Truth hurts: The sociobiology debate, moral reading and the idea of 'dangerous knowledge'

Social Epistemology 18 (2 & 3):165 – 179 (2004)
Abstract
This article examines the belief among the cultural elites that 'people' should be protected from dangerous knowledge, 'dangerous' in the sense that there are factual statements which may have negative moral and political consequences to society. Such a belief in the negative consequences of dangerous - that is, politically suspicious - knowledge represents an intellectual tradition that goes back to Plato and his famous state-utopian work Republic. This article analyses moral interpretations of statements regarding matters of fact (so-called moral reading), and draws conclusions about the reasons why knowledge can be considered dangerous to 'the people' or to some specific groups in the population, such as children, mothers, students, the sick and dying and the working class. The so-called sociobiology debate, a controversy that started with the publication of the zoologist E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology in 1975, is discussed in this article as a 'case study' of dangerous knowledge.
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