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Opinions on Biosociology

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tjfloyd
#1
Apr2-11, 01:44 AM
P: 11
I've been doing a lot of pondering and research here lately, and the idea of Biosociology has really become an interest of mine. I'm a Sociology major in college, and I've been looking into various sociological theories and such. I've noticed that Biosociology, and especially Sociobiology, have been looked down upon for some time. However, I find that a great deal of theories from this perspective make sense. I think that sociologists should start thinking more about these perspectives, because it's true that the biological characteristics that make us human contribute to many concepts in sociology.. which I will elaborate on further. I believe it is so looked down upon, because of the many ethical problems and questions that it brings forth.. is it preposterous to claim that rape has a biological explanation that justifies the behavior simply because it's a male's "instinct" to spread his DNA?? Actually, yes, I do believe that that's taking it a bit far.. but I would say that there is a biological influence that causes that behavior.

Now, when I say Biosociology, I mean the biological influences of social behavior; the relationship between the body, mind, and the social. I found a good video on youtube that I found interesting related to the topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4v37r4lQa8. Yea, the guy's probably drunk, but it makes the point that race, which we have so many problems with today, is nothing more than biological adaptations to our environment. Biosociology (in my definition and perspective) would look at the relationship between how we adapt to our environment and how people and society reacts and views that.. in other words, the relationship between the body and the social. I was thinking a few weeks ago about some things that contribute to socioeconomic status and social stratification, and I noticed that in many situations our physical and biological characteristics contribute to our various stati. Research has shown that taller men are of higher social status. It's little things like this that got me interested.. our facial features, hair color, eye color, our penis size.. all can contribute to our social status and how others perceive us..

Sociobiology also is somewhat of an interest to me. I was just thinking today about sociological theory and ecosystems. From functionalist perspective, all organisms and populations in an ecosystem coexist and contributes to each others' survival and existence; As "The Lion King" would call it, the Circle of Life. However, conflict theorists would also argue that conflict exists in the sociobiology of ecosystems; all organisms compete for food, air, resources, etc. and the dominant organisms benefit the most. As far as Human Sociobiology goes, Biocultural Anthropology and Evolution is interesting.. how we interact with our environment and how it contributes to the development of cultures perhaps.

So, my point is to open a discussion on the various opinions of Biosociology/ Sociobiology. What do you think about it? I do understand that I am not using the "traditional" approaches to these theories.. I'm using them in a different context and perspective. What I want to attempt to do is change negativity toward the disciplines, because although there's not an explanation to every social problem through Biosociology, it does provide a legitimate explanation for some problems. That's just how sociological theories are.. they are all right, but within certain contexts and problems. One theory is just a smaller piece of the pie.
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ormondotvos
#2
Apr7-11, 04:55 PM
P: 9
You're on the right track here. Social problems are going to be cured by evidentiary research long before they are going to be cured by primitive moralities based on highly competitive desert gods.
Pythagorean
#3
Apr7-11, 10:22 PM
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OP, you may be interested in the human behavioral biology lectures available online by Robert Sapolsky.

Ethology seems to be the new behavior science that tries to balance biology and environment appropriately.

Sapolsky has some criticisms for the biosocial view, depending on what you mean exactly. It's a lot of material though. At least watch the first lecture.

DanP
#4
Apr8-11, 05:23 AM
P: 630
Opinions on Biosociology

Quote Quote by tjfloyd View Post
I believe it is so looked down upon, because of the many ethical problems and questions that it brings forth.. is it preposterous to claim that rape has a biological explanation that justifies the behavior simply because it's a male's "instinct" to spread his DNA?? Actually, yes, I do believe that that's taking it a bit far.. but I would say that there is a biological influence that causes that behavior.
There are no ethical problems with those views. Even if "all males are sick" and carry with them propensities for rape, this doesn't change anything. It doesn't give anyone a license to rape, nor does it mean that men at large will switch at 00.00 next day to a mass of mindless rapists. Nature endowed us with a PFC which is completely able to negotiate the complexities of the social world and display behaviors appropriately to the social contexts.

But for many , sociobiology seems to be a great fear. The situation is not unlike the situation with the evolution. Even today, there are humans which are very afraid of evolution. It makes them tremble in horror.

And for others, it simply ruins the rainbow, to say so. Their brains cant handle some of the realities of origins of humans, and the fact t our biology and environment interactions modulates behavior and that we might not be the "angelic" creatures some claim us to be, that we do not occupy any special place in evolution or creation, that we are just a highly socialized primate. Unfortunately, those humans instead of making themselves special and stand out have a need to beleive that they are special by default. And when you take that away from them, they loose it.

Unwriting a book is one thing. Unreading it is something else. What are we to make of the following verdict, from a reader in Australia? “Fascinating, but at times I wish I could unread it . . . On one level, I can share in the sense of wonder Dawkins so evidently sees in the workings-out of such complex processes . . . But at the same time, I largely blame The Selfish Gene for a series of bouts of depression I suffered from for more than a decade . . . Never sure of my spiritual outlook on life, but trying to find something deeper — trying to believe, but not quite being able to — I found that this book just about blew away any vague ideas I had along these lines, and prevented them from coalescing any further. This created quite a strong personal crisis for me some years ago.”

