chapter
9 Pages

Sociobiology

Sociobiology refers to a field of study in biol­ ogy, a specific evolutionary theory about social behavior, or a statement about human nature. In an influential definition of sociobiology, E. O. Wilson (1975, 1978) explicitly linked these three meanings in a comprehensive theory. His theory uses notions from neo-Darwinian evolu­ tionary theory to explain the heredity, develop­ ment, physiology, and evolution of behavior and to affect public policy on controversial is­ sues regarding human behavior. Wilson’s defi­ nitional linkage is common to many sociobi­ ologists and evolutionary psychologists (e.g., Alexander, 1979,1987). Sociobiology as a field is the study of social behavior and social orga­ nization (including human society and culture) from the perspective of evolution and ecology. Many (but not all) in this field also adopt sociobiological theory, which is a theory of evo­ lutionary adaptation that derives from a par­ ticular neo-Darwinian theory, the modern synthesis. This theory is often assumed to re­ quire a view of human nature in which diverse social phenomena (altruism, homicide, dis­ crimination, sexual arrangements, etc.) are vir­ tually inevitable expressions of genes that were shaped by natural selection-an assumption with serious consequences for public policy (Kitcher, 1987; Lewontin, Rose Sc Kamin, 1984).