Sociobiology

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2005)

Authors
Jason M. Byron
Duquesne University
Abstract
The term 'sociobiology' was introduced in E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975) as the application of evolutionary theory to social behavior. Sociobiologists claim that many social behaviors have been shaped by natural selection for reproductive success, and they attempt to reconstruct the evolutionary histories of particular behaviors or behavioral strategies. This survey attempts to clarify and evaluate the aim of sociobiology. Given that a neutral account is impossible, this entry does the next best thing. It takes sociobiology as well as its critics seriously. On the one hand, by demonstrating that current studies of evolution and human behavior are based on Darwin's arguments for evolution (properly updated), we gain a strong rationale for thinking that something closer to sociobiology than to disconnectionism is needed to properly understand human sociality. Nevertheless, this survey reconstructs sociobiology in its best light, according to its aims. Consequently, criticism of sociobiology as it is actually practiced is not ignored or dismissed. This approach reveals what is best about sociobiology, while remaining sensitive to many of the problems it has generated.
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