideas that seemed to arise out of common sense and for which there was so much data. In addition, sociobiologists were careful not to over-generalize their ideas into political theories that formented too much opposition.