A continuity between the behavioral and genetic characteristics of animals and humans is assumed.
The attempt to understand human behavior by means of the study of the traits of animals, and especially of the aggressive traits, is scarcely new. It has, however, received new currency and new prestige through the recent burst of interest in what is popularly known as sociobiology.
As a mode of thought, sociobiology assumes continuity between both the behavioral and the genetic structures of animals and humans. While the ground for this school of thought was broken by writers like Robert Ardrey and Nobel Prize-winning Konrad Lorenz, the major recent expression of it is found in Edward O. Wilson’s volume, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (Harvard University Press, 1975).
Professor Wilson locates the basic emotions of love, hate, and especially altruism in the structure of the genes. This analytical model does, of course, shape the course of the study and sets the tone of the work as well.
When Professor Wilson’s volume was first published, there appeared in the press strong objections to the author’s major theses. These were held to be a form of neo-Darwinism, a scholarly rationalization of the rightness of the status quo, and a justification of white chauvinism.
Dr. Wilson seemed to be astonished at the vitriolic nature of the criticisms of his work. Some of these came from his own Harvard colleagues, and apparently wounded him deeply, for he has since spent considerable time trying to explain that he was unjustly charged.
Whatever may be the rights and wrongs of the charges against his work, sociobiology as he has formulated it does carry serious implications for many matters. These involve not only such issues ...1
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