R. Dawkins

Doctor in Brooklyn: Why are you depressed, Alvy?
Alvy's Mom: Tell Dr. Flicker.
[Young Alvy sits, his head down - his mother answers for him]
Alvy's Mom: It's something he read.
Doctor in Brooklyn: Something he read, huh?
Alvy at 9: [his head still down] The universe is expanding.
Doctor in Brooklyn: The universe is expanding?
Alvy at 9: Well, the universe is everything, and if it's expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!
Alvy's Mom: What is that your business?
[she turns back to the doctor]
Alvy's Mom: He stopped doing his homework!
Alvy at 9: What's the point?
Alvy's Mom: What has the universe got to do with it? You're here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!
Doctor in Brooklyn: It won't be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we've gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we're here!
Woody Allen's Annie Hall movie
DanP
#5
Apr8-11, 05:43 AM
P: 630
Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
Ethology seems to be the new behavior science that tries to balance biology and environment appropriately.
Sociobiology draws strongly from ethology IMO. Sociobiology never left environment out. I beleive it's a step forward from ethology.

An interesting book to read is "The Triumph of Sociobiology" by John Alcock.

I don't beleive there are any marked names in psychology / neurobiology of behavior / whatever today which are contesting that looking at the effects of a gene outside a specific environment is not productive.
Pythagorean
#6
Apr8-11, 12:57 PM
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Quote Quote by DanP View Post
Sociobiology draws strongly from ethology IMO. Sociobiology never left environment out. I beleive it's a step forward from ethology.

An interesting book to read is "The Triumph of Sociobiology" by John Alcock.

I don't beleive there are any marked names in psychology / neurobiology of behavior / whatever today which are contesting that looking at the effects of a gene outside a specific environment is not productive.
Sociobiology is associated with a particular viewpoint. Ethology came later, in response to behaviorism (behaviorism assumed it was 100% social; that you could take a child from birth and turn them into anything).

It really is an interesting story, you should watch the lectures I referenced :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNnIGh9g6fA

and a wiki quote to stir interest in the lecture...
Many organizations and journals that had their origins in the eugenics movement began to distance themselves from the philosophy, as when Eugenics Quarterly became Social Biology in 1969.
DanP
#7
Apr8-11, 01:02 PM
P: 630
Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
Sociobiology is associated with a particular viewpoint. Ethology came later, in response to behaviorism (behaviorism assumed it was 100% social; that you could take a child from birth and turn them into anything).
They both evolved in parallel, but probably sociobiology didn't become widely known till 70s.. Sociobiology draws from ethology a lot. IMO the easiest way to see this is that sociobiology uses at the base the 4 question approach of ethology used by Niko Tinbergen.
Pythagorean
#8
Apr8-11, 01:19 PM
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Quote Quote by DanP View Post
They both evolved in parallel, but probably sociobiology didn't become widely known till 70s.. Sociobiology draws from ethology a lot. IMO the easiest way to see this is that sociobiology uses at the base the 4 question approach of ethology used by Niko Tinbergen.
Ah, sorry, I misspoke. I'm talking about neuroethology, which directly confronts the behavioralist "input/output" scheme.

The thing about sociobiology is that it was developed parallel to eugenic practices as a justification for them. Not that that alone makes them wrong, but we should be extra careful here, methinks.
DanP
#9
Apr8-11, 01:45 PM
P: 630
Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
Ah, sorry, I misspoke. I'm talking about neuroethology, which directly confronts the behavioralist "input/output" scheme.

The thing about sociobiology is that it was developed parallel to eugenic practices as a justification for them. Not that that alone makes them wrong, but we should be extra careful here, methinks.
Behaviorism and similar convictions inadvertently created horrors like Marx, Stalin and Mao :P Social engineers of a new world, a social world whose rules defied human nature.

You think that eugenics in itself is something to be feared ? Or maybe we fear the specter of national-socialism and other similar politics which were "big fans" of the concept, but killed in its name, will raise from the grave once again ?
Pythagorean
#10
Apr8-11, 01:54 PM
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Quote Quote by DanP View Post
Behaviorism inadvertently created horrors like Marx, Stalin and Mao :P Social engineers of a new world, a social world whose rules defied human nature.

You think that eugenics in itself is something to be feared ? Or maybe we fear the specter of national-socialism and other similar politics which were "big fans" of the concept, but killed in its name, will raise from the grave once again ?
Well yes, neuroethology essentially said behaviorism was wrong because it doesn't consider what's going on inside the organism. It treated all organisms as the same transfer function from input to output.

As for eugenics itself, I'm not afraid that I'll be put down or anything. I'm pro-choice too, which could be viewed as a form of eugenics. It's just one of those irreversible decisions that we have to be careful with, because defining who should live and who shouldn't can be rather subjective. In my imagination of the word, I'm more afraid of being on the delivering end and making the wrong choice than being on the receiving end.
DanP
#11
Apr8-11, 02:20 PM
P: 630
Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
As for eugenics itself, I'm not afraid that I'll be put down or anything. I'm pro-choice too, which could be viewed as a form of eugenics.
Well yeah. Even something as trivial as deciding with who you gonna have a baby is a form of eugenics.


Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
It's just one of those irreversible decisions that we have to be careful with, because defining who should live and who shouldn't can be rather subjective. In my imagination of the word, I'm more afraid of being on the delivering end and making the wrong choice than being on the receiving end.
We will see what happens. The concept of improving mine and my descendants alleles is pretty appealing to me. But I would not force it on anyone, i.e I would not raise this to the level of state policy.


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