chapter  3
19 Pages

Some Elements of a Science of Culture

WithHenry Plotkin

Culture is the product of interacting human minds, and hence a science of culture will be a science of the most complex phenomenon on Earth. It will also be a science that must be built on interdisciplinary foundations including genetics, neuroscience, individual development, ecology and evolutionary biology, psychology and anthropology. In other words, a complete explanation of culture, if such a thing is ever possible, is going to comprise a synthesis of all human science. Such a synthesis poses significant conceptual and methodological problems, but also difficulties of another kind for those contributing to this science. Scholars from different disciplines are going to have to be tolerant of one another, open to ideas from other areas of knowledge; and they will have to relinquish old territorial claims or renounce grandiose and imperialist intellectual aims. A science of culture belongs to all of us. It continues to surprise those of us who watch events from the sidelines how entrenched positions are maintained, and also at the persistence of old and wholly unfounded fears. It is, of course, true that down the years some biologists have made occasional preposterous statements about the human sciences; a more recent phenomenon is the sometimes absurd and incorrect assertions made about contemporary biology by social scientists. None of this is constructive and neither is it necessary because the old fears of a rampant reductionist biology taking over the social sciences have not, and never will be, realized.